photo: ‘for everything.’
‘now rushed into this brightness,
as if by a shutter
that, once opened,
can never be closed.’
— billy collins
it’s something i think about regularly, whether the smoke from a cigarette i inhaled two years ago on the beach in california, or the mountains in denver, or the coffee-stained, nicotine streets of chicago is still floating around inside my body.
like one atom of tar and smoke, one atom of time, one atom of a booze- and coffee-fueled night is a part of my body now. attached to the walls of my heart, coursing still through my blood, around and around and around again. always. and when i exhaled its brothers in a final sweep of movement from my body, stamping out a cigarette on my boots or crushing it on the sidewalk, one particle of smoke remained, trapped in the canals of my being. and now he is joined by a new family of fellow atomic smoke — the last cigarette smoked in the golden sunshine of a perfect day, the break up cigarettes, the after-sex cigarettes, the early mornings and late nights and too-far drives.
have they joined together in a band of orphan smoke particles, or did they resign themselves to a life of solitude? a life of lonely rhythmic cycles, accompanied by the heavy sound of blood pulsing through my veins. accompanied also by the memory of where they came, the significance they held at the time of my life.
it’s something i think about regularly, whether i will soon be composed only of all the cigarettes i’ve smoked in my life. all the cigarettes and the memories they carry. whether with each cigarette and each day, i become less material and only more of a vague, hazy shadow of experiences and time. whether i will also become more composed of the people with whom i’ve smoked, the people of whom i was thinking while smoking.
and that is a comforting thought.
that i am becoming less and less myself and more and more my experiences and people who have walked with me. that i’m actually evaporating and becoming, instead, the sum of my parts. that i am becoming both more and less myself at the same time. that i am becoming more and more connected to everything in this world.
that i am becoming more and more of everyone with whom i’ve been lucky enough to share heartbeats.
and that when i age, i will actually start to smile like the combination of everyone i’ve ever loved in my life. like my mouth will shift and shape with every new person i come to care for, love for, hope for, die for, molding itself after their smiles in a small, quiet way. or that i’ll have my first love’s calluses, or the pinky toe of my sister.
the same constellation of freckles as my niece.
that we’ll all start to grow the same way, toward each other, until the strings of connectivity are as tied and tangled and together as balloon strings.
i hope to have your kindness, the warm touch of your love on my skin in the mornings, the laughing, dancing light in your eyes.
and i hope at least one atom of you has gotten itself trapped inside of me, circling through my heart and to my fingers and past my elbows, where it will stay.