Now that you are gone I think I will take up smoking. I know it’s bad for me, like you were bad for me, but less insidious.
The pack doesn’t lie. It tells you, “Smoking is hazardous for your health.” “Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease,” “Smoking can reduce your life.”
And I think, so what, love can do that. It doesn’t come in packs of twenties. And it doesn’t have warnings. And no surgeon general ever gave a damn if you died of a burnt heart or a broken one.
I will tell you why cigarettes are better than love. They tell you what you’re setting yourself up for. This is bad news, the label says. At your own risk. You better not be smoking pregnant or your baby is going to be born warpy. They give it to you straight.
You came with no label. Nobody told me your beauty could maim an adult. Or that the way you touched me would brand you into my skin. Nobody said to watch out, until much later; until you were a bad habit. And worst of all, there was nobody to tell when I said, “I quit her.” Because I’d said it before and it had been lie each time.
You have gone but you cannot leave me. You are soaking under my skin, speeding inside my blood, hiding in the dark meat of my marrow. My body inhaled the scent of your body and breathed out every crevice that confessed your absence. You were an addiction, and now I am in trouble for ever. I write and write to write you out of my system. I stare at the phone that doesn’t ring; that will not ring. That should not ring. I delete the photos, un-tag myself, recede into the background and pretend this never happened, one day at a time. There is no twelve-step program for love whores. There is no AA for us. No nicotine patches, support groups, or antabuse.
No one ever told me. You came with no label.