Wednesday, July 14, 2010

when i was younger, so much younger than today...

down the diminishing length of her cigarette, she sits, sucking as if its her last breath. for it just may be. holding the warm smoke inside, letting it twist and mingle, she exhales loud, with purpose, as if she can blow it all away.

setting the cigarette aside, her finely manicured fingers tear her napkin into paper dolls, crinkles of contemplations furrowing her brow, as she chisels them to the right size, meticulously. a small smile turns her lips, in the taking away, for once it is torn, it will never be the same.

filter to her lips again, she takes a quick hit, anxious to move and arrange the little family she has created, pushing them here or there at a frantic pace. like some unseen goddess, she is in control, relishing it, even in its brevity.

free will wins out, they begin to move on their own, and she sits transfixed as they fall in love and multiply, covering the whole table in a little paper empire. then she recoils in horror as one bumps her cigarette, igniting a fire.

one after another they crumble into black piles of ash, nothing she can do but watch them blow off the table. once again her life spins, thin veneer showing cracks, she looks for the door, never once looking back.

on the sidewalk, she pauses, then throws back her shoulders, ready to persist, all in her own power. to ask for help would show weakness, she just can't afford, so on down the street she walks, disappearing around the corner.

taking one last sip, i cross to where she sat, like a mirror to my past, and tamp out her forgotten cigarette.


This is a Theme Thursday post. The title is an homage to the Beatles song Help, which is also the theme for today. And before you start worrying about the drugs I am taking, I did see the lady make paper doll people, but they really didn't move...I don't think. Smiles.

91 comments:

Birdie said...

I cannot believe I'm one of the first here today ... lol. And I'm happy I gave up the smoking years ago!!! ps: I never made paper dolls though :-)

Titanium said...

Even drugs couldn't make you write this poignantly *grins* so no worries about the dolls walking around. So much detail in this one; a life story resting on it's spine, balancing precariously on the tip of the lit cigarette.

buffalodick said...

All our restaurants and bars are now smoke free...you should see the gatherings of smokers on the steps of those businesses!

mama-face said...

A sense of hopefulness within the helplessness. I feel for her.

Baino said...

Hmm could be me on a bad day but can't smoke inside here anymore, anywhere except of course the casinos, money talks. And I never leave my butts, just the shredded paper or sometimes it's folded into neat spirals. Nicely written piece Brian watch yer spellin' 'exhales'

TechnoBabe said...

The little people were moving all right. They were walking her home.

Bonnie said...

You know, I had a friend from France who could have been the woman in your story - down to the manicured nails. She loved her cigarettes and had this creative streak and could very well have used a napkin to make paperdolls. She was full of bravado and burning to ash inside - though most would never know.

This brought back so many memories of this interesting woman, Brian. Thank you.

ModernMom said...

I am so glad you didn't see them move! Uhhh that would have really freaked me out! :)

CM said...

I picture her sitting at a table at an outdoor patio...no? And I think Brian is implying more than just having given up smoking...just my guess :-)

So poignant, I had to read it three times to be sure I was getting all the intricacies right. Wonderful writing, as always!

signed...bkm said...

Free will wins out...that speaks for all addictions...nice read and take on "Help" we do all need somebody... as for the paperdolls - I know mine move...bkm

Maggie said...

It's amazing how you can transmit such a vivid image in your writings. And I am glad the paper doll did not move! x:

Nancy said...

Good one.

steveroni said...

"Holding the warm smoke inside, letting it twist and mingle..." WOW, these words carry right into the inside of me, into my nicotine encrusted esophagus, lungs, and brain
...

How can you, Brian, take me back so vividly into that 35-year-ago place?

But you can...and did! Marvelous! I had trouble getting past that--almost went out to buy a pack (NOT a six-pack--grin!).

Cheryl said...

Not only a great read but a really finely crafted piece.

Mighty M said...

Thanks for answering the question about the song referenced in your title cause I was going to ask you, I knew I knew it! :)

Great piece.....I am so glad you are not seeing dolls walking around!

slommler said...

Beautifully written Brian...it hit me with such a shock as the paper dolls burned!! How sad and the crafter so lonely.
Hugs
SueAnn

Bernie said...

This is great, what an imagination you have ....... :-) Hugs

TALON said...

All her little idiosyncrasies that you portray so well just make her come alive. And how she braces herself, puts the idea of help aside, is so well done. And when I read the prompt, I now have the Beatles playing in my head. I think I need help now :)

lakeviewer said...

Ah those youthful,carefree, poisoned days!

Pat said...

Very captivating story, you must have such a vivid memory to recall all the details of seeing this woman!

5thsister said...

I do believe I have been in her place one time so very long ago...

Caty said...

I love the line about free will taking over...sounds familiar :) i hope everything turned out for this lady. A well told story yet again :)

The Retired One said...

