Quit

Geist - - Literal Literary - LANA PESCH

Be­gin by telling no one. Let it hap­pen ran­domly, like a sneeze. Pick an over­cast day in May, cloudy and con­fined. Make it a Tues­day—a neu­tral, pale vi­o­let kind of day. Cold turkey is too much drama and the patch feels silly, so in­stead, cre­ate a grad­ual sys­tem of elim­i­na­tion. First, you stop the first one in the morn­ing, the most dif­fi­cult. By Fri­day, your show­ers are twice as long as usual and you im­merse your­self in work be­cause eleven o’clock can’t come soon enough. Busy your­self by clean­ing. Dust be­hind book­shelves, ev­ery sin­gle fi­cus leaf, that mess of ca­bles at the back of the TV. The stereo di­als gleam, and when you turn the ra­dio on, a mixed sig­nal blares at you—a Por­tuguese-speak­ing news­caster over Adele—be­cause you jum­bled the pre­sets in your vig­or­ous wipedown. Three weeks in and you bump the start time. You al­low your­self to smoke af­ter lunch. The sys­tem is much more dif­fi­cult than an­tic­i­pated. Think about wear­ing the stupid patch. Busy your hands. Bake ob­ses­sively. Pin­wheel cook­ies, blue­berry muffins, one-bowl brown­ies. Your col­leagues are grate­ful. Week six. New start time: 5:00 p.m. Jit­tery and rest­less, you can’t shake the feel­ing of a piece of Scotch tape stuck to your fin­ger. You are your own static cling. Pop­corn be­comes an ob­ses­sion. Ev­ery night you pop a stove-top pot with co­conut oil. Add sugar and salt and some­times cayenne. It’s sum­mer now and you re­mem­ber sum­mers at the beach of pop­corn and biki­nis, care­less and can­cer-free. Take up run­ning. Por­tishead urges you for­ward on your ipod. It’s too hot out­side so you run at night. You run like a chicken. New start time. 9:00 p.m. Strongly con­sider giv­ing up. This is too hard. You don’t know this yet, but seven years from now your fa­ther will die from un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated-tran­si­tional car­ci­noma. Never smoked a day in his life. Fall. You al­low your­self one cig­a­rette a day, just be­fore bed. The pa­tio toma­toes have turned from green to yel­low to or­ange, a mir­a­cle of na­ture. You blow smoke rings that dis­solve into the black sky. You can’t make it twenty-four hours. Go gro­cery shop­ping at 2:00 a.m. and com­pare in­gre­di­ents on all the cookie boxes. This takes forty-five min­utes. Set­tle on Oat Crunch, not the worst and you could use the fi­bre. The apart­ment is spot­less. Rear­range the books, the pic­ture frames, the fi­cus. Binge-watch three episodes of The Wire and stuff your­self with pop­corn. Put the books, the pic­ture frames and the fi­cus back the way they were. No one un­der­stands how hard this is. Late Septem­ber. Ash falls from the morn­ing sky. The neigh­bour two floors above is on his third cig­a­rette. Grey flecks land on the tomato leaves on your pa­tio gar­den. The day is over­cast and con­fined—the way you feel—but you did it. You quit. Lana Pesch is a writer and edi­tor. Her short story col­lec­tion, Mov­ing Parts, was pub­lished by Arse­nal Pulp Press in 2015, and was short­listed for the 2016 Relit Awards.

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