That morning on the porch, I held my breath—the familiar pressure inside my chest greeting me—then exhaled; the burning tang of nicotine blended with the minted pines across the water, its hanging cloud dissipating as a cool breeze washed over the lake. The smoke singed the walls of my throat as the sun finally emerged from behind the remnants of last night’s clouds and chased away the shadows of the mountains. Everything was so still and green that I imagined for a minute I was inside of a photograph, hanging in some gallery somewhere; that people would walk by and wonder about me.
“He’s alone,” a grad student mutters, the phone in her pocket clogged with unread messages, her clouded eyes on mine.
“He’s horny,” a high schooler giggles into his boyfriend’s ear, his eyes drifting across my bare chest, my ruffled hair, managing to spy the disheveled bed through the windows, and remembering all the fun they’d had the night before.
“He’s dying,” says a mother of two, a bandanna covering her bald head, her eyes finding only the cigarette and the paleness of my skin in the sunlight, the dark bags beneath my eyes.
I wondered about them: who they were, what they would think of me, who would be right and wrong. But I was content, then, to be just a man standing on a porch, a cigarette in his fingers.
Vasilios Moschouris is a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, studying Creative Writing and French. He spends his days procrastinating, writing, and missing his dogs.