By Mileva Anastasiadou
Having a smoke has been an adventure, since husband made me a dragon. He was a dragon too, only now he’s stopped. He finally quit smoking two years ago. He’s been healthy and all, yet life is now upside down, because I am now a dragon to him, exhaling fire and smoke. As a result I regressed to a sixteen-year-old teenager, or dragon, having to smoke in secret, for he expects me to quit smoking too, only he knows I’m not him and I can’t do it.
My son comes in without knocking and I have to throw the cigarette away, which is a shame, since I haven’t even smoked half of it. He’s finally met Franny, he says. He’s all excited and deeply in love and his eyes shine like I imagine mine shone when I first met his father. I introduced him to “Franny and Zooey” two years ago, because he’s my son and I wanted him to know my favorite books.
And now he’s come to an age when he finally met her. He tells me all about her and at first I’m excited because he’s in love for the first time. She’s a dragon, like you mom, he says and I hear my heart beat faster, cause my son thinks I’m a dragon, but a better dragon than the one his father implies. He only means different, cause that’s what his father told him when he first called me dragon in front of him. We don’t want him to think his mother still smokes, he’d later explain. And my son thinks that ‘different’ is good, or else he wouldn’t have fallen in love with Franny.
He tells me all about the sweet magic of their love and I remember how it was, yet I can’t feel it now. And I want to tell him it fades away. All of it. You don’t know when, but one day you wake up and it’s gone, so what’s the use? And I feel like that man in a movie I watched, who was depressed and couldn’t stand happiness around him. So he made everyone unhappy, because misery loves company. And I’m like him now, only I’m harmless. I don’t kill people like he did. Not literally.
I still hold the pack in my hands and I only notice now, when I don’t know what to say. I try to hide it in my pocket, yet he takes my hand and says: I know you still smoke mom. So I’m about to throw the empty pack away, yet I see one more cigarette inside. There’s still life in it, I say, secretly hoping there’s still life in me, but he argues that’s not life, that’s the opposite of life and I say we should put things in perspective, it’s only a product. Easy to confuse life with commodities, isn’t it? I ask jokingly. Not really, he says.
You shouldn’t smoke, he adds and he’s judgmental, like Franny, or else he wouldn’t like her and I remember being judgmental too at his age, a proper Franny, but not like his father is. At his age, you only want a better world. At our age, you don’t want anyone else enjoying it if you can’t. So now it’s difficult, but only for me. Because I’m a dragon. And I’m different. A dragon made of glass. And this isn’t always as nice as it sounds but my son doesn’t know yet. And I want to tell him the truth; love tastes like milk chocolate, but the taste doesn’t last long. I keep my mouth shut though, not to exhale fire and smoke. It’s hard to master the art of living as a dragon; how awkward to mess up a surprise party your non-dragon friends arranged on your birthday, let’s say, only because you’re different and can’t blow candles and your friends don’t know you can’t because they never met a dragon before and you never told them you can’t.
Husband comes and gives me a hug and asks me to wash my hair because I smell like an ashtray. He touches my face and I smell his perfume, inhaling bittersweet magic, tenderness mingling with affection and black chocolate, a spark of passion included, which turns me into a balloon and swirls me into the air. I’m now a flying dragon feeling light as a feather, yet I keep my mouth shut, for not exhaling fire, for not spoiling the party.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Asymmetry fiction, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, Eastern Iowa Review and others.