The package arrived. He carefully folded back the tissue, stroked the jacquard sash and burgundy silk lapel. It felt warm and aristocratic. It was the last piece of the plan and the eve of the event, he would wear it over cashmere and ascot. He sipped brandy, remembering the epiphany as he had watched the bag lady scoop up a still lit, skinny cigarillo, check that she was the only taker, tuck it in her sleeve and move on. From that moment, all he saw were crushed white and buff butts – everywhere – they were the constant. He became a voyeur of the second ownership, following these more appreciative users, spying as the prize became the best part of their day, ambrosia in gray curls – adding depth to the hobby by becoming a collector.
He picked the specimen to be his first. It was a tight thin gold-banded, barely smoked piece that had been released from a jeweled holder and a regal, petite hand attached to a gold lace evening gown, not wanting to make its re-entrance to the Theatre on the drag. Intermission over, there was no one left on the street to scrutinize his procurement.
Cognac poured, the antique clock struck nine, he sat in the leather chair in the corner of the special room he had designed to house the vintage curios. The walls were covered floor to ceiling with impressionism, his other collectible, but it was the eyes of the Self Portrait of the post-impressionist Matisse that seemed to be staring into his soul. Among the climate-controlled glass cases with their hydro-stones, dates and locations on cards per piece, feeling as alone as he could recall, he lit the gold band.
The second drag cured the assaulting pain of the first as the room took on a new immediacy. A warm blood worked its way across his neck and shoulders, the cases seemed fluid, in flux. The words on the cards slithered and pulsated, the clock and Matisse smiled. He folded the jacket, undid the ascot and with an entirely new gait and beyond all former perception, he walked through the foyer and into the night, not bothering to close the heavy maple door behind him.