Just A Cigar

An attractive box of imported cigar matches. From Cuba.

Was the first cigar you experienced between your lips or between your nostrils? I think it matters.

I was walking to the train and the incense from a cigar wafted past me. I didn’t invite it.

It reminded me of the time I left a happy hour and walked along F Street past Shelly’s Backroom. Shelly’s is a cigar bar.

I don’t know for sure, but given the Barcaloungers lined up outside the storefront window, I wondered if in our no-smoking world you can smoke inside the building, or if you had to smoke in the elements. Even at a cigar bar.

It was a narrow roped off patio. It took up less than half the wide sidewalk. Inside the sanctum were recliners full of men separated by little, low tables that displayed snifters and faceted rocks glasses with various amounts of brown liquors. The subtlety of the whiskeys may or may not have been overcome by the rolled leaves. It would be for me.

Some of the men had their legs splayed out in front of them as their heads were cradled by the high back of the chair, their stogies pointed north north east from their faces. They would look quizzically, with slightly squinted eyes, at the cigar while rolling it between their thumb and forefinger as they exhaled a plume of smoke. Other men sat forward with their elbows on their knees, the cigar in their left hand as they reached for the scotch with their right. These men were talking. The men leaning back were listening, or appeared to be.

It was a delicious night out for them. Domestication and requirements of good health be damned. I think they were mostly enjoying themselves in a peacock kind of way. They thought that they were badasses, too. They would never admit it, but it was true.

As I passed, I didn’t hold my breath so I took in the ashy, pungent and sickly smell of cigar. My memories were triggered. I could only think of one thing. Old men.

Old men from the neighborhood. My friends’ grandfathers and their Uncle Vitos and a stray neighbor with a brown beer bottle wearing a sweat-stained, saggy, v-neck undershirt after he mowed his lawn. None of these men drew me in. Indeed, they repelled me. And looking at the men on the sidewalk with their wingtips and hip striped socks, with their suit jackets abandoned and their ties slightly loosened, and puffing big white clouds all I could think was gross Old Men.

So not attractive. I walked a little faster. Away.