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Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Author:Colum McCann
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 2020-02-24T16:00:00+00:00


499

The engine takes a moment to catch. The evening has grown cold and dark. The windshield fogs with his breath.

Bassam reaches to turn on the heater, glances out at Rami in the dark, standing next to his motorbike, zipping the side-vents in his riding pants. The lights from the monastery cast Rami’s shadow long across the parking lot.

He presses the cigarette lighter into place, waits for the coils to catch. The anticipation of the cigarette is sometimes as good as the first pull. Forty years of smoking and still it never changes. He taps the pack into the heel of his hand to tamp down the tobacco, flips the lid, removes one. There were—long ago—so many prison rituals with cigarettes, the careful roll, the rescue of every grain, the twist of the filter, the smoothing of the paper. Sometimes he would pause over an unlit rollie for hours. Later he would keep his eyes closed while he held the smoke in his lungs. It felt to him then like putting on a clean thobe. Always two drags: the second to relax the first. He could feel it re-coating his lungs.

There are times he wishes he could isolate the inhalation. It begins in the throat and then vaults back into the mouth and down again into the lungs where it seems to pause awhile before it moves around his body. He promised himself three years ago to give them up; so be it, he never did. No alcohol, no other excesses. Avoid that which requires an apology.

The air from the vents has begun to warm. He cracks the window, blows the smoke out. Next to him, Rami has already put on his helmet and swung his leg across the motorbike.

The two exchange a nod. The cigarette smoke filters up against the dark.

In reverse, the dashcam flips into life. The guiding red and yellow lines appear on the small screen. Bassam hits his brakes and the light flares against the red brick of the monastery wall. He takes another drag and allows Rami’s motorbike to pull out in front of him.

A few stray raindrops slant in the lights above the empty guardhouse at the gate. Nothing more than a light drizzle, but it will slow their journeys home: Rami to Jerusalem, Bassam to Jericho.

He watches as his friend raises one hand in the air, and together they pass on through into the dark.



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