"I must inhale some nicotine into my lungs right now or I'd turn into a homicidal maniac," I apologized to Mrs. Goldman, the hostess.
She dismissed the statement as just a self-effacing joke but if she had bothered to read even one of my books, she would know that the homicidal tendencies ran deep within me and if I hadn't been a successful author, I would have probably been a murderous serial killer.
I stepped out into the balcony, pushing the tall wood and glass French door against the thick snow, but before I could step out, I noticed a couple at the edge of the balcony, intertwined around each other like snakes, making out passionately with eyes shut tight.
The man was tall and handsome with slick hair combed back. He wore a rich pinstriped suit. The woman was tall, strong and curvaceous, like an Amazon. She wore a backless red dress; her naked arms wrapped around the man's neck, like a garland of supple pink flesh. His hands went around her back, squeezing her generous buttocks. One of her legs was raised high and wrapped around his leg; her red stiletto's heel digging into his calf. I wondered if they were wrapped so tight because of insatiable passion or the subterranean cold. Both of them had blond hair and later I would notice that both of them had deep blue eyes.
For now, their eyes were closed and their lips were locked. I could make out their tongues inside each other's mouths behind their cheeks. I wondered if I should go back inside or cough loudly to declare my intrusion. In the end, I chose the third option: to close the door softly and smoke shamelessly. I didn't want to invade their privacy, but after an hour of listening to the douche-bags inside, without a single smoke, I couldn't afford decency.
The balcony was too big to be called a landing but not big enough to be called a terrace. Six inches of soft snow crushed under my crocodile leather loafers as I participated in the three steps it took to get to the brown stone balustrade. The couple didn't seem to have noticed me at all. The cold was already making me shiver but they seemed to be burning in the heat of passion. The woman's red dress had no sleeves, no back, a deep neck line, and ended high above her knees.
She has to be freezing in that dress, I thought, unless she is intensely turned on by this slightly public, thermodynamically dangerous, make out session.
I realized I had been leering at them, so I turned around and looked at the building while I took out the pack of Marlboro Reds from the pocket of my white dinner jacket. It was the shortest building in the neighborhood, only 13 floors high, and it was the oldest, but it was still the most impressive. Here on the right side of the building, it was a simple brown wall with tall glass windows set deep into the thick stone walls, like the archers' sighting holes in old castles, but the front of the building had an impressive façade of strong, brave pillars holding up the roof.
I shook the pack to float a cigarette halfway up and helped it out with my teeth. I put the pack back in and searched my pockets for the lighter. I frowned when I couldn't find it and remembered the joke about smokers' hell where you get all the cigarettes you wanted, but no lighters. That joke had never made sense to me. I thought hell was supposed to be always on fire.
Before my frustration could grow into a rage, a flame appeared in front of my cigarette, emerging out of a golden lighter held in a hand as white as the snow in the background, with a golden ring, shaped like a snake eating its own tail, on the middle finger. I lit the cigarette and followed the arm up to the face of my savior. It was the make out king of the balcony.
"Thank you," I said, after taking a deep drag.
The man smiled with thin lips but his blue eyes were cold and intense. The woman was still clinging to his side and scanning me from head to toe with her luscious lips turned up in a naughty smile. They must have noticed me while I was busy admiring the brown stone walls and the archers' windows of the building.
"Enjoying the party, huh?" I tried to make polite conversation, as neither of them would start it.
"The question is," the man finally spoke, "Are you enjoying yourself?"
He had a silky, enchanting voice and a strange accent I couldn't place.
"Yeah I guess," I said, "It's nice of Mrs. Goldman to throw a party for someone like me."
"I'm not talking about the party," the man said.
He turned sideways, placed his forefinger under the woman's chin to raise her head and kissed her passionately. The woman never took her eyes off me.
"Are you enjoying watching us kiss?" the man said when he was done.
"I wasn't watching you. I just needed a smoke."
"Yes you were. I saw you staring at us."
"Well maybe I was. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare."
