Author: Griffon Kaye
You sit on the bathroom floor to smoke, on the thin rug, back hunched up against the tub. Whatever, your back hurts anyway, twenty minutes on the hard floor isn’t going to make it any worse, you’re not that old yet.
Sit in the bathroom because it’s the only room in the tiny apartment that doesn’t have a smoke detector. It has a vent although you don’t run it because it’s goddamn loud and because you like to watch the smoke swirl up against the window in the dusk.
You were in a bad place today, did okay at work but came home early to the empty apartment and kind of slipped down. You’re getting sick of the way things are here on Earth: nothing too wrong with any one thing, but a sense that this isn’t where you want to be soaking into everything. Tired of the day job, same shit every day leaving you jumpy as hell and pissed about it. Tired of the weird weather, although you know it’s only strange compared to your home colony. Earth is a lot warmer and wetter than Mars. It leaves you sleepless, breathless some nights, sweaty and exhausted in the morning.
Funny considering how you sold your soul to the military in the first place for a shot at getting off the red-dirt space-slum, only to end up here. After discharge you finally landed in the glossy manicured suburb you used to fantasize about- trees and grass and chrome, the nine to five job with the soft, wealthy crowd who’ve only ever pulled a trigger in VR. If this was what you wanted, why does it make you want to climb out of your skin so bad?
You miss the cold you spent years cursing. Drag on the cigarette between your teeth, the end hot enough to sear, glowing gently like a thruster on slow burn. You didn’t die out there the way you thought you would. You breathe out innocent silver smoke, all cancer and tar on a molecular level, wonder if maybe you should give space one more shot at killing you. Tap the cigarette on the edge of the jar lid you’re using as an ashtray, wedge your feet up against the cabinets. Check the bandage on one heel, rubbed raw this morning while you pounded out another extra mile in your battered trainers. Got sick and dizzy after, but the physical work keeps you a little saner. You can’t stand the idea of getting soft, and anyway you don’t smoke as much as you used to, so your lungs can suck it up.
Now, though, it’s almost dark out, and you’re still sitting on the bathroom tile in a haze, your eyes starting to sting. Don’t think about how it’s only Monday, don’t think about another week of work or the bills or the phone calls you have to make, don’t think about how you’re tired and scared that this is all there is, some fucking reward for playing hero out in the endless void, getting run ragged and shot at and sent back to play house. Push yourself up, take a couple of pills to sleep because it’s looking like one of those nights and you’ve been up since five-thirty. Turn your head and catch sight of a single, bright point of light in the darkening sky, through the open blinds: a planet. Turn your head away again, smoke the last of the cigarette so quick your chest burns.