I swear I saw her through your writing, Brian. She had a little reddish tint to her hair, didn't she? (smiles)

Brian Miller said...

true that CM...it goes way beyond the butts...at least i hoped it did...lol.

Daniel said...

Fascinating take today. Loved going down this road.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

I could almost smell the cigarette smoke and the paper on fire.

Poor dear.

Peace ~ Rene

Pauline said...

sometimes your fantasies sound too much like reality!

The girl with the flour in her hair said...

OK...one of my favorites by FAR. I love this. I love the visual, I love the comparisons...

secret agent woman said...

Something both poignant and pathetic about the image.

C.M. Jackson said...

once again you have given us a view of the human condition that we find so hard to understand and breaks our heart...great work!

SuziCate said...

are you sure they didn't move?! great story.

The Urban Cowboy said...

Hey Brian, it sounds as if she lacks any control in her life. That's what I took away from this.

Another tightly woven piece with many almost subliminal nuances.

Luisa Doraz said...

You captured me on this one. :) Thanks for your words. :)

Steven Anthony said...

dude, seriously.....this one is divine! that last line....OMG...dude.

PattiKen said...

Haunting, Brian. It speaks of such turmoil on her part. And I am wondering about the observer, who puts out the cigarette she let behind after taking that one last sip.

Dianne said...

Ohhh Kaaaay
Dianne

Cinner said...

Very interesting and sad about the dolls, I had to read it twice, smiles.

She Writes said...

Liked this. Love watching people. always interesting to hear your take on people watching, or should I say read :)!

She Writes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adeeyoyo said...

Most of us don masks, hiding our true feelings and 'weaknesses' from the rest of the world lest we are hurt by the uncaring (minority!). Great writing, Brian.

laurenmichelleotheim said...

This was WONDERFUL brian! I don't know how you managed to intertwine so many ideas and emotions. Only you could make something so heart-wrenching and whimsical at the same time. I loved it.

anthonynorth said...

Brilliant imagery with those dolls.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

After posting some photos to Theme Thursday I looked at all the others and realized this ia a prose and poetry group. I may need to move on.

I was interested in your story though. There are certain early Rock songs that instantly carry me back to my upstairs bedroom and the smell of unfiltered Lucky Strikes. It is 1956, I am 15 and sitting around a shabby wooden table with 4 or 5 other great pretenders listening to a stack of 45 rpm records by Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and of course Elvis to name a few. It is hot and stuffy and smokey because the door to the room is closed so my mother won't catch us smoking and the one small window is not doing a very good of carrying out the smoke from all those Luckys. We knew all the words.

Selina Kingston said...

How do you get in the minds of these people so well - I never tire of reading what you write

Zuzana said...

As soon as I read the title I knew this was from my FAVOURITE Beatles song. As a young girl I listen to "Help" over and over and over again, particularly after seeing the Beatles movie.;))
Great writing as always: smoking is such a bad habit but also a terrible addiction, that must be very difficult to get rid off for some.
xoxo

william said...

SORRY IM LATE MATE MY INTERNET CONNECTION WAS DOWN ALL DAY YESTERDAY, LOVED THIS AND THE TITLE, TAKEN FROM AN OLD BEATLES SONG.. CLASSIC, HAVE A GREAT DAY MATE.

evalinn said...

An excellent piece! :-)

Goofball said...

I saw this title show up in my feedreader yesterday evening and you got me humming this song all evening :)

Eternally Distracted said...

I'm a smoker who definitely needs some Help... Maybe I should start making paper dolls?

Valerie said...

You have wonderful insight, Brian, but best of all is the way you capture it in words.

Just Be Real said...

Ahhhh catchy HELP title! Awww Brian a delightful post. I did not play with paper dolls either. Blessings dear one.

otin said...

Doesn't everyone make little doll people?? LOL

Gabriela Abalo said...

great tale - I could see the lady at the bar smoking while making paper dolls.

lovely!

loveNlight
Gabi

tony said...

She Sounds Like A Real Doll...

Susan Deborah said...

What comments: Brilliant. Some people make a lasting impression in our minds and we can just recollect them easily. Inspite of not having met, bloggers are also quite impressionable. What say B?

Cheerio,
Susan

natalee said...

I mean ....amazing!!!

Vicki Lane said...

Fascinating little vignette! Sometimes I worry that God may be like this lady...

Becky said...

I never smoked Im so happy I didnt.My husband did he died 8 years ago of esophageal cancer.

Anyway on to the positive things.I did play paper dolls, I loved them,lol.We all had our own little collections we kept tightly wrapped inside aluminum foil lol.

No one knew her true pain did they.Memories come flowing back,thanks Brian!

Brian Miller said...

brilliant vicki! you are the first to comment on that layer of the story...

Syd said...

Asking for help is something that is hard for many people. I remember years ago a wise person told me to ask for what I need. I have ever since. I may not get it but I do ask.

