Little Love Lost

A package arrives at your doorstep. You tear through the cardboard, sending a torrent of packing peanuts and bubble wrap through the air. The debris settles, and it's finally in your hands: your new pipe.

Turning it over in your fingers, you marvel at the shimmer of the contrast stain against the natural light; the infinite and microfine threads of the horn mount; the careful and deliberate funneling within the bit. Its perfection enchants you.

You run to your cellar and fill the bowl with your favorite leaf, sure to leave plenty of room for the tobacco to rise and plume once it meets the flame. As you smoke through that first bowl, you applaud the smoothness of the draw, the comfort of the bit against your teeth. They affirm the thought that grows in the back of your mind: That this pipe, this beautifully sculpted and precisely engineered piece, was made specifically for you and no other.

Over the next few days, your eyes flash to the piece. Other pipes line your cabinet, but you remember only its sweet taste, the way it fits in your hand like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. A smile creases your face as you force yourself to wait, to give it the proper resting time; eventually you give in and imbibe once again from that chalice of briar and vulcanite.

In autumn, your most prized possession inspires great hikes beneath an ever-changing canopy of rich carmine and burnt yellow. And even as the forest surrenders its final leaf to winter, it offers you respite against the cold and the dark. It fills your den with that comforting scent no candle or artificial fragrance can ever match. It's the smell of tradition, of history, of shared experience bound by neither time nor space. And so it goes... at least for a while.

This pipe, this beautifully sculpted and precisely engineered piece, was made specifically for you and no other.

The icy fractals on your window begin to recede, and you notice a change. Though the briar still stands at the center of your rack, it no longer whispers or beckons or calls. Its rim has darkened, its finish now warmer with patina, just like all the others. You still remember the enraptured feeling of that first smoke, so you keep chasing that perfect moment, an echo of laughter caught between frames. But it's not the same.

You light the pipe without ceremony; you ash it without care. You abandon it in the built-in pipe rest of your ashtray, noticing its absence only when you empty it days later. You wedge it in a slot near the back of your rack, seething as dottle spills to the floor. You tell yourself it's time for a bit of spring cleaning, and without remorse or hesitation, you send it away, along with a few other forgotten and misfit briars, to be traded-in. Little love lost.

A few weeks later, you meet up with friends at your local pipe club. As you enter the lounge, great clouds of smoke waft through the air, a wonderful melange of scents and aromas from various tobaccos, all intermixing in the small room. Through the haze, you make out one of the group's more seasoned members showing off a new pipe, and you rush to join the revelry.

"It's beautiful," one friend says, "I've seen nothing like it."

"Splendid. Absolutely splendid," says another.

You open your mouth to offer your own congratulations, but your words fail. You edge closer to the man's showpiece, each step confirming your suspicions. There in the center of the room, surrounded by your fellow club members, lifted to eye level in another's hands, is your pipe. Memories flicker through your mind: Reflective hikes through fallen leaves, a comforting warmth on a winter's night. For a moment, a pang of regret seizes your breath. But then it's gone, replaced by the laughter and cheers of friends in a smoky room.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Pipe Culture

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