I just started smoking again. The doctor told me today that I have a lump in my breast, and as I held my hand over the mass, suddenly all I knew was that a cigarette would taste good. I could feel the remembered heat coming in, going out. I needed that.
I walked to the end of my street of single-family brick homes, two blocks inside the city line. I walked into the 7-Eleven, right up to the counter, an open square near the front of the store, and asked for a pack of Marlboro Lights, the only brand I’ve ever smoked, a white suburban kid’s type. If I were anyone but a creature of habit, I would have picked Newports, which everyone around here smokes, or Camels, which my ex used to inhale. But I couldn’t think.
As I walked back up my street, I sucked on that long, thin cigarette and felt my breast, fingering the lump as a lover would. After years of not smoking, this new inhalation made me dizzy, and I had to stop on my front porch, an unattractive slab of concrete with a black wrought iron rail, and hold my head in both hands. Then I could unlock the front door and then the inner door that led to the stairs of my one-bedroom apartment. Now, I thought, I see the world as it really is. It swirls around me, and only when I stop do I notice that everything is spinning.
Terri Solomon is a poet and a high school English teacher who lives in Baltimore. She has since stopped smoking. Reprinted from “What You’re Writing,” a regular smattering of short essays submitted by readers and published in Urbanite(Feb. 2008), the magazine for Baltimore’s curious. Subscriptions: $18/yr. (12 issues) from Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211; www.urbanitebaltimore.com.