Nicotine flashback


March 9, 2009 by 8junebugs

I look down and see on the elevator floor the hastily ripped cellophane wrapper and foil “flavor-saver” layer from a box of cigarettes.

I can see, plain as day, my mom’s fingernail scratching at the tab for the cellophane wrapper. I can see the knuckles on her hands as she unwraps the pack, her fingers popping back the top and pinching the foil covering the neatly packed smokes. I can see her pulling out the first cigarette, the foil tucked into the palm of her hand, and then the vision wavers. Are we in the car? By the pool? At Grand’s? Which lighter is nearest at hand is critical to the next step.

I wonder when people started turning the first cigarette upside down and putting it back in the pack as “the lucky cigarette.”

I wonder how often I smelled like cigarettes in elementary school.

I wonder how much smoke I’ve inhaled, what my susceptibility is, my risk factor.

I wonder if the foil and cellophane on the elevator floor came from a parent, a teenager, a 53-year-old.

I wonder about cigarette packaging and how often you really get those flavor-protecting layers these days, and if it depends on the brand.

I wonder what Mom would’ve done if she could have flashed forward to the last six months she lived. I would like to think she’d have closed the pack and tossed it in the trash. I know that this thought is unrealistic, particularly after 1992.

I scowl at the smoker’s litter and decide whether I need to cry.

The door opens. I walk out, turn left, and continue the Sunday laundry routine. Once done, I make non-microwave popcorn and open a bottle of champagne, because life is sometimes too goddamn short.


2 thoughts on “Nicotine flashback

  1. Amy says:

    My paternal grandmother passed away as a result of lung cancer. She continued to smoke right up until the end. She was living with us for a while, and my father refused to allow smoking in the house, so she went out on the porch to smoke, even in the winter. I still remember that… at the time, I thought that it was cruel not to let his own mother smoke in the house. Now, I’m grateful for that, as I realize that he was protecting his own kids.
    This is a beautiful, poignant post… Life is too short. Enjoy the champagne. 🙂

  2. 8junebugs says:

    I know very few people who still smoke, and most of them won’t smoke inside their own homes, much less in mine. I’ll put an ash tray on the balcony, though.

    Restaurants that still do the smoking/nonsmoking sections just kill me. It’s like having peeing/nonpeeing sections in a pool.

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