It took him a whole week of almost obsessive smoking to notice: the smoke was his life. Inching away from the burning ember lit tip of the cigarette, it stood for everything he didn’t want to lose. His life, his love, his memories, his identity. Biting down on the slender killer and inhaling the deep poison, no matter how good it felt, was slow death.
Of course, he’d known this already. Watching his grandfather slowly waste away to non-existence from a lifetime of smoking had taught him a few valuable life lessons along the way. And watching several family friends stagger home in their alcoholic haze and delusions had also taught him much about life.
But when it came down to it, he himself could resist neither bottle nor smoke
Of course this whole business with HER hadn’t helped. He’d maintained a perfect no smoke policy until exactly one week ago. But then one week ago, everything he thought he knew about himself shattered before his eyes and he was left floundering along the dark streets, sobbing into his friend’s shoulders, bouncing back and forth from self-hatred to self-pity to self-disgust. Everything was directed at himself and why shouldn’t it be? He’d taken those steps a couple of weeks to tell HER how he felt. He’d taken insufficient measures to move on. He’d taken those steps a week later to once again tell HER how he felt. And once the embrace was over, he was the one teetering on the edge. He was the one left undecided what to do. Run after HER and confront her? Run back inside and break down?
He ultimately chose the latter. Because it was easier that way.
And the rest of the week had just tumbled on in front of him as he tumbled along with it. Helpless to stop his fall, giving himself up to the higher powers, if you will, of luck and chance. He’d kept tumbling and tumbling, going through the motions, pretending to talk, pretending to listen, pretending to forgive and forget, pretending a whole lot more but ultimately, by the time Friday had rolled around, it had worn him down.
He was tired.
So the night before he left, he once again submitted to the draw of the cigarettes. It felt good to be feeling something other than sadness and longing. It felt good to know that this thing that YOU lit, YOU chose to inhale could kill you. It felt good to have that control, that inch of control before it all fell away. That last gasp of shuddering control felt wondrous.
In the end he managed to hold himself back.
The week had taken its toll on him. He saw it in the paunchy skin hanging off his cheeks. He saw it in the dry lips, cracked and colorless. He saw it in the patchy scruff on his cheeks, there and not there, undecided. He saw it in his eyes. Those brown orbs, once glinting with a strange sense of curiosity and mirth looked forlorn and, not to sound melodramatic or clichéd, lifeless. When he spoke he spoke short. When he smiled, his eyes didn’t join in. His fingernails, already worn down to the bone from a lifetime of picking at them, were tortured even more. He couldn’t eat, not properly. He couldn’t sleep, not properly. His eyes retreated behind dark circles.
He looked like he was wasting away under some mysterious, yet-to-be-known drug.
Drug? What drug?
Three continuous evenings of barely-there nicotine?
One night of extreme caffeine?
One day of hard earned, exhaustingly pleasurable pot?
No drug would do this to him.
But a feeling, in his bones and flesh, reaching from his head all the way down to his neglected toenails, could very well resonate outside. Souring his disposition and looks alike, it ate at him.
It eats at him still. Look at him. Sitting at the airport, glaring at any and all who passes him by with his angry eyes. Who’s he glaring at? Why is he glaring at all?
Who’s he got to blame but himself?
He’s water, the water in the shower circling the drain. The water in an ox-bow lake, slowly drying away, fated for a life alone before a painful death. The water of high seas, angry and furious and unrelenting. The water in a myriad of containers, shape shifting to fit in and. The water slipping down his own face, unbidden.
The water in the deep oceans, drowning and suffocating.
So he must ask himself,
What does he do? Where does he, as water or his own blood and bone self, go from here?