From the moment you opened the door the stench of stale smoke, rotting food, dirty clothes and pile upon pile of cat and dog shit hit you like a ton of bricks. The heavy drapes were almost always closed, and what little sunlight that did manage to find its way inside was diluted by the ever-present swirling clouds of cigarette smoke that hung in the air. The ashtrays were always overflowing and when they were too full to use then any plate or cup or potted plant would do.
I remember crawling on my hands and knees across the filthy carpet, searching for some lost toy or important school paper that had disappeared beneath all the clutter that filled every room, and finding a lit cigarette butt smoldering away on the carpet, burning a hole in it. I picked it up and took a puff and immediately regretted it.
I must have been six or seven then.
Later, I would pick up the habit when I was around thirteen after stealing a pack of cigarettes from my mom, which she quickly found out about. Instead of getting pissed off, she just looked at me with her usual look of disgust and said, “well, if you’re going to smoke I’d rather just buy them for you instead of having you turn into a little thief.”
And she did just that. A carton of Marlboro Lights a week made us smoking buddies and me a hit with all my friends.
I smoked a pack a day right up until I found out I was pregnant at 18 and gave it up, much to her dismay. She didn’t hide the fact that she would have preferred I get an abortion and keep puffing my life and health away, like she did.