This cigarette feels awkward in my hand. The wind keeps sneaking into the gaps in my defenses as I try to spark it, so I do that silly dance that all smokers do. Transforming effortlessly from a hunchback with cupped hands to a crouched over bird-of-prey, moving ever closer to the ground like gravity's pull suddenly got too much to handle.
The gentle weight of the foam tip reminds me that I’m supposed to quit, but the storm in my chest protests.
How did we get here?
I coulda sworn that when I started this day I was 5 years old in the back of my dad's car. It was red and japanese and the smell from the air conditioning made me light-headed, in a good way.
We were coming home from dinner with people too uninteresting to remember, but they had a copy of White Fang that I found and stole away to a corner while the other children played.
It feels like you were there with me. Sharing the space on those cheap leather seats, the alternating dark-light-dark-light from the tungsten street lamps tracing a path across my face,waking me up in blinky-eyed intervals. My dad still smoked back then, the sharp scent of Dunhill Reds climbing into the back seat with us.
You feel as familiar as that car ride, when we were neither here nor there. The social anxiety of the dinner mostly faded away, but the familial anxiety of home still a bit further.
I keep retracing my steps from here back to that night, and for the life of me I can’t tell when things changed.
You were there, don’t you remember? You listened to the stories I found in those books, you laughed when I childishly fumbled the big words, you loved the characters I made up when the stories didn’t have happy endings. We listened to all the same songs on the radio, and watched too much t.v, and crushed on the same characters.
I couldn’t have made up the day I met you, when you laughed at my jokes that weren't that funny. When we accidentally started smoking the same brand. When you fit yourself so perfectly into me that it felt like you’d always been there.
Or was that all in my head ?
I guess you felt so easy to keep near that I didn’t realize that you weren’t me, and needed more than I give myself. But that’s a mistake I keep making, and will probably make again.
You gave me that at least, before I woke up in the back of that red, Japanese car,eyes blinking half-asleep and smelling of smoke. You gave me a glimmer of hope that I could bring someone else into this. To once again share a bit of heat and laughter on the long ride home.