“I stumbled out of bed
I got ready for the struggle
I smoked a cigarette…”
The three of them have been inseparable for a long time. They have been best friends since elementary school.
Anna made the decision. Alex took the initiative. They have tried many ways to convince Milena to give up smoking but all proved a failure. They discussed her deteriorating health, they talked about the rising prices of cigarettes, but Milena seemed too addicted to quit. She insisted on being careless with time. Her time on earth.
Anna is the formal kind of person. A dirty job indeed, but somebody’s got to do it. Especially in a company of three, in which no other is willing to take the responsibility. On the day Leonard Cohen died, she felt the need to make a formal statement on the social media. She took herself too seriously to not comment on such a serious event.
“R.I.P. great poet,” she wrote in all formality.
On the other hand, Milena suffered in silence. She’s the invisible type. She spent some hours smoking, in front of the screen, watching the posts, the comments, yet she did not participate, or interact in any way with anyone on her friends’ list.
“I’ll talk to the guy who owns the shop downstairs. That’s where she usually goes.” Alex was sure that their plan would work.
“We’ll have to find every shop in the neighborhood and inform them,” insisted Anna, arranging her hair in the mirror.
“You’re probably right. Still, I’m certain she will be too bored to go far. Just the closest places will be enough.”
“Do not underestimate the power of addiction.”
On the day Leonard Cohen died, Alex uploaded many of his songs in a few moments. He would have uploaded more, if he hadn’t had to go to work. He, too, spends most of his free time on the internet, commenting on every subject he finds interesting, without second thoughts.
Alex is the impulsive type. Without him boredom would prevail among them. He is the spark, initiating fires, when routine gets tiring.
“Next time she comes for a pack, talk to her as much as possible,” Alex told the guy in the store.
“I don’t get it,” answered the man. “But I will do it if you think it’s necessary.”
Milena is desperate for a smoke. She goes down and asks for a pack.
“So, how’s life going?”
“It’s ok,” she answered, avoiding eye contact, to end the conversation quickly.
“The prices have gone up. How do you get by?”
“I still can handle it.” She had not realized the man knew her. Perhaps it was time she changed her habits. She should buy her cigarettes somewhere else, where people did not know her well enough to engage in small talk.
A few days later, she had already visited most of the stores in the neighborhood, having faced the same reactions.
All shopkeepers seemed in the mood for small talk. Milena hates small talk. She has always been the introvert in an otherwise extroverted company.
Anna, in her best dress, is ready for a night out. Milena wants to stay in. She has run out of smoke again, yet her options are limited. She could either visit one of the closest stores, which seems a nightmare to her, considering the conversations she will have to get herself into, or drive to the next town, where her face is still unfamiliar.
“Have fun,” she tells her friend, having decided to sleep early.
“You should quit smoking,” says Anna, in her formal voice, as if she is talking in front of a camera.
“I don’t want to, yet I think I will.”
“You know what?”
“You hate small talk, you hate going far, it seems you have no option,” Alex said in enthusiasm.
Milena unfriended both of them. Both in life and social media. It was an easy choice. She chose addiction.
Manipulation is the end result of formality along with poor impulse control, she concluded. She set fire on their friendship and used the flame to light a cigarette.
She moved to another city and threw away her old phone. Leonard Cohen started smoking again when he turned eighty.
Two years later, he died. She was already eighty four. Determined to be carefree with her time. Determined to celebrate the rest of her time on earth, in smoke.
Copyright 2017 by Jostein Wolff. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.