o smoke

´I’ve smoked well over a hundred thousand cigarettes in my life, and each one of those cigarettes meant something to me. I even enjoyed a few of them. I’ve smoked O.K., great, and terrible cigarettes; I’ve smoked dry and moist, aromatic and almost-sweet cigarettes. I’ve smoked hastily, and other times slowly and with pleasure. I’ve scrounged, stolen, and smuggled cigarettes; I’ve obtained them by devious means, and I’ve begged for them. I once paid thirteen dollars for a pack at a New York airport. I’ve thrown out half-full packs only to fish them back out of the rubbish to render them useless once and for all under the tap. I’ve smoked cold cigarette butts, cigars, cigarillos, bidis, kreteks, spliffs, and straw. I’ve missed flights because of cigarettes and burned holes in trousers and car seats. I’ve singed my eyelashes and eyebrows, fallen asleep while smoking, and dreamt of cigarettes—of relapses and flames and bitter withdrawal. I’ve smoked when it was more than a hundred and ten degrees and when it was ten below. I’ve smoked because I was full and I’ve smoked because I was hungry, because I was glad and because I was depressed. I’ve smoked out of loneliness and out of friendship, out of fear and out of exuberance. Every cigarette that I’ve ever smoked served a purpose—they were a signal, medication, a stimulant, or a sedative, they were a plaything, an accessory, a fetish object, something to help pass the time, a memory aid, a communication tool, or an object of meditation. Sometimes they were all of these things at once. Every cigarette I’ve ever smoked was a good cigarette.


I’ve often dreamt of smoking in an art museum. I imagine how I would sit on one of those smooth, solid-wood benches already warmed by the obliquely angled afternoon sun in front of a quickly painted and austere group portrait by Frans Hals, for instance, and light up a Finas Kyriazi Frères, a filterless Oriental cigarette that sadly vanished from the market a few years ago. I’ve no doubt that this would be a moment of absolute clarity, perhaps my greatest moment of happiness. But this will never happen. I no longer smoke.`

This text was drawn from “Nicotine,” by Gregor Hens from Other Press.