Smoking Poetry


"What is death? And if we must die, why are we born at all?" Pete read the last line of the paragraph aloud so Michael could appreciate the sentiment.

"To buy stuff," Michael mumbled, flipping through the pages of his Adbuster magazine, "some people say aliens created the human race, but I think it's far more probable that it was Walmart."

"Can you be serious?" Pete closed the book and stared at the torn cover. He hadn't meant to buy a book about reincarnation. Last Friday it'd fallen on his creeper from one of the flea market booths. Henrietta's bag knocked into the shelf when she'd spun around to ask him if he had an extra fifty cents so she could buy a beat-up copy of "The Bell Jar."

"Was it a serious question?" Michael leaned his head back so he was staring straight up at the brown water stains that marred the roof of Pete's mom's trailer. It was a scene Pete had gotten bored of after his second day he'd been too sick to get off the sofa.

"It says in here," Pete continued, stopping to dab his nose with the tissue that was permanently clenched in his fist, "that after death certain souls can chose to reenter life together again when they are reborn. They could become twins…or neighbors. And meet and get to know one another and eventually die and stand at one another's funerals an infinite number of times."

"That presumes," Michael's fingers tapped against his boney knee, in the way that Pete knew he was craving a cigarette he'd refuse to smoke in front of him. At least until the sore throat went away. "That we chose this life." From the window they could make out the flickering light of City Wok's fluorescent sign across the street. The trailer next door was playing one of the shitty daytime talk shows too loud and they could hear the cheers and boos of the studio audience.

Pete tilted his head back so that all the snot in his head ran back towards his throat, leaving him with a distinctive drowning sensation. It was a good point. Still, he couldn't help imagining Henrietta, and Michael, and Ferkle as little balls of light all deciding what bodies to pick, what lives to chose, how to be together again. It made the stack of comics and side order of mac-and-cheese from KFC that Michael had brought him to help him feel better seem more cosmic than any empty Styrofoam container in the history of the world.

A soft hand clamped over his forehead. "Seriously, you shouldn't take the Nyquil during the day, you're all fucked up." He did like the way Michael's silver rings felt cool against his skin.

"I need to at least find some way to enjoy my day. Skipping school doesn't feel worthwhile if the absence doesn't count as delinquency."

"Mine does," Michael's voice was flat. He held his fingers up in what he approximated must be the Boy Scout salute. "Tried and true truant."

Pete made a swipe at his fingers through the air, nearly taking out his Captain America mug on the table, "come here," he said. Michael tilted his head back, knowing what Pete meant.

Pete's fingers grabbed a section of Michael's curls, and gripped them loosely, his head turned into the sofa. The thought about of diagram of molecules that was taped on the wall next to his seat in Chemistry representing something he couldn't quite grasp. He thought of its laminated edge and how he'd run it under his fingernails during class. He pulled Michael's hair through his fingers now, listening to the other boy whispering the words to a Peter Murphy song. He couldn't remember the title, but he knew all the words right as Michael sang them. When they were kids he'd told all of them that he'd been named after the Bauhaus lead singer. They'd believed him then, and he was thankful that they all still pretended to believe it now.