441. After a night of drizzle that never quite broke to rain, the streets took on the affect of fast food grease and the cloud cover, not dissipated, thicker even than it had been in the dark, lofted heavy like tangles of cigarette waiting to be belched.

442. Dorrance had the legs of a much more overweight man, the permanent hunch to the stem of his torso, really, it would make his silhouette look like a potted flower seldom watered—his nose was sloped extremely, so that he could not comfortably just let cigarettes rest in his lips, he had to bring them up to mouth from underneath, rabbit drags then cig swung back down, it was ridiculous even to smoke, the sort of cartoon he was, but it was a ritual he thought gave him charm or at least blended him to a kind of normalcy.

443. Two cars up, that wreck of a green station wagon, the driver was either signaling a right turn or else just had their arm, cigarette in fingers, out the window to keep the smoke odor out—probably the latter, there the driver went, another drag, hand back out right away, even tapping along to whatever was on the radio on the hood lip.

444. This scarecrow had a cigarette in the a small hole that had been bore or tugged in the cloth bag of its face, Scarlet first thinking to just get in close enough to see was it real or a stick that just really resembled a smoke, but now that she was awkwardly clambered up the thing, almost pornographically propped to keep decent balance, she held its (one button, one scribbled black-markered) eyes with hers, took the tube in her mouth (wrong end first) and let herself drop back to the thawing ground.

445. The coat was frayed, but the cranky old bitch running the till that day wouldn’t budge on the price—even made a cavalier remark about how these were secondhand clothes, what else would one expect, said this while smoking her cigarette right there under a rickety oscillating fan and a vintage sign for Calvert: The Whisky With The Happy Blend.

446. Her friend, on the other hand, had plush skin, the kind that smacked of a cocktail of cosmetic crèmes—eeriest thing was he knew they both smoked cigarettes in equal volume, but on Helena it was obvious, sensual, the dark it left, the wrinkle, the wear of desires in stacks unfulfilled, while this friend, she seemed baby blank, youthful to the point of not ever having known the groan of a frustrated loin.

447. The priest he met with to discuss his conversion preferred to walk while they spoke, complained of vein issues behind his knees and of too much a sedentary schedule giving him ‘the old secretary spread,’ always had a cigarette to offer and the two of them would discuss Hamlet and Lear as much as anything else.

448. The dream again—cupfuls first, then armfuls, then amounts ocean-large of soil being cut by invisible fingers from the ground he saw bare and trembling exposed before him for miles—but this time he woke without a cigarette waiting to calm him down, just the dark to wait in, interminable minutes until his breath was even, his brow sweat slithered back in his pores.

449. I asked my older brother for a cigarette and he said Naw but made sure to do it in such a way as I’d know he’d say Here whenever I asked him, again.

450. As the cinema that showed in the local theaters became less interesting, their friendship didn’t endure—it was easy when filmmaking was firebrand, avant, when there weren’t enough cigarettes to last the discussion afterward, but a few years of mediocrity and only snark to offer in response, it was as though the world decided there was no purpose they should keep acquainted.

451. Each new havoc from her was its own gravity, no idea how many orbits of her he was stuck in, just had his cigarette in the quiet of her calming in the shower.

452. She’d never really burned anything she’d written, was pleased she had the steel to go through with even destroying a few words by blotting holes through this one page with cigarette tip—sure, she knew it, sure, by nightfall she’d burn the whole manuscript and never think of it, again.

453. Michele’s eyes were the only two snowflakes he’d ever seen that were the same, exactly, two left eyes, lizardtail green, even when some cigarette snuck in to one she’d wince them both, every pain shared, every image, perfect little sames.

454. He had less and less reason to rehearse, his dexterity was gone, his spirit for the whole thing, now he only came to the practice room to sit with the closed piano and have his cigarettes, and each night leaving he willed it to be his last, to close the piano up, leave a cigarette pinched in its mouth, give it a farewell nod and skulk on off, performanceless, applauseless, bowless.

455. The silence of five people in a car with no radio to even make sure some thought is being somewhat shared is difficult for Ewan, too acutely aware of the different directions of everyone, the ease with which departures can happen when the world stays wordless too long, so to give himself some relief he asked if it would bother anyone, his having a cigarette, Stella saying she didn’t mind, that she’d have one too, but no one else saying a thing.

456. When she smoked, she circled lips tight, neck of a glass bottle, perfect hole left for a cigarette, didn’t care the remarks she knew people concocted while they watched her as no one even ventured them aloud.

457. The cigarette sharing was a tacit agreement, had been going on for years, indeed one of them only ever asked the other was it okay to take a smoke from the other’s pack as a sign of either aggression or a need to unburden themselves of some sin they needed the other to pry a bit for.

458. Truck tipping the dumpster lurched like a cantankerous old dinosaur, the workman whose job it was to hop down, gather the trash and objects set in the secondary area for pickup was craned over his cigarette to keep the wind away long enough to get a light.

459. He must have the odor to him all the time, gets on him at work, but most the time he’s so sarcophagused in his cigarettes he never notices.

460. There’s a whole filthy river of reason he’d never bring himself to write her back, but he cannot help but read what she writes, pace, blather, lost in a ramshackle desire for a her he knows she’s not and a liar he used to be, sours up whole evenings of his head with her ridiculous reworded histories and the toothaches sucked from his cigarettes while he indulges in his own pretends of her, though indulges only enough to tell himself he hasn’t.


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