A few days later, on the porch to Sammy’s trailer, I saw Mary a second time. She sat in a metal patio chair and pretended to smoke a cigarette.
“Hello, Johnny,”she said.
“She’s not home.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to another and back again.
“Are you going to sit down?”Mary asked.
I shrugged and plopped down into the chair facing her.
“I don’t smoke.”
“Don’t you know how to play?”
“I don’t really have cigarettes. We aren’t really smoking. We just pretend.”
“Good. Let’s try again. Would you like a cigarette?”
“Do you have a cigar?”
“You don’t know how to play!”
“I do know!”
“Do not!” Mary paused. “Are you going to cry?”
Her tone became softer. “It’s OK if you are.”
“I’m not crying.”
“OK, but promise me that if you do, I can watch.”
I said nothing.
“OK,” Mary sighed. “I am sorry. Here it is.”
She extended her hand towards me. I took the imaginary cigar from her, but made no pretense of lighting it. Instead I leaned back and gazed across the trailer park. Mary hopped out of her chair to stand in front of me. She exaggerated the pantomime of opening a lighter and flicking at it with her thumb. I leaned forward slightly and played at puffing on a cigar.
Mary bounced back into her chair, picked up a non-existent cigarette, put it to her mouth, and inhaled deeply. She asked, “What’s wrong?”