The Nicotine Always Wins

The ash tray sat in my bed. There were cherry holes in the blanket. My cat stunk of smoke. Colds lasted the entirety of the winter. The metric I used to measure distance was not miles. It was American Spirits. It took two to get to work. The cigarette smoking man on The X Files, the one who smoked through his tracheotomy, was my trigger. The cigarette between my fingers would remind me how much I wanted the next.

Smoking was part of my identity. Every one of my MySpace profile pics featured a filter screwed into my mouth. Smoking was my social in. It was my outlet when I felt put out to pasture. I smoked a pack and a half a day. My nicotine tolerance put yours to shame. Other smokers would point and say, “Well at least I’m not that bad.”

I wrote a break-up song called A Good Reason to Smoke Again. I’ve drawn self-portraits with my mouth clogged with cigarettes. Most of my characters still smoke. I’ve written dozens of poems about smoking. This is one of them.

When I did spoken word this was one of my staples. It’s all kinds of cynical. The meta tag dates this at 2005. I quit smoking a few years later. We’ll see if there’s any lasting damage.

The Nicotine Always Wins

Tough crowd, comes down hard
Flat joke, smeared across the boulevard
Barista slams her drawer shut
Slides the change into your gut

Sour cheeks, eyes rolled in spectacles
Allergic reaction to your untested material
Keep the words at bay, keep that uvula anchored
Plug the hole in your ego with another filter

Pull up a stool like you’ve been here before
Lay out the sports section like you know the score
Stall yourself before you try it again
The nicotine always wins

Your eyes meet and you squint
Like you’re trying to read the fine print
Your eyes wander south of her locket
The butane burns a hole in your pocket

All it takes is a little thumb work
A little snap, crackle, pop, spark
Scratch the flint like it’s under your skin
The nicotine always wins

A pinky away from walking hand and hand
You failed to see her wedding band
Taken aback by the marital mention
Your every glance is something stolen

The conversation lags past the wall it hit
You’d kill for a door, a hole, a fire exit
Between infidelity and infatuation
The nicotine always wins

Wrong attire for this hoody and Converse affair
Wrong suit, wrong tie, wrong length of hair
You feel vulnerable, so you turn and cough
The world is your trigger and it sets you off

It’s hard to mingle, mix and manipulate
When you can’t even get your story straight
Well there’s a good solid porch past the introductions
Where the nicotine always wins

Leave all your baggage at the claim
Watch the belt swing ’round again
You need a distraction from who you are
In the lotus position with a poor man’s cigar

Between self loathing, shame and satisfaction
Grace, greed and gratification
The hopeful, the hated and heart broken
The nicotine always wins

… also, don’t watch this video:

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