Carroll Ann Susco

She told herself no one knew she went into the bathroom, closed the door, opened the window, pulled the pack and lighter out from behind the first aid kit, held the cigarette between her lips and focused on the tip of it where she put the flame and sucked in glorious nicotine. She told herself no one approved. Who was she? Just an old woman amusing herself, killing the days one by one.

She was a woman who needed secrets, to fly off the handle without showing it, to feel dressed in her pajamas. She stole the world, made it her own, a place where a woman in pajamas could go. A woman with a cigarette could do that. And thus, she went nowhere. Even she knew not to wear bed clothes out. 

She could say she regretted ever taking up the habit to cover the trail, but smoking had been inevitable. That first time, sneaking a Marlboro in the stairwell, she was smitten. Fifty some years later, an old woman in pajamas smokes in her bathroom much to the dismay of the people above her. What did she think? That she was James Bond? And what life did she have anyway? But now it could kill her at any time, which she had come to need to know to fall asleep alone on purpose again. Not much longer now, she told herself, as she let go her thoughts, which became her dreams.

Ironically and much to her sadness, the second pandemic took the young, the busy, the tenacious, the rich, suddenly, but she, who spit at death daily, survived without catching it. To spite it, she hated her rosy cheeks and bright eyes and slipped down the hall, headed for the bathroom, convinced no one could see. But by then they were watching all of us.

Carroll Ann Susco has a chapbook, Bean Spiller, on Variant Literature Press about her mental illness. She has numerous publications. See her LinkedIn page for a list and links.