As many of you may or may not know, I am a creature of habit: some of these habits are bad. For instance, I have been trying to quit smoking for as many years as I have smoked. I know I will have to quit some day, but that day always seems to be tomorrow. Still, part of me absolutely loves cigarettes. Let me tell you why.
My favourite cigarette is the first one of the day. Every morning, I put the coffee on the burner on my way into the bathroom for a quick shower. By the time I have dried off and put on some clothes, the coffee has perked. I pour it in to a blessed mug and head out into the back yard with the dog. Coffee and cigarettes: a wonderful meal replacement for health conscious people like me.
A few months ago, in the midst of my morning ritual, a man on a bike rode up and asked me for a smoke. I was reluctant to share, but ended up giving him one and we talked for about ten minutes. Barkley took to him instantly and he threw the ball for him even though it was obvious that it pained his left shoulder.
A friendship has since developed. He has become part of my morning ritual and I, part of his. See, every morning after finishing his paper route, he goes around to all of the neighborhoods blue bins and collects bottles. He is self-employed and enjoys the freedom that gives him.
This morning my ritual began a bit later than usual. I was surprised to see him ride up. He looked rougher than usual. Snot hung from the tip of his nose. His eyes were red and his voice was husky. He asked me for a cigarette, which I quickly provided. He looked really cold. He lit his cigarette and started to speak in the slow, pained way of a hung over man.
“Last night, something really strange happened to me”. I was a bit concerned, and asked him if it was good strange or bad strange. “Well, a little bit of both. See, me and some other guys go down to the cemetery every Friday night. You know, bring some bottles and talk. Last night there was a chick there: usually its just guys and I was worried she would be offended by our guy humour… it’s like, what is that comedian’s name? ” (I knew who he was talking about, but couldn’t think of the name) “Anyways, she was a good sport. Just laughed along. So, at a certain point we were out of booze, so Albert gave Fred some money and told him to go get a bottle of Cherry. He told him to make sure that he got the glass bottle for some reason. Doesn’t really make sense to me, cause the plastic bottles are so much lighter, you know? But Fred came back with a glass bottle and we all drank some more. Albert is sitting there in his shorts: it was cold, but he is from Nelson… he is sitting there really quiet, so I said, Albert, you should come warm up at my place on Leonard street… I’ve got a fireplace and you can warm up before you come back here for the night… no response, so the rest of us just kept talking… by the time I was getting ready to go, he still hadn’t said anything. He was pretty drunk… earlier in the night, he had taken all of his money and thrown it up in the air… didn’t throw it in front of him or anything, just straight up. I was kinda encouraged by the fact that he had the sense to put the money back in his pocket once we had collected it all… so hopefully he is alright. We tried to help him up and take him back to my place to warm up, but it was dead weight…. You know how a sleeping cat weighs twice as much… couldn’t move the guy. So I’m going back to the cemetery right now to see… well, most importantly to see if he is alright, but also to see if I can find some of the money he threw up in the air… we gave him all the bills, those were easy to find, but he also threw a bunch of toonies and loonies up in the air… might be able to find some of those on the ground… ”
He thanked me for the smoke and continued on down the street.