Fictography #8 — Christopher’s Cigarettes

Jefferson Memorial. Photo Credit: Valerie Black Murray.
Jefferson Memorial. Photo Credit: Valerie Black Murray.

/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).

This week’s selected photograph comes from a dear friend, Valerie Black Murray. Val and I met through our mutual friend, Stacey Beckwith Haines. I’ve spent many great times with Val, and thought her wedding to her husband, Tim, was one of the most beautiful ones I’ve attended (and it sort of reminded me of my own, therefore, Val has good taste!) ;-) Like Stacey and me who worked at the Orioles, Val works in the sports arena, and when I first met her, she worked for HTS. Now at Comcast SportsNet, it’s no surprise that she has a good eye for things.  She sent me this picture of the Jefferson Memorial that she took, and I couldn’t wait to use it.

Here’s the story that I put with the photo. Hope you like it…

* * *

Christopher’s Cigarettes

Christopher stomped out his first of three cigarettes. He kept them in the pocket of his zip-up sweatshirt. From an outsider’s perspective, he realized it must look strange to see someone who was exercising occasionally stop to have a smoke. It probably didn’t make any sense to someone watching, and it made even less sense to him. He hadn’t had a cigarette in ten years, and then four weeks ago, picked up a pack—much to his own surprise—and he couldn’t believe the cost of them now.

He inhaled his second Marlboro Light as he stopped to admire the back side of the Jefferson Memorial. It made him wonder if any of the Founding Fathers smoked. Considering that Washington and Jefferson grew tobacco on their farms, they must have smoked, he reasoned. Although he did remember reading at one point that Jefferson considered tobacco “infinitely wretched” because it harmed the soil and didn’t produce food. The language stuck out in his mind because “wretched” was such a good word, though highly underused.

No. Tobacco didn’t produce food. But the sensation of inhaling into the lungs felt good.

He knew he had to quit.

Christopher began to jog again. He had been a runner. But now he was a jogger. Big difference. Runners were serious. Runners ran marathons, half-marathons, 5Ks, and ran because it was part of who they were. Joggers were less serious. They jogged to release tension and stay in shape, certainly, but he did not place them in the same category as runners.

And now he was a smoking jogger.

Stupid, really. One shouldn’t take up smoking just because one is no longer with a woman who was one’s everything. Nor should one take up smoking because the nerves of a high-pressure government job can be debilitating and exhausting.

His mother died from emphysema. He should know better.

He continued along his route, passing more closely by the Jefferson Memorial. It was lit up at night—a gorgeous structure. Washington D.C. was a beautiful place, and much of the monument architecture represented that of ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance. He loved the circular dome of it, which he knew was modeled after Jefferson’s Monticello home.

He should have been an architect, not a lawyer for the government. He should have followed his gut. Should have done the thing that would have made him happiest.

The happiest he’d been recently was with Simone. Simone Shaw. He loved her name. He loved everything about her—the  nape of her neck, the curls of her hair, the feel of her hands in his. Christopher especially loved the way she would spend the night, shower in his place, and then get ready there in his apartment, where she would keep her toiletries—shampoo, powder, makeup, and her perfume—because when he’d come home from work, he could still smell that she had been there, her fragrance still lightly lingering in the air.

He had wanted to marry her, but she had other plans, which included taking off with little notice to Canada to be with an ex-lover who wanted her back in his life. In an evening, Christopher’s world changed, and the diamond ring he had given her sitting on his bedside table was proof it was over.

He had bought a pack of cigarettes that night and a bottle of Grey Goose. He’d seen better days and couldn’t imagine any in his future.

When he rounded the front of Jefferson’s stunning Memorial, he jogged in place. He took a moment to look and see and take in this place and this city.

Then, almost without thinking, he jogged over to the trash can, took the remaining cigarette out of his pocket, broke it in half, and tossed it in, deciding to do his best to run—not jog—all the way home.

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