The windows above his head were half open and the smell of the streets lingered in the F-line trolley like a tightly wrapped turban on a man’s head. Thomas moved his backpack closer to him then stuffed it in his lap.
“So you’re a gentleman,” she slid in. Her scarf was floral, her camel coat had seen better days and her feet were dressed in half soled black flats and bobby socks; “Could, you raise the window, just a tad, kid. My hands are cold.”
Thomas stood half way and pressed in then up, “It’s stuck, lady—Just sit on your hands.”
“Don’t be fresh. You, the new generation in your fancy sneakers can be fresh.” She pulled her chiffon scarf up from her neck and tied it onto her head, 1940’s style, with a soft knot under her chin. Bethlena opened the clasp of her alligator or almost alligator bag, the size of a small throw pillow and slid a cigarette out of the inside pocket, “Got a light?” Thomas turned away; “You deaf, kid. Got a light?”
“Mam, you can’t smoke on Muni.”
“Ah loosen up. I just watched a film Noir at the Castro, Crimson Kimona, even the cops smoked everywhere. A little smoke never hurt anyone. I can blow rings around your face. I’ve got talent.”
“That I would like to see. You should post a blog.” Thomas smiled and zipped up his navy-blue Armor jacket and brushed some lint off his lean jeans.
“Well you can see in real time if just give me a light. You know, they used to smoke in offices, movies, taxis, hair salons. Even the detectives in the film I just saw blew smoke above their girlfriend’s eyes before kissing them. That’s why I always wear raspberry lipstick. Got to be ready. You kiss boys or girls? You are hard to figure out. Handsome, but hard to tell.”
“I kiss all kinds.” Thomas amused himself with his directness.
“Good to know—You’re like Marlena Dietrich; she kept them guessing in her films. Oh, and she smoked. I think after I light up, I will give you a peck. See just how good you are.” Bethlena rolled her head back and laughed. “Oh, that’s rich.”
Thomas picked up his phone and twiddled his fingers. Bethlena followed his fingers, “You won’t find a match there. I know you’re a pot smoker; your kind all live half stoned. And I saw you had a vape in your bag. You should zip your personals up.” With that the trolley creaked, rattled and halted. Civic Center, the driver mumbled. “Oh Jesus, you never know who will get on here. All kinds of crazy people. Hold on to your purse.” She laughed again. “I mean phone.” The aisle filled up and a frail woman with swollen feet held on to the pole with her arthritic fingers, by the seats saved for old people. Bethlena, reached her neck over to the passenger across the aisle, “Got a light, Sir?” The man mumbled something in Chinese. She held up her cigarette. “A light!” She could smell tobacco on him.
“You wait ‘til you get out.”
“Can’t wait. I will take a match if you’ve got one, please.” He reached in his pocket and handed her his lighter. He shooed his hand as if to swat a fly.
“Ah!” Bethlena, flicked the lighter. A woman in the isle stepped aside.
“You’re going to burn someone with that.”
“Relax Blonde, It’s only a lighter. No intention to set fire; just need a smoke. They used to smoke everywhere you know.”
Thomas, peered at her, “Really lady, you will get kicked off if you smoke.”
“I promised you a kiss and rings around your face and you’re gonna get it. I never break a promise.” And with that she lit up, inhaled deeply, puckered her lips. Oh, my own film noir, “Kiss me boy.”
Thomas exhaled and blew back at her, “Kiss the air, lady.”
“That’s what my grandmother always said. She smiled, “That’s rich, kid!”
“ Or blow me a kiss when you get out, which will be sooner than you think.” Thomas closed the window.
Andrew Pelfini is a native San Franciscan who has been writing prose: fiction, non fiction, poetry. He has been a part of an Intergeneration writing group for twenty years and has published a collaboration/collection of their work. By trade he is a psychotherapist and Graduate educator in counseling/psychology.