…and I’m a little tense.
The problem is, I haven’t got a single vice left. I am goddamn perfect now, what can I say?
It’s true: I quit eating junk food (as a habit, anyway) for New Year’s 2010; I quit watching television when I moved to Maine that spring; I quit drinking when I got arrested in October; and I quit smoking two weeks ago. Plus I told the Kid to go to hell last weekend, so I haven’t even—
Hm. A more astute Yours Truly might have seen a cause-and-effect relationship between those last two things before she saw them lined up side by side. Ah well. It’s the Kid’s fault I quit smoking anyway. So even if the fit I threw in his direction was nicotine-induced, his hairy little ass was asking for it.
See, I’ve been smoking off and on for twenty years – and by “off and on,” I mean “always,” just “in varying amounts.” And actually, I lied: it’s been twenty-one years. Nope. I lied again: it’s twenty-two. Smoked my first Camel Light hanging out my college dorm window in November of my senior year, all by myself. I’d always been a pain in the ass, lecturing and crusading against the nasty habit – I even made a collage of Surgeon Generals Warnings cut out of magazine ads and hung it on my dorm room wall (this, when we were actually required to have ash trays in our rooms) – but suddenly, for reasons I didn’t understand,* I wanted one. And for obvious reasons I didn’t want my friends to know.
*I have recently figured out the reason: From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, I am always – but always – doing something with my mouth. I don’t eat much but I drink constantly, chew gum, smoke cigarettes. I suck on my fingers if there’s nothing else around. And then, when I go to sleep, I grind my teeth. I don’t need Dr. Freud to diagnose this full-blown oral fixation, but if there’s an explanation for it I think I’ll just leave that Dog where it Lies.
My friends found out soon enough, and over the years I went from Camel Lights to Camel Filters to Camel Non-Filters (!), to Marlboro Lights to Marlboro Ultra Lights to Newports. Yet, somehow, I never thought of myself as a Smoker with a capital S until last summer, when I started buying Marlboro Menthol Light 100s by the carton and lighting my first one when I rolled out of bed at five a.m.
I think it was the “Marlboro Menthol Light 100s” shit that clinched the deal. That’s a mouthful and a half, man. I had to slow down and think about it every time I ordered up a carton. And half the time it still came out all wrong.
Coincidentally, this Year of Smoking Dangerously lines up almost exactly with the time I’ve known The Kid, but it’s got nothing to do with him. In fact, he thinks it’s nasty, and he used to hassle me about it all the time. I summarily ignored him, though, because he (redneck alert!) chews tobacco. Which’ll kill him just as surely, with the added plus of gradual disfigurement to boot. But at least he does chew wintergreen, so our nasty habits are matchingly minty fresh.
He gave me so much shit, though, that without thinking about it I gradually stopped smoking around him. I’d go out for one at the bar, but not at the house if he was here. I’d smoke on my way home from his place, but not on my way over. And even though I made sure there was always an empty soda bottle in the armrest of my car for his post-coital fix, I wouldn’t satisfy my own until I’d seen him safely in his door. Then I’d chain-smoke for the half-hour it takes me to drive home.
And I would love it.
But then one day this happened:
I don’t remember when this was, but it was early-ish and it was already dark, yet warm enough for me to be relaxing in the yard, so it had to have been sometime late last spring. I was out there doing nothing but staring at the stars and smoking cigarettes when my cell phone started playing “Folsom Prison Blues.”
“What are you doing!?”
That’s what the Kid always says when he calls. Nine times out of ten the answer is either “getting out of the shower” or “listening to music and dancing around,” so I was actually a little excited to get to say something different for a change.
“I’m outside,” I said. “Staring at the stars and smoking cigarettes.”
He honked it out when I was barely finished speaking – like: “Eh! Wrong answer!” I laughed.
“Gross yourself!” I said. “At least I don’t spit brown drool all over the place!”
“At least I don’t stink!”
Ouch. Somehow, in twenty-two years, I’d never thought about it quite that way before. He stunned me speechless.
“Yeah, okay,” I finally said. “You got me there.”
“Ha!” He was so proud of himself. The little shit. “See? Now come get me! Let’s go up to the bar and shoot some pool!”
So I did and we did. I had a shower first, though. Brushed my teeth. And at the bar I didn’t go out for a cigarette all night. But boy did I love lighting one as soon as he was safely in his door.
I didn’t get to chain-smoke for half an hour, though, because I wasn’t half a mile down the road before he called and asked me to come back.
“But I didn’t smoke all night!” I said. “And now I stink!”
Well, it turns out he doesn’t really care all that much after all.
The whole thing got me thinking, though, and it simmered for a while. It simmered through a phase of smoking twice as much, because I’m a grownup and I can do what I want, dammit. It simmered through a phase of smoking in front of the Kid after all, because who the fuck does he think he is, anyway? It simmered through a phase of being grossed out by what people smell like when they come back in from smoking – and then going out to smoke myself. And finally, it simmered through a phase of examining my skin in the mirror and wondering if I might look less like the Marlboro Man if I divorced myself from the Menthol Light 100s.
And then, two weeks ago, I up and quit. Didn’t decide to, didn’t mean to, it just happened. Woke up at five a.m. on Thursday, September 8, rolled outside with a cup of coffee, lit a smoke, and stared at it, wondering why anyone would want to do such an odd, disgusting thing. Especially someone who works out for two hours every day and walks seven miles whenever she can. Someone who doesn’t eat junk food or drink alcohol or watch TV. Someone who’s lucky enough to know this Kid who thinks it’s gross, and who’d very much like to see how he turns out.
I didn’t tell anybody for a while. I didn’t want to make a general announcement till it stuck. But I think it has, now. I can tell because – even without the junk food – I’ve managed to gain back the seven pounds I lost when I quit drinking. I’ll get rid of them, though. Two hours a day, remember. Seven miles when I can. And in the meantime, well, I’m sure no one will notice. Those seven pounds are mostly in my ass, after all. And I did tell that damn Kid to go to hell.
In the meantime, I’ve turned on the television. A girl’s gotta have a vice, and America’s Funniest Home Videos is all I’ve got. Besides, something tells me that a good swift kick in the nuts is exactly what Dr. Freud would order.
If he wasn’t so darn busy smoking cigars.