She slammed the bedroom door shut, turning us both into silhouettes against the fading light filtering through the large open window. Barely in the room, she collapsed on the bed in front of me, said, “Smartphones are what cigarettes were for the great masses of people once addicted.”

Reaching across her bed, she dipped her hand into the bottom drawer of her bedside cabinet and pulled out a single cigarette. Holding it up, she said, “I’m gonna take this up again, see if my urge to scroll disappears. At least I know I can quit these once I’m screen-dry.”

I wondered why the cigarette was in the drawer at all. I watched her climb out the window and onto the balcony as the sun burnt the edges of the dark suburban skyline in the distance. A familiar flick of the lighter brought her face back to me, bathed in a warm glow, her intense concentration focused on the end of a burning stick in her mouth that would kill her if it got the chance.

I was about to ask her if she thought it a dangerous gamble when from a balcony across the black divide came a response that stopped me cold: a neighbour’s phone awoke, fading up through darkness like the houselights in an auditorium, illuminating the blank face of a young man far beyond our reach …




Alex Hallahan

Alex Hallahan is a Melbourne/Naarm writer, illustrator, and musician. In his work he delights in bringing what's lurking in the shadows out into the light.

More by Alex Hallahan ›

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