Smoke Break

by on January 29, 2010 in 2009-2011 with No Comments »

By Brandon Melendez

The revolving door spins with a satisfyingly smooth lack of resistance as he makes his way out of the building. Push. Slide. Turn. Release. He always gives the door an extra jolt on release because he figured revolving doors should rotate on their axis when empty like a cowboy’s six-shooter—freshly loaded. Inhaling from his nostrils he takes a lungful of crisp grey autumn.

Autumn in a city of dusty oxygen is different than that of the Tide-With-Wrinkle-Release ‘burbs. Suburban fall smells of fresh textbooks and crunchy orange leaves. The city has those smells for sure, but adds its own flavor to it: the savory blends of cab driver’s armpit, dirty hot dog water, bus exhaust, and a million other wonderful scents and oppressive odors native to urban foliage. He reaches into his pocket and emancipates a slightly flattened menthol 100 cigarette from its slightly flattened box. The green box of twenty Grade-A cigarettes is ripped in the flaps, frayed in the lid, and exploded on the sides—but it is intact and, as advertised, crush-proof. The cigarette, though still mostly round, is almost a half circle, as if someone had kicked the letter “D” on its side—except for its long 100’s filter which is reasonably unscathed.

This is a New York State cigarette. As all dutiful New York smokers are aware, New York State cigarettes have lines around the circumference of the white paper and along the length. These lines resemble the strata of the dearly departed Twin Towers. They are actually layers of chemicals designed to stop the cigarette from burning if one should happen to fall asleep smoking one. They provide for that distinctive taste of a New York cigarette that cheapens the quality of a New Jersey cigarette right along with the cost. The addition of the carcinogenic chemicals to create that flavor is really a tear drop in the ocean and doesn’t require much attention.

He sparks the cigarette. In a fluid motion that both blocks the wind and lights the flame he pulls the fire into the cigarette causing the tobacco to transmogrify dusty city oxygen into cigarette smoke.

At first there us nothing else to focus on except the cancer poised between lips and fingers. The unlit cigarette is as infinite as the horizons of the universe. Unlit it can last forever and provide the nicotine fix all the time at anytime. The fire that burns the cigarette, however, is just like the grains of sand in an hour glass. The cigarette is no longer immortal; it is doomed.

Like any infatuation, the relationship between man and bogey decreases intensity proportionally to the progression of time. The mind wanders. The eye drifts. Smoking which was second nature—an all encompassing affair—all but thirty seconds ago is now old hat. Behold as tiny dog walks by; his every step is blurred by the speed required to keep up the pace with its master. An airplane soars overhead while a train roars underfoot.

“Look at that dog. What’s that smell? Is it me? No it isn’t! I want to see that movie…” thoughts run into each other.

The cigarette has now reached its mid-point. It is burning quickly as he smokes harder. Nicotine breaths become deep cavernous fogs in pinked lungs changing to yellow, brown, and black like the leaves of the season. He holds the swirling grey air-born debris in his chest and lets his head swim; his brain thinks he’s drowning. Exhaling through his nose he closes his eyes and the cool smoke’s exit leaves in momentary euphoria.
The moment is over.

Other smokers are congregated outside the building at scattered outposts by the building and varying points smoking affair’s timeline. They pace, talk on the phone, stare into space. The other smokers look uninterested, calm, anxious, or distracted.

He looks at his nail-bitten fingers and cracks his knuckles. He checks his Facebook on the phone; then he checks the time, cigarette balanced in his mouth. He looks at his cigarette mournfully—it is almost done. It is almost ready to die as all mortals must. His chest becomes heavy as he unleashes a sigh. He is craving another cigarette before this cigarette is over—he is ready to move on from this dead-end affair.

Alas, there is no time for such indulgences as his watch has horrifically confirmed. In three sequential drags he bids farewell to the lost love of cigarette number seven from this pack. He holds the smoke inside while he positions the finished vice between his thumb and middle finger. Flick. It flies in a spiral and swirls down the open grate to the subterranean hell below. He turns and faces the revolving door again.

He coughs.

Brandon Melendez is a writer, filmmaker, musician, and artist from Far Rockaway, New York City. Born to American parents, Brandon Melendez can claim both a Jewish and Puerto Rican heritage as well as a New Yorker’s perspective. He graduated from the Metropolitan College of New York with a Bachelor’s Degree in American Urban Studies in December 2009. For more information on Brandon’s writing or his other creative endeavors, please visit his website at


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