A short story

Alexandre Aimbiré
7 min readOct 11, 2022
Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

Going down that narrow flight of stairs while intoxicated was never a good idea, but he just had to smoke a cigarette. Long gone were the days when one could smoke inside the club and spend the night as a human ashtray. These were more civilized times and Jimmy had to leave the premises to inhale smoke from a minuscule tobacco cylinder. He was not drunk, yet, but he intended on getting there. Once the obstacle presented by the staircase was surpassed, sliding out through the door pulling up the sleeve of his brown jacket to show the bouncer his stamped wrist, proving that the admission fee had been paid and that he was cleared to leave the bar. A cigarette was resting anxiously on his lips, just waiting for the touch of a flame to light it. He stepped on the sidewalk and stood on the curb. His fingers clumsily went through his pocket, nervously grabbing a small pink disposable lighter. At last, the lighter was brought up to his lips and lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply, like it was the first one he had smoked in ages. Smoke came out of his mouth slowly and as the stream left his mouth, he noticed Dylan next to a lamppost on the opposite side of the street. Dylan always seemed to be moping about for some reason and didn’t seem to take notice of what was happening around him. He stood there, gazing into his phone as if he was entranced by it.

“Shit”, he thought to himself, “that can’t be good”. He pondered if he should walk to him and ask what was wrong, but ultimately decided that it was a bad idea. Dylan was a friend, not a close friend, but a friend. The problem was that he had a tendency of getting way too sentimental when he drank and would unload all of the world’s worries on whoever was next to him. The last time that happened it ended up ruining a whole weekend, so he pretended not to see him. “Out of sight, out of mind”.

He let the cigarette slide from his finger into the ground and put it out with the shoe, giving one last look outside to see if there was anyone worthwhile there. At first glance it looked like just the usual crowd. Some guys with rock band tees smoking a joint and feeling pretty cool about it, a more fashionable crowd complaining about the DJs, and a group of girls he didn’t know with their token twinks gossiping and laughing close to the entrance. They appeared to be pondering if they should go in or not. His eyes stopped at a girl wearing a short black skirt and a denim jacket. He pulled another cigarette from his pocket and lit it, trying to disguise that he was admiring her. “Must not stare”, repeated in his head like a mantra. He had seen her before from afar, but that day he was otherwise engaged in a lengthy conversation with someone he had just met about David Bowie and where did the latest record rank in his discography and did not talk to her. Not that he would have approached her, anyway, but it’s always nice to have an excuse.

Another moment passed and their eyes crossed. Jimmy dodged his first instinct to look away and saw that they were hazel, hiding under some blueish makeup and a brown fringe that hung over her face like a veil. His eyes moved on to her lips and the bright red lipstick she was using. “Damn, she’s beautiful”. But before he could figure out his next move, Dylan, ever so appropriate, appeared between them and uttered a mumbled “hello”.

“Hey, Dylan! Didn’t see you there! How’s it going, man?” he lied as he patted his friend’s shoulder. Before Dylan could say anything, he moved his own body towards the entrance visibly trying to escape him. “Let’s get another beer, shall we?”, he said as he passed by the bouncer at the door and threw himself up the stairs that lead to the upper level and the dance floor. Halfway up, he realized that in his hurry to keep Dylan from talking, he forgot to look if the girl was still there, or if she and her friends decided to go into the club. “Best not dwell on it”, he said in a low voice as he climbed the last steps and walked into the club. Dylan slowly waded up behind him and soon they were both at the counter waiting for the bartender to notice them. Jimmy ordered two Heinekens and soon each one had a bottle in their hands and they turned to see the crowd. The sound system pumped out American Boy loudly and most of the people in the club were dancing with only a few around the corners, talking, tapping their feet and bobbing their heads up and down. Dylan was silent the whole time and Jimmy asked him what was wrong after taking another sip of his beer and immediately regretted asking. Dylan sighed deeply, the kind of sigh that could blow the leaves off a tree, and started mumbling something about his ex-girlfriend. Jimmy pretended to be listening while he scanned the room for the girl with the denim jacket. He nodded and mixed “uh hums” with “yeahs” as Dylan calmly explained what was probably a very ordinary situation that he blew totally out of proportion. And then he saw her, the girl in the denim jacket. He recognized a couple of her friends that were also at the entrance and smiled, thinking that the night wasn’t completely lost. But, all of the sudden, he heard a single word coming out of Dylan’s mouth that he recognized as a bad word. Not a curse word, not blasphemy, but a very bad word. A forbidden word that scares even the bravest of men and the most fearless of women.

