Cigarettes and I, have had the longest lasting relationship that I’ve ever had. They’ve literally lasted longer than any relationship. They’ve outlasted my parents. We’ve been together longer than my kids are alive. And we’ve lived this silent love/hate, shameful situation since I realized at about 20 it wasn’t as cool as it seemed when I was 14.
I cannot tell you the reason I picked up my first cigarette. But I can recall every minute detail of the first night, like some teenage soap opera love affair: 14 years old, being home alone, stealing that lithe long stick from the green cellophane soft pack of my Mom’s Benson & Hedges. Heading out and sitting on my back wall, in the dark, hands not even shaking as I struck the match and lit that baby up. Did I choke a bit? Maybe. Probably. I think I was half hoping I’d be seen and secretly praying I wouldn’t. I didn’t get hooked from there, but I did try it a few more times. It made me feel mysterious and with depth. I was a twisted dramatic kid.
Soon I met someone, a new neighbor and she too smoked and when we weren’t pilfering from our parents we would scavenge 65 cents for the gas station machines.
I think I really fell in love with smoking that year. The relationship was new and I was blinded to the realities or the whispers. But as most things do, it slowly lost its luster and we fell into something I was rarely too happy with. We’ve had our ups and downs. A lot of them. Our break-ups. A lot of those too. We once didn’t interact with one another for three years.
Wait, that’s a lie. During those 3 years, about twice a year when at a party or drinking event with friends, invariably I’d head off into a dark corner, have a quickie, adjust my lipstick and pop a breath mint, pretending nothing had happened. I always held onto that three year mark though. As if those coarse but real interludes never happened.
I grew up knowing smoking was a bad thing. I begged my own mother to stop and in an ironic turn dealt with the same theatrics of my youngest begging me with all the ferocity an 8 year old could muster. I quit for about a day.
I stopped with the pregnancy of each child and to be fair I don’t recall if I knew it was a temporary thing or if I accidentally fell back into the habits afterwards. Back then I still had the twisted duo sense of “I’ll quit some day” combined with what was left of that teenage immortality gene.
But I had weird smoking morals. Like generally speaking I would not date other smokers. I did, but rarely. The first one I was ok with. The second was too much. He Woke up in the middle of the night to smoke even. That just grossed me out.
I also would not smoke in a bedroom. Or first thing in the morning.
I think I considered myself to be an elite smoker. Like someone who only snorted Coke off a golden spoon. Maybe these rules were made for reasons of consideration or maybe something else. I didn’t even ask to light up in a non-smokers home or car. This was before that became pretty standard. No smoking in my house for close to twenty years now. I could go much longer periods without smoking so it rarely hindered me having to run out after a meal and find a place to smoke. Cigarettes after sex had also never really been my thing.
My reckless abandon with smoking was one thing. Drinking. I had no off button when booze was pouring. I’d stand in the snow naked with a martini glass in one hand and a smoke in the next. Common sense just flew right out the window. The next day of course I’d pay the price with a raspy voice and the lung capacity of an 80 year old emphysema patient, swearing off them, knowing it was bullshit.
The last ten years or so cigarettes and I have had a very disconnected relationship. I had quit during this time and let me tell you fully quitting was a bitch. I swore I’d never restart because I’d never want to thru the pain of stopping again. So as I slowly restarted I was doubly fearful of fully recommitting for those reasons. My first cigarette was with some I dated who like cigars. I smoked the flavored ones and even those were limited, but they whet the appetite just enough that when he found out he had to give the cigars up I was ok sticking with the cigarettes alone. But I had instilled the habit of not smoking until I got home from work and to this day, it’s been how I operate. I think it again, makes me a feel like I have a slight edge over those daily-wake-up-and-have-a-smoke kinda people.
But the fact is I’ve seen the toll. When I get hit with a bronchial infection it doesn’t fuck around. I think that’s why it was so easy for me not to question the doctor this time around when he said I was having a relapse from the Cruise Crud. I deal with guilt. I smoke outside but I know that affects my neighbors. While I don’t smoke a lot, the cost can add up. I’ll never gain back the lung capacity I once had.
I know how smoking will react if I announce our split. It will roll it’s eyes and give that “Here we go again” smirk. There will be some of that confident swagger of “She’ll be back “. The fears are that all of this is true. My health will improve and I’ll have maybe a hit off of one that someone else is having. And the roller coaster ride starts.
So instead I’m silently packing up and not saying a word and hoping by the time smoking sees I’m really gone — it’ll be too late to do anything about it. I’m hoping I don’t get one of those looks and with heavy resignation roll back into my role of wanna-be ex-smoker. Or worst yet, smoker with caveats.