“Jack’s Ciggies” by Danny Hoffman, Washington Heights

Borders July 13, 2011 22:37

topic: BORDERS medium: TEXT

as shared at a PenTales event themed “Borders”

Watch Danny tell his story on Youtube!

Finally, time for a smoke.  Jack reached into his jacket pocket as he walked down the street away from the restaurant.  His three-hour dinner with Marcus had been pleasant enough, but it was a long time not to have a cigarette.  Usually, in the span of three hours, Jack would take at least two cigarette breaks, but not tonight.  He had told Marcus that he had quit shortly after high school, when Marcus left for Chicago, and he wanted to maintain that illusion, at least for as long as Marcus was in New York.  Unfortunately that also meant that Jack had to be cigarette free for at least an hour before he saw Marcus on account of the latter’s super sensitive sense of smell.  Today Marcus had met him at work and walked with him to the restaurant, so Jack was smoke-free for about 5 hours.  Holy crap, that’s a long time.
Jack felt bad about deceiving Marcus.  They usually told each other everything, which was probably why they remained such good friends all these years despite the distance.  Jack hadn’t lied when he told Marcus that he quit smoking.  He really had quit shortly after high school.  He just didn’t tell him that he started smoking again shortly after that.  He didn’t keep it from Marcus out of embarrassment or shame; those feelings didn’t exist in their friendship.  He knew that if he told Marcus, Marcus would never stop reminding him how dangerous and stupid of an addiction smoking is.  It would be high school all over again.  Jack loved Marcus dearly as a friend, but that was one part of Marcus he could do without.
Jack just about reached the corner when he stopped abruptly.  Where the hell are they?  He was certain he left his cigarettes in the left pocket of his jacket, but he currently found it completely empty, save for some lint.  He compulsively checked every corner of the pocket, and then proceeded to check the right pocket and both breast pockets.  When they yielded no cigarettes, he patted all of the pockets in his pants – front and back – to check for the familiar rectangular bulge.  He then went back to the jacket pockets and repeated the search.  I could’ve sworn I put them right…
Jack wheeled around and ran back to the restaurant, where Marcus had just succeeded in hailing a cab and was crouching to get in
“He’ll take the next one,” Jack told the driver as he pulled Marcus out of the car.  He glared at Marcus as the cab drove away.  “Give them to me.”
Marcus looked Jack very plainly in the eyes.  “No.”
“What? What do you mean, ‘No?’  They’re mine.  They belong to me.  Give them back.”
“No.  I can’t do that for you.”
“You can’t do that for –“
“I don’t see why you need them.  You quit.”  Marcus produced the cigarettes from his own jacket pocket and gripped them tightly with his left hand.  “You told me you quit.  Years ago.”
“You’re upset that I didn’t tell you I was smoking again?  You’re punishing me for not telling you? That’s –“

Jack noticed that he was to shout and, wanting to avoid making a scene on this busy street, lowered his voice to slightly below normal conversation level before continuing.  “That’s ridiculous.  Grow up.  Give me my cigarettes.”

“They’re dangerous.  They’ll kill you.  Plus,” Marcus continued after a pause, “you never said please.”

Instead of using his works, Jack decided to lunge at Marcus’ left hand, grabbing for the cigarettes.  Instinctively, Marcus extended his hand as far as he could away from Jack, into the street, successfully hailing another cab.

Jack didn’t have time to control the volume of his voice this time, and shouted, “He’s not going anywhere!” to the cabby, who smiled apologetically (if not a little defensively), nodded, and drove off.

Jack, acutely aware of the attention he and Marcus were getting from everyone on the street, took a moment to compose himself, a moment of which Marcus took advantage.  Already leaning halfway out into the street, Marcus noticed a sewer drain directly under where he was standing.  With an architect’s precision, he released the pack of cigarettes and both he and Jack watched them disappear below the street’s surface.

For about thirty seconds, neither of the two men spoke.  They just stood side by side, staring at the sewer drain that had just claimed the source of their latest scuffle.

“You suck,” Jack said.

Marcus nodded unapologetically.

“You know I can just buy another pack,” Jack said.


“You know I’m going to buy another pack.”  Jack said.

“Mm hm.”

“You want to grab a beer?”


Jack’s Ciggies, by Danny Hoffman

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