Every cigarette turns a page in a book of blank pages.

Here I am again, in my boxers this time, waiting for inspiration. Perhaps the wisps of smoke might be read, like tealeaves or lines on a palm, for a clue to the future. It is nice to feel the jagged edge of each brick on my bared back. I palm a lighter and fish half a Spirit from its hiding place in the cleats an old roommate left on the porch. I notice the bright green Nikes every time I walk in the door. They have been there since March.

The day will be hot. The unkept yard encroaches impolitely on the white plastic lawn chair we have, so I stay on the stoop. It’s hard to light the stub without burning my nose, and I almost cough myself to death laughing at the idea of walking around with a snout browned by idiocy.

In inhale, and decimate myself. To maintain discipline, Roman commanders would kill a tenth of the centurions if a division failed to do its duty. I make a classic mistake of logical confusion, the effect for the cause, when I take the poison. Atonement for my sins, perhaps.

The leaves we burn in self-pity grow on alluvial plains, flattened by the onslaught of wind, water, and time. Curlicuing smoke signifies the approach of stillness. The sun, whose rays provide the energy for the tobacco plant’s lilting upward grasp, slouches towards silence as it lazily exhausts itself.

Our sun, beloved sun, never will supernova; instead, it heads for quiet stasis, a white dwarf in long contemplation of the suffering it birthed. For a long time, I thought heat death meant the death of the universe by heat, fire and brimstone become full. I might not have been so confused if instead the phenomenon were dubbed the death of heat: the exhaustion of our world’s entropic surplus.

Our world is a hiccup in a quiet torrent, an ugly burp of brightness and right angles in an otherwise bland universe. The place is all taupe and flat, rather boring, without us. Wherever we are not dark and undifferentiated—wherever there is order—it exists as a fluctuation in the probabilistic ledgers, a lotto ticket to existence, an account to be drawn down carefully.

When we smoke, we do so waiting, more often than not: for a friend to arrive, for a stroke of genius, for a worldly pain to pass. I flip ahead in the script of my life, hoping for the plot to thicken. We’re all waiting to be pulled into something, for something to happen, but nothing ever does.

We wait, and in our waiting burn the wick of the world.


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