Since starting this blog, I’ve had the urge to say “yes” to anyone who asks me to bum a cigarette. What if this new person will turn out to be the most interesting part of my day? What if they’ll be truly grateful for one of my smokes? That would seem worth it.
But just as often, my urge to simply say “no” is reaffirmed. Sorry, I don’t have any extra cigarettes. This is my last one.
There are the times when someone will ask the question as they are approaching me on the street, then take my offered cigarette without even slowing down to say “thank you.”
There are the bums who ask if I could find it in my heart to spare a cigarette, and most times I can. But sometimes the same man will pass me not five minutes later, with my newly-donated cigarette tucked behind his ear, and he’ll ask me again. He doesn’t remember that we’ve already had this exchange, as he canvasses the block for more good samaritans.
One night, I’m enjoying a smoke outside a friend’s apartment on St. Marks Place. A dirty teen wearing the typical East Village gutter punk costume — grease-stained T-shirt and tight-fitting jeans with holes in the knees, studded belts, spiked bracelets, the works — walks up and looks at me in a daze.
“Hey man, you think I could bum a stogie?”
Is this kid serious? A stogie? Kids only say that when they’re trying to seem older than they are, but only end up sounding silly.
Before I answer, he continues, “My dad kicked me out of the house tonight, and I really need some help. So if you can just give me a cig, that’d be super cool.”
You gotta be kidding me. Your dad kicked you out, and now I’m supposed to give you stuff? Besides, is a cigarette gonna solve this problem?
He sees me hesitate, and says, “Even a couple bucks, man. I really appreciate it.”
I can tell that this kid is clearly stoned. Nevermind the fact that I instantly don’t like him, but I start to think that if he really did get kicked out of the house tonight, he deserves whatever punishment he gets.
“Man, I just need some money for a place to stay tonight. Or a cigarette. You got a cigarette?”
Sorry, no. I gotta go.