The Fleeting Smoke of Our Innermost Desires
(To the best of my memory the following was originally composed in early 2015.)
An American Spirit cigarette hangs from my lips as I step into the cold darkness of the late night, though I suppose one of a different perspective could easily enough interpret it as early morning. I stand under the wooden walkway of the second floor. It acts as a sort of awning, shielding me from direct exposure to the all-encompassing darkness that is night. The lamp to my left ruins the solitude I was hoping to find peace in. I contemplate unscrewing the bulb, so that I may properly enjoy my loneliness. Before I can reach for the bulb, I overhear my neighbors arguing about spoiled pie and stale cake. What’s the point. If not the light, then the noise will slice through the night.
I sift through my pocket, digging past keys and pens in search of my lighter. It’s a bright shade of green, nearly yellow, but positively green. The metal safety tip has been removed by inserting my car keys through the hole on the top and twisting. It’s a simple little method I’ve developed over the course of what must've been hundreds of cigs, joints and blunts. The trick helps, not only the wheel spin with ease, but provides more flame with which to ignite the contents of bongs, bubblers, and the like. Truth be told I’m not a fan of bongs and such. No, they fuck me up too fast, and even if they don’t I’ll be sure to fall into a heinous coughing spell.
Despite this, I still prepare my lighters in this ritualistic way for no other reason than I find it increases the lighters aesthetic beauty. I’m the kind of person who appreciates things like that. Things like the beauty of a 99 cent bick lighter. I flick the wheel and in an instant a thin flame is produced. It’s Blue near the base and yellow at its peak. It dances in the wind for a moment until a gust of wind rolls through the valley and extinguishes the flame. Its life is ended as quickly as it began. This feels appropriate, and does not stir stress, nor anger within me as most minor inconveniences tend to do.
I use my free hand to shield the lighter from the vile breeze and strike again. Again, it springs to life. I wish I could regain passion as easily as that flame. I press it to the menthol - an accidental purchase which has become all I smoke - and puff two hard puffs. The cigarette lights. The lighter is returned to the blue jean pocket from whence it came. I inhale. The thick plume travels down my throat, prematurely sentencing me to a cancerous death. I do not fear this, however, because as the saying goes, ‘only the good die young,’ and I would much rather die young than fall into the pattern my predecessors have laid before me. I exhale. The smoke is taken by the wind.
Another drag is inhaled. I look across the dimly lit parking lot, hold it for a moment and slowly release it. I watch the smoke float away from me and that is when I see it. When I see her. She is taking the trash out, at an odd hour, as I’ve seen her do in days pasts. I exhale and grin in an intentionally cocky way. I hold up my hand, cigarette hanging between my pointer and middle fingers in a sort of salute that shouts, “Yes, I am a degenerate and I accept this fact. Please take pity on my soul and grace me with the sound of your voice.”
She smiles faintly, and walks over to me. I enjoy the shape of her legs and the way she moves. There is nothing clearly provocative about her clothing. In fact, her petite silhouette is predominantly masked by the thick hoodie which hangs off her like Spanish Moss on a gulf cypress. Yes, the hoodie is thick, however it is also tight and if you put in the effort - which I am - you can determine her delicate form is remarkable in every way. “You got another one of those?” Her voice is soft, yet holds a strength to it that reminds me of a bow being dragged across violin strings. Her nose and cheeks have turned a rosy shade of pink and stand in stark contrast to her otherwise pale complexion.
Her golden dreadlocks spill out of her raised hood. Some would be appalled by this nonconformist display of grooming independence. I, however, pride myself in not being everyone, and find this display both attractive and endearing. I feel it gives me at least the subtlest of glimpses into her mind. A mind I feel I know, at least in part. Her thin pale lips curl into a faint smile, as I hand her mine. “Here,” I say. She places it between her lips without hesitation. “I’ll grab the pack from inside.”
I return with a crumpled carton light from abundant use. I pull out another cig, light it and join her in the ritualistic dirtying of our lungs. I ask her name. She tells me. It is both beautiful and fitting. She asks mine. I give it. “Kyle?” She says. She holds the cigarette to the side and bites her lower lip as she contemplates whether or not to let me into her mind. Little does she know I am already there. “That’s a terrible name.” She grins and laughs. It’s not a dainty flirty laugh, but a real laugh the kind where your abs tighten and your diaphragm exerts itself. It’s the kind of laugh you let out when you were a kid trying not to wake your parents.
