Jeremy smells cigarettes in the stairwell of his apartment complex. At first, he's annoyed and upset about the disturbance.
But when he realizes the smoker is an attractive man grieving a bad relationship, he allows his attraction to flourish into something more than a bad habit, and something he hopes he can keep a lot longer than fifteen minutes.
Jeremy flashed to their first meeting in his apartment stairwell -- if you can call a scent a true meeting. He'd been annoyed at the smell of smoke that came in from the vents in his bathroom. The cloying scent of tobacco clung to everything, not to mention his memories, and Jeremy suddenly wanted a cigarette more than he ever had in the last five years. He even went out to the corner store, hoping to buy some while he was there, cool and nonchalant. But a law had been passed from his last time buying cigarettes, and now a large visor hung in front of the cigarettes at the front of the store, an attempt to dissuade youthful buyers. Jeremy had no idea what brand to buy anymore, no idea how to navigate something unfamiliar to him now, so he'd left with a Diet Coke in a Big Gulp cup and nothing more.
And the smoke, along with the man who went with it, was gone.
The next time it rained, Jeremy waited for the smell to return. Early morning, before his shift at work, he lingered in his kitchen and was almost late. Yet nothing happened, there was no movement from the man across the hall whom he was sure was responsible for the cigarettes. He never saw him, as their schedules seemed to be on different clocks, but he knew he was young. Pretty. A nice guy, but probably straight.
So Jeremy tried to forget the smoking along with his other bad habit of falling for, and yearning for, straight men.
A month passed. The rains of April turned into summer. Everyone at Jeremy's office -- a health spa, full of bright shiny people with nice teeth their parents had paid for -- made him remember why he quit smoking in the first place. He was going to be healthy, to live longer, and right the mistakes of his past life. Which included smoking, fawning after straight men, and having sex with strangers.
So how the hell had he ended up in this stairwell again?
Jeremy pulled back from the kiss now. He examined the man who had -- finally in the month of late July, during the dog days of heat waves while a thunderstorm made smoking outdoors impossible -- lit up in the stairwell once again. He'd smelled it while he was cleaning the bathroom; leaving the bucket of soapy water where it was, Jeremy bolted out into his apartment lobby. The smell grew stronger. And despite Jeremy's reservations, it grew more appealing. He found the man in the stairwell, on the halfway flight between the seventh and the eighth floor. He'd come out with such a force, such a blinding fury in his legs that the man held up his hands, cigarette dangling from the left side.
"I know, I know," he said, and sucked the cigarette into his mouth like it was his last one ever. "I shouldn't be doing this here. I'm sorry. I'll put it out, and --"
"I've missed it so much," Jeremy lamented. "Dammit."
The man smiled, offered him one, and despite Jeremy's best intentions, he took it. Oh, he took it and slid it between his crooked teeth (his parents could never afford to fix them and he did not, absolutely under no circumstances, want to be one of those men with adult braces). He inhaled and it was lovely and intoxicating and he got hard. Because of course he got hard. He was wearing his cleaning clothing -- cut-off jean shorts, an old work-out shirt with his university written across the front, and flip-flops -- and he feared that the man was straight and would see his cock getting hard and pressing against those jeans. He inhaled more. He smoked fast, like the man had smoked fast, pretending it was their last one together.
"Am I going to get you in trouble at home?" the man asked, gesturing to the cigarette. "Is a girlfriend or wife or hell, even a mother, going to sniff your collar and demand to know what bad influences you've been hanging out with?"
"Nope." A breath of smoke from the side of his mouth. "Live alone."
"Ah. Same here." Another cloud, another breath from the side. "So the only people who are going to come after me are the landlord? Maybe the blue-haired woman in the end apartment? I'm pretty sure she gives me the stink eye every time I see her walking her dog. Can't decide yet if she does so because I'm gay or because I smoke."