Friday, March 19, 2010

My First Cigarette

When all is said and done for the night, I close my eyes and listen to the dialogue of a British television show entitled "The Smoking Room" playing through an earbud jammed into one ear. The premise is this; several employees of some nameless company pass time in a designated smoking room. While most enter to "have a fag," others are merely there to socialize and idle away their break time. The camera never leaves the room, so all of the action and dialogue take place amid the grey haze of cigarette smoke. I don't smoke, but I do love this show because it is well written and the characters are flesh and bone. They have flaws and fears and dreams, and while not one of them is always likable, they are all empathetic and tangible.

During the week that Jared was missing. I would lay awake with worry each night, unable to sleep as my mind raced with dread, regret, pain, and hope. Of course, the day came that we found Jared dead in the woods, and in that moment dread, regret, and pain ganged up and beat the shit out of hope, giving him a bloody nose and broken teeth. I couldn't sleep, and each night experienced the panic of rapid pacing inside my own head. A couple of sleepless nights later I found myself on the couch, wide awake and out of my mind with grief. I turned on the PS3 and streamed "The Smoking Room," which I had downloaded before so much of my life turned to hell. For the first time in days, a quiet fell about me. I closed my eyes and listened to the dialogue, and it seemed as though a small crowd of new friends had formed in my living room, chatting away as I took a nap on the couch. I fell asleep just a few minutes into the first episode, but when it ended my eyes popped open as if set to a timer. I reached for the remote and started the next episode, and the same thing happened. I made my way through most of that night in this manner; grabbing twenty minutes of sleep at a time while my new pals from across the pond discussed the minutia of life, huffing and puffing away as they did.

As I said earlier, I am not a smoker. Jared was, and I can remember a conversation we had about "cigs," as he called them. He was trying to cut back, because he said that the first puff on a cigarette after not having smoked one in a while was like an orgasm, a rushing sensation through the body and blood. I pointed out that with few exceptions, having repeated orgasms would not kill you, and would certainly not cause lung cancer or emphysema. I did, however, admit to a certain degree of curiosity regarding smoking, but acceptance of my addictive personality and the fact that I was too much of a coward kept me at bay.

I miss Jared, and part of missing him is missing the way he smelled, which for me was a blend of cigarettes, cologne, and warm skin. One night last summer, Elizabeth and I stood together in our closet and buried our faces in one of his favorite tee-shirts. We cried because we missed him, but then laughed because he would get such a kick out of our foolishness as we sniffed so frantically at his memory. It is hard to describe the emotions dredged up when I catch a hint of his scent on a passing stranger, it is like a mix of anxiety, grief, and happiness.

So, returning to my nightly lullaby; I am not sure how long this will go on, but for now it works. I can fall asleep at night, albeit it very late, with my mind free from racing against itself, and let the dreams about Jared wash over me, as they do every night.

Hey, it beats the hell out of drifting off to sleep with a lit cigarette dangling from my lips or fingers.

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