I used to puff.

I used to puff and puff and puff until I would retch. I would retch and yet still carry on puffing because puffing brought about a sense of elation and detachment from my perpetual rut, and it was a release of sorts.

Even though my hands smelt terrible afterwards and I could never quite get rid of the smell of ash and smoke from my clothes, nor the smell of tobacco leaves from my mouth.

I used to puff for the pure sense of having something to do. A purpose to stand outside and stare at the sky, the snow, the trees, the grass, the dead cigarette ends, without talking to anybody.

A reason to be alone, because I fear I was alone far too much.

I puffed for all the tears I couldn’t shed, all the remorse I couldn’t feel. I puffed to mask the panic that was rising inside me everytime I felt forced to meet him, see him, act upon that which I did not feel.

I puffed even though those who knew me by sight tutted and said that I was not the Lenora they thought I was. I puffed and watched myself puff from a few metres away, hating every fibre of my being because that wasn’t who I was. I puffed with the smirking knowledge that I could stop at any time, and was just puffing purely for the sake of depression, darkness.

I puffed because I thought I was being rebellious. When really I was sucumbing to that which I could not face.

I puffed, because to puff, was to be the ‘woman’ I thought I deserved to be.

I puffed, even though I was getting a strange cough and my voice did not sing as well as it used to. I puffed to mask the hate and fear and wretched detachment I felt towards him. I puffed because I thought it was love.

I puffed because I thought this was my life now and I had nothing else. I puffed because I thought I was vile and disgusting, and didn’t think I deserved salvation, help nor forgiveness. I puffed because I thought I wasn’t worthy of love.

I puffed when they interviewed me and asked me whether or not I thought e-cigarettes were worth using. Because I was one of those people now. A smoker, an addict, a tobacco perfume. I puffed as I smiled and told them, hell yes, I would. I puffed even as I thought to myself, what the hell even are you, Lenora.

I puffed as the tears rolled down my cheeks behind the college walls. I puffed over an abandoned prawn cocktail sandwich. I puffed where everybody else was puffing, avoiding eye contact yet feeling the puffing comradery on an icy, frosty morning. Puff breaths hanging in the atmosphere, tobacco and perfume swirling behind red lipstick and straightened hair. I puffed because an enigma once asked me for a light. I puffed in hopes it would lead to the freedom I craved; not that ‘freedom’ which I was resigned to, chained by, and loathed. I puffed because he puffed, and I hated him.

So I hated myself too, and puffed all my hatred to the skies.

Then one day, I shook free of my chains, of my false love and infatuation, and I stopped puffing.

I haven’t looked back once, nor have I missed puffing. Nor do I ever want to puff again.