Luke enters our cafe table dynamic like an aftertaste—that slightly bitter feeling at the back of your mouth, when your molars are jammed with the sludge of former biscuit crumbs, and a harsh memory of coffee still sits under your tongue.
Emma greets him with a half-smile.
The rest of us invite Luke to sit down at the empty chair, across from Emma. We always do this; we want Luke to be part of our group, even though we know what always happens.
“So, Luke,” I begin. “How’s it going?”
Luke pulls a cigarette from behind his ear and gives me a monkey-mouthed stare. He asks Emma for her lighter. She hands it to him, stretching too far across the table so no one else has to touch it. “So where’dya wanna go now babe?” she asks.
Luke lights his cigarette and disappears momentarily behind the haze. His shadowy form shrugs, and someone clears their throat.
“Wanna get some Thai, or Indian?” asks Emma.
Luke’s eyes emerge from the grey-white mist. They’re half covered by his beanie, which has a ring of flames along its edge. “Nup,” he says.
Emma slumps back into her chair, defeated.
“What’ve you been up to today, Luke?” I impart into the silence.
“Not much,” he says. “I was pretty bored this afternoon, so I had two wanks and came here.”
And we all believed him.