Nobody tells you this when you’re going into it: That after a few decades of cigarettes — first one with your coffee in the morning and the last right before bed — you go a couple days without them and you’ll be afflicted with long, slow farts emanating from deep within. It’s like your ass is growling.

It has something to do with nicotine and peristalsis, but there’s no need to get into the dirty details here.

Joe knows what I’m talking about. He got off the smokes for five years. Five years! He’s back now, though. He remembered the farting thing as he sucked down one Marlboro Light after another on the patio at Hoots and my ass barked into the wind.

Joe has been pissed off at me since 2014, not that I blame him. It’s in this shared moment of contemplative weakness that we can reconnect. We sense each other’s pain — his for smoking and mine for not.

“You want me to blow it in your face?” he asked, exhaling.

No, thank you.

Oh, the things I’ve left behind! It’s been 10 years since I’ve been off the booze and the dry goods. It’s been 20 since I walked away from the hard-edge nightlife and became a daywalker. Now it’s a month without smokes, and it’s fine.

It’s fine.

But it’s not the same as quitting the other stuff. Once you lose your taste for being drunk, it never quite comes back. Even if it did, a relapse is not the kind of thing you can keep from the people in your life. Because you’d be drunk. And once you lose your taste for being drunk, the dry goods make no sense at all.

But the cigarettes are like a friend — a friend that eventually kills you, sure, but only if you live that long. The smokes have gotten me through heartache, intense stress, long car rides, deep conversations, interminable wait times; and they’ve never been further away than the corner store.

Joe has lit another Marlboro Light, and he’s regarding it now as it smolders in his hand.

“They’ve always been there for me,” he says. I must agree.

He smokes. I fart. On the patio at Hoots, we make quite a pair.


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