141. Doing it, Dean considered how he’d been a child, not even an adolescent, the last time he’d used the tip of a mechanical pencil to clear dirt from under his fingernails, took his time finishing, the task going for the rest of his cigarette.

142. He wouldn’t call her eyes porcelain, certainly not—maybe urinal white at certain times of day, flimsy cigarettes of her hair spilling out of her hat at angles too certain to be anything but mapped out by her in the mirror.

143. Whatever it was Daryl’s father drank left his teeth permanently a limp row of butterscotch stubs, even the breaths of cigarette through them coming out a shade like motel handsoap.

144. Whole months became derelict, all of their maws always pinched around cigarettes, lips tight, pink-brown as cat’s assholes—they took turns begging telephone change off of the rush hour commuters who were stranded after trains and before buses, soon had forgotten everything about what they’d been before idlers, nowhere-ers, people reduced to objects, the only purpose of them was to be something other people had to crane their heads to see around.

145. ‘Fi-del-de-del-de,’ Marvin said in a flat songless response, tap to his cigarette with each broken, toneless note, proud of himself that though her face was stern now, in a moment it would break to emotion, then she’d talk non-stop for twenty minutes and he would keep eyes fixed, wait for the perfect moment to tell her he wasn’t listening, just digging the sound of her chug-chugging like a malfunctioning spigot.

146. He could hardly concentrate on disliking his cigarette due to the cat under the table, sound of it trying to clear a hairball, sound of a year-long used mop being wrung in grey water, final blat of the upchuck the mop head slurped to the overnight floor of a train station lavatory.

147. Her kisses, hungry but pulling to leave (she had to), were mouthwash mint cigarette coffee and I wanted them to not only go on forever but to have started forever ago.

148. My brother snapped an icicle from some tree branch, made believe it into a cigarette, his cold breath in front of him the mock-up of vapored tobacco—when he handed it to me I took it, trying to imitate the exact grip he’d used, he breaking off another and tossing it out toward the two a.m. road.

149. Charlotte was chameleon in with the other shop workers who timed their cigarettes to have conversation not involving fake smiles or genuine ones unregarded by eyes that wouldn’t meet theirs—whatever the man’s name was would, he could never guess she only came out at all because the smoke she blew could move far enough to touch to him, a melancholic invisible ‘ahem’ he never glanced up to.

150. The record player twining and the cigarettes pasteled the entire bedroom, the stains on the ceiling that had spread over these two years as much Sex Pistols, Bowie, The Knack as they were nicotine.

151. Thumping the drugstore wall brick with his free hand, he sighed and said into the receiver, ‘Well anyway, I should get some sort of civics award today—paid an overdue library fine instead of getting my cigarettes, that needs to be lauded, you know?’

152. Not even three drags in, the scent of the popping swine on the grill was enough he slammed the cigarette flat into the bulbs of the long extinguished others, these which had hours ago overflowed from the designated trough that circled the trash bin and now deplorably littered even the first steps in through the restaurant’s front door.

153. He knew, objectively, that he should use the word traipse and not waltz, unfocused his eyes until the graphite of the half sentence on the notepad dissipated in cigarette blur, but the words were interchangeable to him, each contained every element of the other, so he should go his gut and not worry about the preferences of insensitives who’d never read the thing, either way.

154. It was silly to say the picture didn’t look like her, given she was older than it now by twenty-six years, but she could not help feel unsettled, no memory of ever resembling that, no image in her recollection of being nine and regarding herself in a mirror and noting that brow, that hair length—she could recall the way the first cigarette she’d picked up off of the pavement outside the swimming pool had looked, could paint it in ten different styles, express every last tick tock and hour strike of that thing, but no idea how she’d paint a portrait of herself from childhood, or really from most of her life.

155. While he watched her, crawling the carpet in the same oblong again, he started singing a pouty little song for her—‘Yvette has gone and lost her cigarette’—and she, on his third repetition, made lithe her back, chest toward the ground, and tilted left right left her ass like it was an impatient hand waiting for loaned money to be handed back over.

156. They watched the evening wilt down into the water, heard boats lapping and tied to place, stars coming out eventually, hardly distinguishable from the few cigarette tips blinking red-orange on dark balconies or benches further on.

157. Nora’s strategy on these evening trips to watch chess in the park behind her building was to always bet on whichever player was smoking a cigarette—if they both were, she’d base her decision on which blew the smoke at the board, which away from if (if they both did the same, she didn’t bet).

158. Then it was my shoulder—the pain had decided to curlicue all around from the first bit of cramp and five minutes later even the fat in two pockets hung at my lower back seemed to ache and I had to concentrated on breathing without taking my cigarette from my mouth while I massaged myself all over (Christ only knowing what I must’ve looked like to the any number of people who were almost certainly watching this sorry display).

159. The microwave sounded again, Doris drifting back to focus from her thoughts of the call from the bank, realized she was sipping her coffee, cold, so opened the microwave door and found her cigarette where it had rolled off the rotating heating plate.

160. Now a cigarette seemed to last longer than the lifelong he’d had her.


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