Of Strangers, Cigarettes, Taylor Swift and Soul Searching


Inside a 5 Star Hotel Lobby – Night (00:00h)

You met her at a poetry event. You seemed to have similar views on several subjects. Next thing you know, you are both breathing hard and laughing as you stare at the ceiling. And moments later, she slips off to the land of her dreams but you can’t sleep. There is that depth that you want to reach but she can’t give it to you.

So you grab that packet of Dunhill that a blast from the past thought it would be a great idea to drop by your place just because you have a birthday around the corner, and you go down to the smoking zone for a little bit of a Lung Poisoning Session. But on getting there, you realize you left your lighter in the room.

On a couch at a semi lit corner of the lobby is a lady, seated with her long legs crossed, one arm resting on the back upright slat and the other caressing her cigarette. She looks like she owns the place. So you approach her and ask her for a light.

Her: What kind of a smoker are you if you don’t carry your lighter with you?

You: I left it in my room.

Her: And you figured of all other smokers in this lobby you would ask me for a light?

You: Yeah well, if I thought it would lead to an interrogation I would have just slit my throat open.

She chuckles. And reaches into her pouch and pulls out a lighter that is simply a piece of art. Instead of handing it to you, she asks you to lean over so she can light it for you. No woman has ever lit your cigarette before. It is already an interesting smoke.

Her: (Moving to one side of the couch) Why don’t you sit by me. That way we can kill each other with secondary smoke.

So you oblige her and together you stare at the rest of the smokers in the lobby.

Her: (Re: The other smokers) Look at them; smoking their overpriced cigarettes like they have no cares in the world. You would think they are emancipated from their humanity.

Me: You say that like humanity is a bad thing. Like it is something we need to be liberated from. And for the record our cigarettes are overpriced too.

Her: Yes they are but, we are different from them; you and me. We are unique in our own way.

Me: Oh yeah? And you figured that out in the 2 seconds that we’ve been smoking together?

Her: No. I was watching you from the moment you entered the lobby. The way you carry yourself around, a smart lady can tell that you are not a common thinker.

Me: No I am not. I am after all the smoker who forgets his lighter. If that doesn’t perfectly embody uniqueness, I wonder what does.

Her: Don’t cheapen yourself with sarcasm. (Refers to the other smokers in the lobby) That is for them. You and me, we call spades spades not oversized spoons.

Me: Tell me, what is so bad about being human? About being, ‘them’?

Her: Why don’t we smoke two cigarettes at a time?

Me: Because that’s insane.

Her: No. Because one at a time is enough. But because we are greedy and stupid and self centered, we want everything all at once. And so we destroy each other one lie at a time, one bad word at a time, one excuse at a time until one day we wake up and find our souls gone.

You: And to find ourselves we look for answers in the decrepitude of empty sex, lip souring kisses, vacant words, beer bottles and well, (you look at your cigarette) bad habits in the middle of the night.

Her: I knew a girl once. Her name was me. She spread her legs faster than a wildfire hoping that one of those penises would be the flashlight that would illuminate unto her who she was. And one penis at a time she crept further and further away from herself. Because every time she looked into their eyes, all she saw was their need of self satisfaction. And so with every thrust, every push, every goddamn kiss, they scratched and scratched at her humanity until all that was left were tatters.

You: Did she put herself back together?

Her: Have you ever been in a fight?

You: Like a give and take punches and kicks kind of fight?

Her: No. More like an emotional fight between you and someone that you really care about?

You: Yeah. I have been in a few.

Her: Did you hurt her?

You: More than I like to admit.

Her: Why didn’t you stop?

You: Well, I guess when you start; you are like a runaway train. There is simply no stopping. You just talk and hurl words and boil and before you know it, you are that guy you swore you’d never become.

Her: (Looking at the other smokers through a cloud of smoke oozing slowly from her half open mouth and nostrils) Do you think they know that? What it feels like to lose yourself inside raw emotions? To destroy yourself and blame it on others?

You: I bet it is all they know.

Her: Yeah but, do they believe that they are monsters?

You: I wonder. I knew a guy once. He hurt easy and he forgave easy. He trusted easy, loved easy, laughed easy and lived life easy. Well, Mr. Easy here, forgave one two too many times and one day he wronged someone who wouldn’t forgive. Then he learned the real meaning of losing oneself in oneself. Eyes open at night quarrelling himself; asking why oh why he forgave yet wouldn’t be forgiven. The world owed him a slack or two; but no. oh no it wasn’t going to give it to him. And so to be himself again he laughed with people who he laughed at, acted like he cared and one lie, one smile, one wink, one removed panty, one touch on the skin at a time, he took his fair share of souls and for the first time in a long time, he felt like he belonged.

Her: Funny how that is the biggest fallacy known to man. The feeling that you belong in the darkness; that is the biggest lie one can convince a soul. Darkness is for demons. I figure it’s harder for a man to admit that he is a demon. We may be lost, but we are not demons. Not yet anyway.

Your cigarettes are at the filters now so you squeeze them out on the ashtray and light others up.

Her: Are you here for the Human Rights Summit?

