The day my mom finally told my sister
and me that she was smoking, the windows
were wide open to let in the summertime.
I was eighteen. And it was funny
because one of my close friends, a smoker
himself, had ratted Mom out months ago
after she asked him for a light. He said
he couldn’t keep a secret from me
and so I knew, had been surprised, but then
the novelty wore off and I’d forgotten.
My mom said she’d been smoking off and on
for years; just cloves, she said, not real cigarettes.
She said that she couldn’t keep lying to us –
we were old enough to know the truth,
that she smoked away stress after long days
at work. I laughed – she was probably just tired
of sneaking out to “walk the dog” every
night, and told us to end her charade.
But the look on my younger sister’s face
was one of shock, as if the world had lurched
beneath her feet. She blinked and opened
her mouth wide like a goldfish. Or maybe
she looked exactly like a young bird, open
mouth waiting for food from its mother.
She was the kind of young bird that falls
out of a tree because it can’t quite fly
yet, and is completely flabbergasted
to find that its spindly feet just touched ground.