There is a short piece in the new Harper's which includes pro-smoking testimonials from Chinese government-run websites. One of them reads like this: "Smoking gives you the feeling of having company....your own actions can become your companion when you are lonely....Smoking is itself a sort of mission - not because of the way cigarettes are used but because you grow accustomed to relying on them. It is just like how when you leave home, before you marry, you miss your parents, but later you miss your husband or wife. How could I not smoke?"
Last night I thought of you and I smoked too much. It was raining just slightly all day and my wipers are broken, so I had to walk to the 7-11 for cigarettes. I got a pack and two 22 oz. bottles of Miller Light for myself, so I could sit on my back porch and smoke and listen to the new Richmond Fontaine CD and basically go crazy with loneliness. Which is what I did. I was wearing my X t-shirt and my Tevas and the pair of jeans you got me for Christmas. My hair is too long right now and I hadn't shaved in a few days. To top it off, I really should have worn a belt, because my jeans kept falling over my hips and I kept getting all tangled while I walked. I walked past the seedy party rooms of the Highlander Motor Inn and the 24 hour pizza place. I passed the empty park so full of wet shadows that it gave me the creeps. I passed the Peruvian restaurant which had South American music blasting from the second floor and the sounds of laughter and dancing came at me like an interrogation.
To get home, I have a new shortcut, which involves a narrow, canopied cement staircase which rises, partially hidden, from the side of a busy thoroughfare and suddenly into the relative quiet idyll of Lyon Village where I live. As I bounced up these secret steps, my face hit a wet branch and my sandal caught my pantsleg (should've worn a belt!) and I was suddenly down on the steps, bottles broken in the bag, a plastic bag full of beer and broken glass. It started to really rain, I could just feel it as it made its way through the dense canopy of oak and locust. I was soaked and breathless from my fall.
I'm telling you this because I ripped the knee in those jeans you gave me. And my knee bled all over them too. I'm sorry. I certainly didn't mean to fall and I definitely didn't want to skin my knee or ruin the jeans you gave me or lose two perfectly good big-boy beers.
As much as it sucked though, it would not have happened had I seen more of you recently. Had I not been missing you as much, I would not have gone on such a lonely walk on a rainy night. I would have been asleep or out on the town with friends like a normal person, not sludging out at 11:30 to get more cigarettes.
Oh yeah, the cigarettes. They were saved, thank God. A little damp but smokable. They almost lasted me till morning.