All I want is an all night kind of girl. You know the kind I mean?" His words came too quickly for me to respond, flowing easily one on top of the other. There was an easy rhythm in it, perfect control that sliced through the thick haze of alcohol. That he was standing at all was amazing.
"I mean, most women you'll find are good enough for the first few hours of twilight. They'll down the pink citrus drinks you've bought them and dance until they're covered in a film of oily, alcohol-filled sweat." His mouth cracked into a sloppy leer, letting the half-burned butt of his cigarette fall onto the wet pavement.
"They'll laugh with you, they'll drink with you and if you're lucky they'll probably fuck you too. But when I say I want an all night girl, I'm talking about a whole other timeframe, if you understand me."
I told him I didn't. He just looked past me with a glassy stare for a few seconds before continuing again. He took a deep draw from the battered flask he had sat between us. The tang of rusting copper cut through the acidic vapours of cheap hooch.
"Shit, does that stuff burn. It's good though, the burn. I mean, it's like these women I'm trying to tell you about. You can travel the world sipping fine wine and having brandy with your fucking butler over cigars, but in the end you're always looking for the same thing--that visceral burn. It's painful, but it's also warm, keeps people happy in times when their brains'll just get in the way."
He trailed off for a minute or two while I stared at my reflection in a rainbow-coloured slick. It was a warm night and we'd both long since burned away any pain we might have felt--I wasn't in any hurry to make him finish whatever it was he was aiming at.
Finally, sucking back another mouthful from the flask, he let his blank face move again.
"So booze is just like women that way. Sure, we all want to find someone to show around, someone we can take back to mom just to prove we're still doing something with our lives. But then there are those women--and they're usually the worst kind of trouble--who make you burn."
He gave a gurgling chuckle at this, and though I got the joke I continued to stare at myself in the growing puddle in front of me. The smell of copper hit me again, sharp and metallic, as I leaned forward.
"Well, you know what I mean. Sure, the ones who make you burn inside are usually the same ones who make your piss burn too, but they don't have to be. They're just late night girls, that's all. Sure they'll drink with you, and you'd better be damned sure they're going to fuck you, but they don't stop.
"I'm talking about the kind of woman who drinks in bed, you ever had that? The kind that'll bring you to some greasy spoon that's still open at four o'clock in the morning and order a tall stack and eat the whole damned thing. Sometimes it's coffee and sometimes it's coke, but these girls live for midnight, start really waking up around two or three in the morning. They're the worst kind of everything, but they're the only kind for me."
He took another cigarette out of his pocket and let it hang in his mouth, unlit. It moved as he spoke and I found my head bobbing up and down with it.
"But girls like that, they don't last, just like the booze. They'll either burn themselves out or just leave you. And in the end, it's probably better that way. Don't get me wrong, I'm a late night kind of guy myself, but in the end you've got to sleep some time. You don't and you'll fall anyway, drop dead with your eyes wide open."
"Just like you, huh?"
It was getting harder and harder to focus on my reflection in the puddle, images were starting to split and blur. I could make out a shape standing above me. I was sure it was him.
"Myself, I believe in moderation in all things. That includes excess, mind you." I heard a delicate scrape as he lifted the flask from the ground, grinding metal against concrete.
"Take this shit, for instance. If we'd finished this thing off, we'd be dead or blind, and that's if we were lucky. You don't have to drink it to know this stuff's two shades from lighter fluid."
I could feel moisture spread down my back, soaking through my thin shirt. I remember thinking it should have felt much colder.
"But there's always going to be that itch, isn't there? We can learn the lesson a hundred times, get burned by a thousand different women, and we still hope that we'll be able to find that one who'll keep us in late nights until we're dead. No rest for the wicked. Night-time's always the most fun anyway."
I saw the spark in my reflection, saw him light his cigarette and drop the cheap, convenience store lighter into his coat pocket. The lit end was all I could make out, the rest was one increasingly black blur. The hooch burned my nostrils as it seeped through my jacket.
"We only get one shot, so it's no wonder we go for the worst kinds of everything. Rest when you're dead, right? Life's for the living... blah blah blah. And who knows? Maybe there really is one all night girl who'll last forever, one who'll wake up beside you the next morning and tell you she wants to do it all over again. Fucking great that'd be."
"For the rest of us though, better to settle for as much as we can get."
"There was this girl once," I said in a voice so faint I barely recognized it. "We met at a party downtown, in a loft my friend was renting. She had the most amazing green eyes, and she stared at me the whole time. We fucked in an alley, and it was the dirtiest, most satisfying sex I ever had. And she said things, Jesus... the shit she said, I couldn't believe that I hadn't met her before. We went for coffee after, and she just stirred the cream into her coffee with this incredibly sexy smile on her face.
"We walked down one of the main avenues, with her hanging off of my arm, and we passed this busker playing 'Moonlight Sonata' on an electric guitar. And she kissed me, softly as you can imagine, and walked away."
"That sounds really nice," he said, exhaling of deep lungful of smoke. "That's the kind of shit that sticks with you for the rest of your life."
"Yeah," I said. "It wasn't until I'd called a cab that I realized she'd taken my wallet."
At this, he started laughing. It was wild and completely uninhibited, the kind of laughter that suggests a deep, painful understanding.
"Sounds like a great fucking night to me," he said.
"It was," I said. And I meant it.
"I'm sorry it has to be this way," he said, and under the drunken smoothness of it all, I thought I heard sincerity. "but that's the truth of it in the end, isn't it? We always pay for it sometime."
And then it burned.
The booze had numbed me, but I couldn't ignore it for long. It spread from my back to my shoulders, and then from my shoulders to my chest. I collapsed forward into the sticky mess of my own blood, shattering the reflection of that perfect puddle.
And as it burned, I felt every mouthful of god-awful booze I'd swilled, saw the sweaty faces of every woman I'd ever fucked. I opened my mouth to scream, but any voice I'd had had been used up and bled out.
So I lay there, as the pain washed over and finally disappeared, thinking about green eyes and "Moonlight Sonata." And the last thing I heard, as the pain was finally completely burned away, was this,
"Sounds like a great fucking time to me."