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Memories & Cigar Smoke This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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She leaned back in her patio chair, her eyes shut in bliss. Her head tilted back as she inhaled deeply, capturing the tangy scent wafting through the air. Cigar smoke. Images played over her closed eyelids as they fluttered with the flow of memories: brief glimpses into happier times with her father. She'd only known him until she was four and he in his mid-thirties. A wistful smile spread over her lips as she sighed, reminiscing about storytime and swing-set adventures.

Rising suddenly, she set her sketch pad on the table. The page showed the bustle of the crowd passing her apartment complex. Chunks of color blended to create the blurry images of cars and people walking quickly, people with places to go. Her piece was a statement about the world - everything was a blur.

Following the distinct aroma on the light breeze, she found herself on the street, passing shops and cafés. People cast curious glances at her dark jeans splattered with paint. Her bleach-spotted t-shirt slipped off one freckled shoulder, revealing a satiny red strap; her coal black hair was pulled into a ponytail looping through her baseball cap. She was determined to find the person smoking the cigar.

Rounding a corner she spied a young man leaning back in a chair at the Corner Café. Between his fingers was a cigar. His head was arched back as he slowly exhaled smoke rings that danced in the gentle wind, twirling and swirling. The glowing embers of his cigar burned like a lighthouse, guiding her to him. She cautiously crossed the street and sat with him, leaning back and closing her eyes as a delighted and peaceful smile curled her lips.

Sitting forward, her chin cradled in the palm of her right hand, she sighed as she watched the young man puff his cigar. His posture relaxed and his eyes closed, his brow furrowed in concentration as he savored the heady taste of the expensive cigar. He was right around her age, with a medium build accented by his finely tailored suit. He was obviously well off. She watched him a few more minutes before getting up and turning to leave, content simply with the flash of memories he had helped induce.

She turned in surprise as she felt a hand on her arm. The man held her left wrist in a loose grasp as he silently urged her to retake her seat. Sitting again, she leaned back and replayed the good times with her father that she had so loved. Years and years had passed since she had sat with him as he smoked a cigar in the evening to unwind. Very few people enjoyed the rich scent of a high-quality cigar these days, and she was loathe to leave her memories.

Her dream world shattered at the sound of a smooth alto voice that asked, "What are you seeing?"

She looked at the man for a moment before answering, her voice thick with unshed tears, "My father smoked cigars when he was alive." Her voice dropped to a teary whisper, "I was remembering him."

The man seemed to contemplate that as he rolled the cigar between his fingers, regarding her as she sniffed back her tears and attempted a smile. "Scent is one of the strongest memory triggers we have," he said, pausing to suck in a deep drag on the small stump. Exhaling above their heads, he continued, "Memories are the only connections we have to the past ... you should never forget your past." Quietly, he added, "It helps to remember where you came from to truly enjoy life."

She nodded at that logic, and said, "Thank you." Choking on the cry rising in her throat, she wiped a hand over her teary eyes. "I will remember that, and thank you again for letting me sit and ... remember my father ..." she trailed off. Coughing once, she continued, "He was my hero." She stood, giving him a watery but grateful smile.

The man returned her smile. Turning, she ambled home, not looking back. The man watched her and whispered, "I'm proud of you, honey." A car drove past the café and as it moved beyond the table with the man, he vanished, leaving only the cigar stump smoldering in the ashtray. The embers burned, forcing smoke to curl upward to the heavens.

Arriving at her apartment, she tossed her sketchbook and keys on the side table. A sudden urge to read enveloped her. She strolled to her bookcase and rummaged through her father's collection. As she pulled one from the shelf, a slip of paper drifted to the floor. Frowning, she picked it up, blinking in shock. It was a picture of the man she had just spoken to. He was dressed in his suit and his lanky form was draped in a chair with a cigar entwined in his hand, a cocky smirk curled on his lips. Flipping the picture over she squinted to make out the faded loopy scrawl. It read: Bryan Larson, 1979. Under that inscription she read: Memories are the only connection we have to the past ... Always remember where you came from.

Gazing at the bookcase, her dark brown eyes wide and mouth gaping, she whispered in astonishment, "Daddy?" Feeling a warm presence engulf her, tangy cigar smoke tickling her senses, she smiled. Her voice a whisper in the empty apartment, she promised, "I'll always remember ... I'll always remember."

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

nelehjrThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 2:51 pm:
I love all the details you added. The start that seems so mundane and ordinare. Then it goes into a ghost story. Not a scary one. One with a lesson. One that makes you smile. Great job.
 
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Wanderlust. said...
Jan. 25 at 10:15 pm:
stunning! warms my heart :)
 
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CloCloThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm:
I felt like it was my own father, and he doesn't even smoke. Great job!
 
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melcat said...
Jun. 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm:
it was great! such atenttion to detail! keep writing!
 
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