Sometimes I wake at 2, 3, 4 am to the smell of his cigarettes. The stairs become a chimney, drawing the sweet stench of his nightly puffs into my bedroom.
‘Only 4 cigs a day! Only 4!’ He exclaims in a voice oddly reminiscent of Bernie Sanders – but with a touch of Southern Accent rather than the East Coast. ‘A few puffs. Just a few puffs at a time. I ration it out. It’s my system.’
As if his having a system completely nullifies the effects of second hand smoke and my concerns about his health, about the accumulated lung grunge of a lifetime of smoking.
He finds himself saintly – this is a massive reduction of the 2 packs a day he inhaled in his heady heyday.
‘That smell shouldn’t wake you.’ He says. Indignant as all addicts to the mere concept of inconvenience or pain caused by the imposition of his habit on others.
I listen to him hacking up – what? – the inside of his lungs? The stair well is a good conduit for sound too.
He takes his puffs over the ashtray on the kitchen counter. Cuts off the burning end with the handy stained scissor and leaves the ash in the tray to burn a stinky rippling trail to the ceiling, along the top of the room, down the hall – invisible by now – and up the stairs to my room perfectly located right at the top.
Most nights I don’t wake, but I’m breathing it in every night just the same. He’s hacking up his lungs just the same.
And none of it matters because we’re all dying anyway and he especially now is not going to change at all.