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I'm More Effective Than a Nicotine Patch

By Brenda Z.

     I remember the smell cigarette smoke invading my nose as I stood in the doorway of our old house, glaring up at the dark figure that was Dad and the tiny spark of red and yellow glowing at the end of his hand. This had become a routine at some point. Dad would come home and we would eat the leftovers Mom cooked days ago. Sometimes Mom and Dad would get into a fight and it would result in Dad slamming his chopsticks into his plate and storming upstairs, leaving me to dine at the dinner table alone and in silence after the ringing from the plate being struck had disappeared into nothing. 

     If I was lucky, it wouldn’t happen and Dad would walk through the front door onto our front porch and smoke a cigarette. Whenever I pressured him about it, he was quick to reason that it was to relieve stress. Even though I didn’t fully understand the purpose or concept of a cigarette, I knew it was bad because it had the potential to shorten Dad’s life. That was not going to happen. Not on my watch. So, each night that Dad went out with a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other, I follow him out. He stood outside next in front of the bush that decorated our front lawn and stared off beyond the wall that separated us from the busy highway. The cold air creeped through the door into the house, and I faked a coughing fit. 

     “Go inside Brenda.” I coughed some more. “It’s cold. Go inside.” 

     I was young and didn’t quite know exactly how multiplication worked, but I knew that if I made Dad choose between his moment of relief for my well-being that he would always pick me. That’s what dads do right? 

     Dad sighed. 

     He took one last puff of his cigarette and dropped it on the ground. The glowing end disappeared as Dad repeatedly stomped on it. I had won this time but tomorrow night would be another battle. The sky was so dark the you could see the little white speckles of stars. The moon shined in the distance: a reminder of how insignificant we are and therefore how insignificant our problems are. Dad probably found comfort in this. That and his box of cigarettes.