We have personal relationships with the oddest things, sometimes. At least, I do. You see, I've had this Zippo lighter for almost 12 years going, bought back when I was going to high school in Dallas and had just started smoking. It's brass with a sort of floral engraved design on both sides. One side of it, I suppose it could be considered the "front", has a smooth section with my initials engraved on it- a gift to myself so many years ago. JHS, scrolling down and barely visible unless the light hits it just right. This is probably the only thing I've had this long. It's seen me through a broken engagement, a trip to London, England, almost a decade in Nashville, TN, a lost baby, a brother's marriage, a sister's marriage, a cousin's marriage, countless jobs, five years at the café... it's been with me all my adult life. Series F-VII, twelve years old, bought in August of 1990 for $12.95.

Tonight it broke.

I was playing billiards with my cousin, Josh. The game was nine ball and I was whooping the ever-lovin' shit out of him- 12 out of 20 games were won by yours truly. We were on our third game and I had beaten him straight so far. He was taking a shot at the nine-ball and I was standing at the opposite end, lighting a cigarette, confident that he would miss the shot because it was at an odd angle, the cue ball snookered behind the three-ball. I pulled out my long-time friend, the Zippo, and flipped the lid.


The lid flew off the Zippo's main body and bounced lightly on the floor, just as the nine-ball dropped in the pocket, signifying Josh's victory. The hinge pin had somehow slipped out, thereby making the lid completely useless. The lighter itself is fine, but without that hinge pin, it serves little purpose to me as it will do nothing but run out of lighter fluid that much faster.

I just stared stupidly at the floor, where the lighter's lid lay serenely, a portion of a thing that has shared more time and experience with me than any family member I could name.

I can send it off to the Zippo manufacturing company. They repair their products, free of charge, under their lifetime warranty that's world-famous for the Zippo brand of lighters. It can be fixed.

It's just that... well... it's like this wierd sort of realization came over me when I found myself stooped under that pool table, fruitlessly looking for the hinge pin amidst years of cigarette ashes discarded by innumerable drunk pool players, low shag carpeting and poor lighting. I've been smoking for more than 12 years. That's thousands of cigarettes, countless hours of my life wasted for naught. I hate smoking these days. It ruins my breath, it kills me slowly, it costs a hell of a lot more than I can really afford, it makes my clothes stink... and here I am, bothered by the fact that my Zippo is now broken. That thing doesn't represent anything but time- mostly, time lost. For all the years that I spent using that damn lighter to light my cigarettes, there will be untold time lost in the future.

I think I will keep that Zippo exactly the way it is for now. I won't send it in to be repaired. I'll leave it sitting on my desk, in pieces, as a reminder of what it truly is: an instrument of my own demise, in a pretty brass shell.