"There's no doubt here. You were staring at us. I saw you. I want to know if you were enjoying it."
"No I wasn't enjoying it."
"What do you mean?"
"Why weren't you enjoying it? Don't you think she's hot?"
I looked at both of their faces one by one. The man had a smile but his eyes were serious. The woman had an even bigger smile and her eyes were full of lust.
"Yeah, sure, she's hot. What do you want me to say? She's hot." I looked at the woman and confessed, "You're hot."
"So why weren't you enjoying it then?"
"I meant I wasn't staring because I was enjoying it or anything. I'm not that guy; who leers at couples making out."
"Then why were you staring?"
"Hey listen, I didn't mean any disrespect. I just wanted to have a smoke. I've been in there for hours."
"I'm not talking about disrespect. I just want to know whether you were enjoying watching us kiss or not?"
"Fine! I was enjoying it. What do you want me to say? A hot blond like her. And you; boy you are handsome! I come out here, in the cold, to smoke, and I see a hot couple like you making out; sure I was enjoying it."
"Would you like to make out with her?" the man asked casually, still smiling, still intense.
"What! No! I don't want to make out with her."
"Why not? You just said she was a hot blond."
This was getting a little out of control and I had to try and lighten the mood. I smiled and took another drag.
"You guys are just messing with me, huh?" I snorted a short laugh. "Come on, stop messing with me."
The man and woman both smiled and looked at each other. They began kissing again and I continued to laugh, a little nervously. They stopped kissing and looked at me again.
"Now tell me, would you like to make out with her?"
Alright, I decided, if he wants to play, I'll play.
"Yeah," I said, "I'd love to do that. But that doesn't mean I'm gonna."
"She's your woman."
"She's not anyone's woman."
"I didn't mean it like that. Listen, I'm a supporter of feminism, the whole women empowerment thing, I love it. I meant, she's with you. And I'm a gentleman, or at least I pretend to be."
"But if she wasn't with me, would you like to kiss her then?"
"Sure. I'd love it. If she was alone and wanted to kiss me. Sure."
"And if she was with me, but I was okay with it, would you like to kiss her then?"
"You'd be okay, if I kiss her, that's what you're saying?"
"Yes. Kiss her. I know you want to."
I laughed and took the last drag of my cigarette. These were a couple of weirdoes and I'd had enough of them. My cigarette was out and the cold air was biting my cheek. I dropped the cigarette in the snow and decided to go back in.
"You guys are crazy," I said with a short laugh. "But interesting, I have to say, interesting characters. But I have to go back now. Mrs. Goldman would be looking for me."
I turned to leave and heard a click. I turned back towards the weird, insanely hot couple and saw a gold plated handgun by the man's side. He held the gun loose, almost carelessly, at his hip, like a cowboy from some old western.
"You're not going anywhere. Not till you kiss her."
I felt a sudden heat rising from my body, fighting the cold. Seeing them make out, all this talk about whether she was hot and whether I'd like to kiss her, none of it had turned me on. I just found it interesting, at first, and then annoying. But now, I was turned on. Death turned me on.
I smiled and shook my head, communicating my disbelief.
"You've got to be kidding me," I said, trying to smile, "You are threatening to shoot me, if I don't make out with her?"
"Yes. Now kiss her. As sensually as you've been imagining in your head."
"No," I said and leaned back against the snow covered, chilly stone railing.
"You would rather die than kiss her?"
"If I had met her in different circumstances, sure, I would have loved to kiss her. I would have never found the courage to approach someone as hot as her, but I would have kissed her at the slightest opportunity. But now that you've threatened me, I'm never gonna kiss her." I crossed my hands in front of my chest and said to the woman, "Sorry honey."
"You think my threat is hollow?"
"Yeah. You wanna play chicken? It's my favorite game. So go ahead, shoot me. Coz I'm not kissing her."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Shoot me."
"Okay," he said and raised the delicate handgun to my face.
