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  • We were out on the balcony talking in circles with the conversation always coming back to California. She wanted to hear all about it, but I really only have so much to say (a chimichanga is a deep fried burrito, yes they're real. Yes, I surf to school with movie stars. No, the Jonas brothers don't live in Toluca Lake anymore). The only thing she seemed to want to do more than press me about the Golden State was smoke cigarettes.
    I was starting on my third--doubling the amount of cigarettes I'd ever smoked-- by the time she had sucked her fifth to the filter.
    I'd already realized that the only thing keeping our conversation afloat was a mutual attraction strong enough to fuel a desire to quash awkward silences with anecdotes about our hometowns or elongated drags from cigarettes. I had to make sure I didn't cough after those elongated drags.
    There was a party inside where Swedes, overly excited to play beer pong with Americans, kept asking about red cups. The iconic red Solo cup doesn't exist in Sweden, but university kids still play beer pong with flimsy Swedish plastic drinking vessels. Talking to a cute girl, even if it required chain smoking, was better than trying to toss a dirty pingpong ball into undersized cups.
    After we both shared stories of our bikes getting stolen silence started to set in. I looked down at the cigarette in my hand. While spinning it to pinch it between my thumb and forefinger I wondered how close to the filter was close enough to grind the cigarette out without looking like a novice smoker. I spun the cigarette back to between my index and middle fingers. By this point my arm was around her and we were looking out over the train station. It was approaching midnight, but the summer sunset was just starting to creep into the sky.
    "The sun is finally setting," I said and dropped the cigarette I was holding onto the plate left outside to serve as an ash tray-- it could burn the last half inch on its own. She just mumbled an "mhm" and cozied more into me. I looked down at her and caught a smile from her. She met me half way as I moved in to kiss her.
    Her lips were soft, but all I tasted was cigarettes.
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