I remember seeing the smoke, dancing on the air. Revealing the secrets of an invisible world. The fluidity of movement, the patterns and shapes. It was going on all around me, but all I could see was the smoke. I remember the sharp intake of breath I took right before it reached me. I thought, “this is it, this is happening”. It’s the sort of moment that is filled with doubt. The sort that you realise is going to change things. But in that moment, I didn’t care.
At first I breathed softly, slowly; cautious of too much too soon. It was bliss. Even that smallest breath was enough to make my eyes roll. I could hear my heart; feel my blood pumping. Every cell in my body sang. Every emotion came pouring out of me. I was heartbroken, I was in love.
With my second breath, I breathed more deeply. I felt the smoke in my lungs. I felt time stop. Eternity and nothingness became the same. Light and dark were one. Day and night. It could have been the day I was born or the day that I died. I exhaled. I felt a rush of energy course through me, and even more abandon me. I felt. I truly felt.
And then I slept.
That first time was only supposed to be a taste. But it engulfed me. It became me. I was it, and it was me. Entwined, entangled. It wasn’t what I’d expected, but I couldn’t live without it. I knew that stopping would break my heart and I would die where I stood. The thought of it made my throat tighten, my heart pound in my chest. I had to go back. I needed more.
Time became a blur after that first time. I think it was weeks before I tried more. But, in honesty, it might have been days. Fuck, it could have been hours. All I know is that that taste was never going to be enough for me. I think I knew that before I started, but I just didn’t want to acknowledge that. If I’d consciously told myself what I knew it would mean, I’d never have done it. And I wanted to. So badly.
I remember there were plenty of times after that. I remember sneaking around to hide myself from the world. Any stolen moment was spent watching and breathing that beautiful dancing smoke. People say nothing beats the first time, and I suppose they’re right. But in lots of ways, each time got more thrilling to me. But eventually I needed more.
Breathing my love wasn’t enough. I needed it differently. There’s something almost virtual about smoke. It’s less physical. I suppose because holding your breath would see it disappear with no consequence. Like switching your phone off to avoid unwanted callers. You can turn your back and it’s gone.
I don’t need to tell you what the physical act was. Needless to say I was careful. I ensured I had the necessary time alone. I made sure everything was clean, sterile. I gave myself a weekend. Two days just for me. To feel; to experience. I swore that would be enough. That that would give me all I craved. Those days were a blur. I don’t remember much.
I remember sitting on the edge of the bed. I remember the feel of the metal between my fingers, the heat from the flame warming my appetite. The bubbling. Oh god, the bubbling. When that first glorious ball grew and popped I could have cried. I knew what was coming. I knew it would be perfect. I drew the handle as delicately as I could. I made sure there was enough, but not too much. I remember that my hands shook with anticipation.
I remember tightening my belt, feeling my muscles contract. I remember the leather between my teeth. That smell. I remember the weight in my hands. It was light, but it was heavier than smoke. I remember watching my veins rise. I remember how easily I found one. I barely felt the pin prick. All I could feel was the anticipation, the excitement. I knew the world was about to become beautiful and tragic, hot and cold, light and dark. The blood reminded me of the smoke. It danced in its tiny vessel. And like with the smoke I knew that I could stop all of this if I wanted, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to. This was what I’d been waiting for.
I pushed down, slowly, steadily. I watched it disappear into me. I felt my eyes roll back. I felt the hairs standing up all over me. I felt electric. I felt desperation. I felt power. I felt fear. I fell asleep with it still inside me. Hanging out of me. If someone had walked in they would have had a shock. I must have looked like a corpse. But I felt alive. For the first time in my life. I felt as though I’d fallen awake. Like I’d been sleepwalking through life and had suddenly roused myself from my slumber to realise that this was living. This was my life.
At the end of the weekend I packed my things away slowly. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but I knew this was a one-time deal. What was I going to do? Throw my life away? No. The smoke would have to be enough again. I didn’t want it to be, but I knew I’d always have that weekend.
I remember leaving that place. I remember the tears falling from my cheek as I said goodbye. I made sure nobody would ever know what happened there. I was clean, clinical. To the world, I’d been alone. They didn’t and wouldn’t know of the extraordinary events. They would never know that I had done what I’d done.
The first time I saw the smoke after that was strange. It was almost like being back in that room, on that bed. But it wasn’t. I remember the days when the smoke was enough. For a while I regretted ever going to that place. I wished the smoke was enough for me still. But I know why I did what I did. I know it was worth it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was perfect.
I will make do with the smoke for now. I don’t have a choice. That’s all I can do. But one day, I will return to that room, or one like it. I will see the blood dance. I will feel alive again. And next time, I will let it take my life. I’ll let it take over. It will shut down my organs, send me to heaven.
And I’ll forever be wrapped within it. Within the warm embrace of dark, glorious brightness.