A Stroke of Jealousy
Jake hadn’t smoked for six days. He left Gabe’s deli, straight to the liquor store. Cheap tobacco would suffice, he said. Hands shaking, he threw the sandwich onto the passenger seat and sped away. When his thin fingers were wrapped around the cigarette, he took harsh drags and filled his lungs with thick smoke. He was breathing again.
On the verge of tears, he let his eyes wander over the fog. It was one of the coldest mornings of the season, the air was raw against his cheeks. He closed his eyes and took another drag.
He saw Jasmine. She was laughing, head tilted back, the vodka surfing on the edge of the glass. The man standing near her was outlining her body with his eyes. First the legs, then the skin above her jeans, her breasts and the Christmas necklace. The man raised his face and tipped his hat. Why was Jasmine smiling? She hated cowboy hats.
The wavelets of vodka slipped over the edge. The man grabbed a handkerchief and wiped Jasmine’s wrist. More whispers, but the whiskey wouldn’t let off. Jake wandered over, slithering through the dancing crowd, and dropped his glass. Vintage whiskey on a pair of sharp leather boots. The adrenaline bubbled at the surface of his whole body. As he grew feverish, the call to destroy the memory of the strange hand brushing over Jasmine’s soft skin seemed inescapable.
He wouldn’t blink. Breathe. As soon as the animal growing inside erupted, the man with the uninvited gaze would be silenced.
It happened too fast. The breakage of bones, overworked muscles. Grunts and broken glass. Jake wiped the sweat from his face, reached for a cigarette and discovered his pockets were empty.
He opened his eyes. Across the room, friends were dancing in a small circle, twirling one another in high spirits. Jasmine was still smiling. The man’s arms were crossed over his chest, boots unpolished. Two olives floated in vodka. The delusion quelled, but Jake renounced its violent spell. Jasmine had been smiling for everyone. Not just the cowboy.