Every morning, I ride the shuttle bus from my apartment to school. Since my first class is the same time every morning, I usually get the same bus and driver each morning. He's a black guy, with three gold teeth. He always brings a portable radio on the bus with him so he can listen to Dr. Laura.

One morning, since I get on at the first stop, I was the only person on the bus. He saw that I had ground out my customary morning cigarette before getting on, and decided to give me some friendly advice. "That's an awful habit, you know. It's gonna kill you one of these days."

"Yeah, man, I know." Like I've never heard this one before. No smoker's ever gotten this lecture before. My mother had the most novel tack; she told me she was disappointed in me for selling out to corporate America, and I should damn well at least switch to American Spirits, so at least if I killed myself, I'd do it helping small businesses.

"I used to do that, you know. I had headaches and high blood pressure. All cleared up a few weeks after I quit. You should really quit."

"Yeah, man, I know." Aha! An evangelical ex-smoker. They're the worst, after all. They've gotta be, to rationalized giving up the magical world of nicotine.

"I'm just saying, man, it'd be for your own good. You'll be happier in the long run."

"Alright, I hear where you're coming from, and you're probably right. But I'm not qutting any time soon." And so, I sit in the back of the bus. Smoker is smoker and non-smoker is non-smoker, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

Time passes. A few weeks, I'd say, maybe not even that long. As I'm getting off the bus, the driver gets up, gestures at me. "Hey man, um, actually... do you have a light?" He produces a scraggly hand-roll from behind his ear. "I'm not supposed to, my doctor would kill me, but I've been saving it up. And I really need it right now."

I produced my lighter, tried not to smirk. This was not the time for gloating, this was the time to welcome home the prodigal son. That was yesterday.

Today, after I got off the bus, as I was walking up to school, I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned around, already pretty sure who it was. "Say, I hate to ask it, but can I bum a smoke?"

"Of course you can, dude, of course. Another long day?" You could say I've got a new friend. But then, our kind tends to stick together.

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