He flicked that lighter skillfully a couple of times until the spark turned into a small, steady flame. Placing the flame at the end of the cigarette, he took a few puffs until the pale bud became bright amber – a routine he had taken for granted for the millionth time. The last, precious stick from the first box of the day, boy, he must have been more swamped than he thought. It was getting a little stuffy in the car so he winded the window down much to the dismay of other drivers watching those ashes fly toward their vehicle, silently hoping they won’t cause their cars to burst into flames, as silly as it sounds.
The traffic light has been red for too long, he thought. Just like today. He couldn’t understand why his business partner decided to double-cross him on that deal. He really thought this was going to be his big break. And that darn coffee, he glanced at his brown-stained tie. Nobody does anything right these days, let alone serve a cup of coffee. And why is this traffic light still red? Isn’t anybody as anxious to go home as I am?
Wait, home. His wife was going to kill him for the tie, he thought. Oh crap, he forgot that his mother-in-law was going to be in town today, so he was actually an hour late for dinner, according to that old lady’s time. So why isn’t this bloody red light green yet? But then again, how was he going to tell them about that lost deal? They really wanted to move to a better house, and just yesterday they thought they’ve found the right one. He took another puff.
The traffic finally turns green, and he sped his way home – both eagerly and reluctantly. After a couple more cursing under his breath about incompetent drivers, he finally made that familiar swerve into the front porch. His cigarette was just halfway through. Maybe that red light wasn’t that long after all. He had to throw it away now; what a waste, he thought.
“Daddy!” His little one called out for him from the front door.
His wife followed from behind and looked curiously at his coffee-stained tie.
“Joe! You’re back! Come in, come in, I’ve cooked your favorite fish curry today!” exclaimed his mother-in-law. God bless her heart.
“Dear, is that coffee stain I see on your tie?” Here it comes, he thought. He wasn’t even close to the front door yet. He wanted to say something in defense of the tiny mess but his wife intercepted him, “it’s okay, I didn’t quite like that tie anyway.” And then she flashed the most genuine smile he has ever seen. The very smile that reminded him why he married her in the first place. He scanned to his mother-in-law’s face, who was smiling too, and his little boy was beaming upon the return of his dad.
He glanced at his half-cigarette, and thought to himself, “ Maybe I’ve lost that deal today, and I’ve spoiled my favorite tie. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything right.” He tossed that cigarette away, as well as the unopened second box. He looked at the smiles welcoming him home.
It starts today, he thought. It starts today.