that was the name of the cigar he got from the bodega on 84th.
he didn't like the looks of it. didn't like the green wrapper it came in. didn't trust the easy packaging. but the man behind the counter had become impatient, weary of his blond, curly hair--his earnest face. so he got it. rather than deal with the man's ire, he looked up, shrugged, said, fine, okay.
i stood off to the side, watching. he threw a smile my way and i took it. turned on my foot and walked outside into one of those crisp nights marking summer's end. i liked that blonde hair. liked the way the curls cut across his face anytime he looked down.
and i didn't mind the wrapper... i just liked saying the name: palma. liked how the l into the m felt in my mouth.
he got the cigar and i got the ice cream (pistachio nut) and into central park we went. found a sloping hill, set off from the path. and perched on my knees i watched as he lit the thing, the palma.
i feel like i'm fifteen, i said. a slow smile. a soft laugh, a long, deep breath of smoke.
i'm not sure what prompted it. i must have told him about my only act of teenage rebellion--smoking cigars with the boys on the elementary school soccer field. night painting morning, that final year of high school--all of us knowing we'd be going soon. leaving. that those nights would be among our last.
perhaps that was the connection. that after so many years in new york he was leaving. and so a cigar it was: an ode to youth and a calculated impromptu of a goodbye.
just after meeting, a goodbye.
funny how timing works that way. how it is elastic and ever-moving and mostly ill-advised.
one final night: a prelude to nothing. a demand of the present--that we be there--right there, in that moment. two figures on a grassy hill, one cigar (one illicit palma), backs pressed into the grass--into each other, drinking in those few stars the manhattan skyline will allow.
no expectations, no plans, a single cigar and the promise of very little sleep.