I don’t know why, but today I am in dire need of a cigarette. I think it’s the weather – it’s finally gotten cold, cold enough to make your nose tingle and chap and make you shove your fingers into your armpits so hard you leave an imprint. Something about the cold makes me put on my thermals, and comfy tracksuit pants and get all snuggly and warm, and then I want to light up and get that warmth inside.
I gave up smoking on the 3rd July 1999 at 1037pm. Yes, I remember the date, and I bet dollar to doughnuts most reformed smokers know their stopping dates. I did have two smokes about four weeks later, but I was stoned, in Amsterdam and had been on stage at a sex show after taking the clothes off a large black man who was a character called “Officer Mike.” I had even touched his penis, but being stoned and slightly paranoid I may have gotten a shock and screamed like a blouse. I needed the smokes after such a turn of events.
So those two smokes don’t count. Extenuating circumstances and all that.
But to all you smokers out there, let me tell you something for free. You never stop missing smoking. Sure, you feel better, and you’ll probably live longer, but goddammit the cravings never go away. Reformed smokers only tell you how good they feel since they gave up, so you’ll give up and feel like crap with them. It hits you at odd times; you find yourself looking longingly at lighters while in the line at the supermarket, or comparing the price of your favourite brand now to what it was when you last bought a pack.
I miss it today. I miss having a brand-new pack, and pulling the strip to take the plastic off. The crinkle of the foil, the satisfaction that always inexplicably comes when you pull at the foil insert and it completely comes away with leaving a jagged tear. Looking for the secret number under a flap on the lid that told you which smoke was ‘the lucky one’ and should be smoked last. Trying to get the first cigarette out without crushing it. Having its firmness between my fingers, smelling it before I light up. The hiss of gas from my lighter, the flare up of the flame and the wince when some prick has played with the setting and turned it up high. And that first intake…the heat in your throat, your lungs expanding. The sound you make when inhale sounds just like the sound you make when a lover caresses you in an unexpected way you were secretly hoping for. It’s deep and slow and yours.
Before I gave up for good (for the record going cold turkey worked best for me. Except for the fact I had to stay in bed for three days shaking. My hands Would. Not. Stop. Shaking. And the less said about the headaches and phlegm the better off the world shall be.) I went to a quit smoking seminar. The one thing I took away from that is the worst thing about smoking (well, the worst thing about giving up smoking) is that it’s one of the few drugs that you’ll never have a bad experience on. With alcohol ya got the hang-over, and the stomach-pumping if you’re
I cannot tell you how many times smoke made things better. Even now, I catch myself thinking, “If I had a smoke, my life would be better.” And knowing – the way you know the world is round – that that statement is true. Non-smokers will find that decidedly odd. Smokers will know what I’m talking about. Reformed smokers will know, but will loudly refute it while silently remembering when a smoke saved them from a flat tyre.
I miss it when I look outside when I’m in a Restaurant and see the smokers milling around. Smokers are a tribe that takes care of themselves in a way that there should be more of in the world. Smokers say to each other “Can I borrow a smoke?” with no hint of irony. And people lend their smokes out with the same seriousness. And you’ll give anybody a smoke – unless you’re down to your last one. And then it’s okay not to lend it out ‘cause everyone knows your last one is yours. No question at all. Move along folks. Smokers are friendly to each, especially when you’re all outside a Restaurant milling around. You make conversation so easily. You have relationships, history with people you will never see again. Unless you both end up outside of some other public building like social pariahs.
Here’s something I’m not proud of. (And if you thought it was ending up on stage at the sex show in Amsterdam you’re very much mistaken. That particular story is a highlight. One of my top five moments for sure.) I’m a second-hand smoker. I go outside with smokers and sit there and talk and laugh and breath deep. Second hand smoke smells and tastes like shit, but every now and then you Get. It. That hit that sings in your lungs. It’s the right brand, the right mgs, the right moment. And makes you hmm softly in pleasure. My smoker friends pity me – I may even be the reason they won’t give up – since I have been known to tell them that it’s time for a smoke, and I’m out the door before they’ve even gone for their pack.
I miss it. I miss things about it I shouldn't - like the smell. And the taste. Especially the taste, the way it would sneak up on you, rolling around in the smoke, playing with your tongue. Smoking made things taste better. There is nothing more superb than your first smoke of the day with your first morning coffee. Unless it's your last smoke of the day with a finger of bourbon to mingle in your mouth. Which is why I haven't touched bourbon since July 4, and the main reason I'm more of a tea drinker these days.
I don't like that I miss it. I don't like that I envy smokers.
They don't tell you that when you're giving up. How you will catch yourself missing craving a cigarette 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades after you've given up. And you will. And you'll think about just having one. Just one. Only one.
But you won't, 'cause smoking is bad. And a part of you, a not-so-small part will hate you for being so bloody strong-willed over this.