You: Yeah. I figure you too?

Her: Yeah. How do you figure?

You: It is half past midnight and you are still in your suit. Would it be a stretch if I took you for a lawyer?

Her: (Chuckles) Good guess. You wouldn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out though. You a lawyer too?

You: Yeah.

Her: You any good at it?

You: It’s been said. Perhaps a little too good.

Her: Why? Because you are arrogant?

You: Maybe. Or maybe because I get threats all the time from people on the wrong side of the fight against human rights violations.

Her: Do you like being a lawyer?

You: I am good at it and it puts money in the bank. What’s not to like?

Her: Don’t do that. Don’t answer my question like ‘them’ (Sneers at other smokers in the lobby; not too many at this time of night)

You: I meet people who I don’t recognize anymore and they call my name and thank me for giving them opportunities. See when I was younger I used to write. Stage plays, movies scripts, teleplays, poems – you name it, I wrote it. And these kids, not more than 17 or 18 at the time, used to bring my characters to life on stage or in front of the camera. I didn’t know it then but, that just might have been the best time of my life. I wasn’t much older than 20 myself but, I liked working with actors and I liked to see characters I had created from thin air being brought to life. They were like my children in that way.

Her: Then what happened?

You: Well, there was no money in it. So I became less of a writer and more of a lawyer and eventually forgot those kids’ faces. But every now and then someone says hello and reminds me of the good old days and I feel guilty because I can’t even remember their names. I feel like I betrayed them or something, you know.

Her: But you are rich now.

You: No I am not. I am earning, but I am far from rich. At least not in the pecuniary department.

Her: What say you we transfer this party to the bar?

And you go to the bar; and you take heftily overpriced Whiskey and Vodka and Gin and Brandy shots. You mix it up because you deliberately want to wake up hangover in the morning. And top it off with a few glasses of wine.

At about 03:00h, she notices that there is a piano at one side of the lobby and she gets an urge to play it.

You: What do you have in mind?

Her: Have you ever heard Taylor Swift’s “White Blank Page”?

You: I stopped listening after “Taylor Swift.”

Her: Don’t be like that. It is the most mature song I have ever heard from Taylor Swift. (Takes your hand and staggers with you to the piano) Do you play?

You: No. Never had the chance. Or interest.

Her: Well, tonight you are with a beautiful, smart and deep lady who wants to play the piano with you. Are you really going to say no?

And so you take a seat beside her and rest your fingers on the keys. And she starts playing and the tune she creates forms perfection in the void before you. The shadows on the walls and floor and ceilings appear to form shapes and silhouettes of dancing mermaids and when she starts singing, the leaves lying on the dirt outside start swirling around, dancing to the magnificence of the voice of the beauty that just may kill the beast.

Her: (Singing) Can you lie next to her, And give her your heart, (your heart) As well as your body? And can you lie next to her And confess your love, (your love) As well as your folly? And can you kneel before the king And say I’m clean, (I’m clean)?

You and Her: (You join her in the chorus) But tell me now, where was my fault In loving you with my whole heart; Oh, tell me now, where was my fault In loving you with my whole heart…

Her: (Laughing) You sing like you have pubic hair in your throat. (Her fingers are still caressing the keys, playing a tune concocted by angels for gods)

You: One day I sang too well and my friends laughed at me; saying that I sing like one castrated.

Her: (Laughs) That’s a good one.

You: (Singing) A white blank page and a swelling rage, (rage), You did not think when you sent me to the brink, (to the brink), You desired my attention but denied my affections, (my affections)

You and Her: (She joins you for the chorus) So tell me now, where was my fault; In loving you with my whole heart; Oh tell me now, where was my fault In loving you with my whole life?

Her: (Singing) Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life; Oh, lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life (As she sings, she looks at you and you meet her eyes… and you can see her. everything about her is right there in those small but bright eyes, now shadowed with capillaries from the alcohol and want of sleep)

You: The reason the song sounds mature is because it was done originally by Mumford and Sons not Taylor swift.

Her: No. I’ll just think of it as a song sung by two drunken chain smokers in an empty lobby of a lonely hotel at 3 in the morning.

You: I am Danny.

Her: (Shaking your hand and smiling) I am Connie.

You: Well Connie, I have a feeling you and I are going to be very complicated friends.


  1. I read and love everything you write until I start feeling like a stalker; not that I care. May the fuel you’re on never run out

    • Nothing makes a person’s day like bumping into a self confessed and unapologetic stalker. Nice meeting you and Amen to that last bit

  2. Is it just me, or these stories you write really come to life when i read them?? i feel like ive been there before. LONG LIVE THE GIFTED PEN,…

  3. Ugh! But what happened to the other lady in the room? How does her story end? Why do men never get satisfaction from one woman? What lacked in him?

    Yikes! You have yet again provoked thoughts and feelings I never understood. Great piece! 🤓🤓🤓

    • Hi Priscilla.

      I have provoked both thoughts and feelings? Yaaaay!!
      About the woman who was left in the room; well… The fact that she isn’t mentioned anymore is evidence of her irrelevance, no?


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