I Don't Smoke (Anymore).

The back porch always wreaked of Marlboro Reds and menthol. Even in the thick of the humidity my ripped jeans were happily planted in the same plastic chair every time. I’d smoke two––maybe three––cigarettes in a row, because when you’re sixteen, the idea of mortality is beyond you. You’re invincible in the same cliche way as all the characters you thought you identified with in those teen novels everyone passed around.

The balcony was wide enough for three to sit in a circle. We were living in an apartment that wasn’t ours, but for those few days it belonged to no one else. The bowl was passed around between cold fingers, and it might have skipped my hands a few times under the pressure of a new job and a new life. But when you’re 21, you demand to feel something, even when your life hasn’t gone awry, or especially then. So I took a hit and was reminded that I liked cigarettes better, even though it had been five years since one touched my lips.

The streets smell faintly of tobacco and I avoid the smoke clouds of passersby. I travel far less than I used to, and though it feels like a piece of me is missing, I find solace in remembering that I sacrificed my life on the road for a life that’s bigger than I am. I’m 24, and my lungs are a few years older and arguably much cleaner, but the cigarette burns stick with me.

Gabby HallComment