I am sitting on the porch after a full day of work, the afternoon painfully hot but tickled by a refreshing breeze, which makes the heat tolerable. It is shady back here, too. The porch is on the second story, lending it the feel of a tree house enclosed by a veil of greenery. All the other women are inside watching TV, but I like it out here.
The journal sits on my lap, open, but still untouched. We are supposed to journal every day – they check at the weekly meeting – but after nearly two weeks of being here I still don’t have anything to say. I spent the first few days describing in great detail my favorite drinks (smoky Cabernets frosty lemon-drops tart margaritas) and how badly I wanted them, but that is a slow form of torture. It’s best not to think about it.
There is nothing else to say.
Instead, I fill the pages with stories about my time in France, the way the cobblestones poked under my feet, the way the croissants made me want to bow in worship at their divine flakiness, the way it felt to stand inside a building that was older than Jesus. These memories I cling to like film wrap, because they are the only good things I can remember feeling as an adult. That was about four years ago now.
I deeply inhale the cigarette I am smoking, absorbing the quiet, which is punctuated by an occasional bird call or rustle of a squirrel. I don’t smoke, I don’t plan to start smoking, but the first pack I ever bought sits on the porch rail beside me. Newport Menthols. They taste like tar and minty cancer, but they make me light-headed, which I need.
Actually, I didn’t really buy them because I’m still not allowed off campus yet – I gave one of the girls who has off-site privileges my ten bucks for the week, and told her what to buy. After a week of bumming puffs off of other girls’ cigarettes and furtively lighting up their discarded butts after they leave, I finally decide it’s time to just buy my own. It’s not what I want (rich piña coladas dry champagne puckery cosmopolitans), but it gives me something to chase.
Once the paper burns down to about the halfway point, I stub it out and tuck it back into the pack for later. I have the dizzy feeling I want, so now I can relax. I lean back in the rickety plastic chair and think about how I wouldn’t be able to do this if I was back in my old life – rest, I mean. There was no rest in my old life. I think about how when I finished my first job midday, I’d go to my second job. When I finished my second job late afternoon, I went to school. When I finished school at night, I came home and studied or did homework until I fell asleep with whatever book I was reading for literary theory open on the floor next to my bed.
Now, I can come home from one job and rest. Maybe that’s all I needed, I think. Just a little rest. Is this what normal people do, I wonder?
Despite the October heat, I take a gulp of steaming coffee, which is also sitting beside me. The coffee helps a little too, just like the cigarette. It gives me something to do. Before the cigarettes, I was preparing several thermoses of coffee a day. I drank coffee until my mouth dried up and my hands started shaking. Now that I have the cigarettes, I don’t need to drink as much coffee, and I physically feel a little better, even though I don’t like the way the cigarettes make my fingers smell.
I sit on the porch. I rest. I don’t feel anything.
But still, it’s nice.
I pick up my pen and start writing.
This is for the Yeah Write challenge, which you should TOTALLY check out. Tune in tomorrow for a return to the funny!