Every inch of it, you say?
Every inch of it, you say?
The loss of nicotine isn’t what makes me abruptly crave a cigarette. In fact, I had almost no withdrawal symptoms when I quit smoking this time around. I was relatively pleasant; I didn’t grind my teeth; I didn’t have too many moments of, “Oh, fuck it. Does anyone have a light?”
I do feel undone, however.
I’ve been rereading Mary Gaitskill this week, and one of her themes is the importance of props to our notions of who we are. Relationships falter when one’s props are no longer simpatico; frequently, characters assign one another slightly off signifiers, proving the utter implausibility of ever being able to accurately communicate with another human being. And for me, cigarettes were central to who I am. Was?
I feel bereft of my security blanket. Cigarettes buy you time. They’re an excuse, a motivation, a breather, an emotional barometer. They provide a literal smoke screen between the smoker and the rest of the world. That’s what I miss the most. I don’t want a cigarette when I’m upset because it’s soothing; I want a cigarette in the same way knights put on a suit of armor—they are my protection. And now I’m learning how to live without protection and sometimes the feeling is of overwhelming terror because who you were is not who you are becoming.
But then I think about all the money I’m saving, and the whole point is moot.
Pall Mall Golds were my jam! And if they weren’t before, they’d certainly be after this hypnosis disguised as a commercial. (“Longer yet milder” should really echo and fade away.)
This… is a lot of premise for a commercial, right?
I’m supposed to be writing a cover story right now, but I can’t go on with it. I miss you. I miss you so much. Remember all the good times we had together? In the back room of the garage that November, when I was 14. In the Ford Explorer at night on deserted Texas roads, Cher blasting on the radio. So many nights out at bars, evenings spent writing reviews and stories, in bed while reading Colette, on the street killing time.
We flew too close to the sun together, didn’t we? Gradually our love turned to habit. We didn’t enjoy one another the same way. You became something I did, rather than something I loved. And that doesn’t make your loss any easier to bear. My hands feel empty; sometimes I wake up and my fingers are curled around a phantom Pall Mall.
My jaw hurts a lot, I’m sure you’re happy to hear. I guess I clench it when I’m not smoking. But you have to understand, cigarettes: You’re so expensive. $11 a pack? I can’t afford $40 a week if I want to quit my job. Life isn’t fair. We know that, you and I, don’t we, cigarettes? I hate that Mayor Bloomberg won. I really do. And I hate that my job has taken away one more thing that I love to do. To escape my job, I had to leave you behind. If I must jettison you in an effort to survive, then I will.
You know what I miss the most? The rituals. Plucking you out of your box. Selecting a lighter. You punishing me if I used matches instead, filling my mouth and throat with sulfur when I inhaled. Tapping the ashes into one of our very cool ashtrays. Using you to gesticulate at my desk while doing my performance art to my iTunes library. Crushing you out. Smoking you and contemplating where my story was going. Sitting in my apartment in the summer, ashes sticking to my sweaty skin, pulling on a Camel and sipping a Coke.
Why god, why? Why do cigarettes have to be so expensive? Why does my job have to be so terrible?
I hope you’re happy, cigarettes. I hope you’re going out on the town with lots of different people who will love you the way I did. Do. Did?
If you go on vacation, don’t forget your smokes!