I am never alone, the apartment is always alive, I’ve considered nailing a ‘Welcome to Deval’s hostel’ sign downstairs. It’s people in and out night and day, I love it. But this evening I had for myself, Billie Holiday, and a glass of wine.

I can’t remember, I know it was early winter like a late October early November. What I am trying to say, it’s been a year. I was smoking out of my living room window in Bairro Alto, sat leaning against the window frame with a foot up on the parapeito, and I dropped my cigarette.

I’m somewhere in the city at night, I don’t know, gone in ‘What’s the difference if I say I’ll go away when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday’. Truthfully, I can’t deny my destructive patterns of loving. And the last cigarette I had is no longer between my fingers but down in the street. So I leaned out to see where it’d landed and that’s how I met Manuel; when I went down to apologize and borrow one of his, which he handed to me after my half smoked one landed at his feet.

Now it was me, Billie Holiday, and Manuel. We wrote and talked all night, well, I wrote, made him laugh and laughed at my own remarks, he talked. That’s how I got myself content for that next week’s issue and a one-year relationship.

We were sat at my square kitchen table, across from each other. Olhos nos olhos a noite toda, at one point we had the house phone unhooked in the center of the table so it was us talking and Luis on the line from the floor below recording the conversation (and giving us shit) in case my writing was too incoherent to read in the morning as per usual, even more so at this hour of the night with a few glasses down and good company.

That was one of my favorite conversations we've put out. Intimate, and not personal at all. I showed him our magazines, they were sprawled all across the table, I told him to show me what he carried in his pockets; what do you find inside the pockets of a man like Manuel? There we were very much alike, I carry everything in the pockets of my jacket. On the table, he put his phone, change for coffee, car keys, two guitar picks, wallet, loose cigarettes, and lighter. I took off my jewelry too. He said he was quitting, I said I am not a smoker, which meant the same thing; two people indulging in something and not calling it by the name, that way keeping the identity they've curated for themselves intact while maintaining certain habits. Two people indulging in something and not calling it by the name is also what we had been doing this whole night.

It was about one in the morning and I was in the kitchen making us pasta, I thought to call Luis up to join us but I did have a beautiful man sitting at my kitchen counter watching me chop garlic and telling me about his life in between olives. I'd say I am not one to invite strangers into my home, but then I'd have to mention that a good part of the people who have the keys to my place, I've met briefly coming in and out, again, I might nail a sign downstairs.

If anyone's a stranger here, it's me. We're eating out of the same bowl over the counter after I've gotten him to tell me his life story and give me his wallet, and it just occurred to me I still haven't told him my name.

-Roxanne

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