Eleven Madison Park is always the least crowded this time of day. Perfect for me, it lessens my chance of being accidentally recognized. It lessens my chance of having to plaster on a fake smile to show off my newly bleached teeth and forcing that hypnotic twinkle in my eye to transfix whoever decides to approach me. The only other people here are businessmen trying to land a deal by spoiling their client with “the best New York has to offer”, a couple enjoying a meal together, and the regular who likes to drown his sorrows in whiskey before pulling himself back to work. There’s an ashtray sitting right at the edge of the table, and from that ashtray, thick, fresh cigarette smoke rises from a butt I just put out. It reflects the pale white walls and leaves grime on their surface. It erodes the gold details off every light fixture and fork and cufflink that occupies this space. It wilts the freshly picked orchids and rots the steak. I feel the smoke corroding the thin protective veil over my eyes. There was a time, believe it or not, when I would not have minded being engulfed by grey hands. The grainy, phantom embrace opening my eyes to a world of new possibilities, a world of glitz and glamour, and the best-tasting champagne known to man. I was blinded. A year ago, I would have been ashamed to admit that I was wrong, but I’ve stopped caring since then. Now, my willpower is spent making sure I don’t occupy the barstool next to the regular. The smoke becomes unbearable, trailing its fingers from my eyes to my nose to my throat. I feel it squeezing my larynx, tightening its grip each time I cough. Swatting it away with my hands does nothing to clear the damage it is doing. The waiter rushes over, gripping my shoulder pad, making sure I’m not about to cough up a lung in the middle of this fine establishment. I assure him I’m fine, flashing him that signature bleached smile.
Assimina "Sylvia " Roussis is a future hotshot director who spends her days, writing, painting, enriching her creative mind, pondering her existence, and exercising. A newbie to the literary scene, Roussis' most notable publication ( besides her debut “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”) is a newspaper article she wrote in fifth grade for a Greek-American newsletter. Currently a senior in high school, she will soon be continuing her passion for film and the arts in college.