When I finally got home it was 4 AM. I didn’t even bother to turn on the lights. I walked in and threw the keys and wallet on the console between the living room and the toilet. I looked into my bedroom. Saw my bed and knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep now. I would try too hard. 4AM was the magic cutoff – either fall asleep before it or stay awake through the night. The 6 drinks didn’t help either. The alcohol got me wired in spite of the exhaustion. I looked around the house. It was clean. I remembered not letting my hand wipe the sweat dripping down my nose as I cleaned the house earlier today, scrubbing every corner clean and feeding the dust from the crevices to the insatiable vacuum. Delayed gratification and lack of clutter created the illusion of accomplishment and I immediately felt better about the day despite the fact that I spent the rest of it on the couch staring at the ceiling trying not to go mad with boredom. Then the sun set and I was fine again. I felt the breeze from the open balcony and turned to my left to face the breeze full on. The smell of a freshly lit cigarette. Top 3 favorite smells ever. Runner up being Gucci Envy.

I crossed the living room and decided to enjoy the rest of the night. It was a gorgeous one too. I flicked the switch on the tea kettle and waited till it roared against the waters and then I stepped out onto the balcony. The night was full of cigarettes and laundry and asphalt and crickets. The nostalgia for that ineffable something was almost unbearable now. Like you just aren’t alive without it.

God I want a cigarette so bad.

The girl at the bar tempted me more than once tonight and somehow I refused each time. She was impressed with my willpower and gave me a sexy smile at one point but somehow we didn’t end up fucking. I didn’t even ask for her number. Honestly what’s the point? I didn’t even regret it. I would never have called her anyway. She said she hated drama but then she told me about how she’s split up and gotten back together with her ex 4 times now. Maybe a 5th time judging by all those texts she was sending off in the middle of our interaction. I tried. “So is he your boyfriend or your ex at the moment?” She laughed and didn’t even look up from the screen while her little fingers clicked and clacked all over the goddamn place. No thanks. I don’t need this shit in my life. Or the cigarettes for that matter.

I looked down past my saggy tits, down at the balcony floor. Hundreds of cigarette butts gathered in prayer around the molehills of ashes from an era long long ago. It’s been a few months now since I quit and I still haven’t cleaned the old cigarette butts from the ground of the balcony. Seasons worth of cigarette butts, even though there are no seasons in LA. The butts have mummified and calcified from multiple cycles of rain and sun. I remember how sometimes, when I ran out of smokes late at night, I would look through the butts on the floor, looking for signs of life, for the ones with a couple drags still left in em. Hell I remember not finishing cigarettes on purpose and tossing them on the ground thinking “that’ll be a good one when you run out next time at 4 AM.” And here I was. Oh. Spotted one. Staring at me from one of the mass graves at my feet. I bent down and picked him up, breaking apart the spider web that had been spun around the whole pile of em. I cleaned him off good. An old friend. I stuck the butt in my mouth and pulled without lighting it. It tasted grey and sad like cervical cancer. I flicked him back at the ground. My mouth salivated with the memories of a fresh one.

I remembered the pack I bought just a few weeks before at the 7-11 on Wilshire in Koreatown. I had originally stopped in for condoms but I knew I wasn’t gonna fuck anyone that night and really I was just looking for an excuse to stop somewhere I’ve never been before. When I was checking out, a dirty drunk bum walked in laughing. Laughing so loud so hard. So hard he finally hiccuped and vomited all over the store floor. The store clerk and the bum looked at each other right after it happened, both in complete confusion for a few seconds. Then the drunk walked out without a word. I started laughing. The Indian clerk did not at all. I stifled myself as much as I could but he still punished me by forcing me to wait while he cleaned up the mess. He could see I was fiending for a cigarette the whole time. I even told him that I haven’t smoked one in a while. Yup. This will be my first cigarette in many months can you believe it? But by the time he was done cleaning, I decided not to smoke it after all. But I bought the pack anyway. I smiled and felt good about life and myself and how everything works out the way it should in the end. You just gotta be patient and wait your turn. And when you want it baby you can have it but you don’t want it, do you? That pack is still in my car. With the wrapper still on. I could go get it. I stand there on the balcony thinking about it. I hear the water boiling in the kettle and then the lever automatically releasing and clicking the kettle off. I keep staring out into the night.

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