Through Your Smokey Eyes
I am the cigarette you will snuff into the concrete with the ball of your foot during your afternoon walk. I feel the pressure of the sole of your tennis shoe crushing down on my filter. My head burns and blackens into ash as you put me out. I never should have trusted you to take care of me. I used to be your lucky, with my filter tucked to the bottom of the pack and my tobacco-filled head boasting above the rest of the filters. I used to represent good luck and fortune. I used to be unique. Now I lie on the ground, crushed and torn apart, just like every other cigarette butt around me.
We had a good time together. You chatted on the phone and puffed on me. Your teeth wrapped around me, and your tongue touched the tip of my filter. Being smoked feels better than kissing. It feels better than how I imagine sex must feel. It feels better than sitting upside-down in that pack of peers. It feels better than being put out.
Step one: pull the cigarette out of the pack. I slip out of the foil casing inside the paper box. Your index finger and thumb grip me by the head and pull me out. My exit leaves the pack empty. You toss it in a nearby trashcan. I can hear the echoes of the box against metal as it settles at the top of the trash. You will buy another pack tomorrow, or maybe tonight. A salesman at a bar gave you a coupon for a $1 pack of cigarettes a couple nights ago. You sat at a table with friends when he approached. “Do y’all smoke Camels?” he asked.
“I smoke Camel Crush,” you said.
“Do you want a coupon that will get you your next pack for $1?”
“Yes, of course,” you said.
Step two: place the cigarette in your mouth. My filter touches your lips. The taste of tobacco and nicotine fills your mouth.
He sat down next to you in that dimly lit bar. You sat around friends of a friend and tried to feign interest in their conversation until this salesman approached you. You no longer had to pretend involvement in the conversation; you had begun one of your own. The coupon-giver took out a machine and started to scan your ID. It scanned, and he handed it back to you. “Email address?”
You gave him your email address. “Phone number?”
You gave him your phone number. He solicited enough personal information about you to be your own stalker, and just as you thought he might truly be that stalker you always feared you had, he excused himself from the table and walked away with a “Goodbye” and a wave of the hand. “Bye!” you said.
Tucking your coupon into your bag, you returned to the conversation at hand while I waited for you to take a smoke break. Finally, you decided you needed to go home early, and you smoked my friend as you walked home.
But now you have me in one hand, the coupon in your pocket, and a lighter in your other hand. Your lips rub together, and you begin to salivate like a dog when it hears the sound of its food. Your jaw clenches as your fingers bring my filter closer and closer to your mouth.
Step three: light the cigarette. You flick the white lighter in your right hand. Fuel escapes in a high-pressure steam. Fuel meets oxygen meets spark. The flame emerges from the lighter, and you hold the lighter close to my head.
You used to chew gum religiously, until you discovered me.
Step four: inhale. You remember the first cigarette you ever smoked. A friend handed you a clove, and you stared at the black stick in your hand. You placed the cigarette to your mouth, and sweet, black licorice stained your lips. You licked your lips and tasted the clove. Your friend, a boy you liked, held the lighter up to you, and you grabbed it and lit your cigarette. You didn’t tell him you had never smoked before, but he guessed. “Your first cigarette?” he asked.
You coughed. He laughed. You smiled, and shame peeked through your cheeks. Fiberglass cut through your throat and lungs, and the next day you woke up to a sore throat and a craving for another clove.
You smoked cloves for a while after that before transitioning to the regular cigarette. After cloves, you smoked Camel Lights, and then, when they came out with Camel Crushes, you made the fatal, addicting switch to menthol.
Step five: pull the cigarette from your mouth. You should quit. You want to quit. You will quit, one day. Maybe this will be your last cigarette. But if you had a cigarette for every time you had that thought, you’d have more cartons than you could count by now.
Step six: exhale. Let the smoke flow from your lungs, through your esophagus, and out your mouth, brushing against your taste buds on its way to fresh air. Lick your lips and swallow. Savor the flavor of tobacco for a second before you realize how much you’re enjoying an action so deadly.
Step seven: repeat until done.
Why did you pick up this filthy, delicious habit? The smoke burns your insides as you tease the grim reaper and ponder the self-destructive man. Sure, people smoke cigarettes because of their addictive quality and their taste, but what makes someone pick up a cigarette and inhale deadly toxins for the first time? It seems like a simple choice: smoke a stick that guarantees a shorter lifespan, or don’t smoke it. Why would anyone choose an answer other than “Don’t smoke it”? Because it makes you look “cool”? Some people might smoke for that reason, but it can’t be the reason for everyone. No. Some people have to have a death wish. Some people have to smoke for purely self-destructive purposes. Are you one of those people?
Step eight: drop the cigarette on the ground. The second saddest step in smoking a cigarette, dropping the cigarette means saying goodbye to that small moment of peace and calm you just shared with a stick of tobacco and poison.
Step nine: return to your living room, sit on the couch, and stare at the contents of the two, conjoined coffee tables before you. Two square coffee tables have been pushed together to make one, long coffee table to hold more shit. You have a lot of shit. A computer sits in the center of each table, one PC and one Mac. Atop the PC lies a hand-drawn letter on yellow notebook paper. The note reads, “Call your mom,” in scribbled letters.
Next to the note lies a pair of scissors, for blunt splitting and knitting and various other spontaneous needs. To the right of the computer sits an ashtray full of Camel Crush and American Spirit butts and roaches. In front of the PC, a scale, cigar-packing tool, and plastic tray with a big, white rock and an eighth of a straw, tell tales of binges to come and binges past. A mouse rests next to the PC, for computer games.
The other table has slightly different paraphernalia. About an ounce of marijuana fills a plastic bag atop the Mac. A pack of Camel Crushes and an open grinder rest closest to me on the table. A honey vanilla candle sits behind the laptop — a small attempt to freshen the air. You live in a drug den. You’re on opium as you write this. You smoked it in a blunt with your boyfriend just pages ago. Oh, you also railed a line of cocaine, and you think it might be time for another one.
Step ten: smile. Smile because you just enjoyed a warm cigarette. Smile because you feel high enough that you can speak to your cat. You trained her to meow when you say, “Say please,” before dinner and breakfast. You can make her walk over to you and purr in your lap solely through focused eye contact. The trick is allowing your eyes to open and trusting nonverbal communication.
We can have conversations much faster and with less misunderstanding with eye contact. You can learn a lot about a character by analyzing the contents of their coffee table. That and their nightstand, but you don’t know anyone well enough to show them all that just yet.