At the age of 30, you can no longer learn how to smoke a cigarette.
It would be difficult to develop a so-called addiction. Rather, a whim; half a cigarette, tops. I started smoking just to break the taboo. I used to ask around: what is it like to smoke? In other words, I wanted to know what good there was to smoking, but I never seemed to find a satisfactory answer. “It winds you down,” some would tell me, “There’s nothing more comforting than a cigarette after dinner.”
Later, I realised smoking was not so much an act as it was a feeling, hence the ineffability of it all.
I think what I actually love is not smoking itself, but its context and props. The rhythm of breath, the clicking of the lighter, the aromatics, the origin of the tobacco, and so on, are far more interesting than the act itself – at the heart of which is the ashtray. Every trip to the vintage or select shop is an unspoken, though always lucrative, quest for ashtrays.
煙灰缸總是散發著難以言喻的魅力，也許是它只有收納煙灰、煙蒂，和放置香煙這兩個簡單目的，世間的煙灰缸都充分發揮着「Form follows function」的極致，很少會看到很醜的煙灰缸。假設我在一個小碟的邊沿上造幾道凹口，你便自然知道那是放置香煙的地方，是如此微小的美麗。
Ashtrays have a strange aura to them. Mere receptacles for ashes and cigarettes, they are the epitome of “form follows function”, which is why they are rarely hideous. One needs only create two notches on the rim of a small dish for it to be immediately recognisable as an ashtray – a beauty, so minuscule.
Ashtrays are unusual collectibles, because they are worthless and easily replaced – a lost cause according to many vintage shops. I went through a lot of trouble to find this nostalgic make, and it was made in Hong Kong. My grandfather used to have one, but it’s very hard to come by these days. One pushes down the spinning ashtray to dispense the ashes and butts into the covered basin beneath. It’s a lost art.
I picture my grandfather pressing down his spinning ashtray. There used to be something rustic about the air in his house, which I now recognise as the smell of cigarettes. Gone are the ashes, but the aftertaste lingers – is that my reason to love cigarettes?