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Stranger In a Strange Year, or, All-American Spirits

She said it was something about the cigarettes. “There’s a lot you can tell about a person, they smoke American Spirits,” she told me as I pulled the pack out from my jacket and offered her a stick. “I’m Kara.” I was only wearing a light zip-up hoodie, despite the fact that it was December 31. The evening was unnaturally warm, which I took as a good sign for the new year still to come.

We talked and shared a smoke as we admired the swiftly melting ice sculptures that adorned the Boston Common. Turned out we shared the same affection for Flemish sculptors. She told me that she’d moved here a just few months ago and didn’t know many people. Her friends had ditched their plans for the evening, leaving her with no one kiss, and even less to drink, so I invited to a friend’s party out in Davis Square. Looking back, I think she may have invited herself, but I was in no position that night to turn down some company.

There was a loud explosion from the east, and we turned our attention towards the skyscrapers of the Financial District, heads tilted upwards towards the sky. It was barely even 7 o’clock, and the city’s firework spectacle had already started, ringing in the Irish New Year with booming Chinese lights.

We stood and watched the fireworks together and shared another cigarette. She thanked me with a sly, crooked smile, a curve that cut up the left side of her soft cherub face. She was coy about her age, and whether she was 16 or 36, I could have believed it. Butts burned out and stomped to the ground, we finished our loop around the Common and hopped the Red Line train at Park Street.

On the ride over, I started asking her questions about herself, tried to get to know her some. She claimed that she had grown up abroad, around, but wouldn’t tell me where. Her mystery was irresistibly alluring, and we shared a kiss on the Longfellow Bridge as the train crossed over the Charles River, the brilliant lights of an excitable city celebration glowing across the horizon behind us. I’d have sworn I saw more fireworks but my eyes were closed (it’s not polite to peek or stare).

Shortly after we arrived at the party, she started dropping hints that she wanted to leave, go somewhere else, preferably with me. That’s when I told her I’d been living with my parents on the South Shore after my girlfriend and I broke up, so I was actually staying with a friend that night. It didn’t seem to bother her, but she wouldn’t bring me back to her place either. She was giving me mixed signals all night — no physical contact, but she kept saying she wanted to leave with me, and so on. But still, I couldn’t tell where we stood, and I didn’t want to ditch my friends, so we ended up staying at the party until around 2am, although we kept to ourselves for most of the night.

Eventually we hopped a cab and got a hotel room out near Alewife which she talked me into paying for. We were both pretty drunk so I don’t remember the sex very well, but I know it happened, because afterward she told me to pay up. Eighty bucks an hour for the company, plus another hundred for the sex. Apparently prostitutes in this state don’t take American Express.