When I step out of the shower and feel the first chill of air against my wet skin, I wake up for the day. Only then can I make plans: shopping to buy, errands to run, housework.
Ideas tumble through my mind but I cannot settle on one. There’s a crack in the ceiling I had not noticed before and beyond it a fine spider’s web pearled with water droplets from the steam. It is winter. The bathroom mirror is fogged. The extractor fan has lost any ability to do its job. I flick it on at the switch and it grinds noisily but has no effect.
I cannot see my image in the mirror, which is just as well. I could not see anyhow. My glasses on the bench have fogged up, too. Without them the world is a fuzzy ball. Yet in my mind I see it all clearly now, the thought unbidden like an apple falling from a tree.
Those cigarettes will kill me. I have to stop smoking.
I have had this thought before but today it feels different. Today it will not go away. Today is the day, I tell myself. Today is the last day. After today I will never smoke another cigarette again. Without the fan the left over smell of my own cigarettes even through the fug of the warm wet bathroom reminds me of the stench of my childhood home.
My throat constricts. I cannot stop coughing and mucus rises into my mouth.
My father died of emphysema, did you know? He died for want of breath. He died when he was sixty-five years old, when his body could not go on against the wretched struggles of his heart to pump blood around his body, and his lungs could no longer take in fresh air and use it to purify his blood.
One day soon the bathroom fan will collapse. My father’s lungs were like the extractor fan in my bathroom. They collapsed. The noise the fan makes now is like the sound of my father’s catarrh. The sound of his hacking cough as it rattles through the hallways of my memory.
And did you know I took up smoking when I was well into adulthood? I cannot plead the excuse of the young, those keen to prove themselves. I had, I thought then, already proved myself. But I took up smoking almost to the day that my father stopped.
I know it pained him to see me drag in the sweet cigarette smoke while he could scarcely breathe under the weight of his own now passive smoking. I should have left the room, but I wanted him to suffer. A cruel punishment to inflict on my father; something of what he had inflicted on me, as if to say to him, there you see, you did it, you taught me and now you must suffer. Reap the benefits.
Do you know I am now officially addicted. I cannot give up smoking without suffering the pain of withdrawal. I know this now. It is an unhappy thought. How will I endure the next few days, the next few weeks without the comfort of my cigarettes?
My body is dry. The towel is wet. I hang it out along the rack. I step into my dressing gown and slippers, then make my way to the bedroom to dress for the day. Sandals, a t-shirt and jeans. My cigarettes lie on the mantelpiece where I last left them. I pick up the packet ready for that first cigarette of the day. My body rises to greet the first rush.
No, I say. Today is the day, not tomorrow. I throw the packet outside my window into the teeming rain where the cigarettes will grow soggy and incapable of offering solace to anyone. I go cold turkey.