I don’t have a solid reason for not smoking. It just never sparked my interest, which is a good thing, considering how compulsive it can be. And before today, I had only smoked two cigarettes. The first one was in 2003, in an attempt to impress my boyfriend, the father of my baby. He thought I was too uptight and would benefit from a walk on the wild side. He bought me a vanilla scented cancer stick and watched me while I smoked it. I even managed to avoid the embarrassing tell-tale cough. Unfortunately, rather than be jazzed, he was upset at my proficiency. He didn’t believe it was my first one.
My second cigarette was on a day like today. My mood was crappy, work was stress, and I thought a cigarette would make me feel better. After all, it works for everyone else at the office. I’ve heard tons of stories about the friendliness and camaraderie of smokers. So I didn’t think it would be hard to get someone to bum me one. Surprisingly, everyone I asked said no. See, I’m apparently the office goodie-goodie, and no one wanted to be responsible for bringing me to the dark side. I don’t really get that about smokers. They love their cancer sticks, but don’t want anyone to join them. It’s like telling a girl she’s beautiful, just before you tell her you don’t want her. Sigh. In the end, I bought a Dunhill from the kiosk.
I grabbed a ‘fellow smoker’ and sat with her, attempting (and failing) to blow smoke rings. I didn’t feel any more relaxed, and when I asked why, she smiled and said, “You didn’t inhale.” Then she stubbed hers out and said, “And you’re better off that way.” I love that girl, I really do. Unfortunately, she doesn’t work with me anymore, so when my uncharacteristic craving resurfaced, she wasn’t there to help me out. Also, there’s no kiosk nearby to buy a stick of Dunhill.
I walked into Secret Garden and bought a pack instead. 200 bob that I will never get back. Walking into the restaurant was strange. There were a lot of good-looking waiters, all eager to help but not sure where to start. They gave me dazzling smiles and puzzled stares as I walked past them and right up to the bar, where I proceeded to squint at the packs they had on offer – Marlboro, Embassy Lights, and Dunhill Blue. Everyone at the office uses Embassy, but two of my friends use Dunhill. I asked the price of both, and took my brand new pack to my roof-top haunt.
Sitting in my usual spot, I wondered if I needed pointers. I’d decided to deep-throat today, do the full inhale and swallow. It seemed easy enough, in theory. I puffed in and out twice before I let smoke on the inside. I expected to sputter and cough, but instead I felt a deep icky scratching in my chest. It was like a thousand pinpricks were attacking my lungs, and I could almost see the dark evil smoke billowing around in there. Never mind that cigarette smoke is wispy grey.
My eyes stung with barely shed tears, not from the smoke, but from the darkness in my soul, the darkness that had plagued my day and parted me with 200 bob, in a vain attempt to burn the pain away. And burn it did, filling my insides with a different kind of pain as I ran statistics in my mind. ‘Thousands of non-smokers die every day.” The thought brought on more tears, so thank goodness I’m not wearing any make-up today.
Once the shock of the scratchiness wore off, I noticed that swallowing had one side effect – there was no smoke left to blow out! Breathing in grey wisps and breathing out nothing is decidedly less sexy than the smoke rings in the movies. So I tried out a different technique. I’d breathe in, hold the smoke in my mouth for three seconds, then swallow. As I did, I reflexively breathed out, letting some wisps out of my nostrils while the rest settled into itchy, scratchy, murky, bliss.
My cigarette was half gone by then, and the scratchiness wasn’t nearly as annoying. It felt almost soothing now, like tickling my insides with a bottle-brush. Not that I’ve actually tried it out, but I imagine that’s what it would feel like. I shut my eyes, enjoyed my smoke, and typed out this post in my head where – I admit – it sounded far more poetic. I started to feel relaxed, though I don’t know if it was the nicotine, the sunshine, or the wandering of my mind.
I wondered how many sticks it took to kick off an addiction, and whether my lungs were black. I wondered if my teeth were now as brown as my filtered fingertips. I wondered if anyone would want to kiss me now. Then I wondered why no one had invented a pocket-sized ash-tray. The roof gets pretty filthy, with cigarette butts, scattered cardboard and discarded receipts, but someone cleaned it up a few days ago, and it seemed a shame to muck it up again. So I found a hole in the ‘ground’ for my ashes, and gathered up my stubs inside my fist.
