Cigarette Smoke

A cigarette is evil in a stick. It feels naughty to admit you love the smell of cigarette smoke. It’s even naughtier to admit that as a non-smoker.

*

As a child, on several annual trips to Elaine, Victoria, this smoke surrounds me. At this fete hosted on the grounds of a Serbian Orthodox church, the adults park their cars and spread out the fold-up chairs. They pass around the lighter, and the cigarettes are lit in dusk—a string of fairy lights. The smoke wafts over to me and blends with the smell of pine trees. The adults are spreading Nutella on white bread and laughing. I smell smoky peace. I wander off to the giant slide and merry-go-round and the ride operators smoke in a languid eve. I hop on to the Cha Cha and I’m flung around in sharp angles, dizzied from the mixture of the ride, the pine and the smoke.

*

Mum sits on a deck chair in the backyard and I peek out the kitchen window. She crosses her legs and lights her cigarette, holding it delicately between her index and middle finger. The puff of smoke rises above her like a speech bubble. I open the window and smell the black coffee she has taken outside. The cigarette sits poised in her hand. The dishes are unwashed.

*

I go out one night with high school friends—none of whom I genuinely like or respect, none of whom that genuinely like or respect me. We are all 19 and haven’t seen enough of the world to meet enough people who are actually like us. We are at the Penny Black on Brunswick Street and people order drinks at the bar and for some reason I am not drinking. I walk out to the back and see a large wooden table where Jim and Daniel are already sitting and drinking. I sit down next to Jim and he lights a cigarette, inhales, blows the smoke away. The wind pushes it all into my face. ‘Hey Mel, you don’t mind if I smoke right?’ I tell him I don’t mind. When that smoke hits my face, I feel it to be a quiet reminder that I will never truly be a part of their conversation. I also want a cigarette.

*

At a loud, sweaty city nightclub, the fans are not enough to cool me. I step out into the back area and the music pumps through my body, but I can barely move from the huddle of smokers. Like chickens in a coop, young men and women freeze together for a puff; grey waves of smoke floating ominously above them.

*

Sitting on the stonewall cliff edge with a view of the Melbourne Eye and the city skyline, Amy hands me a cigarette at dusk. I cup my hand around the tip to light it and inhale. It scratches and claws down my throat into my lungs. I cough persistently as she hands me a triangle of Toblerone chocolate and a Pump bottle of stale water. My eyes water furiously but I take another puff. The gum trees rustle but my body relaxes. I’m dizzied by the smell of eucalyptus, the cliff edge, and the cigarette.

*

Advertisements