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You know those kind of nights.

 

You'd been swilling dollar domestics out of a fingerprinted glass at Lou's, then had your ass thrown out in the pouring rain after a bit of a disagreement over your tab. You think your rib is cracked, but you're still in a dazed stupor and your stomach is doing cartwheels underneath your torn button-down.

 

Big, fat drops slapped down on your matted hair as you staggered to the nearest all-night diner, a holy refuge for the late night lush. Your rag doll form slumped down in the nearest booth, next to the window with the neon sign, as you propped yourself up against the wall. A sideways grin crossed your face as the waitress slinked over to the table, black rings under her eyes and hair askew. She had a beautiful sadness about her, a defeated glow that made you want to sit her down and buy her a decent meal. Instead, however, you sighed and thought about how much she looked like Mona.

 

"Coffee," you growled, "just bring the whole damn pot." You paused for a second, then added, "nothing for the misses," as you leaned on the empty seat next to you. The fluorescents flickered above you, and she was gone.

 

Now the clock reads five after four, and the chef is speaking to the owner in a strange language behind the Formica. You're sweating bullets, and the inside of your mouth tastes worse than the ashtray in front of you. As you pick the pieces of gravel out of the side of your face, you look for your hat and prepare to hail a cab home and lick your wounds. It's only when you look down that you see them; two Kents, lying like lovers in the mashed up pack on the table. You look over to the waitress, with her razor sadness and sleepless eyes, and she smiles. It's only then that you decide to stay a while and watch the rain.

 

And somewhere in the distance, you can just make out the mournful call of a single saxophone, fanfare for another broken night

/me cringes in pain, crippled by the debilitating exorcism of nicotine from his system.

Time. That's all it comes down to. How long before the next cigarette? How long before things get uncomfortable? How long before the irritability, the rage, the blindingly painful headache? How long before you succumb? Hands shaking, heart pounding, mind racing, a lighter flicks to life.



Kris and I are sitting out on his balcony, his bong between us. The session is over and it's time to think. I like to think with a cigarette in my hand.

The pack is on the ledge. I grab it, pull out a loose, offer one to Kris (I don't want to be rude), and light up. The first thing that hits me is the slightly spicy aroma of butane from the lighter, followed closely by the gag-inducing taste of burning cigarette paper. Thankfully, it lasts only a second and by now I've learned to never inhale the first hit. Once the tobacco is burning, all is well.

Every hit is like medicine to an ailing mind. When one goes without a cigarette for too long, a hunger takes over. Not a physical hunger that can be satiated with food and nutrition, no, a hunger for nicotine. In fact, physical nourishment is the last thing on your mind when you're really jonesin for a stogie.


"Cigarettes are funny," says Kris, breaking the silence. "It's like the tobacco companies have somehow convinced you to kill yourself." His laugh is a brief giggle, almost monkey-ish.

I ponder the accuracy of his comment over mid-cigarette. Mid-cigarette is a comfortable time. The buzz starts to kick in by this point and every puff adds to it: a positive feedback loop of sorts. The hunger starts to subside and the world becomes a more beautiful place. I pause to adore the breathtaking view of a moon-lit ocean.

Smoking makes me feel better, I tell myself. Nicotine focuses me when I study and calms me when I'm angry. Smoking makes me feel good. The cigarette after a meal is truly a great feeling; a gentle sigh of contentment as your stomach and your brain dually appreciate the feeding. Smoking after a workout also feels pretty good, ironically enough, and it takes the edge off. The best cigarette, however, is indisputabley the after-sex cigarette. It's the equivalent of a feast for your brain; an all-you-can-eat buffet of soothing hormones.

I tell myself this, though I know better. Despite all of these "justifications", there isn't a single good reason to smoke cigarettes.


"You're right," I tell Kris, "It is about slowly killing yourself. I don't think the tobacco companies have to convince anybody, though."

He nods his head, slightly confused by my response. By now I'm nearing the end. The last part of a cigarette is the worst. Looking down at the short remains of what used to be a full cigarette can be a little depressing. All the tar and poisons start to build up on the filter as well and make every hit harder; the taste goes to shit. I like to finish about a quarter inch away from the filter so as to end on a good note. I casually flick the remains of my cancer-stick over the balcony, noticing the tragic beauty of the orange sparks flying off the lit end; ashy embers suspended 14 stories above sea level until the moist Florida wind extinguishes them with a satisfying sizzle.

"One cigarette closer to death," I mumble as we pick up our chairs and go back inside.

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