1-20

1. He looked out the window, his tongue long as the dawdle of cigarette smoke and feeling just as airborne.

2. Whenever Baxter thought of her and those cigarettes she’d buy discount— the thick of her mouth after one like milk, a mumble of milk not quite warm but past cold— he would go quiet, just a minute, didn’t matter who he was talking to or where he was or anything.

3. The line of people was finally being let in, he answered the man at the door, and the waft of cigarette from outside—he wondered would that waft of cigarette still be there inside or would it be lost in the smuggle of everyone?

4. Three dogs were tied to the bench, distracting everyone from their newspapers, their sandwiches, their racing blotters, these dogs not mangy but certainly unkempt, tails in thuds and about snouts long as fresh cigarettes.

5. ‘No no,’ she insisted, the sky going deeper deeper orange, a morning swallowing itself in one color not yet sure of itself, ‘No no’ she said again while her friend finally got a match struck, flame kicking on leg up while she took in her first drag of the already once stubbed out cigarette, inhaling a sour of smoke (even though she’d been who’d stubbed the thing, it tasted like it really belonged to somebody else’s mouth, rightly).

6. Receipt paper, candy bar, cigarette box, bottle of orange juice—Stanley gave a whisper out of his nose, felt the bad skin under his beard, thought of how it would bleed if he shaved.

7. As far anyone was concerned the city might as well be nothing, its windows like shut eyes or eyes only opened by having the lids singed suddenly by cigarettes, the sidewalks went nowhere but the sidewalks no matter how one might wander, no matter how much one needed to be anyplace.

8. The way Clara leaned was best described as labored, there was such obvious playact to the cigarette being lit and the foot coming out of the shoe to massage the calve of her stock straight leg—everything about it, everything, was horrifically on purpose, everything down to her ear beginning to itch, her shoulder rising to act as a soothing scratch.

9. ‘Where can I buy better cigarettes, then?’ he demanded, thinking Fuck these people and their unwashed language and not knowing what I mean.

10. His child was asleep, away, he had no idea even what the walls of the room of her house looked like, what memories were forming, no idea if his child was missing the scent of his cigarette from out back creeping in through the windows along with the odd rattle the wind gave to the pane, the odd sounds of music from cars pulling in late to park.

11. This piano was nothing to her or was maybe a sneer, her fingers weak as ever, the same rumpled cigarettes they’d been for a decade.

12. Dylan kept playing from the speakers, dim, something the matter with the car, my second, third, fourth cigarettes a kind of morbid singing-along, the heat like pain from broken fingers coming out of the car’s vents too aggressive, dry, making my eyes angry and fatigued whether I kept them opened or closed.

13. A jolt of more eager lust crawled through him, Cynthia arching her back, ribs protruding, cigarettes beneath a lost silk scarf, his tongue first licking wet the length of her skin from bottom one to top, then his teeth dragging the length of one’s rise as she twined to the side, her legs bent severely to get her panties all the way down over her feet, a handful of her rose-brown hair tugged over her face, held down tight by him across her eyes, her nose, while he bit hard the skin beneath her left breast.

14. The call ended abruptly, a done cigarette—even if she had still been talking, cut off midsentence, it was the same as she’d put a clean final rotten word down, the end.

15. No one at the subway station across from the library would ever lend him a cigarette when he asked—the last thing he would have expected from these fine people, totes and arms filled with such great things to read, some of their faces somber, bodies ready to be made new by words, others just thinking of the volumes as ways to waste times, evidently a lot of that on hand to waste but not a solitary smoke to spare.

16. His parents kissed and smoked cigarettes—that’s what he would say if he had to say them as a poem.

17. For thirteen days he avoided Cart Street like it was personally out to get him, had done him some slander, and the day he did go down it, not even thinking, the restaurants with their cigarette food and cigarette beers and cigarette music and cigarette laughter made his skin crawl maybe an inch less.

18. She touched her hair like she knew she didn’t even need to smile to show she was pleased, for a moment Gerard unsure whether he ought to go on with lighting his cigarette, with whether he should offer her one, really, though she’d turned him down with a slow bat down of her eyes, a tilt of forehead that didn’t even change the shadows on her face, just a half minute earlier.

19. The room was painted cigarette blue and the bed was just the mattress on the floor—maybe those sheets had once been over it, but now they looked to have been forgotten in the corner at least a year.

20. Smoking made him more attractive and energetic than exercise could, the sort of good looks and personality that didn’t depend on maintenance and that (he laid his money on this) would only appreciate over the years—an older man in fit shape seemed perverse, one hung on the end of a cigarette, though, that seemed animal, patient, correct.

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