Lucky Strikes #1

I tried to quit smoking in Japan. I mean I’ve been trying for like five years, can’t count the amount of times I’ve had a last cigarette, still smoking way too much. I didn’t quit smoking in Japan.

Japan was three weeks I wouldn’t be around smoking housemates or pouches of tobacco. I smoked right up until the day I left. Smoked while I was there but I tried.

My fiancé passed out in a hotel in Tokyo after getting a Japanese cold on the arse end of a Brisbane one. I sat in bed next to her, she radiated heat and I was sweating. I watched a Japanese tv show where a group of comedians went to restaurants, sat around big tables and just talked to each other over meals. I couldn’t understand a word of it and no one got hit in the balls. I turned the tv off, tried to sleep, sweated, got dressed and walked outside.

I walked up the road deserted street that my hotel was on looking for a bar. Ambulances drove past every twenty minutes or so, loudspeakers blaring in Japanese “Please something”.

Raindrops sparked through the light of neon signs, felt like little bites on my scalp and cheeks where they splashed from the collar of my jacket. I passed a vending machine that sold cigarettes, doubled back and stood in front of it. Thought about god and the devil. Thought about dying and satisfaction. Thought about whether or not to tell my fiancé that I had a cigarette. I had a moment and kept walking.

I started to get out of the zone I could comfortably return from without risking getting lost in the biggest city in the world. Saw a bar called “Cantina”, sign written in English. The stairs leading up from the front door were lined with bottles of my favourite beers. Pictured a smoky bar with assorted Japanese Sci-Fi characters, maybe aliens. The bar was empty except for a manly looking Japanese guy wiping the counter and a Japanese girl smoking a cigarette and talking to him.

The bartender looked up as I entered, said “Not Open”. I left, checked the sign on the way out, the bar didn’t open for twenty minutes. I looked up the street towards the centre of batshit Shinjuku, made back for the hotel.

I passed the cigarette machine on the way back, doubled back and stood in front of it. Thought about god and the devil. Wanted my last cigarette to be a Lucky Strike in the rain in Tokyo and not one I salvaged from the dregs of a pouch of Port Royal, Winfield Gold and JPS Red.

I put in my money, pressed Lucky Strikes. A Japanese Lady’s voice blared at me from the machine, a light flashed. I checked the tray, no cigarettes. I pressed the button again, swore, looked around. An old Japanese man stared at me from a warm and comfortable looking bar. He looked neutral, stared at me blankly and lifted a cigarette to his mouth. Could have been looking at a reflection. Freezing rain dripped from my mess of hair. I hit cancel and made back for the hotel.

I ducked into the convenience store next to my hotel, dripped all over the floor next to plastic wrapped umbrellas. I stood in line in front of an old lady half my height. Said two words to the attendant, “Lucky Strikes”. He nodded and handed me a pack.

I paid and went to walk off, checked my pocked, swore. I got back in line and waited again. Said “Lighter” to the attendant, made a lighter action with my thumb. The store attendant motioned to the shelves behind me, said something in Japanese. I turned and searched the shelves. Frowned.

A friendly looking man in a business suit led me around the corner of the shelves and pointed at the lighters. I grabbed one, said sorry to the built up line. I couldn’t tell if they were angry or just from Tokyo.

I tried to find a place to smoke, there were no smoking signs plastered all over the streets. I walked down the alley beside my hotel, past two ladies who glanced up at me warily as they walked, past broken vending machines. Found a strange park, very small with a shrine and a street sign in the middle, surrounded by high-rise buildings. It was lit with a pale light like glow worms or if an elf did it.

I pulled out a Lucky Strike, got a fat drop of water on it from my hair. Covered it and lit. Breathed in and felt like a different version of me, like I switched personalities to something equally as familiar. Stood in the rain in Tokyo and watched the raindrops flash through pale light, watched my cigarette burn down.

I grabbed a coffee so I could smoke a second one without gagging.

When I walked back into the hotel room my fiancé was awake. She said she was proud of me for heading out and exploring on my own. I told her I smoked two cigarettes and then I threw the pack of Lucky Strikes into the small hotel bin. They sat there on top of mucus drenched tissues, label facing up and burning itself into my brain.

They sat there all night, and through the day as we dragged our suitcases through batshit crowded Shinjuku, headed for the shinkansen and South to Kyoto. Somewhere in the back of my head is still making plans to return and find them. To smoke those bastards with an expensive shitty coffee or a cheap amazing whiskey.

Until then they sit in my head and wait.

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