Pipe and Coal

Smoke fills the room in a mist of little, hollow circles. I cough; I am not a good smoker. But smoking hookah is a little different; you have more time to inhale and you can exhale all of it out if you do it the right way. I know no one here; though I have been introduced briefly by name. I listen to their conversations, nod and pretend I exist. I pretend that I am not consumed by the mist that makes everything seem unreal.
I listen and I watch.
When people smoke, it is as if they are revealing something sacred about themselves, something a stranger shouldn’t know about. You look at them and you feel like they are vulnerable, like they will tell you anything, answer any question. Yet they are so lost, so far away, so distant that you find yourself in the same position: distant and unreachable.
I give up as I begin to feel slightly dizzy and watch as someone puffs a perfect loop. The hookah pipe is wrapped around her leg, underneath her boot as she leans back, breathing in and out gusts of smoke. She is 18. The coal continues to burn, the cinder still glowing in the dark. Raindrops begin falling on the ceiling, hard and loud, like ice. You can see the droplets as they cluster in a corner on the hard glass. And if you listen long enough and block out the chatter, the laughter and the sound of coal burning, you can hear the pounding in one long beat.
I forget the names I was introduced to a few minutes ago and I am sure they have forgotten mine. We are probably never going to meet again.
This is a way of passing time, of meeting new people without getting to know them, of talking without really listening or listening without ever talking. It’s a way of smoking through a filtered pipe instead of a socially unacceptable cigarette that you throw out and crush under the sole of your shoe. It’s saying hello and goodbye at the same time to someone you met a day ago.
And sometimes, it’s you believing you are part of a bigger world when you are really just another writer who’s trying to figure things out.

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