The night, as most nights, was like a dream.
At ten, once I’d fed the dog the last scraps off the stove. Once I’d cursed the cat for scratching up my mama’s antique furniture, then welcomed him back into my arms. Once I’d slicked my hair into a ponytail, wrapping it up tight in my mama’s old, old scarf. Once I’d stayed in the bathtub a lil’ too long, letting the heat of the water do things my husband stopped doing years ago. Once I’d oiled myself down and up and down again with cocoa butter and reached for my housecoat hanging against the door—leopard print and silk—wrapping it around my bloated body, not caring if the water and oil bled through.
Then, soundlessly, I floated out to the garage and had a cigarette alone.
Mostly I listened to the blues. Lightnin’ Hopkins. Bessie Smith. Bobby Womack, if my mama was heavy on my mind, which was most nights. I nursed a lil’ Crown Royal poured thin over crushed ice. I smoked my Virginia Slims, pulling that cool menthol taste to the back of my throat before pushing it out—a thick plume.