The original cigarette was not my own.
Night air stung my eyes as
nicotine burnt and smoked from a single glowing point
down my throat
like a testament of just how fragile I am.
Fragile like the murky, mirrored windows on Sixth Street’s tobacco-store front where I go to buy more.
Inside there are large boxes
for the do-it-yourselfers
and new age e-cigs
and of course the old-fashioned packs
that sit behind a counter display of colorful lighters,
arranged enticingly like peacock feathers.
A woman wearing a gray shirt,
sporting a gray ponytail,
showcasing pale spotted skin,
stands behind the counter
where there is a half-eaten Crunchwrap beside the register and asks
if she can help me
and I shake my head no.
She asks if I have my I.D.
and I reach for the plastic card,
of course I have it, do I look like a fool,
and hand it to her.
She smiles as she hands it back
because I’m six three, haven’t shaved in weeks
and she knew damn well I am at least eighteen,
and her smile is like how my dad laughs at
that one time he accidentally killed two
groundhogs with one shot while out hunting.
The door behind me opens and dings
as a man in dark blue clothes with frayed black hair
and leathery skin comes in.
His eyes from behind wide rimmed glasses flicker over to mine
and I look down at the floor.
He orders six packs of Dorals.
He stands at the register so near to me
but it is as though we are on different sides of those murky glass windows.
Through that imagined barrier I see him flash—
like tail lights on a car I’m following too closely—
so I turn and leave the store,
because even though the world outside is eye-stinging cold,
I know that fragile glass
will never harden
until it leaves its flame behind.