"You can take out your phone, it's ok."
Calisto was mortified in her transparency, having not even unconsciously registered that she had been fingering the outer pocket of her bad all this time. "I hate when people do that. It's rude."
"Etiquette is cultural. And the culture we're in says it's ok."
She took it out. "I'm not like this," she said. "Just a nervous habit."
Monte took out his, and at that moment she realized he may have been condoning shunning one another in favor of electronics just so he didn't feel bad. "And what do you have to be nervous about?" he asked, not looking up.
She shrugged, scrolling through her Twitter feed. "This situation, it's an awkward one." Then she backtracked. "I mean, it's not really, I'm just a nervous person."
"Does meeting new people make you feel awkward?"
"No, not most of the time."
"Of course, we've seen each other around. Maybe that's what makes it awkward."
Calisto shoved her phone back into her bag. "Want to go for a smoke?"
They stepped into the night and lit up on the street corner, pedestrians and vehicles slowing down and passing by. Calisto could only produce sparks out of her lighter, until Monte cupped his hands around hers keeping the wind out, and drew in a deep breath, making her cherry glow.
After getting his lit, Monte said "I don't know what they told you about me, but I'm not looking for anything right now. I'm going through a divorce, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to move on just yet." He paused. "I mean, they told me you were single, so I'm not sure what they told you about me."
"Is that what you think this is?"
"I don't know. Does it feel like a set up to you?"
"It doesn't feel like anything to me."
"I'll keep you company tonight, don't worry. You seem nice, I'm into that. It's just the timing."
"It's not me, it's you?"
"Sorry. It's coming out wrong. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not actually like this. Haven't been myself for some time."
"It's ok. Whoever you are, I can handle it. You can't be at your best all the time."
A stranger stopped while passing them and asked if he could bum a cigarette. Calisto looked at Monte, and Monte reached in his pocket and produced an empty pack.
"Last one," he said.
The stranger left, and Monte replaced the pack. When the guy was out of sight, Monte pulled out a fresher pack and put a new cigarette between his lips, flicking the old butt away.
"Nice tactic," Calisto said.
"Works every time." He flicked his lighter.
"Now give me one. Buy my silence."
He obliged and they smoked for a while in silence. "Did you want to go back in after this?"
He shook his head. "I was thinking, do you like chocolate?"
"There's a cupcake place down the street that's still open. They have this dark chocolate-red velvet combo that you'll kill your own mother for."
Of course Calisto knew about Devil's Food, the bakery downstairs from where they both worked, though she was more partial to the carrot cake variety. She did not relish the idea of straying too close to her workplace, but she seized the opportunity to get away from the coffeehouse, the noise of the Chinatown crowd and guitar chords following them into the night. After a few blocks they found themselves in a darker part of town, and uneasiness set in. They were approaching the square, and passers by were gradually dwindling to the roving homeless and the odd bicyclist. After flicking his next butt into a nearby puddle, Monte pulled the empty pack of cigarettes out, as if he didn't want to wait to be approached by another stranger to pull his little "last one" trick. This time, he opened the box, reached down behind the foil, and pulled out a little joint, wrapped in a crutch made from a rolled-up flap torn from a matchbook. They stopped at a crosswalk and Monte started lighting it up, taking deep puffs.
"Hurry up, hit it," he said, passing the j as the lights changed and the walk signal man came on.
"What the fuck, I can't hit this. We're going by where I work, someone might see me."
He gagged on his hit, speaking through the coughs. "It's where I work too. Hit it."
She took the weed and inhaled it like she was preparing to stick her head underwater. When she passed it back, Monte took it in his fingertips, then jammed it into his other fist.
"Fuck, a cop. Be cool."
There was indeed a police car rolling up to the next street corner in the right-turn lane, which they were already approaching. It stopped at the corner, as the light was red, and Calisto held her breath as tightly as she could, which was difficult with the lungful of weed smoke tickling her throat. She gagged, and Monte looked over at her. At this point the cop was rolling passed them, and she stared it down a Monte stared straight ahead. When it was gone, she let go of the cloud and unleashed a torrent of coughs as Monte dropped the live roach back into his free hand, waving the hand that had palmed it around in pain.
"Ahhhhh!" he said. "Fucking pig."
Calisto hadn't stopped coughing, and they were interspersed with the sort of giggles that come on not from imbibing cannabis but from getting away with something naughty in front of an authority figure. Before she had finished up, he was passing it to her again. When she could get her breath back, she managed "That was a bad idea," and immediately downed another hit.
"Like I said, I'm not like this." He said this is a choked voice, spewing his own smoke out and allowing himself a rather more polite series of coughs. "You're getting the shit end of me, and I apologize," in his regular voice. "Somebody left me and took all the good parts with her."
She no longer made any attempt to inhale or hold her smoke in -- it was too potent, and it'd been too long since she'd gotten high -- and she puffed on it like a stogie before passing it back to Monte to polish it off. "I don't see how this is your shit end. Nobody has smoked me out in forever. I mean, Naomi used to, but that was before she got with Eric."
"Wanna go say hi to them?" Squarehead's was on the other side of the Square as Devil's Food. Calisto reflected on the pointlessness of letting them run off for pulled pork and then going somewhere so close to where they were going to be. The area of the Square they were in was empty save for a few stragglers finally clocking out from their overtime and one of the security guards who hung around there all day.
Weirdly, the weed didnt kick in until they entered the cupcake place. The lighting was bright, the aroma of baked goods was strong, cloying, it made the air in the place stick to their clothes, and the thought of transacting a business arrangement that would result in a cupcake being place in her hand was too overwhelming to contemplate. Luckily, Monte ordered for her.