Corpses | Teen Ink


August 12, 2014
By J.A.L. GOLD, Brooklyn, New York
J.A.L. GOLD, Brooklyn, New York
13 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Because our addictions are our distractions."

“One, two, six, ten.” I whisper as I count the scattered ones on the ground.

Each cigarette tells a story. When I was six, I used to visit my uncle’s house when my parents went to work. My uncle was always lively and had wrinkles on his eyes whenever he smiled. They reminded me of whiskers. He loved cooking and whenever I came over he’d make his signature clams. After an hour or so he’d take a break and go outside to smoke.

He was different when he smoked. He’d be more carefree; I didn’t see his hands hiding in his pockets anymore. He’d tell more witty jokes. After he was done, he’d walk me down the block to buy ice cream. I counted the number of cigarettes each time I waited outside his front steps. I remember there being at most twenty five. They were old, burnt, and some were long while others were short. The long ones must have been when my aunt started fights with him. I witnessed a few; she’d grab my hand and take me downstairs, shove him and throw his pack of cigarettes away. He’d follow and shove her as well. The whole block would come out to watch.

My mother came early to pick me up once and ran into the middle of a fight. After that, she swore she’d never let them watch me again. I didn’t see my third uncle around for a while. He showed up at my house a year after, apologized and told me that he was at the hospital the whole time. He then turned around and lifted up his shirt, revealing a huge, pink scar in the shape of a circle. Lung cancer, they said. He chuckled. He said he was lucky to be able to pick his life back up. But a few years later he wasn’t around anymore. And for some reason all I could remember were the days that he did smoke. The laughter, the drama, the way he told me never to go near cigarettes but could never leave them himself. If I were asked to, I’d imagine him somewhere now still smoking and laughing. But it was all a lie. I didn’t realize then what was really happening. I was so blinded by the happiness he claimed he had. But now I know, every time he lit that damn cigarette, he might as well have stabbed himself. Every time he laughed and told me we were going to the park, he was killing himself. He was dying. I regret all the times I had gotten ice cream with him, it now felt like I was committing a sin myself for complacently watching him.

I still notice the cigarettes on the ground every now and then. Even on the cleanest and quietest block of my neighborhood, they’re on every corner. They’re like suicide letters that no one has bothered to read, left to burn away and rot on streets. They are whatever’s left from the shadows of the ghosts in our lives. They are corpses.
I wonder how many stories in this world have been blown away with each puff. I wonder how many words have been burned to ashes.

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