The cigarette smoke momentarily blurred the image of the glass. It was painted, in bold red, yellow and blues but not enough greens. Almost all the glass in the house was painted one way or the other, some of it seemingly done by kids. It was like watching people grow up in a bizarre, unconventional way. There weren’t any photographs. The stories were being told in the imprints the owners had left behind on the house. In some places the paints were haphazard, done for fun. In others, a patter began to emerge; lines and swirls and flowers. Soon enough characters appeared. They had barely left alone even the bathroom mirrors, with things scribbled on them.
Despite all the art, the one thing she couldn’t help but notice was the lack of the color green. The thought raced through her mind like a broken record, fading in and out yet on and on it went…where was the green? Another puff of smoke and she decided it was enough snooping for one day.
Although, having paid for the place didn’t mean it was snooping. Besides, she had every right to do whatever she pleased for however long she wanted, given that time was not short, just limited. She would not allow herself to think time was short. After journeying through a long life, she had had all the time in the world to not want any more of it.
She lifted the cigarette to her lips once more, recalling how her feelings for the toxic fumes entering and leaving her system had never changed, not a bit since the day she had started; she found cigarettes and their like vile and repugnant even now, but they let her do something with her hands. They gave her a respite from conversations, room on the balconies of restaurants where she wore enjoyed many of the masks she wore.
In the past, one of the great pleasures she had enjoyed were waiting for the server to bring the food out, whilst inhaling anything from a cigar, to a common cigarette to even a pipe. It made people stare at her, and she would imagine what they thought of her, making elaborate stories inside her head. Those were different times, women now could smoke in the streets, in the parks, in their offices, wherever they pleased. And life had ceased to please her anyways.
She knew he was standing there in the corner. He had appeared to her even before the professionals had said nothing could be done about her condition, and she’d known before then. It was all in her head and it wouldn’t go away, never had, so why try now, especially as he stood only a little distance away.
He never spoke, just watched. That’s the way she liked it. God only knew how many more people were trying to talk her out of it.
Putting the cigarette out, she went back to the living room, where the five people who had been too stubborn to leave her be even now sat quietly speaking.
“Cara, since you’re here, make yourself useful and sing me a lullaby,” she instructed the young blonde, a granddaughter, the child of a son she had never wanted to have, with a man she had never loved. She almost wished Cara’s grandfather to replace the phantom that remained in her periphery. A phantom of decades past, it was time to say the final goodbyes.
Cara began singing, her high pitched, girlish voice filling the room, even as the doctor had her lie back.
“There is no going back from this,” the administrator warned, “you drink this, you die.”
Rita looked up at her doctor, not sharply as she usually did, but wearily.
“I’d like to drink and die, then,” she whispered, not wanting Cara to overhear and become upset once again, “what is the point of living when there is no purpose in the present and no dignity in the future?”
The administrator nodded and handed over the small vial. She looked at it for a moment, and through the clear liquid towards the phantom, a lover who had been hers before death’s cold embrace had snatched him up. This time, death was not cold, it was welcome. So, she drank to her love, wincing at the bitterness in her mouth.
“I refuse to go without some sweetness inside of me,” she complained one last time.
A cup of the richest, sweetest chocolate in Switzerland was lifted to her mouth. It filled her with warmth and pleasure, even as poor Cara’s voice cracked with the song. It wasn’t long before the drowsiness began to accompany her.
The five people moved closer, but her eyes remained on the phantom until it was time to close them. Perhaps, Cara would’ve cried less had she known there was no other side, just blissful nothingness, without a bit of consciousness, like Rita never had been and never would be.