Sunday, April 5, 2009

black russian roulette

We now join this nic fit in progress.

God I miss smoking.

A little shy of 6 years ago I parted ways with the devil weed. We had a good ten years together. I hated it. I loved it. I miss it. Immeasurably.

She and I parted ways just over ten years ago. Our lives crossed paths several times as I grew up. I have recollections of my mother smoking like a chimney when I was very young. I would curl up behind my mom's legs and watch TV as she would puff away and do crossword puzzles. I couldn't stand when the smoke would sting my eyes, The ashtray smelled awful. I have an especially vivid memory of a babysitter offering me a cigarette when I was young, and telling her no. I did not wish to try smoking.

Then in high school came my first kiss. The boy was a smoker and I recall thinking "Wow the first boy I kissed smokes. Didn't expect that."

Then time passed and I graduated. Went to university. Childhood friends smoked, and at parties I wished to try it, but they refused to share.

I met a man in university. Or someone on the verge of being a man anyway. I recall he smoked a brand that I associated with my grandmother. Not for me. I bummed a couple of smokes from him, and the effect was intoxicating. He and his friends were reluctant to share smokes, as we were all in the grips of student poverty, and the ability to shell out for a pack was passing.

Then finally I bought my first pack of smokes. A pack of Dunhills. I bought them before a party I was hosting at my parents' cottage. The thick blue smoke filled my lungs, yet somehow through the powers of youth I could ingest amazing amounts of alcohol and smoke great volumes of cigarettes and skirt that delicate edge of sensory overload and nausea.

The boy of my affections faded away to be replaced by another. And my brand of cigarettes did the same. I switched brands and switched beaus. I toyed with the idea of quitting smoking. I was still in the lean years of student poverty where I could not afford my own bed, yet somehow scraped together the money for a daily moccaccino and a pack of smokes every few days. Then every couple of days. Then, well. At this point I should buy them by the carton. They're cheaper that way./

There's a few milestones for a smoker. The first cigarette. Buying the first pack. The buying the first carton. So I bought them by the carton load. After all. One needs to be fiscally responsible. Then, I tried to slow down. Another smoker's dilemma. The decision to try to quit.

I tried several times. Beaus came and went. Jobs came and went. The ability to say I'm going out for a smoke made it possible to slice off 15 minute segments of my day for a walk away from my desk. Without excuse. Without justification. The "I'm going for a smoke" was rationale enough.

This carried me through many late nights at the university paper. It carried me through tedious days at the sign company. It provided bonding moments for housemates who spoke very little English, yet smoked. We had that commonality enough. So we would venture out on the balcony, and the sum of his discussion was "money for this, money for that." A new immigrant trying to earn enough money to bring his family over, I could understand the demands of money. I was a recent university grad with a $10- an hour job in a field where I had technical skills but very little talent.

Later I would go back to school. College. The cigarettes allowed me to bond with classmates. Make new friends. Meet new people. Make an excuse to spend time with another object of my affections. Again I found (on limited funds) a way to pay for my habit. A few half-hearted tries at quitting drifted off into oblivion. I was warned of the evils of having a portfolio case that smelled of cigarette smoke. And while I had no safe haven to store the sum total of what would convince a person to hire me, I still smoked.

Finally, my first job. Then my second. I worked at Eaton's during its final days before its bankruptcy. All advertising was cancelled for the year, yet we needed to still show up to work every day or else no severance for us. You could still smoke in restaurants at that time. And the Eaton's restaurant was only one floor below, beckoning with simple pressed aluminum ashtrays and coffee that sometimes held promise of freshness.

Jobs went. Time passed, employment changed. All through it I somehow found the way to buy my precious cancer sticks. That's what you start calling them when you feel you've surrendered to them. Why fight it. Yes I'm killing myself slowly. Why would I want to deny it. This silly little stick of leaves and paper and filter is the only thing that keeps me from wanting to end it all. It gets me out of bed in the morning. And it puts me to sleep at night.

God I miss smoking. Did I mention that?

My new object of my affections was a smoker too. Not my brand. As it should be. We don't wear the same underwear either. We shared a love with one another. Then shared an apartment . Then moved into a house. Our house was to be a smoking house. After all, we paid for it with our own money, so why should we need to smoke outside. So unfair. So uncivilized.

Then life changed. I lost my job. I had problems with breathing. Perhaps there was something in this new house that set off new unknown allergies.

I went for a chest x-ray.

They asked if I smoked.

I said yes. And I felt the weight of my decisions on the cold plate in front of me,

I would try again to quit smoking. And so I bought a book.

This was going to be it. I was unemployed and now being supported by someone I was unrelated to (aside from our common relations in our shared bed). We were already short on cash, and then I lost my job.

And I kept applying to jobs. With no avail.

So I decided I'd do it.

For some reason the investment in the book seemed like a greater investment than the one I was making weekly in smokes. After all. Cigarettes were a necessity. How could we get by without them?

If memory serves, the joint account covered the smokes. I covered the cost of the books.

I followed the instructions of the book to a tee. I switched brands. I switched my smoking frequency. I switched my rhythm. And I had gaps in my smoking.

Then I bought another book on quitting. It fascinated me as well.

I kept following the initial plan. No smoking within a certain period of eating. Of drinking. And then, as I neared the end o the second book, but entered the third week of my quitting smoking, I discovered that, for the last two weeks, I could have had a coffee with my cigarettes.

I had denied myself something I so craved. And I placed blame squarely on the poor instructions in the book. I decided to give up giving up.

I finished the other shorter book and had my last cigarette. I sat in my great grandfather's chair, in the parlour of our home, and had that last smoke.

It was, as old Billy Shakespere would say, such sweet sorrow.

I put the balance of the pack for cigarettes in the freezer just in case.

A few weeks later, after not making the shortlist a job I really wanted, I was wallowing in self pity and thought of the pack in the freezer. I took the pack out of the freezer. I ran it under water. I rung it out. And I put it in the garbage.

My career was pretty much in the toilet. If I couldn't get this two-bit place to hire me so be it, but was dammed if I was going to pick up smoking again.

And that was it.

Until recently.

I'm back pursuing the career. And I miss it. It's been 6 years, and I really want a cigarette again.

I watch Mad Men and they're all smoking.

I play music from my college days and would kill for a cigarette.

Tonight, I poured myself a black Russian. I just took the last sips. And I would love to have a cigarette.

There is nothing I want more, than my beau, than any former crush, than any Hollywood flash in the pan, than, dare I say it, any award. There is nothing I would like more than to go to my beau's bedside table, grab a smoke, bring it to my lips and light it.

It has been 6 long years. It was so hard to quit.

And I really want it so badly tonight.

But dammit. I've worked too hard for this.

I've saved too much money to fall into this trap. If my quit meter is to be believed, I've saved over $15000. And that's in 2003 prices.

God only knows where all the money went. But I know I didn't spend it on killing myself.

Tonight's Black Russian was definitely the trigger.

Another night it was listening to the Crash test Dummies

The triggers are still there. They lurk under rocks, around corners, in little ditches and behind chairs I wouldn't expect.

I just spent 4 pages of continuous typing about smoking. That's how bad I want one right now. I bet in this time I could have smoked a whole cigarette. I could be lighting my second.

But I will be DAMNED if I'm going to let some stupid craving, be it for love, for fame for recognition, or just for nicotine... I will be damned is I will let this be the end of me.

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