I ran out into the night and fumbling in the dark for what I needed, the half crushed Marlboro pack I’d been carrying around for months. I dug for the last cigarette, nearly squashed in half from having waited so long to be smoked. I frantically searched every pocket twice before I found my lighter. I lit it quick and take a deep drag. Yes, this is what I needed.
I exhaled and felt relieved simply by having something to do that took me away from you.
I’d come here to drink and dance, not to smoke this cigarette and certainly not to see you. I’d been doing better but only a little. My friends, who used to be our friends, had invited me, hoping to get me among other people and socializing. They really hoped I would stop moping and bringing them all down. They thought it had been too long for me to still be acting like this. I really had been doing better, just not that they could see.
I went like they wanted me to, and I tried to be pleasant. I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone and I resolved to leave soon. Just as I was finishing what I had promised myself was my last drink I looked up and there you were.
There you were, standing in the corner with a beer in your hand. You hated beer. You were smiling like our world hadn’t imploded just a few months ago, that hurt. It didn’t hurt as much as seeing you flirting with that asshole. The one who’s jokes you were pretending were funny. The one who put his hand on your waist…It had been a punch in the gut seeing you like that and I felt sick, and angry, and hurt, and….I needed a cigarette.
I’d been moving on but only because I thought you had moved away. I had been climbing out of that hole and I had seen a tiny bit of light. I had even quit smoking.
I took another drag and with the exhale looked at the thing I had been carrying with me all this time and that would soon be gone.
I’d missed smoking. I missed the way each cigarette gave themselves to me, the way they just wanted to make me feel good. That’s the way you had been, and that is why after you left I wrote your name on every one I smoked. This one still said it, Alice.
You had been there for me and I thought you always would but you were only using me. Taking care of me meant making you feel important. Making you feel important meant you had to keep me needing you. You would never let me get better. You kept me needing you until the end.
To be honest, I was using you too, I was only mad that you had done the same. You distracted me from all the bad things. I clung to you rather than working on myself.
Part of the getting better was seeing that we were both fucked up and we’s been fucked up to each other. I guess you’d just had the sense to quit me cold turkey first. It took me a little longer and a few more tries. I missed you still, but I thought about you less, and the cravings were growing fewer and farther between.
I watched the smoke drift and disappear with every exhale. The cigarette had started out stale and pretty damn disgusting, but it was beginning to be like more the old days.The ones that comforted me when you left me. Not to mention the ones I smoked before, back when I drank too much or after we’d spent hours slinging insults at each other.
This one was doing its job, I felt better now, it just took some time to get used to again.
I heard voices to my left, and under the buzzing street lamp I saw you getting into the funny-not-funny guy’s car. I had a feeling that he would end up gut punched too. Poor guy. I looked at you again and this time, it hurt a little less. Maybe I was going to be okay.
I took one more drag and tasted the burning filter. The cigarette was gone and so were you. I flicked it into the street and watched small embers fly. I didn’t bother trying to crush it out, it would burn out on its own.
I turned to walk the long way home and considered stopping for another pack. Or maybe not.
Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.
Featured image by Denis Defreyne