On choosing.

Published November 22, 2015 by mandileighbean

The night before last, before falling into bed at 2 am, I went to put my retainers in like a responsible girl. I actually left the cozy comfort of my warm bed to do so, and the bottom retainer fell into the toilet while it was flushing. My life is a seemingly endless string of moments of karmic retribution. The next day, I dropped a roll of garbage bags down the basement stairs and despite physically contorting myself to prevent it, the bags unrolled across the disgusting basement floor.

WRITING PROMPT #27: Unexpectedly, the U.S. government outlaws smoking, with very little resistance from the tobacco industry.

Will turned the long, smooth cigarette over in his fingers mindlessly, without thought. He could be fined heavily, possibly even jailed depending on how zealous the officer was, for merely possessing the cigarette. It did not matter that it was not lit. It did not matter that it was not missing from a pack; it was just one, one that he had found rolling about in the glove compartment of his car. He had been looking for the cheap pair of plastic sunglasses normally stowed there, as the setting sun had been burning brilliantly and he couldn’t see if the stoplight was red or yellow, or even green. He hadn’t been able to see much of anything against the powerful rays, so he pulled over. There he continued to sit, stupefied by the presence of the contraband.

Where had it come from? Will hadn’t smoked in years, had quit long before it was illegal to light up. Besides, the cigarette in question wasn’t even his brand – he had smoked the short ones. The cigarette was definitely a 100, probably from the pack that had once featured a fearless, hyper masculine cowboy on its front. But no one had borrowed his car recently, and he knew no one who smoked, so again – where had the cigarette come from? He seriously pondered in the question in his old convertible. It was going to stop starting any day now, and then he’d be shit out of luck. The top was down partly because the weather was gorgeous, but mostly because it was stuck and wouldn’t go up. If the car did continue to start, if the engine continued to turn over, then all it would take would be one rainy day to end his means of transportation. Such was life, Will supposed. Everyone was one rainy day from calling it quits.

Cars whizzed by him on the freeway, completely unperturbed his presence in the shoulder. There were no craned necks, no one slowing down to try and figure out why he had stopped, no kind passersby asking if they could be of any assistance. Will was alone. In a world filled with all kinds of people, Will was alone. Blurred faces passed him by at seventy miles per hour by the car load, and he was lonely. It seemed terribly unfair and it was with such a realization that Will decided he was going to smoke one of the last cigarettes in America, consequences be damned.

When cigarettes had first been outlawed, there was essentially no protests or backlash or anything. The search and seizures of the nicotine products went smoothly and without incident.  Everyone seemed to think outlawing cigarettes was rational, made sense, and had no consequences, really. As time passed, however, cigarettes became something nostalgic, which returned to them their air of sophistication and personality. Perhaps that was why the tobacco industry had done nothing to fight the proposed law. Maybe those executives knew it was just a matter of time before humans forgot and once again began to choose exactly what was worst for them. Will had always found cigarettes appealing because to inhale carcinogens and poisons was daring and fearless in a way. What kind of person would risk such serious illness for a few minutes of-of what? Of pleasure? Of coolness? What was it that cigarettes gave people? He wasn’t sure he could put it in words. He wasn’t sure he could adequately describe it, but Will knew he missed being able to choose. So what if the choice was nonsensical, irrational and potentially harmful? It was still his choice to make, wasn’t it? How could that kind of freedom be illegal?

Will dug in the glove box for a lighter and lit up.

smoking

 

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