fragment: a woman in a cafe

I sit at the same table, in the same cafe, thinking the same thoughts. I try to work out, if I don't intervene, how long I have left to live. One hour. One day. One month. One year. Or two, or three, or just a few seconds. If I made the decision then I would have the power to determine this for myself. I could leave here, stand up, push my chair back and walk out, letting the door swing shut behind me finalising my decision, never to let the door swing open and allow me to enter the same cafe and sit at the same table at the same hour day after day after day. I could walk home. Walk through the park and watch the children playing, the lovers kissing and the men rushing between appointments and mistresses - a cliched type of journey home. Or I could stand outside the cafe and hail a taxi, slip into the back street and listen to the endless stream of chatter taxi drivers are supposed to assault their passengers with. Or I could find a hotel - cheap or, even better, expensive - and walk into the bar, order a drink from the young bar tender and wait for someone to pick me up, perch myself on one of the stools, half on-half off, one stilettoed foot dangling just above the floor, the other resting on the foot rest. Waiting. Waiting for the man to take me upto his room and fuck me into thinking that life is worth staying alive for, that an orgasm between silken sheets is all I need to allow myself to continue living. Or I could just go home, stand on a chair, slip a noose around my neck and kick the chair away, feel the rope tighten leaving the burn marks for the coroner to find. Death by asphyxiation. Or I could sit here and think, counting the seconds, wondering when it could end if I did nothing.

She always sits at the same table. Orders the same drink. Sips it the same way and stares at the pictures on the wall, the ones with the price tags which the local artists are hoping to sell. Occasionally she smokes.

Occasionally I smoke a cigarette. People say if you smoke then you bring yourself closer to death, each lungful of smoke you in- and exhale is one lungful closer. I breathe the smoke out, first letting it curl from my nostrils, then opening my mouth and breathe out gently, rolling the smoke from my body. I say we are all one second closer to death the longer we are alive. Each breath we take is one breath less for everyone, whether filled with smoke or not. Everyone is obsessed with living. Living as long as possible. Not wanting to cease. Not to feel the darkness close around them, have their eyes closed permanently and forever, seeing nothing but the blackness of an endless indigo night - because it is never completely black behind your eyelids. I tap the cigarette against the edge of the chunky glass ashtray which has been placed on every table in this cafe. The ash drops in. I endeavor to smoke a cigarette down to the filter, watching each part of the white tube dissolve and disintergrate into a grey formless substance as light as paper but not as useful. Unlike in the movies and people who pretend they are smokers, people who take a few lungfuls and stub the thing out, never properly though - always leave a half smoked cigarette smoking in the ashtray because it is difficult to stub out an unfinished cigarette. I hate a smoking cigarette, espcially if you can't pick it up and smoke it yourself. Instead of stubbing it out these people should leave it settled, resting in one of the holding gaps, usually one to each 'side', of an ashtray. That way someone else could come along, pick it up and enjoy the thing they have decided to refrain from enjoying.

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