Dear Last Pack of Camel Lights (Summer 2009),
When we first met, you were waiting for someone inside the basket of that street-side vendor in Del Sur, that woman selling Belmont Suaves and Pall Malls and counterfeit Havana cigars. Remember how we laughed about them afterward, your old friends? I was traveling abroad for a few months: not so young, not that impressionable, but riding a tailwind of iffy decision-making (cf. “Open Letter to my new REI Self-Cleaning, Pedal-Powered Camp Stove”). I’ve never told you this before, but I usually preferred to hand-roll my own cigarettes back in the States: something organic, something with rolling papers and cardboard tips, something that, from a vast distance behind a cloud through the eyes of a blind man, might possibly resemble exercise. But we were traveling, there was the unnerving, surrounding menace of backpacking Central America (chicken buses, non-lethal malaria, ugly dogs), the beaches were packed with Europeans, and one thing led to another… You only cost $2.50. Things felt right between us.
Sure, there were a few warning signs: the heightened pangs of longing whenever I wasn’t with you, the wheezing spells on the hotel’s treadmill, the terrible things my friends said about your odor and your detrimental effects on my wine-tasting career… People can be awful. They did, admittedly, make an honest point of the previous times I had sworn off relationships like this: New Year’s Eve 2007 and 2008. My twenty-sixth birthday party. After watching March of the Penguins on an unknown stimulant… The list goes on. (My friends’ illustrated timeline of this list, which includes a detailed sketch of my subsequent waddling, remains a sore point in our relations.) Still, I made plenty of time for it to be just the two of us: on the beach, on the patio, on the wrought-iron benches near the Eskimo stand, on the roof, in the back seats of cabs out to Playa Maderas. The air felt electric, alive. Twenty times in two days seems excessive now.
I mean, you weren’t even my first that vacation… But you knew that.
Deep down, you knew that.
What happened was, I think, we burned too brightly. I’ve been trying to move beyond certain habits for what seems like forever, and there’s a land of clean living and Cabernet calling me home. Life’s full of these transitional periods, and the days following an alcohol- and remorse-soaked vacation abroad seem as suitable a transitional period as any. We had something good, though, you and I. You remember that guy grilling fresh fish inside those halved metal drums down by the beach, the one who looked at you and I and said something to us like, “Hey, I’m the only smoker in these parts!” and whipped out his tongs like they were six-shooters?
Well, I really don’t know what his deal was either. I forget where I was going with that.
My point is, there are things that I wish I’d told you when we were still together: that you and I had something special, that I still remember a good portion of that trip, and that, barring any last-minute indiscretions or encounters with bagged rum, you will always be my last pack.
I also wanted to apologize again. For setting you on fire. For tossing your remains underneath that bus. For talking about you afterwards like an inexpensive, syphilitic fling.
Love and condolences,