By Susan Delay
I want a cigarette. No, I need a cigarette. I crave the comfort of tobacco wrapped in white paper so thin, I can smell it from six feet away. I want to light an unfiltered coffin nail, hold it between my fingers and feel its warmth before I finally raise it to my lips and inhale. Eyes closed, all the annoying static in my life goes up in smoke as I settle into the only peace I know.
I don’t just need a cigarette. I’d kill for one. Seriously.
I pass a couple of homeless guys sitting beneath an underpass. Surrounded by stuffed black trash bags, they are huddled together under a ratty looking blanket. I stop, hesitant to talk with these two. Scum of the earth, I’m sure. I ask if I could bum a smoke and they look at me—all confused, like I’ve asked for directions to the fountain of youth. Don’t they speak English? Oh yeah, I keep forgetting I’m in Athens-Frickin-Greece.
Finally one of them takes a hit off his joint, sucking in the sweet smell of burning rope and holding it in his lungs. He extends his hand, offering me a toke.
Junkies. What do I look like? An addict?
I shake my head and walk away, spotting a guy in tattered jeans and a filthy yellow t-shirt. He’s standing in the middle of the street waving a cross. He smells like patchouli—that gross incense they burn in the Catholic church. He looks at me like I’m a heathen who’s about to steal something out of the offering plate. Geez. What do I look like? A thief? Not hardly.
As I skirt around the religious freak, I stop. Not to be dramatic, but I stop cold in my tracks. Do I smell a cigarette or am I imagining it? I lift my head like I’ve seen my German shepherd do when she catches a whiff of prey. I smell burning tobacco from a strong European cigarette that will sting my eyes and choke me as I pull the smoke into my lungs. Pure heaven. I glance in all directions. Where is it? Who’s smoking?
I see a thin gray vapor of smoke, swirling upward toward the clouds above a solitary park bench. I break out into a run, chasing my own personal prey. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Unfortunately all those years of pumping smoke through my body demand I slow to a jog—while keeping the smoke in sight.
At last I see it—the object of my desire. A woman, her arm tattooed with black letters, is stretched across the bench. It was as though she’d had an idea for a novel but couldn’t find a scrap of paper to write it down, so she scribbled it on her arm with strokes from a burned out match.
I approach her, wondering if she’ll see the desperation in my eyes. Not for her—no way. Not my type. I only want what she holds between her fingers.
She opens her eyes looking for all the world like a sleepy lizard sunning herself on a rock.
“You got an extra one of those?” I ask, pointing at her cigarette.
Don’t tell me she doesn’t speak English. I gesture like I’m smoking and raise my eyebrows, hoping my communication is crystal clear. C’mon lady, the least you can do is share.
She holds most of a lit cigarette between her nicotine-stained fingers.
C’mon, bitch. I just want one measly drag.
She smiles. It’s an evil smile that says not only is she not gonna share, but she’s taking great delight in withholding her treasure from me. Bitch.
I look around. No one is paying one bit of attention to me. No one cares what I’m doing.
I pick up a rock, squeezing it into my palm, and take a breath. With a swift move, I crash it against her skull. It only takes one blow and she is dead. I grab the rest of her cigarette before it falls from her hand.
I put it between my lips and inhale as I walk away from the crime scene.
I told you I’d kill for a cigarette.