散文1 / Copenhagen Snuff

The barnfloor smell of opening a fresh can and the smell of spit in a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew bottle take me back to driving, maybe taking off down the end of Main Street at dusk, past the Days Inn where I used to work the nightshift, the Western Development Museum, onto the 2 through Tuxford, across the causeway over Buffalo Pound, cutting northwest on the 11 from Chamberlain, sun setting and then prairie night all the way until the lights of Saskatoon, or the warehouse of a liquor store I worked at in St. Albert with a wad of Copenhagen Wintergreen always burning a hole in my lip.

Dipping was writing, focused, hidden in one of the study carrels of the Moose Jaw Public Library. I’d cut through Crescent Park when I had the day off, skirting along the Natatorium fence, watch the ducks, and then step into the cool marble gallery. Putting all my anxiety and bullshit into an unpublishable private literature. And working, whatever shit job I had found, cutting grass, slaughterhouse, warehouse, spitting on the floor or in the dirt; and I dipped while walking the hallways of the old hotel in downtown Edmonton, on the nightshift, chasing homeless women out of the stairwells and listening at doors to the sound of people fucking or fighting.

My lower teeth are still stained, forever, tobacco brown. I smoked cigarettes everywhere else — not the same, not the same: none of the buzz in your temples, the slow drip of nicotine focus, or the phenomenon of the intense nicotine dreams that come when you fall asleep with a plug in your upper lip — and this is a rare treat now, a couple cans of Copenhagen Snuff in the mail, today, and before that an awkward gesture from an Okinawan-American girl who picked up a log of Grizzly Wintergreen on base, and before that a couple tins off some Air Force guys from Iowa that were partying in Roppongi.

I’m sitting under the air conditioner, blading the snuff with my tongue back against my gum. As good as it ever was, even if it doesn’t feel quite right, here and now.