“Well, I smell the cigarettes on you,” the doctor said.

“You do?” I said.

“I do,” the doctor said.

“What about it?” I said.

“If you want to keep living, you’ll have to stop.”

“Do I?”

“You do. We’ve been through this.”

“Okay, then.” I picked up my bag and I left the room. I shuffled down the corridor. These places reek of disinfectant; of piss and decay. Dying but not death. They keep that in the basement. Is the smell the medicine or the flesh rotting on our bones? I still smell it. When I smelled of gum drops, I never imagined the old people could smell it. That smell.

I walked across the street straight between the cabs lined up outside. It was a dark bar, as they are when they’re open all day.

I sat at the bar and ordered a bourbon.

“You got any matches?”

The bartender slid the matches down the bar in an ashtray while he walked my drink down.

I pulled the pack out of my bag. Two.

I looked at the tender. He at me.

I took both out, put the cigarettes in my mouth side by side and lit them, pulling a nice long drag, tobacco crackling.

“One’s not enough?” he said.

I pushed the smoke with another long breath out.

“Two’s too much,” I said and took another hit, clicking the ash on both with my thumb. Touching and flicking like I did in my parents car. Thumb at the end, the cigarettes between my yellowed index and middle fingers.

I licked my lips to taste the sweet tobacco, the smoke warm and welcome in my mouth, dissipating into my eyes and onto the ceiling.

“Tough luck,” the tender said.

“Yep,” I said. “What do I owe you?”

“This one’s on me. You look like you could use it.”

I got up and walked out to a cold gust from the street.

“I’ll need to go back for my pants.”

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