Beth was like this when she was drunk, babbling, unable to find the ends of a conversation. Her breath was the vapor of strong whisky. I was listening more to the DJ, swaying in his booth above the crowd. The foam hadn’t yet appeared, but this was after midnight, and people were growing hopeful.
I was sober. I hadn’t touched a drug since the last needle had given me the virus, and now I’d gone twelve steps and come clean. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe now I might enjoy it more, now that I couldn’t share much with anyone for fear that I’d pass myself into them.
“So then Miguel was doing this huge shot of something that smelled like absinthe…”
This from Beth, still telling the same story, neither of us knowing where it might end up. I liked the downward curl at the edges of her mouth, and so I watched her closely. It wasn’t just her mouth, but how her mouth played against the angle of her eyes. When, finally, she said to me, “Do you have a condom?” and I could feel her thin hand wrap hotly around my own, I said, “Yes.”
It was true, I did, if only because the doctor had told me to keep one on me. But thinking that this time might be my last, I palmed the condom in my pocket and, on the way out of the door, when Beth wasn’t looking, dropped it into the fray of a blooming aloe.
The outside air was warm and rushing. It held our clothes against our skin. We perspired. We called a cab, went back to the room, and until the night was done, I never said another word.