mary ann watches the clock, discretely

Visions of love and hate intertwine in a mixed drink.

“Take it,” Mary Ann says. “It’ll do you good.”

Something not quite right about the scene; too much light, not enough ambience. Disgusting loud music. This is no place for a slow drink between old friends.

“It just might.” I smile. The drink is smooth, almost silky, but not in the annoying way of health drinks. I cough; I’ve had a cold for the last week.

Mary Ann is studying a pen before her. She turns it this way and that, then rests it on the table. “Light me a cigarette, will you?”

I slide the pack over to her. She’s wearing an evening gown, one that lets her arms move unbothered. She examines the pack and then takes a cigarette. She lights it with a book of matches she produces from a black purse.

“Have you heard of quantum physics?” she says, inhales, and then lets the breath out.

“Once or twice.” Though I’m a mathematician, she knows I read volumes on quantum physics in my free time.

“They’ve done these studies. It seems that your brain reacts to things before they happen. Like there’s no free will; only the illusion.”

“It’s inconclusive.” I reach for the pack. “Maybe your brain is just two steps ahead of the action.”

“Maybe.” She says, exhaling the smoke again. “But the brain doesn’t predict two steps ahead, just one.”

She puts the cigarette out. Looks me in the eyes, brushes my hand.