Mother is dying and you’re watching her. You’re left sputtering, coughing up tarred lungs in sterile hallways. Meanwhile, your face is tearstained, spilling out faster than it can dry. The back of your hand wipes across your face hard and the air is thin with anesthesia and disinfectant. There is a responsibility in your asphyxiation, an obligation you’re held to.
Last night, you went to bed without dinner, without saying goodnight. You knew you’d be sorry by morning, but it was supposed to be because mother would stay up worrying about you. Who will drive you to school tomorrow and who will yell at you for coming home late and who will you steal cigarettes from anymore.
One might question your upbringing, leaning in doorways like that. Waiting all hated and damned in intensive care, the ending won’t come easily for either of you. Tracheostomies are trying to heal behind gauze thick and damp. Blood spreading from behind, ugly and scarring and not how someone should look before they die.
But she was a daughter once too, wasn’t born into the poison skin she’s in now. Stealing cigarettes and smelling like smoke must have been hereditary, handed down and yours for the taking. That’s all you’ve ever been good at. In between the flatline tones and your first breath afterwards, the smoke hits back hard.
Lungs wrung out, you’re the only one left with chest heaving and breaths struggling. They soon surrender to sighs set so deep inside you, they once were your mother’s ashen inhales. But you don’t have to share those with her anymore, don’t have to tell anyone how you really feel about your mother’s death, and now you’re both feeling better.