Falling in love is the simple part. Maintaining that formative bond is where things start to become convoluted; Hemingway’s “The End of Something” might be a good point of reference if you’re the rarity whose heart has yet to be defiled (“You lucky soul, you!”). Yet, there’s something reassuring about how universal that feeling of loss is. Most people can attest to the misery that follows an especially terrible break up. Try as we might, suppression doesn’t always work the way that we want it to. Memory is a mysterious thing. Sometimes all it takes to remember an estranged lover is a smell or a song. That’s exactly what happens to Bill in Jon Pearson’s “Cigarettes in Heaven”. While waiting at a traffic light, the failed marriage he has tried so desperately to forget returns in a torturous stream of consciousness.
Time and nostalgia play such an important role in this piece. Bill recounts the moments that led to his parting“Cigarettes in Heaven” appeared in our Summer 2013 issue. with Rebecca. There’s a mimetic quality to how the visions flow into one another on the page. The reader experiences Bill’s flashbacks with the same light speed intensity that he does. He conveys a very thorough picture of his divorce, yet the entire story occurs over just several minutes in the present. Pearson, who makes good use of a very close third-person point of view, expertly balances what was and what is. It never feels as though you’re being tugged through tenses; the transitions are all very natural and seamless.
Rebecca’s depiction invokes the trope of the boudoir in classic English literature. The boudoir, or a lady’s private dressing room, is often viewed as a place of deceit in these texts. This is where the woman, naked and in “purest” form, puts on her “mask” as she prepares for seduction—for the ruining of men. The mirror is a source of great suspicion and paranoia for Bill. He fears that he will never be able to penetrate Rebecca’s guise. In fact, only a few fragments of dialogue are bestowed to her character. Pearson offers the fantastic line, “Maybe that was it—women “tasted” their thoughts, whereas men, dumb as they were, could only swallow them.”
This realization might come too late, though. Just as Bill decides he can forgive Rebecca, a new foe confronts him—Fate! You simply won’t believe how this story ends.