Flash Fiction

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“If my memory ever gets erased, I hope the recollection of my former self doesn’t rely on you lot,” Jan muttered wistfully, staring into space a little over my head. He was chain-smoking cheap cigarettes and alternately sipping on and staring into endless mugs of coffee. We were at La Guerre Magnifique, the local intellectual elitist dive, killing another quiet Friday night.

I raised both eyebrows in query and he explained, unfolding and supinating his cigarette hand in an expansive gesture.

Half-listening, I looked around the café, taking in the post-midnight clientele, which was on par with the usual haul. The after-party crowd—giggling and joking but visibly losing luster as the clock kept turning—had already wandered through grabbing desserts or coffee. A few students stared at textbooks with unfocused eyes. Some hipsters trickled in from the American Analog Set concert.

Jan was talking past me, his gaze now on an imaginary point below me and to my right. The backs of my eyes were sore again; I rubbed at them with my palms, which felt like sandpaper.

Watching a pretty goth girl pass out the door and climb into a Dodge Caravan, I took a sip of the tar-black coffee and tuned briefly back into Jan’s rambling monologue. Nothing there. He’d wind down soon.

I jumped as my cell phone vibrated on my hip, and I turned up its face to see the bright little screen. Becca calling. Again.

For two seconds, three, I hesitated, mind blank. Then I flipped up the phone and held it to my ear.

Imperfect always was better than alone.