Friday, October 29, 2004
We were sitting at the window of a country town cafe tucking into a breakfast of bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes, gazing out into the street at the morning activities when a man who seemed to have been walking fairly briskly down the footpath, stopped abruptly right in front of our window, took a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, extracted a cigarette and lit it. He then stood quite still, his weight on one leg, the other with the knee slightly bent - a fairly elegant posture - and proceeded to smoke. He smoked in very rapid puffs. Small, speedy puffs, one after another. His eyes darted around but he moved no other muscle, just hand tight to mouth and the cigarette going in and out and in a out - the smoke pluming and clouding, the red ember flaring. He did not look our way, although he was standing directly in front of us, quite close. Occasionally he tapped the ash, a momentary pause in the almost mechanical rhythm of the smoking. It was not frenetic, but it was compulsive. And incredibly intense and swift. There seemed no time to inhale before he was sucking again. I have never seen anyone smoke like that. Usually it is a form of relaxation. But not for this man. It was an exercise in express smoking. Of course it did not take long to efficiently finish the cigarette, at which point he dropped the butt on the ground, stepped on it, and went on his way. Most odd.