Nohr, Part 2 (Read the first Nohr story, which I like much better than this one and may be one of my favorite purely expository things I've written, here).

Nohr had not always been like this.

Not more than two years ago, he had contemplated giving up smoking for entirely different reasons: he was infatuated with a girl. He would not let himself call it love when he thought about it alone in the relative quiet of his bedroom, while she slept at his side, because the word frightened him and left him feeling entirely without control. But he would tell her he loved her when she said so to him, and returning the demonstration of emotion allowed him to feel in control of the moment, that his mirroring the emotions would keep her in his bed and in his life for a long time to come.

Since the moment he had met her a year prior, she had made not so jaded references to the fact that she didn't like cigarettes. She never once hid his Lucky Strikes, or made a comment or unpleasant face when he would slide one between his lips and light up after dinner or sex, but he could tell that she would prefer he abandoned the habit. So he tried off and on to kick it, but after a few days, the slight shakes (they never affected him that much) grated on his nerves and his free time, and he would head over to the corner convenience store to pick up another pack. Had his smoking seemed a true obstacle to keeping her around, he might have exerted a little more effort in kicking it. But already having the essential pieces of his general happiness in place, the motivation to change things drastically in any respect fleeted in and out of his mind, never really taking up residence and driving any change.

He returned to his apartment one day to find her stuff missing and her key on the coffee table. No note of apology or message on the answering machine begging for forgiveness or any explanation of her departure. Nothing but a big emptiness in the corner of the closet where her evening clothes had collected over the months of returning home to his place for the evening and a void in the top drawer he had cleared out for her after the entire work week they had foregone work, calling in sick and spent the time bed together.

Trips past her apartment revealed its vacancy, calls to her phone number bounced to an operator telling him that the line had been disconnected. Disappeared, slipped out of his life, leaving no clue as to how or why.

With nothing to occupy his evenings, Nohr began frequenting the bar around the corner from his apartment. As the days passed, his intimacy with Jack and Jim grew stronger, the nights grew longer, the black circles under his eyes grew deeper and darker.

He had refused to change the sex-stained sheets on his bed for six months, and only managed to wash them because his mother had planned to visit and he only owned one set of sheets. He would have simply gone and bought a new set of sheets but for the sudden decline in money owed to his repeated trips to the bar and the loss of his job.

One evening's swim through the amber colored liquid dancing a slow waltz with the ice cubes in his glass found Nohr next to another sad soul on the bar stool next to him. Another regular. The barkeep kept their glasses full all evening and only charged them for half of the whole bottle of Beam they went through that night. He remembered waking up next to her in the middle of the night with a feeling of disgust in the pit of his stomach and wanting to vomit, not really sure if the bourbon or the revulsion made him feel so queasy. The next morning he found a slip of paper with her name and number written on it, only partially obscured by the candy red lipstick kiss tattooing the paper. He never called her, nor did he ever think about calling her. But weeks later they encountered again, this time over a bottle of Jack, she trying subtly to find out why he had never called and he not doing a very good job at feigning interest.

He felt a slight smile escape his gut when she stood up, whispered "fuck you" in his ear and left that night.

That had happened just under a year ago. Since that time, Nohr had quit his secure job and replaced it with piddling employment at a mechanic's changing oil and rotating tires. Not the greatest life, but it sustained him enough to continue pursuing his new interests: drinking whiskey and bedding women whose names he could never care to remember.