One Hot Missouri Morning

I mashed my lit cigarette into the ashtray beside my recliner. I hadn’t even taken my boots off from work. I just sat there staring at re-runs from The Office, the tv on mute. The phone rang.

“Hey, man. What’re you doing tonight?” the voice asked.

“Nothing.”

“It’s Friday, bro. Let’s hit the bars.”

“I don’t feel like it.” I said.

“Are you still in your uniform? Dude, it’s like 8 o’clock. Let’s go somewhere.” the voice insisted.

“I’m not feelin’ it tonight.” I replied.,

“Man, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Women. Guilt from combat. You know, shit. Life sucks.” I said as I lit another cigarette.

I hung the phone up and stared down into my lap as ash from my cigarette dropped off onto the arm of the recliner. I dozed off multiple times while sitting half-reclined. I could have easily set my entire apartment up in flames with one lit cigarette. I didn’t care. Half of me wanted that to happen.

The next morning I woke up with a kink in my neck, one boot on and my Army top half way buttoned up. I gathered my pathetic self out of my recliner and stumbled to the bathroom. I showered. I let the warm water smack me in the face like life had been doing to me for months. It felt nice, though. Like I snapped back into reality.

The Missouri sun had finally broke through the clouds and I shifted my San Diego Padres baseball cap so the bill faced the rear. I climbed onto my motorcycle and fired her up. She sounded good. It felt good to be on the saddle of that thing. I kicked up the kickstand, shifted into first and ripped out of the driveway and down the road. The wind felt nice on my face, the fresh air-filled my lungs and I felt like I could breathe again. The sun hit my back as I tore down the road doing about 80 mph. I wanted to go faster. I wanted a semi-truck to come out of nowhere and leave no time to react. I pulled down on the throttle topping out at 92 mph.

I pulled into the Cracker Barrel, which I might add, always has the best eggs. I was aloof, though. I didn’t make eye contact with the server even though I just experienced probably the best ride on my motorcycle in my life.

“What’s wrong, hun? You want some coffee or something?” She asked.

“Yeah, that’d be great. I’m going to go smoke real quick. I’ll be back.” I told her.

She always served me in the mornings. She was like my best friend away from all my other friends. She understood me, for some weird reason.

When I came back, a hot cup of coffee was waiting for me and soon after, my breakfast showed up. Scrambled eggs and cheese, two pieces of toast, sourdough, and a glass of water. I could smell the tar and nicotine on my fingers as I raised the fork to my mouth. That’s how much I smoked. It was disgusting but at the same time, I loved it. My wallet sure didn’t, though. But it was my release. Some people drink themselves to death. I was smoking myself to death.

I shoved a few bucks onto the table top for a tip and caught up with my server halfway towards the door.

“Leaving already, darlin’?” Her accent was think. Probably raised somewhere in Texas or even farther east.

“Yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” It wasn’t a promised I’d really keep, but it was something I said to make her smile. If anything, I wanted other people to smile.

I fired up my bike and hit the road again. I had no real destination. I just wanted to ride.

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