Meditations on a Zippo
I’ll go out tomorrow night and buy a Zippo.
I’m sick of the cheap Bic in my pocket.
Black like everything else I own. In black boots, black jeans, black polo. Even my socks and boxers.
“I’ll smoke these until my lungs match my heart.”
My family members think I’m stupid. “You know your father died from Emphysema?”
My father was old. He was going to die from something, ‘cause sooner or later, everyone’s gonna die anyway.
After dinner, after a bowl of cheap ramen and a cup of cheap tea, I go outside and look for the moon. But hidden behind clouds, I make do with the artificial glow of a street lamp and think back.
My father owned a Zippo. I remember it, hazily. A bronze one. I saw it one time in a bar he took me to. When I was just a “little guy.”
He knew the bartender there. So they’d let us sit up at the bar – me and my older brother. And we’d have pickled bologna and tiny cups of Pepsi while my dad had a beer.
I love that.
Later on, he told us we couldn’t sit up at the bar anymore because someone fell off a stool and hurt his head. So we’d get a table in the bar, right in the middle of bar, beside pool tables and boozers and ashtrays and we’d have our pickled bologna and tiny cups of Pepsi.
Later on, when my little brother was 18 or 19, I bought him a Zippo. It was a matte black affair with a white circle and a black 8 on the center. He was into pool, and he could always shoot better than me.
I only cared to take a certain kind of shot. Nothing else on the table really interested me, and I never cared about winning enough to really amount to much.
But every once in a while, something would line up in my brain, and I’d see something clear and precise.
And a ball would sink, like a fact, into the depths of a pocket.
“You need to shoot some of them softer, CP,” my father told me once, when I was still young. “Not every shot needs that much force.”
But I couldn’t help it.
Everything has to be followed with a certain kind of energy. Only when he was dead and I was older, could I apply a light, delicate touch.
Jesse had that same 8-Ball Zippo when we buried Dad.
On the morning of the burial, we paused beside my father’s Chevy Cobalt to smoke a cigarette together.
And then we took a drive.
Autumn bought me a Zippo around the same time. A chrome affair with a woman wearing mirrored shades. It was very tacky, but I made the mistake of telling her I liked it, too. But I didn’t like it.
Should have been honest about that.
I should have been honest about a lot of things with Autumn. I still think I was, for the most part. Up until the end. But everything has to be followed with a certain kind of energy.
I used the Zippo for a long time.
In Pennsylvania, before we moved. When we took a vacation at Myrtle Beach. After we moved to Staten Island and I started working in Brooklyn.
Sitting on the steps outside our apartment, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee. Looking up at the moon.
It broke shortly after we split up. But I still kept it for a long time after, and it sat on a window sill in my bedroom, where the sunlight would hit the chrome and make it glint.
But the wick was worn down to nothing, and it wouldn’t keep a flame. Maybe three years later I threw it out.
There’s a weight to a Zippo. There’s a weight to everything.
In my pocket, against coins and keys, what’s a little more weight?
Just one more thing, adding to the weight. Something you carry and feel, drawing it into a library of senses and memories.
The smell of cigarettes and watered-down gutrot beer. In a town in the mountains of North-Central Pennsylvania. Worn down landscapes resembling worn down inhabitants. And always, always the manic desire to escape and get somewhere better.
Tomorrow night I’ll go out and buy a Zippo.
Everything has to be followed with a certain kind of energy.