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By Lee Nelson

At a gas station near

Susan B. Anthony's house

I was pouring antifreeze

when I smelled rank rotting

garbage.

It was a ripe even the cold

couldn't abate

and I turned toward it

and the filthiest ever

of parkas

contained a man

and he produced a smile

born of dirt

a very cordial smile

sent from the world that

insists our employment

and asked for a cigarette

one cigarette

hands in the air

in peace

in Susan B. Anthony's

dangerous neighborhood.

 

I reached into my coat

produced one from a pack

and lit it for him.

He pulled a good amber

and blew it away from me

and took another toke

and asked me what I do.

I told him.

He asked me what I was

doing tomorrow.

I didn't answer

and he asked me if I was

winning.

I didn't answer that either

and he said

"When you're doing

whatever you want

every day,

you've won."

 

Then he walked away

smoking with more passion

than I've ever smoked

a million cigarettes

and I briefly chased him

and gave him

my pack and lighter

and walked into the gas station

and replaced all of it.

 

I was divorced a few months later.

I quit smoking about a year later.

I'd never in twenty four years

ever enjoyed a single cigarette

like he did.

 

I don't get to do

what I want

every day.

I'm pretty sure

he doesn't either.

I'm here.

I hope

he's still here.

 

 

 

 

 

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