We smoke cloves because we can. They are his cloves, not mine. I have taken a drag off of every single one he’s smoked tonight. They are cool, and the night is falling.

We are out in the woods. I am awkward. I have nothing to do with my hands. I shift. The cold has me small and insignificant, especially in the weight of this mass of sky. Open. I have never seen such openness before. He is cool before me. Calm in his way and I watch the fragrant puffs move around his hair as he looks at me. Past me. He sees Orion in the heavens, and his brown-green eyes are the light of all the world.

Dance. Could you ever have danced with me?

I learned to smoke there, that night, before a bridge of scummy water meant to represent all that was left that was clean. I wanted to settle into some kind of self-destruction, and I felt the cigarettes in my breath like cancer. I wanted to feel the flow of smoke in curls of transparent filth, illuminating the darkness around me. I wanted to watch the thin gray matter from the burning embers working its way to nowhere. I liked the bitterness. I liked the aching in my lungs. I liked the way that I could see a skeleton doing this, somewhere in the night, singing about his joy in his life before he died.

They are his cloves. Not mine. This is a trespass into a world that’s not my own. I will buy a pack myself someday and never finish it, keeping it in my purse for a year in the hopes he’ll try to bum one, wondering if he’ll remember I still have them.

He puts another cigarette out on the railing of the bridge. Two sparks fly from its dying end, out beyond, off into the stream. He sits down heavily, his eyes still on Orion, and beckons me close. I take the warmth of his body against the coldness of the night and keep it with me. There will be nights like this, just as cold and just as lost, but none will smell like this. None will smell like his shoulders, in a heavy sort of midnight, mingled with smoke from within his lips and mine. He tells me his stories and I tell him mine. The silence evens out when there is nothing left to say, and no reason yet to go. So we sit, watching clouds roll like smoke past the moon and disappear.

It seemed like the most decadent, delightful thing in the world. Standing there on a balcony overlooking Elliott Bay, half past midnight, as a beautiful woman handed me a long, thin black cigarette. She lit it for me, and as I discovered the sugary taste to the filter and the heady, thick taste of the smoke I looked out into the rain, and the dark, and the lights of the ships in the harbor.

"It suits you," she said. I had never smoked before.

Decadent. A cigarette imported from the other side of the planet, laced with exotic flavors, the same hue as the velvet of her dress. I put an arm around her, and someone took our picture; she said later I looked like her bodyguard, standing there, looking confidently at the camera.

Spider Robinson once wrote that it is much easier to act aristocratic if you have a cigarette in your hand. I have occasionally found this to be true, although it is by no means necessary. But nothing quite matches the strangeness, the feeling of grand dissipation, of that first clove cigarette.

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