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Oh Nicotine, Not Again

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Your black eyes thaw in the winter breeze of December. Around your neck is a thin, floral scarf that compliments your red nose, buried in your chest for warmth. I stand miles away, so many millions of miles away, but I see you shiver through my faded lenses. I see you light a cigarette with your numb fingers, struggling to grasp the lighter with complete control. You put the cigarette to your mouth and take in the smoke like I took in the cold air. The melancholy in your pupils seeps through as you let the breath out in chunks. Your black eyes grow wide as you hold it in. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, I think to myself as I try to match your rhythm. People on the train platform glance at you with disappointment. Others cough on purpose to show disgust. But I watch as you ignore them all and keep swiftly exhaling the smoke. Your lungs barely breathing. Your mouth barely tasting. Your lips barely moving.

The train enters the station and takes me by surprise. My long hair is blowing in the wind uncontrollably but discreetly, while your dark brown strands stay perfectly in place. You barely even blink. I rush over to the same cart as yours. I follow you through the doors as the conductor announces the next stop. More disapproving glances are shot your way. I mirror their expressions back at them; you don't even notice at all. My naivety is momentary, but my lungs gladly breathe in the smoke that they borrow from your cigarette. Nicotine, oh nicotine. The sour smell and cold rush I feel running down my spine as my lungs swallow its curse is malicious. It has no effect on me anymore. But the smell of your hair lingers onto me on "three Mississippi," and I forget all about nicotine. Oh nicotine.

I stare deep into your black eyes, the absent eyes. I can almost feel something crawling out of them, trying to escape. Whether it's your breath, your conscience, or your life is insignificant. You don't notice me, standing almost directly on top of you with my pale face, my pale eyes. Your eyes just focus on the cigarette, the breaths you take as you release them into the air. There's a beautiful baby sitting near where you stand. He stares at you with innocence and confusion. Oh nicotine. He and his mother get off at the next stop. He doesn't notice me, but he notices the smoke that follows him as the subway doors close. Oh nicotine. Does he taste what I taste in the air? Oh, anything but nicotine.

I'm still standing right next to you, clinging to your body like a parasite. Sucking all the smoke out of you until you're nothing. I'm breathing your air, your smoke, I can feel your lungs panting as you exercise them with it. With nicotine. I can feel them gasping for some air, for some freedom, for just a taste of a better breath. Even the cold air will suffice. One Mississippi, two Mississi--you break the rhythm. You're panting carefully so the narrow-minded ones won't see, but it's hard to keep in. One Mississip-- Gasp. Gasp.

The train halts with all force. You try to cling to the train's motion, to get a tight grasp on its steady pace. But inertia causes you to fall onto me; instead you fall right through me. Your breath smells like smoke. Like nicotine. You push and shove out of the train; you can't take their stares. The doors open, and you start running. Your feet aren't touching the ground, but you're still running. Oh nicotine, run for the nicotine. I'm chasing you, but you're not running from me; you should be. The cigarette bud falls to the floor. You look back at it with worried, faded eyes. The black disappearing. The black decaying.

You stop to light another cigarette after minutes of running to nowhere. You can't escape the nicotine; you can't escape me. Your numb fingers struggle to successfully commence the flame. Your faded eyes contract. The light sparks, and you brush it past the end of the cigarette. And in 30 seconds, I'll be the cancer the bud of your cigarette warned you about before the smoke was knit into your lungs like a sweater. So take one last breath, and I'll engulf you in the wind with me. Gasp. Your pupils turn to specs within empty shades as you finally see me. Oh nicotine.





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