Smoke unfurls like a pair of entangled snakes. Slipping past the doors of my larynx, they slither into my lungs. Wounding coils of toxic fumes around my alveoli until I feel them burn as I watch cigarettes strangled between pinched fingers that surround me. Their ends ignite with a glow of pumpkin ember like the tails of fireflies. Until something inside begins to burn. Of shortening breath. Of the life that peels back like shrivelled, dying skin. Like the charred paper wound about tobacco leaves that scatter in the breeze. In fragments. In crumbs of ash when my gaze shifts upwards. To allow that which has been lost to escape in a fiery breath. To dance among the lights and the stars. To vanish.
Disappear among them in the bliss of mingling, and twirling with voices that whisper, speak, and sing of light, and of stars.
As I watch a portion of myself drift off. Towards a place where the sound of time, and of age are beat mute, I look at each of my classmates. My friends. Sounding of various ages, of various times, as their voices - gilded by laughter as contagious as that which crawls from beneath Marlboros and Camels - echo of uncertainty. Anxiety. For a hope yet unworn by disillusionment. Of despair. As they - one by one - drift off into the night. Like moths. Like dust. Scattered by the wind. Across plains, forests. Across oceans. Cast back among the walls and towers of London - tall, and fair, and proud, into New Delhi - its compact alleyways and boulevards that do little to contain the people and the monsoons that flow through them, and into Vancouver - who's quiet meres sit undisturbed beneath the tranquility of trees and rustle of their leaves. A hope they will all dream of. Where the wind shall return. To carry them above the highest, proudest tower, through the greatest monsoon, and past silent trees. As ashes. Of various ages, of various times. Gathered in the same tray.
Standing up, I peer at the cigarette butts and ash strewn along our table. Far from the tray. With my turn to drift off into the night here at last, I lift my eyes, as they climb towards the ramparts of the sky for a last time. Allowing one last breath to escape, I dream that from our ashes left behind, our voices emerge again. From beneath charred paper that peels back like skin dying yet to die. To dance among lights. Among stars. Even as we fade among them. And shine from a place where the only sound is of time, and of age. Beat mute.