When I found this lighter I was at the Montreal jazz festival. I had just seen Brad Mehldau, my favorite jazz pianist. I was so excited that I began to run around outside of the venue and tripped on what turned out to be a lighter with a ship painted on it. Because I often speak in metaphors and at the time and I was graduating college, “the open sea” was an image I continuously referenced. I felt the need to keep it. I am also a smoker so it had function beyond the metaphor. I have held onto it for almost 6 years now because it brings me back to a place where my love of music and pursuit of academia did not yet feel like an unbridgeable divide. It has stayed in my bag for years as a good luck charm even though it no longer has lighter fluid. I am now pursuing my PhD and trying to cut back on my smoking (and yes, music continues to recede farther into the background). It feels offensive to keep this lighter at this point; it is time to give this good luck charm a new home.
— hand delivered in New York City
Right now, at this very moment, I’ve been a non-smoker for roughly 84 hours– that’s 3 1/2 days for people who don’t want to do the math. The idea of a light that has no fluid,– something that has a story, is a work of art worth keeping, strikes me as the most charming of ways to kick the habit for good.
I keep it with me at all times, in my pocket or in my bag, and I know why it’s there. It’s persistent uselessness must be the key to keeping fucking cancer out of my lungs. No lighter fluid, no fire, no smoke, no cancer. The flint still works, thankfully, because I still want to smoke– I’ll never not want to smoke; there will always be that spark of addiction.
But I keep the lighter on me– a token, a reminder, of my terrible habit, and someone else’s. I hope it continues to change hands in that way– that it can, like some weird supplement, replace the cigarettes between people’s fingers with itself. Tomorrow, when I got out to a bar or a club and put alcohol– the smoker’s peril– to my lips, I can feel the lighter in my pocket and remember that, like me, it can’t light up.