I had never smoked in my life. Well, other than that one half pack of menthols in junior year of high school. Then I ended up giving the other half to my friend, Shania, who had encouraged me to buy the damn things to begin with . Go figure that thirty year later she would have her own lounge act in New York City, belting out retro tunes accompanied by a sole piano player. You just never know.
And here I was. Two years cancer free, managing to get myself to the gym almost daily, eating well (if not a bit decadently) and usually so much smarter than this, or, at least, I had hoped so, standing in a dark corner of the car park. Smoking a cigarette. Watching miniature clouds sweep around my head, the light from a quarter moon lighting it up like the fog in an old detective film.
The smoke was pretty, I’ll give you that, even as I imagined my alveoli going up in flame with each inhalation. The filter was almost warm between my fingers in soft contrast with the damp night air. The taste bitter and quite nasty to be honest, but I was pissed off, depressed and confused. My life was wonderful by most people’s accounts. A few days prior and I would have agreed with them. But something had shifted.
Nothing major had happened. No one had died, my grown kids were fine, my finances solvent . I’ve always found it funny but isn’t it true that often the most disconcerting changes are those small, subtle turnings under the surface? The ones that you barely feel until in a moment you blink and find that the angle of the world you thought you lived in has been moved just enough to throw you off balance. Much like taking a sip from your coffee mug only to discover someone served you mint tea instead.
And maybe that was it. Since the snow globe of my life had been shaken and all of the pieces seemed airborne, perhaps some part of me wanted to take the opportunity before the dust settled to do something I’d never done, to dabble in this minor self destructive rebelion and shake my fist at the universe.
Standing deep in the spidery shadows cast by the moon, I watched the last tendrils of pale blue dissipate before my eyes as my final exhale floated up to the stars. I dropped the glowing cherry onto the cold pavement, strangely compelling as the only warm in a sea of cool blue. And with one grinding of my shoe’s sole, the rebellion was vanquished.