“She used to love me,” Marlon insisted. I could tell he was being serious. He usually didn’t drag out this old bean unless we were somewhere in the mountains sitting around a campfire on a cold night after a long day of futile stream fishing. In the morning he’d be right back in the moment, making plans, but this special time was reserved for the righteous self-pity that only a memory of Paloma could invoke. Any old word association could trigger the thing. This time I’d happened to use the code word ‘smoke’, as in ‘the goddamn smoke from this here fire” and he was off and running with the good old days and how Paloma used to do this and used to say that and the way she brushed her hair out of her eyes and the smell of the peppercorn trees and that look in her eyes when she thought about pasta bolognese.
“I know she did,” I told him, hoping to put the subject to rest but knowing better. He’d be on it for a while, probably until the time he turned in for the night, and I’d just sit there, staring at the flames and doing my best not to think about all the times that Paloma and I, well, doing my best not to think about that.