... I plodded along the dark street, frustration mounting with every single step. It was a cold night, and my cheeks had long since turned red and chapped from the biting wind. The sweat from the long trek had chilled, leaving me with a thin layer of icy insulation that sapped the strength from my limbs. My mouth had long since dried up, and the taste of every drag left a lingering aftertaste that I couldn't quite shake. Stale cigarettes were terrible on the best of days; on winter nights, they became almost unbearable.

I continued to smoke though, the action of blowing out plumes of exhaust keeping my mind off the walk. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

I watched a lone taxi prowl the streets, searching for another fare as the bars closed their doors to the few patrons left awake. It slipped by me, obviously writing me off as a no go, and continued on its way, slinking around the corner, headlights bathing the darkened side streets with a harsh glare.

The gray slush that lined the streets conspired to seep into my worn shoes, and try as I might, the occasional large drift of snow plowed haphazardly onto the sidewalks forced me to wander into the unpleasantness. It flurried off and on, sprinkling the night scenery with a light coat of liquid dandruff. Strong winds blew snow off the rooftops of nearby apartments and corner bodegas, driving small bits of moisture into the crevices of my clothes.

A beat up junker pulled up slow beside me, and the driving bass of its cheap sound system rattled its windows and shook the ground below me. The tint shielded the driver from close scrutiny, but smoke seeped out of a small crack at the top, and I quickly turned my attention away, focusing on looking as miserable and poor as I could. With the weather being the way it was, after a few hours of trudging through it I probably did look pretty pathetic. After a moment of crawling along the car pulled off without warning, its exhaust spewing out thick rolls of smoke in my face.

I never thought exhaust could smell that sweet...

"How much crap do you HAVE in there?"

I looked over at him for a moment, a thousand thoughts falling away to the wayside as the reality of the situation settled in. The gilded tongue bled away, and I began to reach for something to respond with, anything to fill the pregnant silence. "Fuck man…" I finally mumbled, pressing my hand tightly against my forehead.

"You think you're the only one with problems?" He flashed me a grin as he rooted through the bag.

"Fuck man, you didn't have to… fuck…"

He leaned in close and stared me in the eye, smiles replaced by something more primal. "You hear me?"

I could smell the cigarette smoke lingering on his breath, and the thought of a drag at that moment sent me into a minor tizzy. His close proximity triggered in my mind a million scenarios, all unfolding in rapid succession, none the least bit realistic. I could feel the warmth begin to blossom beneath my hand, and a stray thought occurred to me. "Not a word…"

He leaned in even closer, straining as though to hear me better.

I could smell it, the acrid scent curling about my nose even though the rounded edge felt so cool against my skin. "We all got problems..."

The world suddenly exploded in a whirl of lights and colors, darkness seeping in at the edges, greedily lapping at the display until nothing was left...

... I rubbed at the criss-cross scar on my forehead and watched the beaten up car speed away into the distance, unconsciously shrinking deeper into my jacket.

Focus on the walk, focus on the walk... Let the winter weather just take your mind off of it. The biting cold, the damp cling of the clothing, the acrid smell of the pistol smoke...

I sighed softly, and fished around in my pocket for another cigarette. Drown out the memory, one slow drag at a time...