You Don’t Mean It

To the three beautiful girls sitting on the curb smoking cigarettes:
Your glossy lips kiss the end of the filter, your shiny plastic nails act as neon hazard signs, so long they almost curl around the rolled paper like protective claws. Everything about you is orchestrated and pieced together through many hours searching Instagram and watching reality TV, but you are not smokers. That cigarette is no more a piece of your identity than the cheap clothes you’ll toss out in a month or two.
I can tell by the way you hold it, away from you, like an acquaintance you will always keep at arms length.
I am resisting the urge to run out of the coffee shop where I am secretly and safely observing you to smack the cigarettes out of each of your stiff hands, scolding you. Not for smoking, like surely your mother would, but because you are not doing it right. Because you flirt with the nicotine, but you will never embrace it. Don’t tease it like the high school boy that you know you’ll never sleep with, it’ll only ever be a kiss.
That cigarette has been my best friend, closest confidant, and then worst enemy. The most tender of lovers, and the most insidious of abusive relationships. I imagine your mouth hanging open in the cockeyed smirk of youth as I tell you that if you don’t give the smoke the respect it demands it will take it. Yet as I tell you it was the deepest heartbreak to say goodbye, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, you reach into your bag and say “do you like, want one?”

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