As we drove toward the place I had called home for the first 18 years of my life. I began to feel anxious. What if my mom couldn’t accept this about me?
“What’s up, Mel?” Anna glanced at me as she continued to drive me closer to my doom. “You get used to it. Disappointing Mom. It gets easier with time.”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“Well, it isn’t rocket science. Plus, I’ve got lots of experience with this. As much as I hate seeing you agonize over this, I’m glad it isn’t me in the hot seat for once.”
“Thanks, sis.” I rolled my eyes.
“Hey, it wasn’t easy living in your shadow, constantly being compared to you.” She retorted.
“I know. That had to be hard for you.”
“I think this revelation will more than make up for years of not living up to your standard.” She winked, but I knew she was savoring my fall from grace.
As we pulled up to the driveway, I could feel my heart speed up and for the first time in awhile it wasn’t due to my consumption of cigarettes. Here goes nothing I thought.
My mom greeted me at the door, hugged me and said, “I’ve missed you so much! I’m glad you are home for thanksgiving!”
“I’m going to go put my bag in my room, Mom.” I said, wanting to leave before she detect the smell of smoke on me. “I might go have a shower, too. I feel a bit grubby after riding the bus.”
“That sounds good dear.” She replied, “I’m going to go finish up dinner. It will be ready in about 30 minutes.”
“Okay mom, I’ll be quick.” I said, making my retreat upstairs.
All I kept thinking in my head is about how much I was going to let my mom down. This was coupled with cravings to smoke again despite having only smoked less than an hour ago. Fuck. I turned on the shower and let the water warm up for a bit before jumping in. I stood under the hot steamy water for what seemed like an eternity. “I’m a smoker now.” was the only thought going through my brain. After about 30 minutes of basking in the heat of the hot water, I emerged no longer smelling like a smoker, but still there it was.
By that point it was time for dinner. My mom, as per usual, had out done herself and of course in honour of my return it was my favorite meal: chicken enchiladas. We ate dinner with the normal family chatter, what people did that day. I was distracted my worry of what my mom was going to think. I decided, probably best to tell dad first. I knew Dad would probably sneak off some point during the evening to “take out the recycling” or some other task that would allow him to get his fix. I would follow him out with my cigarettes and light up with him. It sounded like an easy plan, but I was terrified.
My opportunity came around 9 pm. We were all watching TV and Dad announces, “I’m going to take out the recycling.” I waited about 30 seconds and silently followed him. I had decided it was easier to keep a single cigarette and a lighter in my hoody pocket rather than my whole pack. By the time I got out there, my Dad was already smoking. I came up behind him and startled him,
“Did you need some help with the recycling?” I asked.
“Oh… ah… oh… my. Um There is no recycling.” He sighed knowing he had been caught. He took a long drag from his cigarette inhaled and after holding it there for a few seconds exhaled.
“Don’t worry, Dad. Your secret is safe with me. But you know she knows, right?”
“Yeah, but it is easier for her to pretend I don’t smoke anymore. This ruse allows for that.”
“I have something to tell you, Dad. This is hard for me, because I don’t want to disappoint you, but I guess I’m more like you than you might know. I started smoking.” I looked down because I didn’t want to see the look in his eye and my hand trembling, I took the cigarette out of my hoodie and as quickly as I could lit up. I didn’t want him to have the chance to tell me I couldn’t because I hadn’t smoked in close to 4 hours and I really needed it. I took a drag, inhaled, took another and inhaled and held it in for awhile before exhaling. My calm was returning and for a moment I didn’t care what my dad though because I felt good again.
“Oh Mel…Not you too. Your mother is going to flip. She is upset enough about Anna.” He said with a worried look on his face. Not disappointed though, just worried.
“Your not mad or disappointed?” I asked, taking another drag.
“I can’t say that I am super happy for you. I don’t think any parent wants their child to start smoking. That said, I understand why you want to and how it feels to satisfy cravings. I can tell you really needed that cigarette. I’m more worried about your mother. Ever since she quit smoking 17 years ago, she has been unreasonably anti-smoking. It is going to kill her that both her daughters smoke.”
I couldn’t look my father in the eye. I simply started at the ground, pit of guilt forming in my stomach. I did another double pump to try to counter act the guilt with nicotine. It almost worked. “What do you suggest I do?”
My dad was silent for a long time, smoking pensively and finally he looked up at me solemnly and said. “You could get her to start smoking again.”