Vonnegut said that when you write a story, every statement made should do one of two things: forward the plot or reveal character. A vignette, however, is not a story. It is a study of a particular scene.
Mid-afternoon. Sandro stood, leaning against a lamp post, smoking a cigarette as he watched the front entrance of ___Hospital. Once every few minutes, he would check his watch and glance up at the sliding glass doors. A few people were coming out; some of them were nurses and doctors. He did not move from where he stood.
It was only when he had his third cigarette that he finally showed any sign of leaving his post. He threw his half-smoked cigarette on the ground and slowly approached the small group that emerged from the building.
One of them, a woman with dyed-blond hair still wearing the hospital scrubs under her coat, saw him coming and spoke something to her friend standing beside her, who looked up quickly, recognizing Sandro immediately and not looking pleased.
Sandro raised his arm in a gesture, which he later adjudged as idiotic, and grinned. “Hey,” he said when he was near enough to be heard.
“…so we’ll see you later, Megan?” They were starting to leave.
As they passed by him, one of them tapped Sandro lightly on the shoulder. “How’s it going, Sandy?”
“Fine. Thanks,” Sandro said. He waited until they were gone before he turned to Megan. She was not smiling. “So I was in the neighborhood,” he began, but she cut him off.
“What is it this time?” She said. Her tone was brusque; one sleek eyebrow was raised expectantly like she knew just why he was there without needing him to tell her. It was pretty obvious she was annoyed. And at him.
“Well,” Sandro said, taking one hand out of his pocket to raise it to his face. He removed his shades and showed her his right eye, which was swollen shut by one well-aimed punch.
The injury might have looked worse than he thought because Megan let out a tiny gasp before she could stop herself.
“I got into a bit of a pinch,” he explained, putting the sunglasses back on.
“Are you an idiot?”
It was not a question. More like a suggestion really, so Sandro let it slip. Besides, it felt pretty good to see her after a week of, well, not seeing her. And this time, he had an excuse.
“I thought we agreed on four weeks,” Megan was saying later as she led him to where she parked her car. At Sandro’s suggestion, she reluctantly agreed to treat him using the first-aid box she kept in the dashboard instead of bringing him into the hospital as an outpatient. He told her before how much he hated hospitals.
“Or did you forget already?” She continued.
Sandro was strolling behind her, watching her slender figure from the back. She walked with the natural grace of a cat, long-limbed and poised. Her hair, tied behind her in a loose ponytail, seemed to follow the gentle sway of her hips.
When Sandro did not respond at once, Megan glanced behind her and caught the direction of his gaze. “Are we listening?” She asked pointedly.
Sandro grinned, not at all remorseful at having been caught. “This was an emergency,” he said, in answer to her earlier comment. “Besides, what you asked for, it’s like a month. Aren’t you glad to see me?”
Megan stared at him. “Look at my face,” she ordered. She did not ask “Do I look happy?” but the question was implied.
He did as she asked. She had an intoxicating face: brown eyes framed by dark, sooty lashes that were ever so slightly curved. He remembered that they formed half-moons against her pale cheeks when she slept. She was wearing lipstick and though her mouth was turned down in displeasure at the moment, he knew how they could be so enticing, especially when she was amused about something.
“You have no idea how much I want to kiss you right now,” he told her, meeting her gaze boldly.
“See?” She said, turning around abruptly. “This is what I mean.”
“What?” Sandro asked, stepping after her. She was already a few paces away, walking briskly.
“This, you, the things you say,” she answered. “Look, Sandy, we broke up. Why can’t you understand that?”
“I don’t understand it because you never explained anything to me,” he replied. “I mean, what happened? I thought it was good between us, and then suddenly, from out of the blue –“
“Four weeks, Sandy,” she interrupted. “Is that too much to ask?”
They stared at each other, neither of them willing to give in. And then Sandro sighed in defeat. “Is it another guy?” He inquired softly.
“No,” she said, and he knew she was telling the truth. But something was there. Her eyes shifted.
“So what is it?”
“…nothing. I just need some time, space.”
“Alright,” he said after some length. They reached Megan’s parked car and she was opening the door. “But could you please fix my face first? It’s kind of hard to see with just one eye,” he said.
Once they were inside, she asked him to remove his sunglasses, and then she was dabbing the swollen area with some cotton soaked in antiseptic. “Are you going to tell me what happened?” She asked.
“I got into a fight,” Sandro said, watching her face.
“I figured. But why did you get into a fight?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “…needed the money,” he mumbled.
“This man, Teddy, the bookie, said that it was going to be an easy one. Get in the ring, punch a few there…. I just didn’t know the fight was rigged and that he was going to disappear afterwards.”
“With your money?”
“Yeah,” he started to say but what came out instead was a pained hiss. “Oww, fuck! What –“
“I made a small cut to relieve the pressure,” Megan explained clinically, replacing the small scalpel back in the box marked with a red cross on its cover.
“Shit, tell me before you do anything like that, okay?” He exclaimed. "Don't just go cutting people up like that. Do you even know how much this hurts?"
Megan was silent as she pressed the area around the wound to let the blood out, until finally the swelling lessened. Next, she cut a small piece of gauze from a roll and placed it over the wound, making sure they stay put by putting some tape over them.
Her hands were cool against his skin. They were good hands, steady, at once strong and fine. He felt them brush the hair from his forehead and Sandro opened his eyes to find her looking at him.
“Does it hurt…much?”
It was not the smartest question and certainly not one he expected from her, but after a second he realized what she was really asking. “What happened, Megan?” He murmured.
There was a moment when their eyes caught each other’s. Their faces were already so close together, and it took only one tiny movement – they did not know who – for their mouths to touch.
It was a gentle kiss, the kind exchanged by two people who knew each other and were in no particular hurry to get to the next stage. They’d been there; they were savoring the journey. A light brushing of lips. Sandro moved closer as he felt a hand grasp his nape, and then all of a sudden the kiss stopped.
Megan was staring at him, slightly out of breath as though she had been running. “You got conned,” she finally said after she got herself under control.
“Yeah.” He was still watching her.
“By that Teddy guy.”
“Are you going to go after him?”
He did not respond.
“Sandy,” she said, staring straight ahead, “If you show up here with missing parts, I’m going to kill you.”
“If after four weeks, you tell me you found another guy…”
She laughed then, but sobered up quickly when she saw the look on his face.
Suddenly, she moved forward. One minute she was pressing a hard kiss on his lips and the next she was pushing him out of the car as she started the engine. “I know,” she said softly.
After a moment, she glanced out the passenger window, seeing Sandro mouthing something at her. Pressing a button to lower the windows, she caught him saying “ – weird woman, you know that?”
She only smirked and shifted gears, slowly backing the car away. He was still standing there, with hands in his pockets and a silly grin on his face, when she left the spot and drove out of the parking lot.