THE LAST CIGARETTE
Author: Khalid Sohail
Translation: Ziauddin Ahmed
I received your first love letter inviting me to spend
the weekend at your uncle’s cottage. At first I felt
like calling you to accept the invitation and start
making preparation to go, but then I started to think
and after a fortnight of thought I sat down to write
you this letter.
I realized from your letter that after a year’s
friendship you now want to add some colors of love and
romance in the picture of our friendship. I am, however,
hesitant to take that step. You will ask me why?
So I am trying to answer the question.
You may be thinking that I am alone and that as I have
neither a wife nor a beloved I may be ready for love and
infatuation. Actually your thought is not altogether
unreasonable. You may be thinking of me to be single and
available, but it is not so.
I am single but not available.
You will again ask me as to what is the reason for that?
I have been pondering for a reply to this for a number
You are fully aware of the fact that there are many
things which may be quite clear in the mind but when one
tries to explain them they seem to become rather
conniving or confusing. This matter is somehow similar.
Anyway, I will try to explain it as simply as possible.
A number of years ago when I first started to date, my
sweet heart, I told her that she is not my first love
but that she will be my last. She was very pleased to
hear this. I had promised her to remain faithful and had
also vowed it to myself, but just after a year I
realized that my promise of faithfulness was a lie. For,
when ever any woman extended me an invitation I found it
very hard to refuse.
Once a lady asked me, “Are you dating someone?”
And I said, “Yes, I am”.
So she smiled and said, “Are you a one woman man?”
I also smiled and said, “I never was, but now I am”.
She laughed out loud and said, “If you ever change your
mind, please let me know”.
I brushed her comment aside, but could not convince my
heart. As time passed I realized that ever since I was
young I have been entrapped in a cycle of love. My love
affair begins, it slowly advances and attains climax and
moves towards its end. Love then terminates and when I
recover from the episode I embark on a new one. When I
thought of my first love I remembered she not only
introduced me to love but also to smoking cigarettes.
At first I refused but upon her insistence I too started
to smoke, and a short while later started enjoying it.
Both of us would blow rings of smoke and burst out into
laughter. That romance lasted only a few months.
My first love asked me a pinching question after six
months of dating, “Where is this relationship going?”
And I smiled.
In her view the goal of the relationship was marriage
and that dating was the first step towards it, but from
me dating was itself its own goal.
When my first love realized that I had no intention to
marry she left me. She was very hurt and I too remained
quite sad for a few months.
After a passage of a few months I met another beloved.
With her I remained for about a year. But then again it
was the same old story. The same pain and the same old
question.—Where is this relationship going? And my
My first love had introduced me to cigarettes, but to
the second one it was I who introduced her to it. My
first love was obsessed with marriage but the second one
was with children. When I told her I feel I am too young
myself she got very upset and left me. She was sad and
so was I. But my misery did not last long this time and
a few weeks later I came over it.
After my second affair I had planned on having
relationship with someone who had no obsession with
things like wedlock. My third love was a divorcee.
Though she did not show any obsession with marriage but
she showed an intense ability for jealousy. She was not
only jealous of my female companions she even envied my
male friends. She too liked to smoke like me. She would
get cheap cigarettes from Native Indian Reserves. We
would smoke and enjoy them after every act of love.
After two years of love and romance I could not stand
her jealousies anymore and so I left her.
After this third love of mine I had so many affairs that
I have now lost count. The only thing I remember is that
some were long some short episodes, some were fun some
boring. I felt that ‘to love them and leave them was not
difficult for me’ but in that process many women were
In my life a time also came when I did not date any one
for years. At last I thought I will take on another love
and that will be my last, and thus I had told my last
love, “ You are my last love”, but then again within a
year I realized that like most men I too am unfaithful
by nature. When I realized this I told my sweet heart
this truth. She was hurt a lot but before she left she
gave me her favorite poet’s following poem.
RELATIONSHIP OF NEEDS
What is my relationship with you
It is only this my love
I am a habit of yours
A relationship of needs
How so decently
Having deeply inhaled my smoke
You drop off my ashes
With your finger tip
How so beautifully
Making small smoke rings
Using my life’s breath
You exhale me
Oh! With what love
Till the last breath
You inhale, and,
You discard me
This poem affected me so much that the day I said good
bye to my love I smoked a cigarette only half and broke
it away, promising to myself that it will be my last
cigarette and she will be my last escapade.
So when I received your invitation I kept thinking for a
fortnight as to what to write. Now I do not want to
light another cigarette nor do I want to take you up as
a next love. In the last five years I have neither had a
cigarette nor a love affair. If I start an affair then
in a few months time we too will get estranged. So I
feel it might be better if we remain just friends. What
do you think?