I watched the fan’s blades turn into a perfect circle slushing through the heat and silence that haunted my room after the meeting yesterday. I stared past the fan to the ceiling that had a dent in it from the time I tried to scare a lizard across the ceiling to the window with a broomstick but instead stabbed into its tail, the pigment of its tail still tainted the dent in the ceiling.
My phone buzzed me back from my meaningless useless stroll down memory lane. I continued to stare at the ceiling as my phone buzzed, flashing green as it buzzed as a lighthouse illuminating greenlights through the darkness. For a moment it seemed like I could see the tones from my buzzing phone bounce from wall to wall, gliding through the fan then finally settling on my calendar that marked 11 months of being smoke-free, yesterday.
“Not anymore,” I said to myself as I swung the cigarette towards my lips to receive the kiss of life, that had never failed to calm and soothe my stressed, frustrated, and aching heart. I felt the smoke swirl in my lungs as I inhaled, it felt like I had finally had my first sip of water after months of thirsting in the dry heat. As I exhaled I felt my throat burn and screech as if the smoke was forcefully dragging all the anxiety, stress, and disappointments that had a firm grip on me as the smoke left my body. The smoke I had exhaled and the smoke coming from the embers at the end of my cigarette dance to the ceiling intertwining with the fan. As the smoke intertwined with the fan an image of memory started to creep into my mind.
The Image took me back to the first pack of cigarettes I bought 8 years ago, how nervous I was. My father had always told me “Only fools and idiots smoke” I didn't know what he meant by that and thought he was being harsh...until that first pack of cigarettes I bought, he was right they were fools I had joined the pack. The box was drowning with warnings of cancer-causing chemicals. That should have stopped me, the word CANCER. The cancer had always managed to intertwine himself in my family lineage like an heirloom or crown to the throne, I was slowly being next in line for the throne. My Grandfather died from lung cancer and he had never smoked a day in his life. I was next in line to the throne but I was going to be the King of the fools.
Skipping from one memory to the next, I remembered the first time I fell in love and he broke my heart mercilessly. I remember the conversation I had with my friend as I was beginning my healing journey.
“Imagine if people were like cigarette boxes with the warning on them of what type of a person they were and what they’d put you through, I would have dodged his bullet” I ironically said kissing the smoky angel of death.
“Would you have dodged it though?”She asked, waving the smoke away that had been blown her way by the wind.
“I’m sure I would have,” I said, and it felt like a lie. I would have bathed in his toxicity piercing through my skin and claimed it was healthy and part of the process. I would have inhaled his lies that serenaded my soul because it was what I wanted to hear. Red flags strolled past me, poked me, and screamed at me till I danced to their tune and it felt like home, it was a cold home but it was still a home I would convince myself. So yes, I would have still walked into his arms even after getting a warning or heads up. Maybe Frankie Lymon, Elvis Presley, and other Musicians and poets were right about people in love being fools.
My phone buzzed again dragging me back to the present I had drifted away from. The cigarette was still tucked safely between my fingers but not burning anymore. “Pull yourself together Chiedza,” I said to myself as I lunged myself out of bed still wearing my suit and heels from yesterday's meeting“ Mama and Daddy didn’t raise a quitter.” I grabbed the remaining pack of cigarettes and my phone that I had managed to religiously ignore and headed to the kitchen. As I walked to the kitchen a memory of what my mother had said once tickled my brain. “ I know you’re a loner Chiedza,” she had said “ You need to make networks and connections with people '' she continued. I remembered how I had brushed it off and said I didn't need anyone’s help to prosper and that I was doing pretty well all by myself. And like My father, Frankie Lymone and Elvis, my mother was right and I would learn this the hard way. The promotion I had been working towards during the five years I had been working for this agency had been pulled from right under me like a rug I thought would never slip but instead tossed me into rock bottom within seconds. The man who had stolen my opportunity, purpose, dream, and birthright had only been working with us for 10 months, I had trained him and shown him around. The student had become the master propelled by his networks and connections that were stronger than nepotism or the union between corrupt leaders. He was a hard worker but his networks gave him a headstart in the race.
When I got to the kitchen I emptied the box of cigarettes into the blender. At first, the cigarettes were being tossed around within the blender till they were sliced, diced, and ground into a powder. This time the goodbye was permanent.
I looked out through my cracked window that looked like a spider's web woven by a disorganized, amateur, or even blind spider. The sun sipping through the cracks made a beautiful rainbow reflection on the kitchen cabinets, I hadn't noticed it before. I was finally at peace with myself until I saw my neighbor storming towards the front door like a raging bull prepared to attack me. “Not today Satan. I see no evil” I said, sneaking as softly and quickly as possible up the stairs to my room. When he got to the door he knocked it aggressively like was intending to knock it down accompanied by his yelling and complaining “I hear no evil,” I whispered as I got to the top of the stairs the suddenly my phone buzzed again slipping out of my pocket tumbling down the stairs with loud thumps as if it was letting my neighbor know I was home. “And I shall speak no evil either,” I said as the violence he inflicted on the door intensified. 1-10 I counted in my head as I walked down the stairs to my doom to face one last demon of the day.
“Is there a problem?” was the first thing I had said when I swung the door open, trying to sound as polite and calm as possible to not match his negative energy.
“Idiots cannot have a civilized confrontation and argument, they feel they must physically fight you or scream at you,” My parents would always say when my brothers and I would argue. Would it be a sibling argument without fist or yelling involved? I always silently wondered. In high school I was guilty of being the idiot because the only time my peers listened was when I unleashed the beast I would try my best to hide and they’d leave me alone for a moment. One stranger once told me “If you argue with someone and they choose to fight they are stupid and you're smarter,”
Without any greeting, he immediately said“I don't know how many times I have to come here and complain about...” Not enough clearly I thought to myself. I already knew what he was going to complain about and I would always mentally respond. “Your dog pooped in my lawn again,” I don't walk my dog in the neighborhood “Your dog’s barking is very distracting,” your daughter's noise she claims is singing is very distracting as well “Your parties are getting out of hand should I involve the police?” I barely have people over the parties are at the next house but you choose to complain to me because you think ill complain to them on your behalf because the last time you went to them they cussed you out and embarrassed you “You smoking is not my problem not even the tobacco smell I have chosen to tolerate but it becomes my problem when you leave the butts all over and they get blown over to my side” I haven't smoked in 11 months and even when I did I would take the butt back inside. Maybe you should ask your son about the new hobby he participates in the middle of the night.
It was always something new. Today I would not pay attention but instead, nod in agreement while I mused over meaningless issues like Why is colonel spelt the way it is but pronounces that way? why is awkward not spelt awquad? But it would look weird spelled awquad.
“We are grown there's no need to lie or accept $#%t you don’t care about, life is too short,” my brother would always chant his anthem after telling the raw truth.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted his train of complaints. “I appreciate you coming to tell me this but I thought you would have figured by now that your little complaining charades haven't changed anything. Also, I am very tired right now to entertain your theatrics and I honestly was not paying attention. Would you mind coming back tomorrow and we can go over this again...but civilized this time like adults and maybe I will listen and act. Have a nice day” I politely said, sliding back into the house and closing the door gently and slowly as I watched the shock and confusion ignite on his face as he stood still. I had never responded, he was used to the yes sir. I'm sorry sir. I'll look into it, it won't happen again. I had been a fool for a little too long. Never again was I to be the King of Fools, respectfully.