People like to ask me (or rather berate me) about my burgeoning smoking habit. A reasonable question — it is the progenitor of rather inconvenient side effects. Until recently, I really hadn’t had an admirable answer. I’ll admit there was a (brief) period where I was easily influenced by the vogue, drawn by the sheer social power of a measly tobacco stick (the same can be said of most things I now do in excess…). But now, I can’t even offer that excuse. And I know I don’t have a death wish, nor an addiction, nor a brooding desire to relive the oral phase of my youth. So, why? To be perfectly honest, I think I may just have an (near) orgasmic fascination with smoke.
Have you ever watched a cigarette burn? Superficially, unremarkable. A flame leads to smoke — chemistry basics. A lighter’s mechanics are profoundly more engaging. But a cigarette – it’s a controlled burn, a fiery crown erupting with flitting, inconsequential blood. The pithy plumes that fan out, inconsistent, intangible — they draw me like mosquitoes to streetlamps. What is smoke? It is the excrement of smoke, sure, but something more, something magical; a substance that teeters along the borders of visibility. Moreover, I have relative sovereignty, at least in its origins, over its chaotic grace. In some ways, I’ve power over the natural. It’s a stretch, but a truthful, proud stretch.
See, if the body could dance like smoke — move like smoke — our connection to the natural would be unsurpassable, frail but tactile. Alvin Ailey almost grasped it, yet just missed his mark. Smoke curls, mocks, begs, winces, growls, and soars. It moves in packs, but flies solo — the verily apparent manifestation of creativity. I know I don’t speak solely for myself when I say watching smoke reinvigorates my innate desire for self-control and relative freedom, for a mind that can wander off into the tumble of the skies.
Just imagine seeping into Toad’s, breathtakingly fragile, rolling, tumbling, unconsciously reacting to the booming insistency of bass beats and the drunken physicality of swirling couples, who only dream of swirling as sweetly as you. Imagine slipping into a waltz with the clouds. Imagine limbs being temporary, fleeting, and opportunistic: the body, a transformative mass of capricious will. It’s a heavenly notion. For now, though, I sit on rigid benches, chained to earth, fleshy, material — waiting for that day to come when I can join the ranks marching out of my Djarum Black. And for people who ask you why you choke your lungs — just say it’s as simple as smoke. Let’s start to find wonder in the fruitless and the futile.