Silvia Sala CC
She Swallows Smoke
In her picture, she is sitting outside on a lawn chair, her face tilted up to the sun. Innocent green eyes. Her hair is long and she is half smiling. One arm is draped over the arm of the lawn chair, displaying her long slender fingers—the large hands she hates because she says they look like a man’s hands. I see snippets of the woman I know now.
At forty-two years old, her lungs hold the capacity of a drooping water balloon. Each breath she takes comes in shallow, uneven, hiccup-like bursts. Her hands are as wrinkled as leaves that have been torn and trampled on and then belatedly put back together again. Like hot glass, her breathing and her body have become contorted, bent out of shape. Now her back is slouched, her waist as thin as a lampshade in proportion to the rest of her body.
Once she could swim for hours, holding her breath. Now each breath is a chore. Once she lived in water and air, now she lives in smoke. It wraps around her like a scarf. She knows she is inhaling and exhaling chemicals that have been used for nail polish remover, rat poison, barbeque lighter fluid, rocket fuel, insecticide and rubber cement. She has memorized their names. Acetone, Arsenic, Hexamine, Methanol, Nicotine and Benzene.
For my birthday, she gave me a green scarf. I wore it once or twice. Now the end of it has unraveled. I can see the loose threads, and two small holes. All I can think is that the scarf is falling apart, and so is she.
I can see how she will look when she is old. An oxygen tank will become an extension of her body. I do not want to know her like this. Over the years, she has told me, don’t make my same mistake. You don’t know what it does to your body. I do not tell her that I already know.
Bio: Candace Hartsuyker loves 1940s screwball comedies, YA lit, all things theater and film noir. She is a first-year fiction student in McNeese State University’s MFA Program.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.