Irene is going to bed now.
Irene took Xanax and now she’s going to sleep forever.
The other day she was so spaced out from the medication. That’s what she said.
I replied, oh really, not understanding completely what she meant.
She lit up a cigarette. I remember when that was cool. Now, looking at her, I realize how stupid I am.
She takes a drag before answering.
Yeah really, she says.
The way Irene holds her cigarette is the way all movie stars held their cigarettes. In between their pointer and middle, while carelessly letting her arm hang beside her waist. She looked so beautiful with a cigarette. She could’ve been a model for Phillip Morris.
What about you, she asks.
I tell her that it’s little by little.
She grunts and takes a drag from her cigarette.
I wanted to ask her for one, but I knew it was stupid.
If you’re going to smoke, it’s better to be a full-timer then a once-in-a-blue-moon smoker because otherwise you’re just using people who actually pay for their habit. That’s what my smoking buddy used to say anyways.
Want a bust? She asked. I shook my head.
We cross the bend and walk around a great green patch of grass, which has a long black road stretching around it and down the middle. The sign reads SENIOR SCENERY WALK.
I have something to tell you, she says.
What is it? I ask.
She doesn’t reply right away.
You really liked me back then, didn’t you?
Now it’s my turn to not answer. I shrug and clear my throat.
Yes, and I still do.
I see a butterfly on the ground; great black wings with yellow spots. It looks like something out of National Geographic. It just lies on the ground, twitching its wings. It’s in pain.
Leave it alone, she said to me, as I bent down to pick it up. I protest but she took her hand and putting it on mine, she massages my knuckles. Just let it be. She steers me away from the butterfly, and I look back later and it’s gone.
So I let it be, and we walked down the pathway past the gazebo. She asks, why are we walking on this pathway when we can walk on the grass. I say, I don’t know.
Well come on, she says. She grabs my hand and we walk on the grass. There are plenty of people, both young and old, on the pathways but we are the only ones walking across the grass. I start to whistle an old Irish song that I heard some years ago, and she starts to sing.
I regret everything I never said to her. I regret the times we didn’t spend with each other. I regret any ill thought I had against her.
I miss spunky Irene.
The one I knew so many years ago; the one that never took shit from anybody, and who didn’t hesitate to defend a friend even when it was unpopular.
I’ll see her in my dreams.