The air sticks like an awkward hug on a hot day. Milo is smoking a joint on the stoop two doors down. He doesn’t live there. He just smokes there. I’m unsure of the protocol around that.
“Hey, is that my writer?” Milo calls out, and I grin.
“Hey, Milo. What’s up?”
“Just taking a commercial break. Want a hit?”
The question still surprises me, after all this time. “Nah, thanks.”
Milo smirks. “How ya been? When ya gonna come see me at the club?”
“You’re still at the club?”
His hands loll from their wrists, showing me his light palms. “Why wouldn’t I still be at the club.”
“I dunno. People change jobs.”
Again, “Why wouldn’t I still be at the club.” Do I know something he doesn’t?
“I dunno!” I shift from one foot to the other. My sweater is clammy on my back and arms.
“You come down and see me.”
I’m not going to come down and see him. “What’s a good night?”
“Whatever night you come.” Milo hits each syllable with slightly curled hands, his neck and back stiff.
“But, like, are there different nights?” I think I’m trying to get at the sort of music, the sound, the vibe. Trying to sound like it matters.
“Whatever night you come.”
“Okay, then. I’m going home now.” I give a little wave as I back away and turn.
Milo nods. “You come see me at the club. Take care now.”
I couldn’t smell what they were smoking. I don’t recognize the conversation we had. Things are the same, I’m the same, the stoop is the same and Milo’s the same. Why I lie to a stranger, I don’t know. I think it’s because I like him out there in the world, and I want that world not to be mine, but to be next to mine. Two doors down.