Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ten a.m. smoking break

“There are so many people outside, it looks like a fire drill.”

Louie laughed, exhaling a burst of cigarette smoke, and then lapsed into a coughing fit. “Except the fire is out here,” he commented to Réal, waving the lit tip of his cigarette in his companion’s face.

Réal took another drag and squinted up at the sky, the sun now peeking over the tops of the downtown office buildings. “This is all right,” he muttered, “at least it’s warm out, and it’s not raining. But I hate having to come outside to smoke in the winter; and now they won’t even let us shelter in the doorways. Nine metres. Bah!” He spat on the sidewalk.

Louie looked at the cigarette in his hand speculatively. “They’ve put the price of smokes up again. It’s getting so I can barely afford them anymore. I ran a budget the other day to figure out what this habit is costing me.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Réal. “How much?”

“A lot,” answered Louie, “enough that I could take my wife and my girlfriend to the Bahamas for a week at Christmas. Not enough for separate vacations, sadly.”

It was Réal’s turn to chuckle. “That would be something, eh? Claudette and Marie in the same hotel room. I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”

Louie was quiet for a moment, gazing off down the street at all the smokers indulging their addiction. Some were talking with companions, like him and Réal, others were smoking alone.

“Réal,” he said, “I’m going to quit,” and as if to underline this decision he dropped his butt on the sidewalk and ground it out under his heel.

“I’ll believe it when I see it, Louie,” grumbled Réal. “You’ve been smoking forever. We both have been. I don’t think you can do it.”

“No,” said Louie, determination in his voice, “it just came to me. I could give those gals so much more if I wasn’t always nickle and diming it so I’d have enough for a pack of smokes. I could get rid of this lousy cough and I wouldn’t feel like a second-class citizen having to go outside every hour to have a cigarette. You ever notice how the others look at you when you’re heading out for a smoke? Like you’ve got a disease. I’m sick of it.”

Réal drew deeply from what was left of his cigarette. “I couldn’t do it. For one thing, I’d miss getting all this fresh air.”


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