Smoking is the one thing she doesn't give up. No more pills, no more coke, no more drinking, no more random sex, no more pot. Cigarettes are another matter. The one addiction she is allowed. The one socially acceptable addiction and she will use it, to make it go away. To look at her fingers holding the smoke and remember black nail polish and tongue rings. Remember awkward first times and not remembering yesterday and stinging on the insides of her wrists, cuts chafing against rough, rough material of her sleeve. She remembers forgetting. Remembers numbness. So numb it hurt; so numb she couldn't hear, couldn't feel, made it all better. No more caring. No more being let down. No more vulnerable good girl, no more. Bad girl. Like it – wanted it. Fuck me, touch me, smoke me, breathe me, can't hurt me. Not a baby anymore Trace.
So she sits on a bus, disapproving glances on all sides, tuts and shakings of the head at her refusal to put out her cigarette. Stupid that they don't know how many memories this one little stick brings up. Stupid how they think she likes it. Stupid how many she's smoked in her life. Stupid how ten years ago she was older than she is right now. Stupid that nobody knows, stupid, it's all so stupid.
She is a real person now, with real goals and real dreams and real achievements – she has done what they said she would never do. She has got back on the rails. She is a good girl once more. The scars have faded, the tongue ring came out when she turned sixteen, the belly when she was seventeen. She is twenty three. No more smoke and mirrors.
Her cigarette goes out and she stabs it fiercely against the seat. Stupid how many times she's done that. On her way back to L.A for god knows why – her mother left long ago, got a job in a hip little hairdressing place in Maine. She has no more memories of a thirteen year old loosing control. Maine is so safe, Trace. It'll all be better, I'll make it better baby. Take you away. Her brother stuck around for a few months, but he's settled down in Miami now – to be by the waves, surfing. He's got a little girl and a wife, one on the way, no more memories of half-passed-out sisters and crop tops downtown. Her father – well fuck knows where that sonofabitch is, cleared off when things came to a head. She doubts he has any memories at all.
She has memories. They leave her alone for days; weeks at a time. And then it comes up, smell of pot, a flash of metal from a teenage mouth. A fifteen year old passed out in a doorway – her new friends, her better friends pull her by the sleeve saying "oh Trace, don't talk to her – she's such a skank! Seriously, have you seen her? I mean, she's always drunk and stoned and fucking about and have you seen the state of her arms...?" and she wants to take that little girl into her arms and hold her and say it's okay, it's okay you deserve to be better - you can be better baby. But that girl would shake her off in a drug haze, beat her ass for touching her. I don't need anybody, is what she'll say. So Tracey will leave her, she will talk away with a stabbing in her brain, blood on the bathroom floor all coming up again.
But here she is; getting off the clammy bus into clammier heat – Melrose. This is sick Tracey, this is so sick coming back here, just to – just to what? Just to hurt herself. Just to see if that allure is still there – if the temptation of a teenage wasteland can bring her to her dirty knees.
She stays in L.A for two days and leaves. The heat gets to her. That's what she tells everyone anyway.
She has finished high school, she has been to college – she has a steady boyfriend, good friends and she earns good money writing song lyrics for singers in the charts. She has a nice house – she goes out at the weekends, drinks responsibly and wears short sleeves.
She cooks healthy meals, she visits the beach with her boy, she makes love. But when she puts the cigarettes to her lips, she sees a playground in L.A and she watches it crumble. Because smoking is still the last thing she will never give up.
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