You Buy Your Own Cigarettes Now
A snapshot of filtered heartache
You buy your own cigarettes now. It’s a habit I like to think I helped start. Watching you pull out that tan cardboard box and pack them expertly is one of my biggest accomplishments. I’ve trained you well. But as proud as I am, I’m beginning to see that my time with you is running out, much like that tan pack in your front pocket. Your addiction used to depend on me, and I was unashamed to fuel it. I found myself buying extra packs at the store, spending money I didn’t have on items I wouldn’t even get to use. But those four-to-six minutes alone with you on the balcony were satisfying, to say the least. Even when we didn’t speak, it was worth it just to watch you in the moonlight. To see your eyes scan the parking lot, to imagine where your mind goes, to envy the cancer-stick you bring to your lips every 10 seconds or so. Those seven dollars I’d never see again were made worth it. I had something you wanted, even if I truly have nothing you want. And I could trade the tiny white cylinders for four-to-six minutes of your time, because it was what you needed. Each pack represented twenty chances to pick your brain, twenty chances to guilt you out of your jacket, and twenty chances to have you to myself. Even you began to recognize what those minutes meant. You’d use them similarly: when you wanted to talk to me one-on-one, or when you’d use the chance to light my cigarette like a true gentleman. Because “pretty girls don’t light their own cigarettes”.
Did I stop being pretty? Was I ever pretty? Or did you just rely on me to fund your habits? Was I that foolish? Was I that blind? I like to think those four-to-six minutes meant as much to you as they did to me, even if only sometimes. I was literally killing myself for you. I’d finish one cigarette and immediately light another if you suddenly decided to join me. I’d buy a pack, only to give you half. The money I could have used for food I’d instead spend on your lungs, because it used to be our lungs. It was the only thing that was ours. Those moments were sacred. But they’re becoming fewer and fewer.
You buy your own cigarettes now. I know because you sent me a picture of yourself smoking, and the filters don’t match mine. What hurt even worse was that they match hers instead. So it seems that the habit that I once ignited ends with her. Maybe now, in those several minutes, when you smoke alone outside of work or with a stranger at the party, you think of her and not me. You think about how that time could be spent watching her mouth as she exhales the thick smoke, or how fulfilling it is to light her cigarette for her, because she is pretty. You no longer spend your days in anticipation, waiting to see me because you know I’ll have at least five waiting for you, to ease the confusion of the day and to satisfy that craving that I began. Now there’s that tan box in your front pocket, and you no longer have to invite me to stand in the cold with you in our shared suicidal bliss. Now you can ask her instead, because you know the box in your front pocket looks like the one she “forgot” at her place. Now those four-to-six minutes belong to her.
I watch you through the window. She’s bolder than I ever was with you. She sits on your lap and blows smoke in your face. To her, those moments aren’t sacred. They’re merely a chance for her to capture your attention, for her to bask in your light when the world is dark. I remember when those moments were mine. It hurts, terribly. It’s like when you take too big of a drag off your cigarette, and the black smoke fills your lungs overwhelmingly, and even your ugliest cough can’t calm it. It’s excruciating, in fact.
So I’ll brave the cold without you. I’ll smoke all twenty of the cancer-sticks I waste my money on, with the white filters that will always make me think of you. I’ll spend those four-to-six minutes wondering what I could do to make you need me again, watching time burn away while the cigarette gets smaller. I’ll enjoy killing myself, but nowhere near as much I would if you were with me. You don’t need me anymore. I’ve created a monster. I’ve built a habit for myself and took you with me, and now you share that habit with someone else. I’ve accepted it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
You buy your own cigarettes now. The minutes that were once run by me belong to you, and the ball is now in your court.
The only thing left for me to do, to ensure you need me during those four-to-six minutes, is to steal your lighter. I’ve accumulated eight of them now. They make me think of you an awful lot, but even their combined heat in this cold weather can’t make the empty feeling go away.
The next pack I pick up will be tan.