Jason looked around the dull living room, empty cans of soft drink littered the table tops alongside glasses. An overflowing ashtray was perched precariously at the edge of the table, on the floor underneath were a few scattered cigarette butts and a smattering of ashes. The floor itself was dirty, the carpet covered in stains both new and old and was in need of a good vacuuming. He yawned and stretched, he’d fallen asleep here again. He patted at his pockets before he found his cigarette packet and quickly he pulled one from the pack and lit it with a practised hand. He inhaled deeply, feeling the heat and smoke go into his lungs and a sense of peace and relaxation spread through his body. He exhaled with a sigh, he leaned forward and grabbed a glass from the table, the freshest one, and took a gulp of the cool, flat Coke. He downed the glass and when he was done he took another puff. As he exhaled this time he stood and made his way towards the bathroom.
When he was done there he went back to the sitting room and sat down, sinking into the cushions that had molded themselves to the shape of his body. He flicked on the TV, mostly for background noise, and finished off his cigarette. When he was done he grabbed out another, as he moved it to his lips he started to cough, deep, hacking coughs that burned his chest. When the fit subsided he paused for a second to breathe, then he lit his second cigarette. The morning phlegm had been getting worse in the last week or two, no surprise there as he had upped his smoking habit dramatically. Ever since Rebecca had left. Who could blame him really? It was his one vice, well, that and Coke. If he could drink he knew the Coke cans scattered about the room would have been beer, but he never had the stomach for it, nor did he care for the taste. He scratched at his face, he’d have to go out to get more smokes soon, would he get away without showering? When had he last bathed? He thought back, trying to pinpoint it but found he couldn’t. He sniffed at himself but smelled nothing, he barely noticed the heavy smell of the smoke that filled the room, nor could he smell the stale stink of it that followed him around. After his cigarette he went into the kitchen.
Toast seemed to be the best option, everything else seemed too heavy and his stomach turned at the thought of it. Toast was simple, it was easy, and it only required bread. He grabbed the last slices from the bag and threw them into the toaster. He grabbed out a plate and set it onto the counter, while he waited he found himself reaching for his packet of smokes again, but he stopped himself. He’d have to cut back a little, it wasn’t good for him and besides, smokes were getting more and more expensive as time went on. He wouldn’t be able to afford them as much, not now that Rebecca was gone. She had been bringing in most of the money, though the house was in his name. He got the odd job every now and then, but he hadn’t had a steady one in almost two years. At first he had tried, really tried. C.V’s were sent to every office and building that looked even remotely decent, he’d even started handing them in to shops, though he had little retail experience. He wanted something, anything, to help fill the days. As the weeks turned to months and the replies turned from “Thanks but no thanks” to non-existent he found himself sending out less C.V’s and spending more time watching the television. It was strange, how the days just slipped away in a haze of daytime TV. At about half five or so he’d hear Rebecca’s keys in the lock and scramble to clear the room a little, make it look like he’d done something else, anything else, with his day.
After a year he noticed the growing gap between them, but he didn’t know how to close it. Any attempts he made were just rebuffed by her until eventually they were just roommates that shared a bed. Rebecca had become angrier, always shouting. He tried to fix it, he really had, or at least he thought he had. No one was ever completely innocent in those kind of situations. The worst part of it all was when she left, a suitcase in hand as she announced that she was going to her parents’ house. He hadn’t felt the devastation he would have expected, he just nodded and said “Ok.” Part of him wanted to fight for her, to get her to stay, but another, larger part just didn’t care. They had been growing apart for months, and she’d be better off without him, after all he was just dead weight. He had spent the night chain smoking, waiting for the pain to fully hit him but it never did. It felt like a part of him had gone numb, or missing. Like one day he woke up and his arm was just gone, but where it had been was a perfectly healed stump. No pain, no denial, just acceptance of the new life he would live.
Jason lit up another cigarette, he had lost count, or at least he told himself he had. There were only three left in the packet, he’d have to go out to get more soon. He had caught a look at himself in the mirror and he needed a shower. Scruffy beard, greasy hair that stuck up at crazed angles, skin that looked pale and shiny, with dark circles around his eyes. Soon the need for smokes would drive him to shower, or just go to the shops. It wasn’t like he’d run into anyone he knew, everyone else was out working and it was only a short walk anyway. He stubbed out the last of the cigarette, then cursed as the ashtray fell onto the floor. Grumbling to himself he grabbed a handful of ash and old cigarette butts and dumped them back into the ashtray. He continued until the floor was mostly clean of the cigarette butts, he’d just have to get the hoover to it later, whenever that was.
He washed his hands then splashed some water on his face, it perked him up a little. He dried off his hands and face then lit another smoke. He was doing fine with Rebecca, who needed her anyway? He grabbed his wallet, not even bothering to change out of yesterday’s clothes, and headed out the door. Sure he could be spending the money on better things, but what was the point? He couldn’t afford the house by himself and either it’d be taken or Rebecca would want to sell it. He hadn’t heard from her since she left. It had no doubt been a complete break for her. Hell she was probably already dating someone else. As he walked he smoked his last cigarette, a dull spike of anxiety hit his chest as he pulled the last one from the box, he lit the smoke and took a deep breath. He’d have more soon enough.
He didn’t notice the look the cashier gave him as he stepped up the to counter. The faint wrinkle of the nose, the almost but not quite hidden look of disgust. He ordered his smokes and paid, pocketing the box as soon as it was handed to him. He left the store, the scent of stale smoke drifting after him. He felt better being outside, it was good to get out of the house every now and then, get some fresh air. He let himself back into the house, he grabbed a can of coke from the fridge, noting that he’d have to pick up more soon, and went into the sitting room. He sat onto the couch and turned on the TV, he cracked open the can, stuck another cigarette into his mouth and allowed himself to relax. He had done something to day after all and he deserved the break.