I always thought as a child, that somehow, growing bigger would make me less afraid of things grabbing me in dark stairwells. I realize how wrong I was, running up to my apartment in a one-sided game of tag with the devil. I get to the door, through it. Locked.
I take a panicked sigh of relief. I catch my breath.
“We live on the second floor.”
I turn. N is standing there, watching me, tea in hand.
“So?” I say, defensive.
“You need to quit smoking.”
I glare at him, “well you’re drinking tea at one in the morning.”
“So,” I look around, evening my breath, “so, no one is perfect!”
He smiles, “Mhm.”
I start taking off my boots, coughing. “Look, I just–” I look back at the devil behind the door. “Right,” I decide, “fine, soon.”
N drinks his tea in response. I get my boots off.
“So?” he asks, motioning to the other room.
I follow him into my room.
“You rearranged,” he notes, “again?”
“It’s a habit. I used to do it when I was a kid and couldn’t sleep. Drove my brother nuts.”
N walks to where his cigarettes sit on the windowsill. He slips one out.
“Given up on quitting?” I ask.
He frowns. “No, these are yours.”
I look at them. “Uh-huh. So I smoke lights now?”
“Apparently,” he says, lighting the cigarette.
I pull my own from my pocket, reds. We sit by the window. There is a bistro across the street, a mart beside it; bar beside them. A man stumbles past, he looks behind him periodically as he goes.
“Are you still afraid of anything from when you were a kid?” I ask.
N watches the stumbling man fade from view.
“You mean like tall people?”
I shrug. “Maybe. I mean like, being afraid of the dark.”
N doesn’t laugh. He looks up, it isn’t that dark. The sun will be back out in an hour.
“People,” he says.
He shakes his head. “Just, people.”
“Like, people in the dark?” I ask, hopeful.
N watches another man pass. A more determined man. He sighs.
“No. Just people.”