I am hanging out at my friends’ eatery, lounging carelessly on the back decked private porch, rejoicing in the privilege of being between hawk and buzzard. It’s almost midnight and the thermometer doesn’t budge from 32 degrees Celsius. The city buzzes like in plain daylight, with many finding refuge in places such as this. We’re all running away from torrid homes and burning mattresses.
Sitting next to me at the wooden table are the four owners of the restaurant – two sisters and their husbands, my longtime friend who’s come home for a short visit from Brazil, and another brunette, a friend of the owners. Jumping around – as if oblivious to the heat that makes everybody else huff and puff – Zara, one of the family’s five year-old girl – is preparing for us make-believe oven-cooked chicken breast with salad. Next to the porch, on the grass, the other couple’s five month-old sleeps peacefully guarded by the family dog. We sip cold juices and cocktails while speaking about our kids and childbirth, about diets and habits, about my life in London and their lives in Romania. We talk and talk about everything and nothing, anything to keep our minds away from the heat.
In the dimmed porch light, we’re patches of colours enveloped in cigarette smoke. The girls are wearing floral dresses and skirts, the guys shorts and t-shirts, while I have a turquoise tube top and a pair of light baggy cotton trousers, the kind the Turks used to wear a few centuries ago.
Tonight I give into the temptation of lighting up a flavored cigarette. With everyone smoking in this town, it seems weird and unnatural not to. Even after all these years of quitting, there is something about the slow burn of a cigarette that always lures me. The way the thin ring of fire mutely consumes the brown paper, going up towards the filter in perfect symmetry.
I keep still, while my arm travels towards my lips in lascivious moves. Puff. Back down towards the table. The brown filtered cigarette looks elegant and sleek between my tanned, thin fingers. The sweet vanilla flavor lingers on my lips, soft Spanish music fills up the hot air. I can almost picture myself on a beach in Acapulco. My mind is drawn into the cyclical, automatic movement of my hand. Another puff. The ring of fire is up a notch.
Cigarettes are more or less like our lives. Every puff we’re taking is a day we’re living. And we live puff by puff, until we’re nothing but ashes carried away by a whiff of wind. It’s all about the flavor and the size. Some of us choose to consume ourselves in dry, choky smokes, while the more refined go for lighter, more sophisticated experiences.
Imagine having the choice of buying from a life shop, a movie-like format of your life, manufactured from snippets of endless possible futures. Just picture human kind queuing in front of a life store, as if at a tobacconist’s. Could it be that simple to have a perfect life? Browsing the shelves and picking The One?
“What shall it be, sir? Would you like to try a long, fat and stinking life? Or would you rather go for something lighter, longer and slimmer?”
“Make it flavored for me,” I hear myself thinking. “When I put it out, I want to feel the satisfaction of a good ride.”