I always thought the smell of smoke was disgusting until I met her. She was a smoker and bartender besides; it was etched into her skin like hieroglyphs, telling stories of several heavy nights of heartbreak and disappointment wherein she acted as therapist. I’d watch the smoke circle above her head some nights in swirls, afraid to break the spell by bisecting them with my non-smokers hand. Everyone smoked then. Except me.
I taught swim lessons down at the local Y. It didn’t matter how many times I showered after getting out of that warm pool; I’d forever smell like the chlorine dumped there night after night. I guess we both smelled of some kind of death. It drove her nuts. She’d wrinkle her nose when she nudged it into the back of my neck at night, asking me whether or not I ever used shampoo. I’d turn over, pin her down, and stare at her. “Don’t you ever use mouthwash?” I’d ask before pressing my lips to hers, desperate for the intermingled taste of ash and scotch.
I didn’t want her to change clothes when she came home. Smoke smelled like her smelled like sex. As soon as she walked in the door – even if I didn’t hear her come in – I could smell her. I needed to be in her. I’d yank her tank top over her head and down her scrawny arms, put it to my nose, and inhale before flinging it aside. I loved to bend her over on the bed, yank down her jeans with one hand, and put the other hand on the small of her back. I’d move it up her back until my thick fingers were nestled in her hair, at which point I’d grab a fistful and pull her head up so she could hear me loud and clear: “You’re mine,” I’d say.
“Then take me,” she’d always say. Sometimes, when I’d slide my cock into her mouth, she would tell me that it smelled like a kid pissed in the pool. She was funny – I loved that about her. I’d laugh and tell her that in that case, I guess she was licking piss. The way she ran her tongue up and down my shaft while sucking me made me crazy; I could never stay in her mouth long enough to come.
Instead, I’d grab her legs, wrap them around my waist, and tell her to hold on tight as I rolled over onto my back. As she was sliding down onto my dick, I always wanted her to come closer… to press my nose against her inundated skin and breathe her in.
A lot of our friends say they can’t stand the scent of smoke anymore. That as former smokers, it makes them gag. Not me. One whiff makes me hard as a rock. People don’t smoke much these days – but every once in a while I’ll step outside the bar at night and it will hit me: The drift of a Camel, those nights when you were mine long ago, and the divine scent of your cunt and addiction.
“We go fuck in a graveyard” he said, tossing the words out as casually as the playing cards. “If you lose.” He tightened the dollar between his fingers and breathed in another line. “I mean. There has to be some bet here, right? I’m almost naked. You’re going to win anyway. So how about you make this bet, right? I win, we fuck in a graveyard.”
She took a sip of wine. “You win meaning what?” she asked.
“If you end up being completely naked, we hop the fence into one of the cemeteries over here – I mean, there are enough of them, right?”
“On all sides,” she said, a smile lifting one corner of her mouth, her head tilted to the left. “Hand me the dollar.” She pinched it between her small fingers and moved it gracefully across a glossy book cover that served as a cutting board. She paused, looked at the board, and went for another line.
“Hey!” he exclaimed. “One by one!”
“Fuck it,” she said. “Let’s do it.”
“Wh-what?” he stammered, confused.
“Let’s go. We’re young and stupid.” She stood up, put her shirt and pants back on, and went into her room to grab a condom and a blanket. “Well?” she asked impatiently, putting on her shoes.
He jolted up, hurriedly got dressed, and followed her down the stairs. Dawn was nigh, and as they walked briskly toward the wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetery to the west, the first suggestion of light appeared in the sky.
He helped her over the fence first – awkwardly, all fumbling limbs, before clambering over himself. His excitement built as they walked side by side through rows and rows of raised tombs – and then he stopped dead. “Wait,” he whispered, his voice gravelly and urgent.
“What?” she asked, looking back. He stretched his hand out toward her as if to hold her in place telekinetically. He floated toward her, sunk his grip into her arm, and pointed a long finger straight ahead.
It took some time and squinting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but she finally saw it. Two people in front of a grave, chanting. The body of a chicken lay prostrate in front of them, making its final jerks. Both wore black against the night; they were so entranced by the ritual that they must not have heard the pair talking.
She took a few steps backward; he followed suit, and without remembering how they’d gotten there, they were back over the wall and at her apartment. “So, you wanna – you know, go inside and do it?” he said when they arrived.
What had just happened? She thought. She hadn’t wanted to fuck him in the first place – only to say she’d fucked someone in a graveyard. “Nah,” she said, her face lit up by the yolk of the sun. “I need to sleep it off, and so do you. See you at our next meeting.” She turned abruptly and bounded up the stairs, leaving him at the bottom to wander off into the sunrise.