The first stick was gone, and it seemed natural to light up a second. In fact, I wondered if I had time to do the whole pack. I checked my watch. Ten minutes had passed since I started. For some reason, I was reluctant once I lit it. I watched it burn for a full minute before taking a drag. The scratchy sensation was gone, replaced by a sharp, mildly painful, yet intensely pleasant raking in my chest. So as I dragged, I thought about the taste. It was sharp, biting, and surprisingly sexy. I worried about being turned on by the taste of cigarette smoke. Some guys think girls that smoke are sexy, but others think they’re skanky and obscene. Did it make me one of ‘those’ girls, the ones ‘nice guys’ so detest?
Then my mind drifted to a story I once read in a Parents’ Magazine. It said trashy romance novels were doing more harm than good. A lot of them describe rape as something desirable. They talk about gorgeous roguish men taking women as sex slaves, raping them repeatedly as they try to escape. Yet at the end of 300 pages, the victim is alarmingly in love with her captor, as he declares his undying devotion, claiming he was only trying to make her love him. Apparently, a lot of women have rape fantasies and ask their partners to simulate rape. Some go as far as walking in high risk places, or hiring ‘rape crews’ to abduct and torture them. It’s called Designer Kidnapping. Seriously, Google it. It’s officially a thing. ‘Clients’ usually have a ‘safe word’ they can use if things get out of hand, but of course there have been … accidents.
I don’t judge how people use their girly ( and boy-ey) bits, as long as there’s consent on all parts. But I’ve experienced rape. I know what it’s like. And I can only feel sorry for the girls that think it’s cool, because they have no idea what they’re asking for, and there’s a reason why rape is a woman’s greatest fear. Of course, once you become a mother, it’s only your second-greatest fear. *shudder* Either way, the thought haunted me, the thought of gifted, twisted writers showing rape as something sexy. It made me wonder about this post, made me wonder whether one day, some kid would say they picked up their first cigarette after reading 3CB. Sigh.
In stories, the smoker always stubs out their cigarette as a plot point. Me, I smoked both sticks to the stump, watching as the ashes singed the once-gleaming-but-now-dank filter. I curled the second stub into my fist and wondered about lighting a third. My tension was gone, and I took a few deep breaths, letting my eyes slip shut and enjoying the sunshine. My lungs seemed hungry, drawing in the clean unscented air with conviction. The only problem was … it wasn’t unscented. I could still sense the smoke in the air, feel the mist in my nose, taste the tang on my tongue. Strange. I stayed up there maybe half an hour more, just breathing, but still the smoky flavour wouldn’t leave me. I knew I should be replusled, but instead, it felt oddly satiating. The memory of the smoke was tangible, and very, very soothing.
I eventually got up. It was time to go down and rejoin the world. As I tucked my pack and picked up all my garbage, I saw three girls in the corner, They were huddled in a circle, eyes, closed, hands held. I came up for a smoke. They came up to pray. I’m not one of the good girls anymore. As I type, it’s been almost an hour, but I can still feel the taste upon my tongue, and I’m still throwing glances at the pack inside my desk. I wonder if these are the beginnings of addiction.
I wonder if my clothes smell like tobacco, so I check. Not really, my perfume is pretty strong. But my fingers have the scent that seems to seep right through my skin. I wonder if it’ll help me lose weight. Some people say cigarettes, vodka, and bunny-thons work better than any gym, though they do have a bunch of side-effects. Like the ashy burning patches at the ends of my fingers from trying to smoke the thing down to the stub.
I once read an anti-smoking magazine. “Nicotine is the only drug that kills when used properly.” It then went on to describe the benefits of smoking in detail. Which took about two pages. At which point I wondered if the title was sarcastic. Will I smoke again? Maybe. Possibly. Probably. After all, I do have a whole pack in my desk. Last night, a friend offered me a glass of red wine. I smiled and said, ‘I don’t drink.’ He raised an eyebrow but said nothing, because he knows that sometimes, when the mood is right – or maybe when the mood is wrong – I do. Next time, he might offer me a cigarette. I wonder if I’ll smile, lower my head and say, ‘I don’t smoke.’ And I wonder if he’ll smile and nod, or shake his head with sadness as he offers me a light.
♫ Iris ♫ Googoo Dolls ♫
Five years later, during a particularly rough week at work, I finally learned to inhale. I had joined the office smokers on the balcony, and while nobody would bum me one, somebody offered to share his. It was an Embassy Light, and I watched him, and mimicking his technique. Lord, the head-rush! I see how people get addicted to these things! I asked if they were laced, and they probably thought it was cute. At least I didn’t cough and sputter.
Of course the rough day turned into a rough week and I ended up working my way through an entire pack. Turns out the head-rush is ephemeral, which is why you keep needing more. After my pack was gone, I didn’t buy another one. It’s not a habit I want to have to kick.
321 thoughts on “Tears, sunshine, and smoking rooftops”
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