From A Work In Progress

Yes, I’m still working on my work(s) in progress.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.

I loved the way she smoked cigarettes.

Yeah, we know smoking is bad for you. Cancer. Heart attack. Tarry kisses tinged in ash. An expensive addiction. It’s a disgusting habit. Yada-yada.

I’d always been enthralled with the way she executed her vice, her movements a poetry. She’d extract the cigarette from the package, using the tips of her long, painted nails, a perfect manicure at the end of long, slender fingers. After the cig had been freed, she’d tap the end of it against the pack gently, one, two, three times – no more – before balancing the stick between her first and second fingers of her right hand. The filter poised near lips that first pouted against entry, but relented. Usually sparks came via someone else’s lighter, but she’d do it herself in a pinch. The first exaggerated draw, a slight escape of smoke from the corner of her mouth, before she sucked it in. After the exhale, she’d extend her right arm away, an ebb of vice, a pregnant pause.

She’d sit pensive after that first puff, her eyes clouded over, her face slack. She’d left our world for her own, perhaps considering what might have been instead of her current reality. Maybe she dreamed of being the mistress of a mansion. I knew Grandma had lived in one, back in the day. She’d told me the stories of the grand staircases, the stained glass, the carved friezes. There had been butlers and maids and flouncy party dresses and all the ice cream you could dream of. But Grandma was gone now, along with the trappings of privilege. We’d been relegated to a matchbox of a house, where the windows leaked air and rain and the kitchen cabinets didn’t shut right because the hinges were bent and rusted. Where worn coats were mended and a full stomach was a guilty pleasure.

“Mama?” I tapped her arm, the free one.

She roused as if from a dream and scowled at me. “What? What do you want now? Can’t I get one minute of peace?” Her words snapped, short and mean, but she held the cigarette with the elegance of a society girl.

“I’m hungry, Mama.”

She glared at me, tapped spent ash onto the tray, before lifting the cigarette to her lips, drawing long. She closed her eyes and journeyed to her faraway place, taking the scenic route to a location without interruptions.

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