Clove cigarettes breathe originality

by Joe Carlson

Night falls on the urban avenue. A chilled breeze rustles bare tree limbs with eerie, mid-winter clicking. Muted rustling of a paper cup rolling across asphalt carries for miles in the dry air.
Lips affixed with confidence around a burning paper barrel, you inhale. The air is tainted with a dull glow and a sweet cloven odor.
The stark winter sucked all green out of the world four months ago, and it won’t return again for another three. The dark season is black and white; at night, it’s just black.
And you fit right in: black coat and shirt, stomping boots, stringy dyed hair, and the swarthy smell of intermingled patchouli, cinnamon and jasmine.
The dim crimson cherry of burning clove leaves is a fleeting reminder of your fiercely subtle, violently understated independence from the rest of the world.
Clove cigarettes are for the rebel who wants to stand out in a crowd of rebels. One of the most popular brands, the sugar-filtered Djarum, comes from India, the same land that brought you Arabian Nights and the hookah.
Ignore the clove tin’s “specially made for export” label. Tear it off. Rip it from the package with the same fervor that you tear off all of society’s labels: loser, goth boy, burn out, outsider.
Actually, outsider isn’t so bad; at least it’s accurate. You’re an outsider in a world so full of outsiders that the outside has become the inside. That ain’t no ordinary cigarette between your pale pointer and middle fingers. You’re not just sucking down the nicotine-laced tobacco that was grown for the masses.
Your lips and tongue tingle slightly with the first drag, the natural anesthetic in clove leaves penetrating the sensitive oral dermises.
You think back to that time you coughed blood from smoking pack after pack of sweet Djarums one night. You were a vampire, a pale red streak slipping down your lower lip between hacking coughs.
If smoking doesn’t kill you, the dirty poison streaming out from behind the metal coffins that carry Them to work everyday will. You’d rather beat them to the chase.
Because you know They will never get the best of you, never see you obey Their orders for a buck, never crawl to Them to beg on scabby, callused knees.
Besides, you like the coffee shop you work at. The manager, Spike, lets you smoke during business hours behind the counter. Spike has every tattoo you’ve ever dreamed of having, from the question mark on his palm to the black Celtic knot at the base of his neck. Too bad he still trembles from the smack.
But you’d never dilute your blood with that bile. Your drug of choice is confidence in yourself, and your syringe is the exotic-smelling cigarette burning in your mouth.