Her laugh makes me smile and for a moment all the fucking pain and chaos of my daily life melts away. For a moment I’m happy as a child. I tilt my head back and laugh my own hearty laugh. As I struggle to regain composure I say, “I know.” We laugh again and she puts her hand on my shoulder. It’s only for a second, but what a great second. I take a quick drag and proclaim, “When I’m a famous author I’m going to change it to K. Joseph.”
She cocks her head gently to the side. “Joseph?” She asks.
“My middle name.”
She looks at me with eyebrows raised. “Is it K like the letter K, or do you mean K-A-Y?” She juts the cigarette forward a little bit with each letter of Kay.
“Just the letter K.” I nod as I say it.
She wrinkles her nose. “I like K-A-Y better.” She takes a long drag. She’s better at it than I am. More skilled. More practiced. Better. It impresses me.
“Well,” I pause. Contemplate my response, “that would be unique.”
“Exactly.” She goes on to jovially berate my dreams and aspirations. I take no offense because it is clearly in good nature. We finish our smokes. Silence falls. I look away from her for the first time since our moment began. I take note of a particularly lush patch of grass between the bushes in front of my studio and the parking lot. It is unmowed. Inviting. Clearly the soft kind that feels good between your toes.
I turn back to her. “Do you want another?”
“Yes,” she says again without hesitation.
I open the pack only to find one solitary cigarette left. “We can share?” She nods and we do. “I want to lay down on the grass,” I say after exhaling.
“Then do it,” she say.
I smile and we make our way over to the grass. She lays down first. I lay down in the opposite direction and rest my head on her shoulder. She welcomes it and rests her head on mine. The stars are out and seem to be smiling down on us. We lie there and pass the cigarette back and forth while discussing our grandiose plans and unflappable dreams. She dreams of dancing, of being a dancer. She wants to be a dancer. No she is a dancer. She must be. She has to be. It is what she was destined to be. I feel the same passion for my form of art work. Art of the literary scene. We exhale and the smoke billows up above us. It intertwines and mingles with the light fog that has begun to form.
We lay there and look up at the stars above us knowing that society misunderstands us…
But here on the grass, we find the place we belong.
We accept each other.
Time passes. The cigarette is spent. I snub it out in the grass and place the remainder in my pocket because we both know that littering is the eighth deadly sin. She grabs my hand and writes down her number in blue ink. My skin crawls in reaction to the ticklish application of the oily ink. I hate the way it feels. I hate writing on my skin. It reminds me of lazy high school peers who would doodle upon their very own flesh despite the fact that they had perfectly good notebooks full of paper sitting mere inches from their scribbling palms. It reminds me of the time my brother came home from school with the veins of his hands outlined in blue ink. Why? Why would he, or anyone for that matter, do such a disgusting thing?
I do not understand it.
Now though, in this moment, a moment where a girl I only met minutes ago, yet feel as though I’ve known my entire life presses a vial pen against my skin. I say nothing. I keep my mouth shut. Not because of some selfish lust filled craving for human flesh, but because of love. I say nothing because sometimes for love, you must endure the things you detest.
I lean my head against the brick wall, even through a hoodie and oversized beanie, it manages to suck away the little warmth I have. I take a final drag of the cigarette. The smoke of my finale exhale drifts away, and with it go my fantasies. I walk out onto the asphalt parking lot kneel down and snub away my desires. As I do so I look up with hopes of catching sight of a star, perhaps a shooting one. Just because I can not have a lovely moment with a stranger of the female variety does not mean all beautiful moments are destined to stay aberrations of the mind's eye.
Then again, perhaps it does because when I look up I don’t see a shooting star. I don’t see an image of hope laid out across the heavens. In fact, all I see is a sky full of clouds. The foreboding kind that mean I will be driving in rain tomorrow morning. Damn.
Damn it, God!
Why can’t I have something sweet and lovely? I know, I messed up. I comprehend. It is my fault for not stepping out in faith, but now I am casting my gaze upon the heavens. I am taking action. I am acting in faith. Now. Would one shooting star, or a moderately clear sky for that matter, be too much to petition of the omnipotent alpha and omega?
I release an audible sigh. Defeat. I clench my fist around the cigarette remnants and return inside. I drop the spent butt in a bin beside my desk. I ease myself into the dark brown faux leather chair and transcribe the events of my most recent cigarette. I write everything down. I write about smoking and dirtying my lungs. I record my salacious day dream because…
Well, something good must come from it.