Books and Cigarettes by Andrea Davies

Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body) from Salvador DaliRoman gets my phone number off an application for employment at the West Portal Bookshop in San Francisco. I imagine him taking my application off the stack and going to stand outside in the grey with his ankle showing tight black pants, jacket and long black hair.

“Hi. No. I’m not calling about the job.” Roman is, tall, olive skinned, he rocks back and forth when he stands with his hands in his pockets. “Would you like to go for coffee?” he asks.

I tell him, I’ll meet him at eight.

The Blue Danube Café is in the Inner Richmond District, between the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. Inside there are little twinkle lights and small walkways; we join the lines of people waiting to order and pick up.

Roman is attractive and repulsive; I see vulnerability in his weighted shoulders: he smells familiar. Like cigarettes.

“Everyone who applies to the bookshop writes,” Roman says. “What do you write?”

Can I assert I write anything?

There are two eras in my life: BE, before emphysema and AD, after death. My father died of emphysema two years ago, after his diagnosis before his death, I shared only a few small things I wrote with him. Every day of my life, since I can remember, I have written fragments of poems, stories and ideas. In AD, my poems and prose are meditations on breathe.

Besides, I have never been published and isn’t that really the question?

I do not say any of this to Roman, instead I tell him I write stories about my life and take care not to mention my father’s passing, particularly the bit about emphysema to my smoking companion. I refer to my dad in the present tense; I do not trust people I do not know with privileged knowledge. At twenty-two years old, people I meet do not expect me to have experienced the loss of a parent. Besides, what do you do with that kind of information? Sorry your dad’s dead? People become weirdly condoling or they shrug off the information like it is not a big deal and I haven’t decided yet which response I disdain more.

Roman listens as I ramble on about my stories. He holds his paper cup of spiced hot chocolate and tells me to look up Joan Didion. “You’ll like her, she writes like that.”

“Like what? Rambling narcissism?” There is a hole in the left leg of my jeans and I pull on a thread, subsequently widening it.

He tells me to just read her work and I’ll get it.

I ask what he writes and he says poetry; so we walk up Clement Street to Green Apple Books. Entering the bookshop, we pass a used book on Salvador Dali, my father’s favorite painter, opened to an image of Jesus Christ suspended on a cross made of blocks, my father’s favorite Dali. We walk up the staircase and resist the temptation to leaf through sections labeled psychology, sociology, philosophy—books packed into floor to ceiling bookcases and overflowing into piles on the hardwood floor. The smell of book musk is as lovely as childhood, which is to say it holds a bittersweet nostalgia for my father’s housethat reeked of old books and cigarettes.

With the great wall of poetry in front of us, Roman hands me Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. He watches me page through it. I recall my father’s story of dropping acid and listening to Bob Dylan for the first time, when he was the age I am now. My dad told me it was like the world caved in. So I read Pessoa’s July sixteenth, 1930 entry: “You can feel life like a sickness in the pit of the stomach, the existence of your own soul like a muscular cramp.” And inside Pessoa’s words, the world is caving in.

Roman leans towards me to kiss; I move to bar his advance.

I smile and feel friction in my face and gut.


*Books and Cigarettes was first published  in the Pink Panther Magazine, Issue 21.

About detangledprosereview

I am a human rights advocate with a knack for inter-contextually. I am a storyteller, a ceramists, a pan-art lover, a feminist, and a humanist.
This entry was posted in California, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry, San Francisco and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to Books and Cigarettes by Andrea Davies

  1. Loved reading this! Great writing.

  2. I agree, loved it. Great post.

  3. Absolutely beautiful. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. I really like the title. Your style is fresh and non pretentious. Fresh!! 🙂

  5. Sean says:

    Nice bit of prose.

  6. hsafarov says:

    Reblogged this on hsafarov and commented:

  7. Well done, with style. Pretty quick for a non-drunk person to move in for a kiss, huh? He’d known you for an hour or two tops?

  8. goodkhanagra says:

    Nice bit of prose india

  9. sarahsevere says:

    I love this… Love love love this!!!

  10. creamy29 says:

    Reblogged this on creamy29.

  11. A nice post to read in a warm autumn morning ❤

  12. NeoAaragorn says:

    Simply wow. Such a simple setting but so beautifully written. Stellar.

  13. Abby Boid says:

    Just as I think I’m getting the hang of writing,I read something like this and realise such a long way to go. Such great imagery and how can I feel so attached to characters in so few words?

    • Thank you Abby.
      We all have a long way to go… exciting, yes?
      Have you heard of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction? They go into exhaustive-not exhausting- detail about super short short personal narrative. Check it out!

  14. Do you give writing lessons? I need writing lessons from you…I cannot stress “NEED” enough…

  15. alcret13 says:

    It is good。i like reading it。谢谢作者

  16. alcret13 says:


  17. bookishandinked says:

    Beautiful. Brought me right back to San Francisco and all the self discovery that happens in that city.

  18. J says:

    Great Line…Roman is attractive and repulsive…..Well done 🙂

  19. I read everything twice to really understand the content: the first time I didn’t get it, the second time was really nice. Great job! -FindingAlfred

  20. Beautiful description! Definitely enjoyed reading this!

  21. couldn’t resist the title and the content did not disappoint. I want to know more about them.

  22. Beautiful! Definitely caught my attention!

  23. gadgetroid says:

    This is amazing! The title caught my attention, and had my curiosity piqued! Im glad I dropped in! Never have I seen two things I love the most – cigarettes and books – be combined anywhere! Can’t wait for more!

  24. Cool read… Like your style..

  25. bomanchris says:

    Reblogged this on bee's blog!.

  26. kwetsoshadrach says:

    Beautiful piece

  27. I could have continued reading that until armageddon befell us…

  28. thoufi1 says:

    I can help you with photos to Match your title @detangledprosereview

  29. “Like what? Rambling narcissism?” There is a hole in the left leg of my jeans and I pull on a thread, subsequently widening it” …this sentence really had me in splits and reminded me of so many people in one go.

    Brilliant piece, riveting to the end. Loved reading it.

  30. averyarts says:

    Reblogged this on averyarts and commented:
    I just read this and can feel the atmosphere! Very well put across! Thanks for sharing this.

  31. sanayadd says:

    Good read .. but is this all fiction?

  32. graincoast13 says:

    Reblogged this on graincoast13.

  33. Nice piece. But you can charge Roman with sexual harassment since he could influence your hiring. But I loved the poetic ending…

  34. bdlheart says:

    This was such a good read! Really enjoy your writing style. I look forward to reading more…

  35. Bhagat patil says:

    very good,I like it.

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