So...I have more final papers to write. And that is my life. In the meantime please enjoy this (extremely) short story I'm submitting to another contest:
You can take a long pull this time, the smoke used to kill you but you’re getting the hang of it now. I mean, ok, the smoke is still killing you, if you want to be technical. Killing you in tiny, incremental puffs, little smoky clouds of death if you want to get all macabre on me. But c’mon, what is it that you’re doing that isn’t killing you bit by bit? Like the old saying goes, you could die slipping in the shower, although what does that mean for people who only take baths? Guess they’re the ones who worry about having a smoking habit then.
There’s something playing in the background but you can’t quite grasp what is. It’s got that wistful guitar bit and a singer all deep and soulful, trying to tell you everything he can with all the passion he can muster, like a man who knows he’ll die by the end of the song. And there you go being morbid again. It’s hard to be cheerful in a room dressed in black but at least you’re lying face-up on the carpet, blowing smoke rings at the ceiling and not seeing anyone around you so you’ve got a better shot at ignoring the somber attire than say, the sniffling girl in the corner, perched on the edge of a stool like any minute she’s gonna fly off, fluttering into the party, which kind of makes you giggle except giggling makes you cough because you’re still working on this whole smoking thing.
You picked up ring-blowing pretty quickly though, which would be a point of pride if it weren’t for all the dirty looks you’re getting. Eh, forget them. Bunch of judgmental hypocrites. Find me one, just one single one, you understand, out of all the suited sad sacks sitting around you that watched movies as a kid and in the darkened theater saw the hero or the villain blow a perfect ring of smoke and didn’t think it was the coolest thing ever. And if you do find one, it’s probably the same person that only takes baths so they don’t slip in the shower. Just saying.
You’re thinking in circles now, rotating rings like the ones rising towards the flaking ceiling while the carpet threads tickle the back of your head and you watch the girl dab her eyes with a tissue in a way that looks staged and uncomfortable as everyone around you murmurs this and that about how it was too soon and such a shame and what a waste. What makes a life a waste, you can’t help but wonder. Is there a qualifying amount of things a person must accomplish for their lives to gain any special form of significance? And isn’t it all relative, really? Is your life a waste because you didn’t cure world hunger or did it have worth, did it have value because of the lives it touched, rippling out around like a ring of smoke blown from between his lips as you both lay stretched on the roof, the smoke mixing with exhaled breath in the cold night air as he played you strains of a song that broke your heart and stitched it back together all at the same time.
In that moment, one that spanned a century as you admired his skill and he confided to you that he picked up the habit because he watched too many movies where too many heroes and villains blew rings of acrid perfection, as he played you songs that lasted somewhere between a half a second and eternity, that couldn’t have been a waste. Maybe to them, maybe to the girl on the stool who really isn’t sure what she’s doing here and what that idiot lying on the floor with their legs above their head on the couch is doing smoking without a care in the world and less for the people in the room in the dark suits. But you know the difference. You take another long pull and blow a lazy ring towards the girl in a manner that could not be anything but deliberate. You know the difference.