Play Nice

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[This is where the summary would go if I'd bothered to write one.]

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She shakes the last cigarette out of the box and stares at it for a minute before she puts it to her mouth and lights it. Sometimes she thinks she smokes only for the gestures. She used to study people as they smoked, watched as their bodies resembled the diaphanous smoke, loose, relaxed. She never paid attention to the nervous smokers, of them she wanted to know nothing about. Instead she would stare at the person who seemed to know just the angle to point the cigarette, whose graceful fingers arched just so as they slowly brought the stick to his mouth. Even before she picked up her fist cigarette, she had the moves down.

She’d spent the day at the cemetery. Days spent at the cemetery always worried her, tired her out. She was constantly vigilant about walking right down the middle of the aisles, afraid to step on old and fresh mounds of dirt. She wished at times that she was the type of person who believed in ghost stories, goblins and ghouls, of dead hands breaking through dirt, clawing their way to sunlight, in search of what she didn’t know. To think such thoughts would occupy her time, distract her from the tasks at hand. 

But she wasn’t one for believing such stories or making up fancyful tales. She stared at people all day long, at bus stops, restaurants, malls. She watched them scurrying about, wondered who they were going home to, what they were going to make for dinner. But that’s all she did. She only wondered. It didn’t occur to her that she could make up stories to go with these people. Of what use were those stories to her? They weren’t real after all; and real is the only thing that counts, she often thought.

She inhales deeply and feels the smoke coat her throat, her tongue. She holds her breath a little longer than she wants to and only; only when her breath sputters in her chest does she allow herself to exhale. She closes her eyes as the smoke wafts around her head. Already she knows that she will have to take a very long shower to get the smell out of her hair, her pores. She enjoys smoking, does it despite knowing the damage it causes, but she detests the smell.

The dead don’t mind the smell, she softly murmurs to herself. No, I suppose they don’t. But the dead don’t mind very much. If they could mind anything at all, it would be that they’re dead she figures. She laughs softly as she taps the cigarette against the ashtray.

Tomorrow she’ll have to return, bright and early. She wishes she could enjoy it. There are those who like cemeteries, the quiet, the promise of things to come, the tranquility of time standing still, but she can not allow herself such luxuries.

With her free hand she picks up yesterday’s newspaper and reads the top story. People don’t listen, she thinks to herself. Always so sure of themselves; always believing there’s a future. To some extent they’re right, but a future will sometimes only last for a second or two. The look of surprise, shock and sense of betrayal never ceases to surprise her. How is it possible, she wonders, that they believe it can’t happen to them when we come into this world ready for death? What is birth but death’s companion?

She sighs and places the newspaper face down on the scarred table. She takes the last drag of her cigarette and places the butt on top of the paper. A risk, a small one, a game. Today was a very long day, she thinks. Tomorrow even longer. A spark will be enough to start a flame.

Published 08/19/03 in Writing • | Views: 2193 times | Print

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