I started smoking again as the rain and unemployment levels were on the rise in Northern California. One I could handle, but not both at the same time. I saw it coming. Cubicles around me in the exchange division resembled a ghost town, unplugged computer screens everywhere.
Suddenly after 15 years of employment, I got the word and I tried to beat a pink slip home. I figured there was enough time to buy a pack of cigarettes. You'd think that after 20 years of quitting smoking, I would've known better.
Couldn't light up in the house. Didn't want to let Cathy know that I'd started again. But after the first dozen times of going downstairs because I'd left something inside my car, I knew she was getting suspicious.
One night she came into bed. "What's that smell, Rick?"
"Don't smell anything." I rolled over and played dumb.
"I know that smell," she said, and flopped her arm over my chest.
Good thing I had a cover. The rice had burned on the stove that evening. "Maybe it's the exhaust fan from the oven," I said. I didn't even think the stove had a fan. "I'll check it in the morning."
She sniffed the side of my neck and didn't say anything. We both knew she knew. But that didn't stop me from going to the parking lot of the condo wondering about how I was going to pay the bills.
Sure, I talked to her about how I waited for a half day at a job fair and never got to first base. She'd told me something would come up.
Yeah, right. I sat on the curb in the condo parking lot with my computer in my lap. I was smoking and it started to rain.