Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A lady is smoking

"Ladies can smoke?" The small voice behind me rings with disbelief.
"Hmmm."
Pause.
"Ladies can smoke." Wondering, amazed. "Men can smoke, too!"
"If they're silly enough."
"Ladies can smoke. Men can smoke. EVERYONE can smoke!"
"Mmmm."
"If they're SILLY enough."

Outside the cafe window, beneath a cobalt April sky, a lady is smoking at her footpath table. She is fashionably draped in black, caramel hair twisted in an artfully messy ponytail. Black sunglasses swim over her eyes. The smoke from her roll-your-own cigarette snakes over her head, over the empty table next to her. One table over, an immaculate baby sits on her mother's knee, barefoot. She examines a pale green lettuce leaf, turning it over in the sunlight. Slowly, languidly, a banner of smoke unfurls above her wispy head.

Across the road, in front of an empty cafe (closed for Monday), a man is smoking. It's the waiter who brought me my felafel, now discarded, half-eaten, at my elbow. He leans against a pole and watches across the road, measuring out his break by the dwindling cigarette.

"It's time for us to go."
I glance over my shoulder. Behind me, the Peter Rabbit books are returned to the shelves and the bill is paid.

6 comments:

Penni said...

When Una was still quite new I used to fantasise about sneaking off and buying a packet of cigarettes and then smoking them in secret at the railway station. I hadn't smoked for five years, and had never really missed it and then all of a sudden I craved it so heartily. It would be like having an affair. Like having an affair with the me who used to smoke.

Smoking is one of the things I find hardest to explain to my kids. It just doesn't really make any sense.

Ariel said...

Tell me about it! It's the association with your old self, isn't it? I had a cigarette (ok, two) a couple of weeks ago for the first ime in two years and all I could think about for the next day was how I felt I'd let F down - though obviously, he wasn't there and won't know about it.

I use to smoke when he wasn't around when he was smaller. As soon as I finished breastfeeding, I did it - and it was like keeping an illicit part of my old self.

Filthy habit, but. God knows what the attraction is ...

eleanor bloom said...

I hate the stink of smoking... but, if it weren't for that (and the small point of health concerns) I would definitely smoke. It is the art of it or something. And, if i did, I would love to be daring enough to use a cigarette holder. Chi chi dahling.

meli said...

heh. when, at the age of ten, i discovered my dad smoking a cigar, i was heartbroken. horrified. betrayed. i think it's the intensity of the anti-smoking campaign in schools...

ThirdCat said...

Smoking ROCKS. Except that it sucks. And that, my friends, is the worst thing about being over 30 years old. Wisdom. It spoils everything.

Ariel said...

Yep, I think it's the intensity of the anti-smoking campaign EVERYWHERE. And so sensible. Kids are so sensible about things like the environment and smoking. 'If it's bad, don't do it!' In some ways, we get dumber as we get older ...

TC, I am realising the folly of wisdom. Or at least, the way it makes life less fun.