Reading Cigarettes & Smoking Poetry

This past week has been a blur, and I’ve lost all sense of home and time. Something has shifted in me. I’m not sure what. A few nights ago I wedged open the window of the third floor bathroom and discovered a little concrete alcove sheltering me from the fall below. I think it was just past midnight, but time went awry up there. I shrugged into my woolen jumper and squinted into the cold, icy condensed breath mixing in with the taste of £4 Marlboro Golds and snowflakes brushing my shoulders so softly I hardly even noticed. There were occasional sounds in the house below and wind chimes that I’d never noticed before tinkled (there’s no better way to describe it, they literally fucking tinkled) around me. When you’re watching forest treetops melt into the muddy red horizon like that it’s hard to remember homesickness. Or absence. Or any semblance of a life before that moment.

I explored Cambridge by myself, then went to stay in London with a new friend called Zac. My god, it was wonderful. Apparently I walked around that first night with wide eyes and a glazed expression, gasping, feverish, stopping in the middle of the street and exclaiming constantly for no reason. All childlike and overly prone to spontaneity. Recognizing this, I steered myself carefully away from tattoo parlours and let a kindhearted Asian woman hack away at my hair in Soho instead. I always change my appearance in sudden spells of madness that people later mistake for fashion statements. There were raspberries and air mattresses and underground trains overflowing at the brim. There was cold, bitey air that no amount of instant coffee in the morning could shield me from. There were landmarks. Red wine toasts on apartment rooftops. Warm blankets. Moments in which a black beaded bracelet weighed heavy on my wrist and I yearned for a different kind of warmth altogether.

People here have a certain energy, they dress unapologetically, they read cigarettes and smoke poetry. There’s a strong sense of coarseness. But there’s also the same humbling feeling that normally comes from being surrounded by nature, you feel floored, smaller and larger at the same time, and never quite come to understand why. On my return train from King’s Cross I huddled up in a corner seat by the heater and pawed through a book of Bukowski poems that I’d bartered down in a Portobello market stall, hardly able to process that this was my life now. I’m telling you. It hits me like a wrecking ball on the daily.

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