Cold against my thigh, I feel you in my pocket reminding me that I want to smoke. Your weight is comforting to me. Unlike your plastic imitators, you have substance, bulk, a heaviness that hints at your great worth. Ahhhh, my Zippo.
My first was stamped with the Army Engineer logo. That made Zippo a life icon, forever to be tied to my memories of the service, no matter which of you I carried.
I lost it at Delos. Well, not lost per se…more like creatively disappeared. I met my first Navy SEALs at Delos (as well as my first Marine Force Recon, Army Special Forces and a guy who, for lack of a better word, was a “Contractor”—in the old days we just called them mercenaries). Delos was a junk drawer of specialties and branches, thrown together to teach “Light Fighter” skills to the new Light Divisions. Insane bastards SEALs are. It would be years before I figured out they’re all like that. Magnificent, unbalanced, steely-eyed goons with a humor that drifts into the brutal. My first cadre haircut was executed by a SEAL; a little off the top, a little off the back, a little off the sides, skin, skin, skin. OUCH! You son of a bitch…that’s my skull!
I was 20 and had just been promoted to Specialist. It’s sort of like a Corporal (same pay grade) but because I was an engineer with a specialty, the rank is called “Specialist”…we even had our own secret society. Perhaps you’ve heard of the E4 Mafia? I was an engineer of the combat variety–12B. The Light version of 12B (or Sapper) is best at making things go BOOM. But as far as the Light Fighter Cadre were concerned, I was a mountain specialist (because I had my own climbing gear and could slack jump from any height.) They had running bets on when I’d pull up too much slack and hit the ground before braking.
I lost my first Zippo because I was dumb enough to loan it to a SEAL. Squidy bastard. “We don’t have any igniters for the time fuse. Give me your lighter.”
Young, starstruck and naive, I handed it over, its raised red castle logo winking at me one last time as he took it. Later when I asked for its return, Carr (the SEAL) patted his pockets one at a time, then shrugged. “Damn…I must have left it on the range.” Two is one and one is none.
My first love, stolen by a SEAL. Bastard. I’m certain I’m not the first to say those words, but I doubt anyone else meant their lighter. 😉
I’ve had and lost a few more Zippos over the years. They do make tasty targets for lustful smokers. I see them eyeing it when I whip it out to light up or their heads twist when the satisfying, deep metallic “click” catches their attention. Like a cat drawn to the sound of a can opener, the iconic ring of an opening Zippo swivels most Bic users’ heads—lighter envy. Don’t deny it…I see you watching.
My most recent (and longest held) Zippo was purchased for me by my own sweet Gretel. I received it in my Christmas stocking more than a decade ago. It wasn’t the first time I saw it. I confess I led her to it. We were shopping for Christmas gifts and I paused by a display case. She drifted ahead of me and I cleared my throat. “Eh-hem.”
She turned. “What?”
I shook my head. “Nothing,” I said, but knocked my knuckle against the display case.
She walked back and looked in as I peered forward, pretending I had nothing on my mind. But I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she pointed it out to the sales girl.
“Uh uh,” I grunted without looking, then nodded my head sideways.
She looked at me, smiling, then pointed at the one I really wanted–a black enameled brass zippo with a tribal red dragon. Yum.
I didn’t lay eyes on it again until Christmas morning. I acted surprised, amazed and stupified that she had picked such a special gift all on her own. “Oh, my god! How did you know?!”
It’s been a constant pocket companion since that day. And I don’t let anyone borrow it—I’ve learned my lesson.
So I’m on my own this New Year’s Eve…At some point during the day, two of my kids are taking me to see Assassin’s Creed (Oh they know me so well). But tonight, instead of counting down with my sweet Gretel, the end of the worst year I’ve so far experienced, I’ll be turning in early and hoping to wake up on January 1st, 2016. We need a do-over, my trusty Zippo, Gretel and I (and maybe everyone else too).
Happy New Year to all and thank you once again for all the well wishes, page turns, and selfless shares. You’re the best.