The last cigarette I smoked was an all-natural, additive-free American Spirit. I spent nearly four hours at my desk fighting the urge to vomit. A bitter taste filled my mouth, and an unpleasant film covered my teeth. I didn’t open my eyes.
That was 18 months ago. Why am I craving a cigarette today?
The short answer is I’m depressed, and sucking on burning hydrogen cyanide has a certain twisted appeal.
The longer answer is those cigarettes get their hooks in you deep. There have been days recently when I’ve almost searched my abdomen for the holes where the hooks once were — bloody, pus-filled holes.
But they aren’t there. It’s all in my mind. If I had a time machine, there’s one thing I’d tell my 15-year-old self: “Dude, it’s 40-year-old you. Do yourself a favor and don’t even start. Put that cigarette down.”
“Whatever. It’s my body.”
I guess you never really quit, and when you are down, there’s always three minutes alone with a smoke. A cigarette doesn’t ask you for anything. I can just stare at that little burning ember and nothing else matters. The universe ceased to exist. But then you hack up that greenish-black sludge in the morning and realize that the universe never left and in fact thinks you are a douche bag.
I’ve held out so far. The truth is I know that if I light one up, I’ll hate myself, because it’s never as good as you think it will be. And the smell. I hate the smell. Whenever coworkers who haven’t quit come near me, I want to shoot them with a firehose.
Also, I work in Boulder, where you receive a warmer welcome if you do naked yoga on an elementary school playground at high noon or hand out free veal samples on the Pearl Street Mall. You can wrap yourself in a Confederate flag, proclaim your allegiance to IS, sing “Cherokee Nation” off tune and —
“Sir, we respect your individuality, but if you don’t put out that cigarette, we, the good people of Boulder, are going to kill you.”
My stepfather died in October from emphysema. He smoked a pack a day for 40 years. He was a strong man and worked with his hands. At the end, he was 80 pounds and choking to death on his own fluids, immobile on a hospital gurney, adrift in a deep sea of morphine. The last time I saw him, I thought, “You don’t want to die like that, man.”
Confession: I would like to live long enough to die from something that entitles me to an ocean of morphine. That part didn’t seem so bad. As it stands, I’ve ruined my teeth. I’d like to keep my lungs.
I’m sad and beat down these past few weeks. There’s always an American Spirit waiting for me in the parking lot. But you aren’t going to win, nicotine. I won’t let you.