“You can’t light up in here, you know.”
Martin twisted his paint-stained left hand. Tulip hues faceted the shine on the tap. The tip of his cigarette bounced off the wooden bar three and a half times. “I don’t carry matches with me. Just the cig.” He stuck it between practised lips and closed his eyes in a semblance of bliss as he breathed.
“Nasty habit. My dead ex smoked two packs a day.” A chipped manicure held up a glass to get the bartender’s attention. “Which explains the dead part.”
The barkeep kept an eye on Martin while refilling the woman’s vodka. “Just don’t flash it around. It might give other people ideas.”
The woman in need of a nail salon left the now full shot glass on the bar for minute as she pulled out a compact and a tube of burnt red lipstick. “Nobody inhales anyway. Not anymore. It’s all a farce now with those electronic cigarettes that look like grotesquely large steroid inhalers or insanely small oxygen tanks.” Her hand was shaking and a smudge of what looked like an open would spread out from the corner of her lower lip. “Shit.”
The inert cigarette was pushed behind an ear as Martin watched her repair her face. The colour on her cheeks reminded him of the way he concealed rough patches on canvas with brighter shades. “It’s not entirely fake,” he said as she powdered her nose. “It’s about presentation.”
She turned a fresh-lipped smirk. “A bogus presentation. An illusionist’s trick.” The compact slapped shut next to the ear with the cigarette. “We are distracted and then it all vanishes.” She left a pink half-moon shape on the edge of the glass after the liquid in it disappeared.
Martin scraped at his hands, little flecks of paint snowing the bar. The tap picked up the rainbow, reflecting it around the bar as Martin vanished his beer.