#1
Cigarette lit. Dangles. Dangles. Smoke clings to it, rolling slowly along it’s length until breaking free at the divide between butt and cancer. It floats gently to the eyes of it’s killer, it’s victim, shrouding her in something both ethereal and mundane.

It’s amazing how we get used to this kind of sensory. Like sunsets watched by bitter men, we take something so intrinsically beautiful and melancholic and say, ‘We have seen this.’ As children we see that star burning honestly in the sky behind a spattering of thin and thick clouds like cotton. As old men we see that same sunset as a symbol for love or a chapter closing.

As bitter men, though, we see only another street lamp lying about the nature of the world.

It goes on like that, I think. We go from the womb as new beings overwhelmed by wonderment, a lust for life only matched by those nearing the end of theirs. But the world sees us, vulnerable and in love, and it breaks our ribs so we cannot breathe; it shatters our hands so we can no longer write home about our love; it takes from us our eyelids so that we cannot hide away from the dark things that crowd around our light.

So we become bitter men. Love scorned, hands broke, unable to look away from the cold and the dark. It whispers, ‘Come here and I will lick your wounds.’ And so we step into that shadow. It takes our hands and sets the bones all wrong, so we heal but cannot hold one another as we did when we were pure. It takes our ribs and presses them into armor so that when we breathe too much we are pained but only to a known extent. It covers our eyes so we can not see the light which dances at the edge of our shadow, and we do not walk into that light again for some time. That darkness delivers to us an unholy catharsis, one which is comfortable and deafening.

Then we near the end. We have our wives and our children and we learn - so slowly that we are often not aware - to love honestly again. Those we shared darkness with now take our hands and rebreak them so that we may hold each other closer; our ribs are pulled back to expose our hearts once more; our eyes are uncovered to see the sunset. Mangled fingers lace once more as we walk into the light, as we see that sunset as it was meant to be seen.

It is an impressive thing to live and to die.