“What did you say?”, he said as he turned his face at Dylan and for the first time that night looked him dead in the eyes. After a moment of silence, Dylan bit his lower lip, looked up as if he was looking for God in the ceiling and repeated with a bitter voice, as if he had swallowed the sentence whole and had to cough it out:

“She’s pregnant”.

The girl disappeared into the mass of people that were in the club. He reached for words, but there were none, as if his voice was stolen from him. Dylan looked at the counter also in silence, waiting patiently for a reply. When Jimmy finally found the willpower to say something, the only thing that came out was a long “fuck” as if it was a heavy sigh and Dylan nodded in acquiescence. They spent another moment in silence until it was broken by Jimmy if it was his, as if he was trying to assert the ownership of a crashed car on the side of the road. Dylan shrugged and said that he didn’t know. Another sip of beer and then came another inevitable question? “And now what?” only for it to be replied with the same “I don’t know”. Those couple of minutes seemed to last for an eternity and in those moments it seemed as if there was nothing else happening. No DJ, no music, no dancing youths with beers in their hands, no strobing lights. No pretty girl with the denim jacket. The moment passed and Jimmy’s usually cheeky demeanor suddenly changed into a rather somber tone. Without any ceremony, he finished his beer and with a pat on Dylan’s shoulder, saying he had to smoke. Dylan moved to accompany him, but was held back. With an odd tone of voice, Jimmy said he wanted to be alone for a little while.

He glided again down the stairs and stormed out, but instead of reaching for the pack of cigarettes, he reached for his phone. He didn’t stop at the curb, as usual, and kept on walking until he was out of sight behind a closed TV repair shop in the corner. Scrolling quickly, he found the contact and pressed the big green button. As the phone rang, that dull A chord chiming at perfect intervals, Jimmy’s mind slipped into how he got himself into this. His thought didn’t make sense even for himself and nothing coherent could be assembled from the apparent randomness of his flowing mind agitating itself as the phone kept ringing. No reply. “Shit!”, he berated at the phone loudly and dialed again. He grabbed the cigarettes from his pocket while his ear remained stuck to the phone and, all of the sudden, he had a moment of clarity.

It was all David Bowie’s fault.

His mind kept on dragging him back to the night that David Bowie died. He had just released a record called Blackstar and two days later, on a Sunday night he passed. Ever since that happened, everything seemed out of balance, as if that particular Englishman held the very fabric of the Universe in check and his passing had thrown everything into disarray. That night he saw the girl in the denim jacket and didn’t talk to her. That night he drank a little too much and ended up doing a lot of things that he regretted later. That night he proposed a toast to the Thin White Duke and everything turned into a god awful small affair.

No reply.

He put the phone down against his thigh and felt like sitting, but he was on the sidewalk of a dark corner downtown near a club whose patrons did not have the best of reputations. Leaning against the wall, this young man felt very lonely, like he hadn’t felt ever before. He lit another cigarette and as the first smoky breath was leaving his lungs, he heard a voice. A man’s voice. A known voice. He turned around and saw him. With a red face and his hands clenched into fists that looked like marble blocks, Dylan finally showed some emotion and repeated the question: “Who were you on the phone, Jimmy?”. The words from Life on Mars? resonated in his head as his once friend walked to him and he accepted that whatever came of this was his own fault.

Written originally as a class assignment for the Introduction to Short Stories course at the English Language and Literature Undergraduate Program at Universidade de São Paulo in July of 2022.



Alexandre Aimbiré

Sociólogo de boteco, estudante de Letras, guitarrista ocasional, pai, marido e leitor ávido de caixas de sucrilhos. Leio e escrevo sobre o que me dá na telha.