Nonchalance & Nicotine
by Belinda Roddie
Sam chooses Saturdays for when
we share smokes and pretend not
to give a fuck about anything, from
science to the world ending. She says
if we think too hard, we could grill our
own brains, holding them like limp steaks
to hot iron grids, searing memories we
don't want into our raw psyches.
I gave up cigarettes ten years ago,
so I drink while the others inhale
the ashes of the city. I got the inclination
for booze in my belly from my father, who
got it from his mother, who got it from her
Depression-era aunt who fought against
Prohibition like a bandit, just so she could
get happy off of something better than
a tub of homemade gin.
The eyes of steel golems
are open and expose scurrying
ghosts behind office windows, fragile
fingers scuttling across plastic
mingling with silicon.
Sam tells a joke. Everyone laughs.
I smell the tobacco in their dry mouths.
Someone blurts something about something
that breaks open my anxiety like a razor
against a scab. Nicks me just enough to
get me shaking and cold after so much
heat from the bad whiskey.
There's a moment, on that balcony in
this shit circus of an apartment complex,
that I feel like jumping off and hurtling
toward the noisy market below, where I
buy bananas and avocados that are too ripe
but cheap as Hell, and I can eat them
quickly while the toothless vendor smiles
and I get a good look at an endless red void.
Maybe one day, I will jump, and I'll
take Sam with me. Wipe that simmering,
nihilistic grin off her face. Knock the burning
cylinder out from between her claws. Give
her something to scream about so she can
feel the demons scratching in her stomach
just like I do on a daily basis.