“She’s asleep,” said Alex.
“It’s about time,” I replied. He walked over to the kitchen ever so gently, without making even the slightest sound and sat down across from me. I reached for the bottle of alcohol on the ground next to my ankle while keeping an eye on the closed door of my grandmother’s room.
“Pour me a light shot.” I handed him his glass and began to pour my own. We made eye contact as we took the first sip and I’m sure that neither of us was thinking that it was our first time drinking together. “It’s been a while,” he said and continued, “since I drank.”
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“You still look like you did ten years ago.”
“I always was a good looking kid!”
“Yeah, you were,” I laughed.
“Shh,” he whispered. “You don’t want to wake her up.”
“This is ridiculous,” I said, still loud and even made him press his finger to his lips. “I can’t even laugh? We’re just talking here. What is she gonna do?”
“She’ll kill you.”
“I doubt it,” I said, clearing my throat and taking a large sip.
“I’m pretty sure she has a shotgun under her bed!”
“Is she a good shot?”
“Oh, I’m positive she is.” We were both laughing now. Well, he was smiling and looking back and forth loosely at his drink and me.
“I’ve got to have a cigarette.”
“You can’t open the door,” he replied instantly, still carrying his smile, but with a distinct tone of voice, consumed by authority; dictating to me the law.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I replied.
“I only smoke cigars,” he said all of a sudden, raising his glass to me like a millionaire, or a prince; sitting up straight with wide shoulders and a head help up high.
“Do you have any?”
“No,” he replied, finishing his light shot while brushing his hair back with his hand.
“It’s nice to celebrate with cigars,” I said.
“Is that what people do over there?”
“Where?” I replied and added quickly, “In Canada?”
“Where else have you been?” he exclaimed, laughing silently.
“Well, no. A lot of people smoke grass.”
Alex, in one split moment, turned his head swiftly towards the hallway, stretching his arm in a panic with his index finger raised; straight like a pin but tall, with a long nail. “Put the glasses away,” he whispered, “and the bottle.” I looked over at the door for a moment and saw nothing. I turned to my drink. It was harsh as it lingered in the throat. I turned to look at my cigarettes on the counter as soon as I placed the drink back on the table. The glass was thin. For an instant, I had an urge to break it in my hand; somewhat similar to when some people come across cute babies, they feel like squeezing them. Lots of people may think it’s psychotic. I don’t know.
“She’s not awake,” I said confidently. “I figure her to be a deep sleeper.”
“Sasan, my dear cousin,” he said, to my surprise still smiling and added, “I used to live with her.”
“That’s right, but she’s an old woman. You start becoming a deep sleeper when you hit sixty.”
“Where’d you get that from?”
“I just made it up.”
“She sleeps with her eyes open. I mean really! Her eyes never close. She wears those silk eye patches from time to time. I remember once, I’d hung my clothes in her room. It was in the afternoon. Everybody was asleep and I crept inside her bedroom very casually; didn’t even look at her as I went over to the closet. Suddenly, like feeling someone’s motionless stare, I turned my head and found her lying on her side, facing me. Breathing with complete tranquility, her eyes were open, watching me. In the name of God, I couldn’t move! I was petrified and strangely couldn’t distinguish whether she was awake or dead!”
“Was she dead?” I muttered while pouring a drink for myself and stretching the bottle towards Alex. He refused and shook his hand calmly along with his head. I closed the bottle and smoothly returned it to the spot next to my ankle. “Alright, I’m going on the terrace,” I said in a hurry as I took a large sip.
“Try to be quiet,” he said.
Stray cats ruled over the city at that point, and many traffic lights continued to change purposelessly, or so it seemed. I took long and loving drags off the cigarette, staring at the trees and the dusty bushes by the gutters, where a dark stream of water made its way silently amongst the litter and the leaves. I couldn’t recognize the dust, or the smell that greeted me. For a moment I watched my cigarette burning, taking long breaths through my nose. It was heavy and somewhat thick. “Everything’s beginning to change,” I thought as I went back inside. Alex was lying on the ground with his hands locked together on his chest.
“You smoke fast,” he whispered. I knelt down to grab the bottle and stopped suddenly when I heard a thud and the sound of a glass breaking from upstairs. Even Alex sat up. “What was that?”
“I don’t know. Do you smell that?”
“Yeah,” said Alex.
It lingered all throughout the night, but we no longer heard a sound.