If You Only Knew
Judy Fong Bates
Tony Wong smiled back at the waitress in the doughnut shop, took one final drag of his cigarette, then mashed the butt into the ash tray. He picked up his mug of coffee and gulped down the last mouthful before nodding goodbye to the still smiling waitress. The previous six months of his life had been smoke-free, but now that he was about to start teaching again he had surrendered, lighting up one, just this one to calm my nerves, he had told himself. But one became another and another. He might as well have never stopped. The resumption of his old habit was a mixed blessing. Along with the pleasure, every flick of the lighter pricked a layer of self-loathing that lurked underneath his smooth exterior, this capitulation another sign of weakness. So he reminded himself that once his nerves settled, once he got a handle on things, he would stop for good, this being only a temporary setback. There was nothing to worry about, he told himself. Damn it, he was a seasoned teacher with more than ten years’ experience. It was just that he hadn’t been inside a school since three years ago in Calgary.
Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 3. Purchase the book to read the full piece.