Cigar Smoke


At one in the afternoon, Sadie bought the cigar box at the community yard sale down the street from her flat.  She was only going for milk, but the old man behind the card table in front of the brown apartment building reminded her of her grandfather, the one she’d never met.

“How much for the cigar box?” Sadie asked.  She asked because she wanted to hear the man’s voice.

“For you baby? Just a kiss,” and his fat lips became fatter as he turned them towards her.  He didn’t remind Sadie of her grandfather anymore.

“How about a high-five?”

“Sold.”

Sadie slapped the man’s hand and took the box back to her apartment.

Sadie’s apartment was too full of junk already.

Sadie didn’t remember until later that day that she had gone out for a reason other than to buy a cigar box with a duck engraved on the lid.

The box still held the scent of a bar’s back room, smoke and whiskey and the memory of the bar owner’s harry wrist and gold watch.

Sadie set the box on the desk in front of her.  She flipped it around a few times then pushed it to the corner where a glass lamp without a bulb and a porcelain doll without a foot already sat.

Sadie looked at her hands and waited for something interesting to happen.  It was two o’clock, and then it was four o’clock.  She turned on her computer and read the Wikipedia page for palm reading.  She followed from link to link until she was reading all about the Spanish Civil War.  She didn’t know how she’d gotten there.

It was already six, but Sadie knew she’d have to wait until at eight to eat, or else she would get fat, and no one would want to have sex with her.

Sadie sat on her bed.  It was somehow already eleven, and she somehow had a glass of wine in her hand.  She was waiting for her roommate to get ready so they could go dancing.

Sadie sat opening and closing the gold-hinged lid of the cigar box, fanning herself with the bar’s backroom smell.  The wood paneling, the perfume from the owner’s wife, the old man’s past was stashed inside that box.

At the top of the box was the river behind the house where the old man grew up.  There was a swing set and the blue dress the old man’s first love had worn the day she broke his heart.  There was the square hole they dropped the old man’s young father into and the egg-salad sandwich the man threw up that afternoon.

Sadie saw that the old man’s anger was white like the inside of a shell.  When the old man drank, the anger turned soft pink and sad like a Tuesday morning in December.

As Sadie herd her roommate’s hair drier in the bathroom, she saw the old man working in the car parts factory, inspecting the burn on his forearm, the first few grey hairs on his head, his first marriage, divorce, marriage again, two kids and the bridge the man almost jumped off one night on his way home from work.

Sadie sat the box on her lap and looked through her blinds as though they were a window.

Sadie knew the box was empty, but there was a heaviness to it.

She had heard black holes were millions of times heavier than the earth.

Sadie couldn’t imagine anything heavier than the earth, she really couldn’t.

The heavy emptiness of the box was more the heaviness of hunger.

The old man’s hunger was a carved out cavity where a heart should go.

The bar owner’s wife in the back corner of the box with her black eye, and still, all Sadie could feel what the old man’s hunger.  Not for food or sex or alcohol, it was hunger that started in the heels of the man’s feet and spread through his body like someone had hung him upside down and pulled a plug.  His blood was slowly draining.

“I’m ready,” said Sadie’s roommate.

“Finally,” said Sadie.

Sadie set the box down and forgot about it.  She went to the club with her roommate, and the music went unce, unce, unce.  It was dark, and Sadie wasn’t sure that anyone was there, just flashes of arms in coloured light.  It was as though the limbs were not attached to anything, or if they were, they were moving as autonomous beings.  Everyone had windows instead of eyes.  Everyone wanted to be wild.  Vodka-soaked, loose-limbed creatures, everyone was wild.

On the dance floor, Sadie’s hunger was a mouth the size of the ocean, and no eyes.  When she felt it, she thought of the word infestation, but she didn’t know why.

“Fuck,” she said into the cigar box when she got home.  The words shifted out the silence, but they echoed back to her as the voice of the old man, the one she thought was her grandfather, asking her for a kiss.

Sadie closed the box and opened it.  She had the taste of a young guy’s whiskey tongue in her mouth.  She could still feel his stubble on her chin.

“Fuck,” Sadie said into the box again.  It was 4am, and she was still too drunk to sleep.

Sadie fought the urge to go on facebook.

Sadie fought the urge to throw up.

She sat on her bed and watched the cracks in her walls until they became cracks of light coming through her blinds.  It was a new day again.

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