Gray smoke By Maria E. Sandoval Burns I’m sitting on this old stool of metal and leather with my eternal cigar between my lips, all dried up from the smoke – smoke from various directions, steaming in translucent spirals of a gray-bluish tone. Here again, on this drizzly and foggy night, almost warm, sitting like I have many other nights before this ancient piano, black and aged, but well tuned. My fingers caress it, rehearsing melodies before the show, and you come toward me radiantly, caressing my back, and this is your peculiar and speechless way of asking: Is everything ok? Discreetly, I look at you without your acknowledgment. Tonight you’ re dressed in those very thin black leather pants, almost an ebony skin, a blouse, also black, barely buttoned, carelessly, exposing a white shoulder sprinkled with freckles (sensual maroon freckles), which on this night fill my soul with sad pains, or I don’t even know. If only I think of them, if my sorrows could speak in a loud voice, this show would be called ”southern wail”, stealing the title from the “Lamento Borincano”, please, forgive me…! How many people tonight! Is it because of the rain? Or because there exist no reason why yesterday almost nobody came? Yesterday, barely you and I in this small scenario –a Tavern bar, my first weekend here, what was the name?.. Shagwong? Not sure, I only remember it is in Montauk, very loud, very rustic, perfect place for crazies and bohemians- the manger walked by nervously, mumbling I don’t know what? Profanities to I don’t know whom. In contrast, I was happy; there wasn’t a single soul in this world happier than I, yesterday. My pondering ceases when your voice, rough and rust, yet harmonious, suddenly erupts your voice, so lovely, whispering: The string clock suspended, the disconnected telephone, two glasses of wine on the table and the night’s hand went off … the audience approves and applauds …we imagine a pink light, and we begin to taste the wine… I look up and you delight me with a look from your black eyes, so Turkish, so beautiful, so much that they are killing me! …-Kisses, tenderness, what a waste of love, so much madness…and your voice that speaks to me of many things-insomnia, revelations of my childhood, fears –of the defiant voice of my father, denying the undeniable, and the pious and resigned affection from my sweet mother. What will become of them? Perhaps they erased me from their memory; gradually forgotten their hidden embarrassment and buried it there in the very back, with the garbage that one never shows; better that way, less pain after all… Tender kisses, what a feast of love, so much madness, hope this night and the April moon never end, to enter heaven it’s not necessary to die… You were singing and my fingers hit the wasted keys. No! Of course it’s not necessary to die every time I see you coming closer to me. How? The audience applauds once more, scream get infectious; the smoke and your words join in a combination of ecstasy, and almost the end, your hand silently rises to signal a silhouette from in between the tables, who comes over with a happy air about them onto the stage. I can hardly distinguish her face, but I can see when she embraces you around the waist, pressing tightly to your black shirt, exposing even more of your white shoulders and those freckles…Oh! A thin string of voce drowns in me. That other being has almond- shaped eyes and a small mouth, she takes your hand and I hear them singing together: We seem like two irrational beings that were to die tomorrow, if I could only tell all what I felt, there isn’t any place in your body that is unknown for me… And again, encore, encore! And the audience goes wild and applauds greatly meanwhile I die of jealousy, because I know that tonight you will leave with someone with Asian features, and what I do care? While the ashes, still on fire, burn my pants, burning my dreams, and you will leave with her, wrapped in this smoke, this damned smoke that handicaps my voice, gets inside my eyes and clouds my vision, that provokes me to cry, what else could it be? And you, you kindly give up part of your applause to this pianist that cries, touched by the success of the show or this damn cigarette’s gray smoke.