Quit - 14th Annual Postcard Contest 2nd Prize


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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