I can’t handle the smell.
“Would you please put that thing out?” I asked.
“Wish I could,” he responded, taking another puff of his cigarette. The noxious white fumes floated around in the room and had nowhere to go. I coughed, and my lungs burned.
“You can,” I said. I held out an overused ashtray. “You just stop.”
“That’s not how addiction works,” he said, and softly shook his head. “I figured with how much coffee you suck down you’d get that.”
“I am not addicted to coffee—I can stop anytime I want,” I retorted, though my voice was smaller and less certain than I’d like it to be. Even though we only had so much water, I made a cup of the stuff every day. On an empty stomach, it burned at me: but I still drank it. My diet was becoming rice, beans, and coffee beans.
“Sure, and I will when I want.”
“Or when you run out of cigarettes,” I commented. Even as I said it I was realizing the right course of action. “Then what are you going to do?”
He glanced at the uncovered window, at the white fog that rolled over the whole of the world, likely. The toxic fog that killed in less than a minute. A person, once out in that, had thirty seconds to get to some fresh water, or they melted.
“I’ll deal with that when the day comes.”
He gestured to his pocket, at the full pack. “What will you do, once the caffeine runs dry?”
“I’ll figure something out,” I replied, aware I was echoing him.
I rolled my eyes when he smirked.
He finished his cigarette and rubbed away the rest of the ash on his shoe. “Yeah, sure. Well, for now, I am going to go read my book.”
“Again,” we both said simultaneously, and I shook my head. It had been bad luck we’d been close to the same motel room. One containing only a bible and an old pulp novel with a green woman holding a gun.
And, once he began reading in earnest, I went to work. He may have had his pack in his pocket, but, as he lay there, on the other bed, staring at the worn—sepia-toned—pages, I slowly inched my hand to the pack stash he had underneath his bed. He still had five of the things, and if I could just do something with them—
His hand, but not his eyes, met me, and a small pocket knife pointed at my knuckles.
“Yeah, no. You don’t mess with a man’s smokes.”
I retracted my hand. As I muttered sorry and slunk away, I concocted my next idea. It was only logical, considering the circumstances.
I would need to kill him.
Then make another cup of coffee.