An Open-Eyed Addiction

June 24, 2008
By Hannah Gerber, Martinsville, NJ

See the man; pale, thin. His build is timeless. His eyes dancing within the embers of his lit cigarette. He's unphased by the cold. The smoke that fills his lungs is enough to warm him as he stands angled, while leaning against the icy bricks of the building. With one hand shoved deep within the confides of his jeans pocket. The other, masterfully flicks the cigarette with a single thumb, tossing lit ashes spiraling to the ground. Falling, defeated against the dull gray concrete, they hide themselves in a puddle of pale gray. He exhales and his breath becomes chilly blue against the deepset black starless sky. He is alone while the smoke tumbles out of him. Every open passage becomes a way for the smoke to make a hasty exit. He doesn't choke, he can't. This lifestyle has become second nature to him. He raises the burning, coughing stick to his mouth once more. His lips crinkle to meet the edges of the cigarette. It joins with his body to become part of him again. He takes a long steady drag off the cigarette, inhaling deeply and feeling at ease once more. His mind is clearer, his brain attentive, but only for a moment. He lowers the cigatette to thigh level as once again, he exhales clouds of smoke gracefully. The fiery orange tip of his slowly fading cigarette begins to puff and breathe. Realeasing itself into the cold winter night. The corners of his mouth turn up into a sly, coy smile. He understands the world, now he'll prove it. The tiny stub of what remains, loosens itself from the crevice of his index and middle fingers. The worn out rubber sole of his converse meets the end on the ground. Twisting ever so slightly to gently smother what's left of a dying flame. He walks on, away from the comfort and security of the building. Not once does he look back to be sure the flame is dead. His breath feels stale and dry. He opens his mouth in search of clean crisp air. Wisps of breath escape him and pour out in short-lived ghosts. His left arm instictively pats his left thigh pocket, checking for smokes and the lighter he recently replaced. His pale arms stick awkwardly out from his ratty t-shirt, dangling at his side. They glow in the moonlight as he passes people in their newly bought winter coats. The weather doesn't affect him and neither do their stares. He stops on the path. His eyes searching for something to prop himself up against while his lungs crave the nicotine and warmth of a fresh cig. His left arm retrieves one in a swift smooth movement. He readys it again between his dry cracked lips. The lighter appears in his right hand while he steadies another cig tight within his mouth. His left hand comes to join his right, as he clicks the lighter several times to get a decent flame. The noise at first is rhythmic and natural, but soon beats in persistant frustration. He raises his hands to cuff the flame, shielding it from the elements, so as not to let this single beacon of hope die. The flame tempts the end of the cigarette. It licks softly at it, until finally it catches the heat and smoke fills the air once more.

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