I had already removed the batteries out of the detector on the ceiling. Small New York apartments don’t allow for much smoke to rise before the little contraptions start screeching and the only way to get them to stop is to fan them with a broom and open all of the windows. I hate living in New York City, but I love it too. Only here can I open all of my windows to let out smoke from my stove and have conflicting smokes from cigarettes and exhaust pipes struggle to find their way into my home.
The curtains are a pale pink, I didn’t choose them, my daughter did. She chooses everything. She doesn’t live in my apartment with me, but she may as well. She chose my bed shams, my rug outside the single entrance to my home. She even picked out the magnets on my fridge. She thinks that all these things will cheer me up somehow, but really they just make her not have to notice how sad I am. She can stare at the pink curtains and choose to believe that I, her mother, chose them. That I, her mother, would be happy enough to choose those. We both know the truth though, I haven’t left my apartment except to go straight to work and come straight home for the past three years. We both know I didn’t choose pink curtains.
I fan the mixture of smokes out the window, not able to tell which smoke is coming from where, but New York outside my window doesn’t care. I fan all of the smokes out and New York welcomes them. Thank you, the city says to me. You can never have enough smoke, it says – the buildings nod in agreement. The street pushes the smoke away to the clouds and the clouds gladly accept it. Everyone likes smoke except for me.
One by one, I shut the windows as the air clears in my home. I make my way back to the kitchen to see how bad the damage is. Not too bad. The pan is intact, even if the eggs I burned aren’t. My husband could always make eggs better than me. Some people are egg makers, some aren’t. I’m clearly not. I sit at the table that only has one chair because it’s crammed into such a tiny space and I’m the only one who lives here anyway. I sit and watch steam rise from the manhole on the opposite side of the slender alley. Now steam I can like. Unless it’s sewer steam. Actually no, steam is just glorified smoke. I hate steam. I hate it more than smoke. Why can’t steam just be real with itself and admit it’s heavy, glorified smoke and just call itself smoke?
It can’t because it’s not a person. I’ve been alone in this apartment for too long. I’ll be here alone for a long time to come.