Can I Get a Light? I bought her my Freshman year in college; I was collectively writing a musical with my classmates, and I'd been put in charge of creating a character. Predictably, the character I created was a young man horribly in love with a woman who no longer loved him. He was just starting to stalk her, and he'd fetishized her last gift to him--an object to focus his love on without her around.
The character sprung into my mind as fully formed as Athena springing out of Zeus's forehead. All I needed was the object. One fateful day, I was browsing in Fetlas--which was the first store you'd go to in the event of a localized zombie infestation or an invasion from Red China--a survivalist's shop filled with pistols, rifles, sais, katanas, even a functional bat'leth (the Klingon fighting blade). Fetlas was a male film geek's dream, whether you loved "Seven Samurai" or "Red Dawn." And in Fetlas I found my precious.
A Zippo. Something about it just called to me and said, "Write a part for me. I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeRunkard."
So I did. By the end, it hardly mattered that I didn't get cast for the part I'd written expressly for myself. I had a Zippo, and right off the bat I'd fetishized it with a remarkable, albeit directionless energy. By "fetishized," I don't mean that I was sticking it in my special secret place, but in the old shamanistic/magical meaning of the word.
Plus, it was really fun to play with. I'd flick it around, snapping it open and shut, listening to that distinctive and satisfying clink. If that noise has never been patented, it should be. It's the sign of a dedicated smoker, someone who not only needs fire from time to time, but wants to look good while lighting it up.
My Zippo traveled with me everywhere in college: for hundreds of late night bull sessions, thousands of cigarettes and cups of coffee. I used it one year to set my hand on fire attempting to blow a fireball with Bacardi 151, and used it again a year later to successfully blow one with absinthe.
My last night in the US before leaving to live and travel in Europe, I left my Zippo on the steps of a friend's apartment building. It was gone by the time we remembered it. A dear friend eventually replaced it, shipping one to Edinburgh at her personal expense.
This one lasted four years after that. While leaving for Berkeley last week, I had my Zippo confiscated by JFK security. It's gone now, probably on some eBay auction or in the pocket of some underpaid mouthbreathing security gorilla. It's gone.
Maybe this is an indication that Zippos last for four years with me. Maybe it means I should grow up and abandon symbols of misguided love. Maybe I don't need such symbols anymore.
Or maybe it just means I need to figure out where I put that book of matches.