STERILE GENERALS WARNING: this entry may be hazardous to your sense of certainty about remaining a non-smoker.
I don’t smoke
. Right now there is a lucky strike
between my third finger and pinky, and as I type and every so often, I pause to bring it up to my lips. I inhale
deeply and breathe the smoke
out through my nose, yawn: so it really gets back up in there. But all this is irrelevant because, as I said, I don’t smoke
I do (and have) posed as a smoker
. In a coffee bar in East Cleveland
in the line for the ATM at Shaker Square
at Grant on Forbes
where all the PAT bus
es stop in Pittsburgh
. At first the cigarette
was just a plaything but it has become a door way to a kind of underground culture
, like uncovering the secret language
or a banned religion. The tradition
that had me sold on it all was the “ancient fire sharing ritual
the ancient fire sharing ritual:
Stand in the cold making smoke with a little bud of fire. Nurture it, keep it living. The cold isn’t so bad as long as there is the fire. Keep it going because there are no more matches.
A stranger comes by wrapped in winter clothes. “A light.” He asks with a hint of desperation (as if for guidence.) Don’t fumble in your pockets. Stay cool. Lean forward, just a bit. The stranger with his dry, unlit cigarette will do the same. Like a plane refuelling in mid-flight delicately the tips will touch and the little fire multiply.
For a instant two faces will be inches from each other. You will know what the stranger smells like, if he’s happy, hear him breathe-- then off into the night he will disappear caring a bit of the fire you started, or if you are wise, and didn’t waste matches, the fire you gathered from another stranger’s lips.
? They just ask each other for the time! They’ll never know
. It’s worth all the pain
to come. So, now, I can see it: I am a smoker