Bad For You

Bad For You came to be while I was still living in California with my partner and still (again) smoking cigarettes. We lived in a beautiful apartment complex – I thought it was amazing, like something I’d only seen on television.

We couldn’t smoke inside, they had a couple of special spots picked out for us in the parking lot. It quickly turned into a strange, aggressive parking lot free-for-all where the neighbors openly harassed the smokers.

Alcohol Ink on Sintra Board, 12" by 12"
Bad For You, Alcohol Ink on Sintra, 12″ x 12″

One very early morning after dropping Henry off to work, I went across the parking lot to a far spot to smoke a cigarette. Some guy on a bicycle stops in front of me and starts asking me what my name is, what apartment do I live in, etc.? Accuses me of being a homeless person and tells me I shouldn’t be on the property.

I couldn’t help myself, I started telling him about himself. He didn’t like that so he picks up his bicycle and hits me with it. Yeah. Hits. Me. With. It. Just like that. Weirdest thing ever, but it set me off and he was not prepared for my reaction. He quickly got on his bike and rode off.

So I report it to the apartment manager, who does nothing – no note reminding the residents to check themselves. I report it to the police, they can’t do anything because I don’t know the guys name or which apartment he came out of.

The officer tried to console me with, “he probably really just thought you were homeless”. To which I had to ask the officer if that made it okay. He replied that it made it understandable. NO. It does not. Not at all. It is not acceptable to physically assault someone – even if you think they might be homeless AND trespassing in your parking lot.

That was too much stranger danger for me, so we decided I would switch to vaping (which worked btw and I eventually transitioned off vaping, too, yay me). It was just a safer option, considering I could vape inside away from the parking lot trauma drama.

In the process of quitting smoking, however, I was struggling to deal with some pretty basic thoughts and feelings about it. I paint by emotion, not numbers, so I took it to the art table.

Bad For You could have been about the parking lot harassment. It could have been about being forced to change. It could have been about the way homeless people are treated. It could have been about a man thinking he could bully a woman alone in a parking lot (or whatever intentions he had before he realized I was a difficult target).

Instead, Bad For You embodies the anger I was feeling that smoking cigarettes is bad for us. Such a simple thing, that smoking is bad for human lungs, but sucked soooooo BAD. I just let myself feel that fully while I worked the paint on the board and as I did, those feelings were put out like the hot cherry end of my last cigarette.

~Maya

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