Cami wanted to smoke, but I said no because we were in Mom’s car.

“But,” Cami said, laying her hand on my arm, “it’ll air out before we get back. We’ll keep the windows down.”

Yeah maybe, but marijuana made me nauseous and sort of respect her less, so I vetoed it.

She reminded me that she was the one doing me a favor here and slouched back in the passenger seat, twirling a strand of bright pink hair between her middle and index fingers.

Since we graduated high school, Cami had dyed her hair a different color for every season: orange in the fall, blue in the winter, and green in the spring. For summer, she was pink. The dope smoking, however, was new. High School Cami had been straight-laced—good grades, no alcohol, no sex (as far as I knew)—so in the special fashion of those in their early twenties, I was semi-proud, semi-disgusted with her changes. She claimed the weed helped her relax, and to make up for my veto, I had to stop thirty minutes into our drive and buy her a box of tacos, which almost made me just as nauseous with their artificial, hormone-infused meat, not-real cheese, and dumpy-looking lettuce. “You’ve been too long with the liberal eateries of New England,” she said. Yes, she was probably right.

I had been doing grad school and teaching freshmen English for most of the year but decided to fly back home for the summer in order to work on my tan and not live in a basement in Boston. Or so the official story went. I conveniently left out my advisor’s highly-encouraged “summer at home,” the trouble I had caused by becoming somewhat intimate with a student of mine who worked at the campus Starbucks.

We were going to what amounted to a cocktail party thrown by a former undergraduate professor of mine, for the “prodigals,” as we were known. Cami was my date, my “arm-Cami” as I sold it to her. Though we had never dated, I had a strong feeling that we had strong feelings for each other. She had a boyfriend and almost no boobs, which according to our friends, qualified her as my type.

After tacos, she wanted to talk, fill me in on the past year of her life. She had been a double major at Tennessee Technical University but never graduated and moved back home to be with her mother after her brother died. She worked for an RV insurance company in Knoxville but was seriously thinking about going back to school, maybe to my alma mater, and so, there were reasons for her to come meet people in Murfreesboro, where she knew nobody.

After she explained this, we were quiet. I worried she had fallen asleep, then wondered why exactly our relationship had never been sexual, why I had started to think of everyone in these terms. Cami was pretty, fragile and freckled like a gecko. I had the sense I could break her in half. Or maybe she would break me. Either way, I was half in love with the idea of being broken.

As if reading my mind, she said, “Your friends don’t think we’re together, do they?”

“Nope,” I said, but that was probably not true. I had only told them I was bringing someone, not being brave enough to show up alone. I wanted her specifically, though. Not because I thought she was so hot, or simply to see if I could be broken and sexy with her, but because I think she knows me, and I won’t have to pretend to be anyone else—a teacher, a student, a man. I’m wrong, of course. She doesn’t know me, at least not in the way I want her to. But I haven’t realized this yet, nor have I realized it by the time we hit the city limits, or while we’re walking across a sprinkler-soaked yard to a cocktail party, when my hand absentmindedly reaches out and tucks itself neatly into her waist.


About the Author

Lukas Tallent lives in New York City. His work has recently appeared in Fast Pop Lit, Door is A Jar, Maudlin House, and many other places. You can find more of him at His chapbook, The Compromising Position, is available now from Bottlecap Press.


Photo by Pedro Henrique Santos on Unsplash