Birdie said...

and I came back to see if I can get what I didn't get last night knowing that you always have a hidden message in your posts ... thanks to Vicky's comment I can see the God part, am I still missing something more? ... (I have a hard time with this post Brian ... :-o)

Lorraine said...

so unusual...enthralled i am

McGillicutty said...

um... smokers are weird.

sheri said...

brian, you absolutely amaze me! seriously, that you could create such powerful work when you're barely old enough to speak the language :) where does this kind of depth come from, and where do you go to learn how to skillfully weave simple words into an exquisite piece of art? you never cease to delight me!!

Janice said...

Paper doll people, out of napkins...I think I'll try it.

Claudia said...

...as if she can blow it all away..I see her - sitting there - smoking - hopeless - hopeful - maybe the dolls ARE alive - for her..
I was smoking like mad when I was a teenager - built my own cigarettes - and kind of know the feeling when you would love to blow things away..

Betsy said...

Well, Vicki beat me to my first thought....God watching the world self destruct. :)

My second thought was this phrase... "to ask for help would show weakness, she just can't afford," I know someone like this who is self destructing. In her pride, she can never ask for help although it's been offered.

Nice post on this theme...love the ones that make me think! ;)

AmyLK said...

Nice story. I hope the paper doll peoples didn't move on their own for you!

Tina said...

What a compelling portrait. Poignant, and well observed. I could just see her there. Great ending, too. Keep 'em coming, Brian. A stop here always encourages me to keep writing.

Candie Bracci said...

This is a great TT post like all your TT posts :)

RA said...

Dang! I thought that with a little luck I could manage to comment within the first 50... no such luck! And yes, I can see why. I absolutely worship your words.

Magpie said...

Such a wonderful opening line...
You have such a knack for observing the human condition and putting it into words. Your words do paint pictures in my mind that come back to haunt me later in the day more like something I saw rather than read about. Such a gift you have!

Raven said...

I love it! I loved the paper dolls moving around, it added to the poignancy of the story.

Meeko Fabulous said...

As always, your words paint a picture.

ethelmaepotter! said...

This is imagery at its finest.

The conflict of woman against child in your little drama is brilliant. This is one of my favorites. Along with "Silent Scream," which I cannot stop thinking about.

Oh, and thanks for giving me my song-stuck-in-my-head-for-the-day. Much better than Play That Funky Music White Boy, which I tried in vain to rid myself of yesterday!

Francisca said...

A well crafted contribution to the Theme Thursday. Thank you. I've never understood why people worried about seeming weak... aren't we all in ways?

nonamedufus said...

As a reformed smoker it is ironic how smokers these days are a distinct minority, relegated to the fringes of our society...not unlike the vibe I get from the woman in your piece. Nicely done.

f82bfat said...

what an absolutely great story. I loved it.

Jessie said...

there's a lonliness in strength, i can feel it in your words, i see it in her paperdolls.

warm smiles,

drybottomgirl said...

I ran from weakness. I know why she feels that way. I was never going to ask for help, I had to be completely broken before I realized how selfish and weak I was. I'm glad I've given up playing God, and just trust him with my destiny. Glad you put out he cigarette, I smoked way back when and now detest the smell.....

Six Feet Under Blog said...

You get soo many comments-you lucky duck!
Glad I never smoked.

A.Decker said...

Very nice. As in "nicely done," I mean. Not nice, like sweet, 'cause this ain't. Moving and mysterious, more like.
You have quite a talent for making us wonder...

I do believe that helps. ;-)

Dot-Com said...

So happy I never smoked, but at least all public places, bars, etc are smoke-free here now :)

moondustwriter said...

Wow Bri - would love for you to take that one further. The world she creates that goes up in flames is the source of so much pain

Nice TT

and thanks for the Gr8 week at One Stop Poetry (and we aren't done yet)

Leeuna said...

Fabulous work, this story. I love it. I can almost see her walking away.

JeffScape said...

Hey, smoke 'em if you got 'em...

Paper dolls, that is.

Wild Rose said...

Brilliant Brian and she is a little ignorant of the fact that she badly needs help one way or the other and pride won't cut it. Hopefully somewhere down the line she realizes this~

Everyday Goddess said...

smoking was such a big thing in my life, from 15 - 32. I'm glad i quit, but it was so much part of everything I did. It was easier to smoke back then though. Now it's such a rarity.
I burn incense when I need some mystical smoke in my life.

sage said...

nice writing... you paint an image that I can see in my head, thanks.

THE BEATY said...

once again I find it so hard to believe you were a "wild teen" lol. But seriously I showed this to a family freind who's trying to quit smoking (2 months already) and it inspired him so good job brian

Marla said...

This made me think of my dad. The last few months of his life, he would sit at our kitchen table and tear napkins into little bits, as if he was working on a very delicate procedure. I often sat and watched him, wondering what great invention he was creating in his mind.