161-180

161. I was gaseous but stretched solid from the bottom of my gut to the top of my throat, hardly room in me for the cigarettes I kept scarfing, my out breaths were from inhales that didn’t even cram all the way full my mouth.

162. Tonia was the sort of person who never could settle on what was grey and what was blue—acceptable when she was talking about ocean water, sure, not so much at all when she stammered uncertain about the appearance of her cigarette smoke.

163. Without his glasses, the streets were gaslight flat and voices came always from out of a sharp gloom he could make out no better than he could his insides—the cigarette was a defense, a reason to keep his head down, a way to convince himself he was not a waiting victim for whoever might fancy a gobble.

164. Why there was a coat rack behind his table, let alone two sodden, ladies’ jackets and a scarf draped over it, he could not understand—it made him self-conscious of his cigarettes, the longer part of his meal and after-meal drinks spent giving the restaurant floor secret glimpses, trying to eye women who were growing irritated at his inconsiderate behavior toward their garments.

165. Her hands were still pond water clammy and there was a clay aspect to the cold skin of her face, she looked a combination of wax and bent cigarette, and the insomniac drawl to her voice, the sleepwalker kick to her gestures would make anyone believe in cast out apparitions.

166. The scent of his cigarette got to the top of the stairwell far before him, would be waiting there in an hour, share his shame all the way back down.

167. The coffee and glazed doughnut had taken care of the bleeding, the lost tooth itself fisted tight, likely leaving a mark of itself in his palm, and the cigarette tasted of sugar and licking his fingers after childhood knee scraps.

168. Too spent, warm, luxuriant to bother standing to find someplace better, she rolled, shifted to one side, and with gingerly stabs doused the cigarette on the damp area of the bed sheet—he’d like that, she figured, more anyway than just another singe on the unpainted wall.

169. The cabdriver pulled over and a friend (a fellow driver?) got in, both bathing the closed vehicle in cigarette, taking turn after turn he had no way of knowing were proper.

170. Her friend was an actor, so she automatically assumed he thought himself handsome despite his untrimmed toenails in the scrappy sandals he was wearing, despite his cigarette stain tan to his elbows, the way his face wrinkled like tinfoil when he laughed.

171. Paulette guessed wrong Sherri’s brand of cigarette, guessed wrong again later, too, but still would not just let Sherri tell her, said given enough time she’d remember, there was some hump she’d gotten smelled just like it and she usually was good about noticing which kind of cigarette she was offered next morning.

172. The five dollars in winnings wouldn’t pay to borrow a leftover from somebody’s ashtray—cigarettes were elusive now, the hardest loss, a part of himself he didn’t get for the night, and the part of him he was left with to lug around was basically just an earache and too much pride to call for a ride home.

173. The music in this place was a kind of leprosy, the only thing he could do was keep going outside for a cigarette, coming back in but saying he needed the toilet, another cigarette in the stall, glad if someone was grunting or leaking enough to drown the din out even just for a shit-length.

174. It wouldn’t take long for the men’s eyes to turned poison-veined—the only woman in here, they circled her, a month’s worth of matches with only one cigarette to flame between them.

175. November and December the cigarettes were the worst, shared around with visiting friends and his brothers and their wives.

176. The secondhand bookshop down Gulver Commons Road was the only one that allowed smoking—every employee a cigarette dangling and dusting ash on the hand written receipts—the only one with pages that smelled right, and the more a book reeked the more she loved it, imagining the loitering thumbs of time wasters reading it, deciding against it, leaving it for her to take off to bed.

177. When it got too cold to step out for cigarette breaks, the conversations became more philosophical—Camus might have written something about this, or something about the philosophy of prisoners, which just about equaled the same.

178. The only thing he regretted of the entire encounter was the cigarette he gave her wouldn’t stain her teeth the same as the wine she shared would his.

179. The rest of the afternoon his pockets were one of them empty, the other nickel-dime thin, his chest was heartbeats and soiling in-outs of cigarette, but his mind was a dusk that knew just how beautiful it was, godforsaken as he may be.

180. Giles tendered over the bills he had (looked like they’d been chewed on) for a pack of off brand cigarettes, the clerk kind enough to tell him ‘Nevermind’ about the dollar he was short, a sad false lemon of the shop’s humid mop water following him a few blocks after he left.

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