41-60

41. As the thing made its way along the ceiling, Reggie laid across two pulled together chairs, warm under his company issued coat, blew eight little taps of smoke from his cigarette drag, one for each of the thing’s legs, another few just to empty his mouth of the excess.

42. It was difficult for Nadine to get the seat adjusted just to where she liked it so she was left irritable and in need of a cigarette, clock showing only five minutes had gone by but the day seemed toppled or at least tilted or at least poked enough to feel different.

43. The hum of airplane, the hum of subway, the hum of the shower in the motel room next to this motel room, the hum-crackle of cigarette tip and hiss of a breath in meant to not be a hiss just a hum—I wonder if I could make a hymn out of this, wonder if it’s something anyone would consider holy if I explained it, just how it felt instead of just how it is.

44. Again—this time it was raining outside, might be the only difference—the cab pulled up, idled, tailpipe cigaretteing in lonely half erect huffs, and he leaned to the lobby desk with too long a fingernail scratching some itch at his temple which would soon swell, would pimple, too raw to scratch if it itched again.

45. He watched her pull those blue corduroy pants up her legs (such an even single breath of a motion, the same ease as anyone else would have slipping cigarette to mouth, flame to tip) and smiled when she stood, making final adjustments to the pants’ fit over the bare, still slightly reddened skin of her ass, and he saw those panties quarter curled around the leg of the desk chair in their beautiful lemon-yellow, lime stenciled bloom.

46. Samuel told Theresa how Paulo would always complain about how some actor had watched Paulo having a cigarette at a café, had copied Paulo’s movements, his grip, had gone so far as copy Paulo’s sort of coat and shabby mess of a haircut for some character in a film Paulo could never remember the name of, some scene in some film Paulo forever hunted for with the vigor most people expend avoiding contagion.

47. The toilet flushed, he watched, everything gone a moment but then, glug glug, in the wink of the return of that little clap of puddle water waiting for the next fellow who needed a piss, yes, there were all three of the cigarette stubs, his and the two that had been in the turd speckled beige water when he’d entered the stall.

48. It was easier to think behind a cigarette, inside a cigarette, the cigarette making him a thing in something else’s head, a him inside another, hollower, vaster him, one with the strong arms and gnashed teeth of the ethereal.

49. All afternoon the pain from trying to force that thumb tack in through the wall just took its time and pleasure eating up his every thought, a gouge of his concentration and the worst part was the sore centered just where a cigarette could fit to his fingers most unconsciously, most correct.

50. This woman, not the least bit attractive, stood in the door Byron had just opened (silly, needless trickle of snow out at the street past the house front overhang) not even moving as Byron, inconsiderately as he could possibly manage it, let cigarette all over the bright grey of her coat, her dismal little tartar stain eyes, her inside out pocket of a mouth.

51. She was jealous—a half-finished cigarette used to hold a place in this copy of How Late It Was, How Late was something she should’ve thought of, so now she’d feel a copycat, always, as this was a habit she needed to snatch away for hers, no question.

52. He bundled his coat to use as a pillow, felt the brief stiff then give of the cigarette pack compressing in whichever pocket as he sighed, relaxed to wait for the lights through the passing windows to put him under.

53. ‘If I had to guess,’ Allie said, ‘I’d have to guess that thieves fall in the love the best, know most intrinsically what it means when it’s happening to them, almost like it’s a coy poetic justice,’ and while she said it he tried to think of something better to call eyes than cigarettes though probably she’d know he was right, that’s exactly what those thin lidded eyes were.

54. Violin music from the apartment with the open window about an arm-and-a-half’s length away was a peck louder than the suck of lips and smecks of burning paper of his cigarette, these a cough louder than the television in the next room, that a gurgle in a gut louder than whatever was outside of the door.

55. Julia’s shoulders were freckled the same tone of the cigarette stain between Carla’s index and third finger.

56. Never having been to the office before everyone else—let alone by three hours, the place a majesty just for him, a long echoing empty of his voice at the top his lungs and his cigarettes the only cigarettes dirtying the air—it was so much bleaker than ever, the look of the place under the full light of day in through the windows, the scent of everyone’s coats that, really, none of them even needed to have been wearing that day.

57. Forearm smelled like something, but at the same time maybe just like what his forearm always smelled like—but not his forearm, he corrected it wasn’t his forearm but his wrist (giving his wrist another sniff, then slap slap slap stocky pack of cigarettes thudded to his palm however many thuds) was just his wrist that smelled like something (almonds, dish soap, maybe just what it always did).

58. The briefest fantasy of steaming the letter open, replacing the contents with something he wrote himself, resealing it with a perfect application of just the precise glaze of adhesive where the original sender’s tongue would have licked—it crossed his mind while inhale from cigarette exhaled down his nose over shirtfront buttons, eyes catching his expression in the hall mirror.

59. Three o’clock by the time she noosed a cigarette up, smoked it almost before it existed, finished a second almost without having to move to do so, still only dressed as far as one sock and the glove she apparently hadn’t removed before passing out.

60. It was romantic to think of the river leading to the sea—and maybe it did, but anything else dropped in it got a ride about as far as that sloppy bit of shore he could see there (cigarettes drowned in child scribble piles over shells and under newspapers and bottles of cough syrup) and if anything got a ride further than that it wasn’t any closer the sea, except maybe technically.

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