Keep Away from Small Children

So I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop which is always a little too warm, but never too cozy trying to start on this opening story for a book idea my also recently broken up with roommate and best friend Amy and I had. It had to be the “end for a new beginning” sort of deal. As I am writing my story about the day Edward, my high school sweetheart who I ended up spending 6 ½ years of my life with ended it with me…in the car…after picking him up from the airport, I begin to feel really warm and dizzy.

As my hands tingle and my arms and legs follow suit, tears well up in my eyes. My music begins to get on my nerves as the constant pounding of the beats reverberate in my ears and my now pulsing headache. I throw off my headphones and try to calm down. As soon as I jerk them out of my ears the music in the coffee shop is Billie freaking Holiday or something, and the song is sad, soulful and full of remorse.

Just like my head and heart right then.

“I’ll Be Seeing You” comes on and I can’t take it anymore. I put my headphones back on and reread what I have written so far on the page. I become anxious again because it just isn’t right. Everything sounds like crap and the words begin to blur as my eyes fill with tears again.

I begin to wonder once again if I really should be doing this whole writing thing after all…the same thought that runs through my head a million times a day every day.

I tear off my headphones once again looking for the emergency cigarette in my bag. Another song is on the radio and it’s another remorse-filled ballad about missing your love and having lost it forever.

I can’t deal with this.

I can’t find my lighter in my bag and I realize I left it. Shaking I go up to the lady at the counter and beg for a match or a lighter.

“Well I certainly don’t smoke”, she says, “But you can go to Kroger next door. I’ll watch your things.”

Why the hell does a coffee shop owner not smoke? Doesn’t everyone smoke nowadays? Or maybe it’s just me.

I thank her and bolt out of the coffee shop, still shaking. I’m no longer sure if it is because I don’t have a lighter and I am having a nicotine attack, or if I am still so emotionally distraught I can’t think straight… much less walk (apparently) as I run into a group of elderly people and trip.

I then realize it is probably senior citizen day at the Kroger and it is going to be absolute insanity in there. Never underestimate the power of old people in large numbers.

I was right in my assumption; the store is a madhouse today. Seeing Eye dogs, people with wheelchairs, and old people with assistants are shuffling their way through the front of the store to get in line. All I want is one stupid lighter. I push my way through the old people; feeling like I was slowly shifting my way through the dead bodies floating in water after the Titanic sank.  Needing to get them out of my way, but afraid to touch them and afraid to cause them any more discomfort than they already had.

Have I mentioned old people really scare me for some reason? I think it has a lot to do with the fact I am afraid of getting that old, but even more afraid of not making it that long.

I felt guilty not only for comparing them in my mind to frozen dead people, but guilty buying a lighter to light the cigarette that will without a doubt give me cancer later…when these people are probably battling the same disease if not more and wanting to stay alive.

The only lighters they sell are in a pack of four and I am so tempted to take it, rip it apart and stick one in my bag.

I can’t bring myself to do it.

I grab the lighters and try to avoid the glares I am getting from the old people who are probably thinking this young girl who has a full life ahead of her is being a dumb ass and killing herself with cigarettes. Or maybe I am projecting my own thoughts onto them.

That wouldn’t be surprising. I am a pretty paranoid and guilty person after all.

I run up to the customer service counter where there is no line and throw the multi-pack of  vibrant, colorful lighters on the bland white faux-marble counter. They make quite a contrast and I think how bright and cheerful the lighters are…taunting me and other smokers to keep smoking because it looks like such a cheerful addiction! They are saying, “look how happy and bright I am, I can make you feel that way too!”

The clerk looks at me like I am crazy…which I probably do look crazy at this point since I am going off on a tangent in my mind about how colorful and cheerful lighters are.

He tells me it is $2.56.

Well then. I only grabbed $2.50 from my purse…because that is pretty much the last money I have right now since I am in a financial crisis.

Yet I am still buying a coffee at this coffee shop and I am buying lighters when I have 80 of the little guys at home.


I cringe and say that I am really sorry but I only have $2.50 in my hand right now. He laughs and says not to worry about it, and I thank him for being such a good person….a much better person than maniacal chain smoking, emotionally screwed up me.

In the entrance of the store I cut my hand as I am fumbling with the lighter packaging and swear loudly. A small child walks by me, looks up and gives me a weird look, and I feel bad once again. Not only am I a chain smoking emotionally screwed up individual, but I also swear in front of small children. As I look at the packaging it says, “Keep away from small children.”

In that moment, I believe the package was talking about me.

With my shaking, bleeding thumb and pointer finger I light my cigarette and inhale deeply…and cough. Really smooth, huh?

I immediately call my mom and wake her up (even though it is 1 in the afternoon) and I cry to her that I can’t bring myself to write about Edward and that everything I have been writing lately has been worthless. I am not motivated and nothing comes out the way I want it to. I tell her I am smoking again and just blew my last $2.50 on a pack of lighters I didn’t even really need…and $4.00 on a latte, I felt I did need.

She calms me down and says the writing thing will come, but I have just been forcing it too much. It will come when I am ready, and to not write about such emotional things in a coffee shop where I can’t cry.

She also tells me I need to stop smoking.

I cough in response.

“Let it come” she says, “And it will be beautiful because you really are good at what you do.”

I decide to come back into the coffee shop and read to clear my head, but then began writing this when I least expected it. It isn’t a work of art, it isn’t deep and insightful, and I know it probably doesn’t matter to anyone else but me at this point, but man, did it feel good to get everything out and to actually not have a blank word document flashing at me on my screen for the first time in months.

Maybe the cigarette did help…or I just think it did.

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s