My heart was pumping now, delivering the adrenalin throughout my body. Ideas flashed in my head as I tried to figure out a solution to my current predicament; he's not gonna shoot; I could snatch the gun; duck and shout; it won't matter if I die. My face turned red from the effort of standing still, casually leaning against the railing.
"Do you have a last wish?" he said, apparently enjoying my reaction.
"I'd like to smoke one last time."
"That's it? That's all you want?"
"Yes," I said. "What else could a man want?"
A subdued maniacal laugh escaped from behind his evil grin. He lowered the gun.
"You'd rather die than make out with a beautiful woman, and your last wish is to smoke another cigarette?"
"Alright, have your last cigarette." He stopped grinning and raised the gun to my face again.
I was trying hard to stop my hands from shaking as I took a cigarette out of the pack. I was afraid and cold now but I wanted to play it cool till the end, even though I wasn't sure of the kind of ending this little story deserved.
"You want one?" I said offering him a cigarette.
"I don't smoke. Smoking kills." The grin returned to his face and the hot blond joined him this time. They almost looked like twins.
I put the cigarette in my mouth and bit it hard between my teeth. Slowly I lowered my hands to get my lighter out and then remembered that I didn't have one.
"Could you?" I said through clenched teeth.
"Isn't it the worst? Wanting a cigarette desperately, having it, but not being able to light it?"
"Yeah, it's hell," I said, happy that the moment was being stretched. I tried to think of ways this could end and how I could get out of it, but my mind was divided into two. One half felt that he would never shoot me. How could he, with a party going on inside? Where would he run? Jump from the balcony? And the other half of my brain was drowned in fear. It felt that this was it for me. This was the last moment of my life.
"Hell's much worse. Trust me," he said and then brought the gun close to my face and nonchalantly pressed the trigger.
That last moment was so small that even my uneventful life didn't have time to flash in front of my eyes. I just closed my eyes and waited for the bullet to enter my face, rearranging it to be even uglier, and leave through the back of my head to rest in the brown stone of the building wall behind me.
When the bullet didn't come, I opened my eyes and saw that the gun had a flame coming out of the barrel. The gun was a fancy lighter and both of them were on the verge of breaking into laughter.
"Fuck me!" I said, grabbing the cigarette and throwing it to the ground. "Are you kidding me?"
The two of them let their laughter loose and almost doubled over laughing, supporting each other to stay standing.
"Come on!" I was embarrassed. "You got me. What can I say, you got me. But it's not that funny."
The man picked up the girl and sat her down on the railing, both of them still laughing. He spread her legs and moved between them, still laughing. She crossed her legs tightly around him and they went from laughing out loud to kissing passionately once again.
"Fuck you guys," I said to the beast with two backs and stormed back in.
Inside I realized how cold I had been. Rushing through the crowd of people, who all wanted to tell me a boring story about a boring thing that never happened in their boring life, I found the hostess.
"Mrs. Goldman? Who's the couple on the balcony?"
"What couple my dear?"
"The really hot couple. On the balcony?"
"I don't think anyone would go out on the balcony. It's freezing out there."
I grabbed her hand and almost pulled her all the way to the balcony. She must have been offended because she became even more polite as she assured me there was no hot couple at the party, only boring old ones.
Through the slotted panes of the French doors I could see the balcony empty.
"See! I told you, there's no one there."
I let go of her hand and opened the doors. There were no footprints in the snow, other than my own. I rushed to the balustrade and looked down, afraid that they might have fallen, or jumped, but there were no bodies splattered on the sidewalk.
I turned around and saw the cigarette I had thrown, lying in the snow. I picked it up and saw the butt of the one I had smoked earlier. The snow on the stone railing where he had placed the woman was also untouched.
I went back inside, still holding the frozen cigarette and halfheartedly searched for them but they weren't there. The only explanation my mind could come up with was that I had just met the devil and somehow resisted his temptation. I bet if they put "smoking causes the devil to appear" on the boxes, they'd get a lot more people to quit. Or maybe not.