The Late Maternal Mistake

August 17, 2008
Inhale deeply please. Act like you enjoy the taste, see how your friends smile? Resist the urge to cough, that only shows weakness. Quit while you're pregnant. Count down until you can thankfully resume. "Basic Lights please," this phrase is now second nature. Flick the lighter, watch the orange flames engulf it. Fill your lungs to their capacity with the sweet smoke, now exhale. This is relaxing, isn't it? In the car, tell your children never to start, like the pamphlets advise. Make a left here at the gas station, your pack is almost empty. Light another, it's been a long day. Inhale, exhale. Blow the smoke away from your asthmatic daughter, though the smoke still reaches her, causing her to cough. Think of a witty remark when your daughter tells you to quit. Think fast, for her facts are well-researched.$42.79, hand it to the cashier. Good things cost more. Light another, this conversation calls for one. Inhale, exhale. Feel that twinge in your chest? It's nothing, right? Ignore her when she says your breath smells like smoke. The breath mint fixed that, right? Stand outside in your winter coat, 11 degrees F. Chatter your teeth while it dangles in your fingers. Inhale, exhale.
Annual physical comes, nothing new. "How many per day?" the doctor will ask. "Oh one or two," you will lie. He'll come back in the room, shoulders back, face stern. "Cancer," he will whisper. Tell him he's mistaken. Don't react, just walk. Back to your car, the parking lot. Rest your head of the steering wheel. It's cold, like the examination table. Don't take too long, your grandson's birthday party is in an hour, remember? Wipe the tear that slid down your cheek, turn the ignition on.
Hug your children, squeeze them a bit tighter. Give your grandson your present, his face is like morning. Stare at him a second longer, savor his expressions. It might be the last time you see them. Across the table, look at your children one by one. Mostly grown now, your youngest graduating soon. Smile genuinely, make sure they know you love them.
Don't flinch from the cold metal. Let the heart monitor's beep relax you, it means you still have time. One by one they'll arrive. Flowers in hand, a few cards on the desk. They will hug you gently, you're so fragile now. A few will cry, hold their hand. "I'm too young," you'll silently scream, but it's too late. Study each one of their faces, one last time. The beeps will get slower, so keep watch. Say a Hail Mary for them, as one sinks his tear-sogged head in his hands. You'd give anything for a few more minutes, but they won't be given. Beeps slower yet, rest your eyes. The insides will be orange as you drift away. Inhale, exhale, right?

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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Artistic_whirlwind said...
Mar. 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm
Haunting is right. I feel like this should have been published in the magazine.
Anna H. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm
This is a very haunting piece and beautifully written. I'm the child of a smoker (which I hate) and it really, really hits home.
Well done xxx
TheEndxD This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 24, 2009 at 11:45 pm
Awesome. This is written perfectly to describe the situation, if you can call it a situation. :]
me said...
Oct. 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm
Oh wow. Really moving. Excellent job!
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