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Lauren Albano

My nana was an addict.

By the time she quit smoking, she was drinking.

By the time she quit drinking, she was dying.


I don’t remember her first phase of death:

My father threatened that she wouldn’t be allowed to see me as a baby if she didn’t drop the


They all thought that was that when she did.


I’d sit at the kitchen counter during the second phase and do my homework.

She’d come over and chat with me as she refilled her drink:

Johnny Walker Red, with a twist of lemon and a splash of water, on the rocks.

She had hardly touched her dinner—her stomach was stuffed with vice.

No one acknowledged how concerning it was that my little brother and I could order her drink

Until it was too late.


In the third and final phase, I greeted her at the same spot she sat in the living room all day;

It pained her to move.

We’d wink and make faces across the dinner table at each other.

I’d sit and watch reality television with her in silence;

She’d give me a chilled hand; my thumb grazed her skeletal fingers.

In secret, I desired her emaciated frame.

In private, I was stealing her fiber supplements.


After she died, I purged this envy from my body, spewing guilt and bile.


I don’t look at family photos the same anymore.

I don’t gawk at my chins and rolls;

I don’t criticize the way my clothes hug me; was that my fault or the clothes’?

Rather, I see her smile, her bleached blonde perm, and

Her gradual decay.


At the hospital, roughly two days before a Florida January’s unexpected cold front,

I refused to touch my shaky hand to hers despite the urging of my relatives.

I wouldn’t allow intrusive ideations to invade our final moments.

Planted to the wall by her head of grown-out roots, I tried feebly to protect her.


In those moments, I would lower my lens of self-loathe and

Take down the funhouse mirror my mind hung in the bathroom.


I remember the warm heart behind her icy hands,

The hands that once held cigarettes and scotch.


Now, I satiate my soul with toasty sustenance

And forget Johnny Walker with a steaming cup of Joe,

Cooking my hands against the mug before my first sip and

Living to fill cold hands like hers with mine again.

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