"You ever just stay up all night, listening to the same song over and over again?"
The expected cough never comes. There's the sensation of having shoved an ashtray in his mouth, but the flavor takes over quickly. The drag on the cigarette is slow. By design. It tastes good, even though he quit years ago. How the other man in the room knew he smoked Camel Turkish Silvers is unimportant. He knows. And what a godsend that is.
"Like, when you know you should sleep, but the song is just so fucking good, you just keep on listening?"
He laughs softly.
"Kinda like this cigarette."
It's a gentle mutter, as if the embarrassment of falling off the wagon is somehow lessened by being as quiet as possible.
"You don't smoke, do you?"
The question is loud. And unanswered. Not even a nod or shake of the head. Just two eyes staring. Waiting.
"Didn't think so."
He doesn't flick the ashes. He's trying too hard not to shake. It takes every ounce of his strength to hold still. Holding still, watching the end of the cigarette burn into a limp-dick of tar and tobacco. Privy to the wind. C'est la vie.
"It doesn't happen to me much. The song thing. And almost never when a song's got lyrics. You know?"
The cherry finally falls, ending its observation and allowing another slow drag on the stick. He imagines a scene from a movie. Sound amplified. The burning paper as audible as a forest fire. He wishes he could listen to some music.
"I don't suppose you have a radio, by any chance?"
A gloved hand reaches into jacket pocket and produces an iPod. His iPod. He should've known. The cigarette safely stuck to his lip, he grabs the device and turns it on. The gloved hand tosses him his earbuds. He nods in silent thanks and puts them in. The last song played is by Emancipator. How apropos.
"This is a good one."
Closing his eyes, he tastes the cigarette and disappears into the music. He's always found it a liberating song. Freeing thought from worry. The only thing on his mind is the heat from a cigarette burning to its filter. It's time.
"You want to tell her anything?"
He's always been patient. It's only fair.
"No. She won't miss me, anyway."
But, oh, he will miss this song. He thinks he hears the gunshot. Probably just percussion.
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