There is a slow-motion period of anxious anticipation between a cigarette being placed in the mouth of a smoker, and the moment it is eventually lit. A scramble to find a flame quickly turns to desperation if one is not easily found. Hands become those rehearsing the role of a sleazy cad; liberally patting hips and bums in search of that perennially misplaced; miniature detonator - the lighter. The luckiest smokers have good friends nearby, pre-empting the problem. For others, local strangers quickly become mandatory benefactors.
Lighter finally grasped, knuckles ripple together into a miniature mountain range. The thumb moves into position. Imperceptible winds become guerrilla adversaries: inflaming tension by extinguishing ignition. Clack, clack. Clack, clack, clack - the impatient flagellation of the uncooperative lighter. Shake, shake, shake. Still, it refuses to comply. Clack, Clack. Finally. The yellow-blue finger nudges upwards: a totem of relief shaped by the science of light and heat. Lips purse and tighten around the cigarette butt: personal vice embracing personal vice.
The paper turns from white to black in an instant. Thin, rusty tobacco strands curl and retreat; dehydrated little snails cowing into their shells. Eager lungs expand, tugging at the fire and turning the burning tip to a deep, incandescent amber.
The first suck offers an energetic response. Chemicals pour into throbbing veins and spread like a woolly blanket over the brain. The corners of the mouth turn slightly upwards, clambering towards the eyes, which spin behind velvety eyelid curtains and collapse with groggy resignation into soft, squishy sockets. There is a brief moment of perceptible elation; a self-gratifying respite from reality, shrouded in a sanctuary of slippery, silvery smoke.
When the cigarette dies it is rarely the end. A thousand times and more, it simply begins again...
Where the f*** is my lighter?
[Photos taken at an annual street festival in Barcelona, Spain (2016)]