Stepping out of the airport, after flying a third of the way around the world, crunched up and folded tight in a metal box of dried out processed air.

Late at night, when waiting for a bus, watching shred of clouds skim across half a moon.

Hunched in the corner of a darkened pub, when waving hands around, making patterns with smoke in the beer-scented air, to emphasise a crucial point that will be forgotten in the morning.

Bashing away at a typewriter, when your fingers glow with the pressure of a steam of words, and the flakes of ash scatter across piles of paper, and you watch the smoke turn blue in the afternoon light.

Drinking your fourth espresso, when perched on a shiny metal chair, twisting a sliver of lemon zest onto the dark surface and peering across the street to mock other people's fashion sense.

When leaning against a wall, waiting for something to happen, waiting for someone to arrive, waiting for someone to give you news you are not sure you want to hear, with your hand shaking slightly as you tap the ash to the ground.

When sitting on the grass in a dark garden late at night, and the glowing ember is the only source of light other than the half-clouded over stars that struggle to show in the purple-orange sky.

Tangle-sheeted, in candlelight and a sheen of sweat, when the cigarette is lit in a pair, and you feel like Bette Davis and the world is sweet with exhaustion.

Oddly enough, firefighters, when they exit a smoke filled area, often light up a cigarette as soon as they catch their breath. I noticed this when I used to fight forest fires, and I've noticed it when watching my husband, who is a structural firefighter. Even people who don't normally smoke will ask the smokers for a cigarette. I've felt the urge myself, after emerging from a particularly smoky area on a wildland fire. Is it a physiological response? Does our body make us crave the smoke so the carbon dioxide levels decrease slower in our blood? Is it a response to the stress inherent in firefighting? I'm not sure, but I do know that the urge to smoke by firefighters after leaving smoke filled areas is real, and quite odd.

Sitting there in the boardroom with others whom you have worked with for over a year, and you have watched some of them in the past walking to the elevators to take their smoke breaks, and you let them go with a faded smile on your lips, fondly remembering the times when you used to go on smoke breaks, before you quit.

Well you didn't quit exactly. You consider yourself an ex-smoker and you always will. You didn't quit because of the cancer scares or the pregnancy complications or the other scare tactics. You didn't quit because you stopped liking them all the sudden. You quit because the taxes were outrageous and you got tired of being treated like a second-rate citizen for having a hobby. You couldn't financially afford the expense any longer. You did the math. At a pack to a pack and a half a day, you were at roughly three dollars a day when you quit. Twenty-one dollars a week. Eighty-four dollars a month. One thousand and eight dollars a year. Expensive habit.

So you quit, but you have envied those who still do. Now you sit there in the boardroom with others whom you have worked with for a year, and your boss is telling you that "they had to let us go." Not just you. Not just a few people. Not just a department. Everybody. Even your boss. Even the woman who is her boss. The whole floor. Well, except for the sales department that's been slowly growing larger the past few months while your department's been getting smaller. You should have known. We should have seen it coming.

I mean, didn't they bring you on kinda late? Didn't you hear rumors when you first started that they were gonna shut this place down? But they didn't. Somehow that axe passed by and no one lost a hair, and you found yourself a sort of metaphorical olive branch brought in on a wing by some invisible dove. "Well they hired that guy, didn't they?" you'd overhear near the water cooler. "They wouldn't shut us down if they just hired that guy." But that was over a year ago, which is ages in this business.

It makes no sense though. You are the product. You and those you have worked with for over a year now. You are the service. That's now moving out of state. Maybe out of country. The sales department though, that's staying here. In fact, that's getting bigger. You don't understand it. Here, at the bottom of the ladder, it doesn't make sense. Up there at the top, in their lofty corner office, their room with a view, it makes perfect sense. The change will be transparent to the customer, or so they hope.

The Christmas season is coming. You find yourself sitting there in the boardroom with others whom you have worked with for over a year, and you find yourself unemployed. There will be formalities. There's paperwork to sign that of course you don't understand and care not to. No one talks about suing because if you sue you don't get your severence. And why sue? They'll pay you until the end of the year and you think that's nice. That's kind of them. You've been places where they just gave you a box and escorted you and your things to the parking lot. So it could have been worse. Still, that doesn't change the fact that you're looking into the new year with few prospects and less anticipation.

And your friends, whom you have worked with for over a year, get up from their seats and the first thing they talk about after the meeting? "Wanna go smoke?" and they talk with one another at first. Then one of them looks at you. You quit smoking a year ago last April 13th. That's over a year ago. About the same time you got this job that ain't there no more. And this is nobody's fault, but it is frustrating. Shit happens. One of them looks at you, holds up a cigarette to offer you, and asks quite sincerely, "you comin'?"

Maybe it's not a time when you MUST have a smoke, but it's a time when you should.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.