| He remembered the first time he smoked his last cigarette. Quitting had been on his mind for a while and with the news of his college roommates death, it seemed like a good time to quit. He opened a bottle of champagne the night before, not to celebrate, but to get drunk. His old friend would have appreciated it. They got drunk on champagne on the eve of their graduation. It was fitting that after one of them died, the other would get drunk in memory of their departed friend. So he did. There was one cigarette remaining in the crumpled pack that was laying on the coffee table, he put it away for the next morning, he knew he’d want it then, as a final thrill before getting his life together.
The morning sun rose, piercing his eyes and feeding his pounding headache. His house, the camp, was quiet, almost silent. He was lying under the soft blankets left behind by his grandmother before she was carted off to die in some sterile nursing home chosen by his aunt who didn’t want to have to warehouse the old woman.
Crawling out of bed, he realized he was naked, a chilly reminder that he’d been drunk the night before. He never slept naked, except when he was drunk, so if the headache wasn’t proof enough, his nakedness confirmed it. With his bare feet chilled to the cold tile kitchen floor, he flipped the switch on the coffee machine and reached into the cupboard above the sink where he kept the medicine. He always had a supply of over the counter migraine pills and he grabbed the half full bottle and dumped three tablets into his hand. Ripping open the plastic wrap that secured the stack of blue plastic cups, he pulled one out and ran a splash of water into the cup. He tossed the pills into his mouth and followed them with the water. The cup dropped into the sink resting among the dirty dishes.
Looking down, he saw broken glass scattered on the floor. Tiny shards of splinters waiting to be swallowed by his unsuspecting bare feet. He remembered the last time he stepped on broken glass, the struggle to pull the slivers out of his foot with tweezers. His vision isn’t what it used to be, it was difficult digging the clear pieces from his skin. He didn’t want to repeat that. He grabbed the small vacuum from the closet and sucked up the glass. He couldn’t remember breaking the glass.
There was a thick fog hanging over the river, rolling with the current, waiting for the sun to rise and burn it away. The day’s heat hadn’t arrived, but it was coming, 90 degrees was the last report he had heard, and humid, not a good day to be hung over, if there ever was a good day to be hung over….
The tile felt good against his feet as he plodded into the laundry nook to find something to wear. Anything would do, there was no need to impress anybody, he wasn’t going anywhere and he didn’t expect anyone to come calling. There were some unwashed gym clothes sitting in a pile on the floor with the other laundry. Perfect. Loose, and easy to find. He put on the shorts and the stained tank top shirt and returned to the kitchen. The coffee should be ready.
Grabbing a coffee cup and a spoon from the sink, he turned the knob for the hot water and waited for it to heat. Sticking the cup under the running water, he scraped at whatever it was that had congealed on the bottom of the cup with the spoon. He looked in the cup, still some residue clinging to the bottom. A paper towel wadded into a ball eliminated the remnants before he stuck his nose over the top of the cup and inhaled. No discernible odors, it was clean enough for coffee. He filled the cup and walked out the kitchen and onto the deck he had built the summer before.
He sat on the padded chair of the patio set that his ex had made him buy years ago. Sipping the coffee, he looked across the river and spied some deer drinking on the bank.
Cigarettes. He’d forgotten to bring the cigarettes. Or, in this case, cigarette.
He had to think about where it was for a minute before he retrieved the pack. Alcohol played tricks with his memory, it made it foggy, like the river, in the morning. As the day would progress, the fog would lift, both in his head and on the river. But, it was early yet and the fog hadn’t begun to lift. So he went back to the living room and pulled the remaining cigarette from the pack and tossed the empty at the kitchen trash can. It landed on the floor, he’d pick it up later.
Hands shaking, the cigarette was placed between his lips as he walked back onto the deck. The deer were gone, but the fog remained. He opened the lighter and ignited the flame, touching it to the tip of the cigarette. He drew the smoke deeply into his lungs. He hated the thought of quitting, he loved smoking and not just for the physical addiction, but for everything that goes with it, the ritual of smoking, the camaraderie with other smokers.
Some mornings he would dive into the chilly water, but not today. It was time to enjoy his smoke. He sat back in the chair as he took another drag on the cigarette. This moment was as perfect as any moment could be, it was quiet, serene, he was at peace. For now.