Malek Allari | Editor-In-Chief
I puffed it out. I saw the smoke rise into the sky. I looked around to see if anyone saw the cloud coming from my mouth, but the park was empty. The only light that shone was the orange above the bench I was sitting on. I saw lights flicker in the distance, and by distance, I mean a few dozen yards away from me. The insides of my black leather jacket brushed against my arms softly, “Too big,” I muttered to no one. I put the cigarette back in my mouth. I inhaled and felt the smoke enter my body slowly. It made it a little cooler than it usually is. After a second of holding it in, I puffed out the cloud again and saw it rise to the starless night sky. I smelled the smoke, how minty and disgusting it was. I looked up to see the smoke dissolve into the void, and a slight movement caught my eye.
I tried to follow the ghostly figure with my eyes, but my mind couldn’t catch up to it. I lost it as soon as I saw it. “Probably a crow,” my voice came out again. I wondered why I was sitting on this random bench in this park, smoking a cigarette that would eventually kill me in a few hundred years. Nothing made sense to me these days; it was as if I was breathing to keep myself from dying. Was I already dead? Was I just a random thought that came into existence on a whim to mess with people’s minds? It would be annoying, for sure. The thinker, writer, creator, whatever they are called, is probably having a blast right now. Messing around with people’s heads it’s like an insane guilty pleasure.
I was a writer once so I would know. I would usually go around in the city, writing stories about fake buildings, people, cars, and whatever I could create in my head, I put on paper. One day, I thought I had missed the wrong person. A few years back, when I was in my early twenties, I wrote this story about a bride. She was beautiful, nonexistent, and highly loyal to whomever she was with. My reader was pissed at the fact that she was in love with someone. I looked at his yellow teeth, jumbled grey hair, and ragged clothes. He held the newspaper that published my story in his hand. He had a picture of me on the other. Under his ragged, dirty jacket was a knife I never saw coming. “You motherfucker!” he shouted at my face, “what have you done to her?” At the time, I was confused. All I knew was that I was getting kicked in the legs and held at knifepoint. I got away from that old crazy man by stabbing him in self-defense. Even the police did not mind me killing the man if I wanted to. It was terrifying. Imagine the police not giving a single damn if someone kills another.
“Some people want to see the world burn, they say,” I said out loud. I looked around and noticed that I was talking again without knowing. I took one more puff from my cigarette. I looked down at it and saw the long line of ash hanging on the cigarette for its dear life. I hit my pointer finger on top of the cigarette and saw the wind take the ash away.
What was I talking about? Oh yes, the man. Even though I almost killed someone, I did feel guilty for a while. I looked around for him, trying to apologize for whatever mistake I had made, the stabbing or the writing. I had no idea. If I remember correctly, I never found him. But I ended the same story about the bride to someone who died. At least, that was the idea that I came up with that would make no one angry at me. I then realized that I had made it worse. I laughed, of course, realizing that it was stupid of me to think that was a better ending than the first one, where she showed up to her wedding in a blue and white dress to represent her long-lost heritage, which she did not even know where that country was.
Anyways, it was a great memory, painful at the time, but a great one to remember who I was as a writer—a terrible one at that. I could not help, for life in me, but to annoy my readers at the end of every short story I wrote. Sometimes the endings were satisfying, others it would be completely annoying. It was like giving my readers chances and a game to bet on to see who could guess my next move. It never disturbed me, being who I was as a writer, but it sure did for some people. Like once, I was walking in a small village about ten miles away from the city I wrote in. This person, I think it’s a she, came up to me and, with no warning, slapped me in the face. My red cheek became red and hot. “You perverted son of a bitch,” she slapped me again, this time on the other side of my face. I did not enjoy it, but I smiled like a creep. It grossed me out, just as it did to her.
“Why?” I asked.
“How can you even see me through the window from four stories up if you are on the ground?” she was about to slap me in the face, but I moved away. “Listen, lady. I don’t know what you are on right now, but I think it is effective and of the highest quality by seeing how you are acting.”
“What does that mean?”
“Exactly how it sounds. This is my first time coming to this village, and I don’t know who and where you live,” I pointed out. That was when I saw the same thing with the homeless man—the newspaper in one hand and my picture in the other. What disturbed me was that it was the same picture that the homeless man had. If someone was playing a prank on me, at least change the pictures not to make it obvious.
The lady stormed away in anger and frustration, and I just kept staring at her as she turned around the corner. Being a writer was tough. I did not know why I was targeted, I mean, there are many worse writers than me. They are more like good writers but worse stories than mine. Even if mine was annoying, I took a puff from my cigarette, the people still had no right to hit me. I took another puff.
I turned around in my seat, this time, my back was to the light that shone above me. I adjusted the hat on my head, leather jacket, and joggers. I looked around, and sure enough, no one was there. For some reason, though, I felt anxious. It was as if I was doing something wrong. Well, smoking, but other than that, I don’t think I am. I am nearing my thirties, so I definitely was not underage smoking. That ticket would be a fat one. I did get one before, when I was about sixteen, maybe seventeen. The cop, God smites him with all His might, was a douche. I mean, I was smoking peacefully, not a care in the world, and all of a sudden, rips the cigarette away from my face and threw it at the ground. “ID kid,” he said, moving two fingers up and down, indicating that I get it out. The cop had much trust in me, so I reached into my jacket pocket and gave him my fake ID. “Missouri?” he asked, “What are you doing in New York at eighteen?”
“Studying English and Art,” I replied. The art was a lie, I did study English, though, three years after the incident.
“English and Art, huh?”
My dumbass brain functioned fast. It was fast, but it was wrong. “NC State,” I replied with all seriousness. I saw the confusion on the cop’s face.
I took a puff from my cigarette.
“NC State?” the cop asked. I closed my eyes and cussed myself. “Listen, kid. You look like you just came out of your mother’s womb. Smoking this shit is bad for you, but I am not here to lecture you. Not in a park where people come to enjoy their time anyways. I will give you this ticket, and since you smoke, I think you can afford it.”
The ticket said fifty bucks, as it was my first offense. It was a fat ticket for a kid at sixteen. Unemployed and takes money from his mom. Embarrassing, right?
The sun started to rise when I finished my underage smoking story. For some reason, I thought that I was talking to myself, but whoever created me as a thought, character, or whatever it is, he had some reason to make me talk to myself. Was I that entertaining? I was not sure. I stood up and walked to my black car. It was twenty years away from where I was sitting. I looked back at the bench and pictured something, and for some reason, I smiled.
It was sixteen years old, me sitting at the same bench looking up at the cop and getting slapped with a ticket. Further from that bench, it was writer me who changed a story ending for someone he never saw again. Behind that was the street I got slapped for being a pervert. Allegedly. I laughed, got in my car, and finished my cigarette.