I get off the bus at 45th and University Way…”The Ave” as Todd and Chris schooled me…and pull out the scrap of brown paper bag with the name and address of the place I’m supposed to meet this girl…ne-45th-university-way-ne-seattle-2006-looking-nw-sm

”Oh, Aliah, that’s her name!” I exclaim under my breath seeing it now on the paper scratched next to a phone number and the name and cross-streets of the restaurant where I’m to meet her. “Flowers? What kind of a name is that for a restaurant?”

I look around up and down the street. As usual, it looks like I overshot my stop and I’ll have to back track a few blocks…damn these bus drivers! I never know where exactly I am, so I always ask the driver to call out the stop closest to where I need to be, but they almost never do. Oh well, first things first…cigarettes! There’s a drugstore across the street on the corner and I stand waiting for the light to change, picking at my nails. When it turns I cross and push through the glass door into Bartell’s, straight up to the check-out counter.

“Camel Lights, please?” I dig in my bag for some cash. Geez, they are SO expensive here in Seattle…I can’t believe I’m paying over six bucks a pack! “No, no…box, not soft-pack.” The Asian lady behind the counter returns the soft-pack to the rack and swipes the new box across the laser reader.

“$7.07” she says to me. I hand her a crumpled wad of ones. I can’t believe this…I have to quit smoking, really. For the money alone.

Back outside I’m smacking the pack against my palm, upside down, when two kids on skateboards nearly knock me over as they whiz past. Was I ever that young? I mean, I‘m not old by any means…I wouldn’t call 23 old…but did I ever act like that, so…annoying? I glance across the street at the clock on the old-looking bank. 5:20…guess I should start trying to find this Flowers place if I’m going to get there in time. This Aliah-girl works there and gets off work at five, said she’d stick around until 5:30 to meet me. I turn over the lucky in the pack…always the third from the left…and pull out the one next to it and hold it between my lips as I dig around for a light. The first drag…I sigh, smoke escaping from my soon to be not so healthy lungs…is always the best. Like a silent moment of calm in the chaos of the street. One Vans-clad foot in front of the other, I motor towards 43rd, keeping my eye out for this Flowers place.

© 2008 D. Kessler