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Smoky Visions of Goodbye
It is not his day--for that matter, it is not his year--but then, when has it ever been his anything? “It ain’t fair.” A puff of grey smoke twines past his lips in a hurry. “It ain’t ever fair. Life. ain’t. fair.” He closes his eyes and strains his ears for the sound of his mother’s honeysuckle voice caressing his thoughts.
“Stop smoking, Elias, my silly little boy,” she always croons at him, “Stop smoking!”
Elias opens his empty eyes and lifts the cigarette back to his lips, taking another long drag of the tar flavored cancer stick cradled between his fore finger and thumb. Sometimes he contemplates quitting, but then he’d never be able to hear her call to him again. Even if smoking kills him, he cannot think of anyone who would mind; his brother wants him dead anyway, and his father drank himself to death, not too long after his mother passed.
A dog barks in the distance. Elias wonders what color the dog is. “Brown is a common color for dogs,” he contemplates absently, “perhaps white.” He wonders what color the world is. His thoughts darken as his mind meanders toward his brother. Against his will, Elias’ subconscious supplies him with the name that he has promised himself he would forget: “Sal”
Bitterly, Elias grinds his teeth around his cigarette and spits it out, listening intently for where it lands, smothering it with the toe of his heavy boot the moment it meets the concrete. He is aware of the honking horns in the street and the wary stares of onlookers passing him not needing his eyes to feel their heated glares. He was born blind, but enjoys the comforting silence that the lack of visual stimuli leaves. The cool cinder block supporting him stays firm, holding him place; it is unyielding no matter how hard Elias pushes against it. Sighing breathlessly, he can feel the cold bite of his own breath across his nose as it condenses in the frigid air, and he retreats deeper into the welcoming wool of his grey coat, shivering slightly.
Elias wonders where his brother went after their fight. “I HATE YOU!” The younger boy had screamed at Elias, flecks of burning saliva melting away pieces of his face like acid. “You killed her with your goddamn second-hand smoke!! You happy now!?” Even though both boys knew that it was an unreasonable accusation--their mother had smoked a pack a day for twelve years--it was no doubt something that they would choose to believe, and a burden that Elias let dictate his life ever since. It was for their mother’s memory that he smoked. He never quite enjoyed the taste, the method, or any other part of smoking, but it did get her attention focused on him; it was how they bonded. For the most part, the two of them spending time together resulted in violent fights. But she always managed to talk to him with a civil, even friendly, tone when she caught him with a cigarette between his fingers and a glass of whisky resting in his palm.
“Such a naughty boy, taking on vices at such a young age. You get that from me though. Now pour me a glass of the good stuff, and let me tell you about when I was your age!”
But she’d stopped drinking many years back, so he would pour her a sugary glass of Dr. Pepper. Her half-delirious odysseys would always stick with Elias, but he knew that Sal would never forgive Elias for “stealing” time with their mother away from the greedy younger boy.
Elias sighs and listens pensively to the clock on the top of the building he is standing under chime ten. It is too late for him to be outside in this overcrowded neighborhood. Grabbing his maple wood cane, Elias saunters off, vowing silently to himself that today will be the day he stops smoking. Today will be the day he looks for Sal. Today will be the day that he is reconciled with family. Today will be the day--“Aw, screw it. I’ll probably never stop.”
Face serene, Elias walks down the street without opening his eyes, dragging his cane on the ground and relying on only the echoing kerfuffle of the crowd to tell him his place amongst the throng. His smooth tanned hands are shoved roughly in his pockets, and he stands proudly, refusing to apologize to the few people he bumps in to. He listens especially for familiar sounds; strains his ears for the sound of his brother’s cries.
“Where are you?” He whispers to the wind.
“Come home soon.” He begs to the horizon.