Half a year.
This is how long I have not smoked cigarettes.
A quarter of a million minutes.
And I want a goddamn prize, y’all. A prize like a solid gold cigarette that won’t light up – because if I hold a cigarette in my fingers that does light up you can be damned sure I’m gonna Zippo that sucker – but a golden cigarette that I can have some jewelry-guy melt down and then give me the cash for because I’m pretty sure I could buy some ultracool shit with the exchange rate for gold nowadays. Like maybe I could buy fifty DVDs, and the new Amanda Fucking Palmer CD when it comes out, and an iPad, and some throw pillows with obscene messages on them, and…
Okay, maybe not that much stuff, but stuff. Stupid stuff. Stupid stuff that means “Here, this is your reward since you’re going to live an extra ten years maybe, since you quit smoking before you turned 40.” And also, “You’re going to live an extra twenty years maybe, since you quit smoking AND started exercising regularly again, even though you can’t eliminate those three mini-donuts you’re eating every day from The Coffee Bean but hey we’re not judging.”
And since you’re not judging:
Oh my god, I love smoking.
No, I fucking love smoking.
I love smoking so much I can’t even use the past-tense version of “love”.
I miss it. I read less now.
I used to take a book out onto the back porch (no smoking in my own house – my parents smoked in their house and it soaked everything I owned in a grey stink that never came off and all the kids at my school could smell it and I could read the disgust on their faces and it was not my fault, goddammit) and then I would read and smoke once an hour or so while I was writing. It was a break from my action-brain and I could use my receptive-brain. I used to read so many books. I read at least a half-dozen books a month, in five minute snatches – ten if the book was un-put-downable and I grabbed another cigarette.
Now the choice is between going out to the back porch to read with no cigarette or staying put on the couch and mindblasting myself with TV or the internet without tempting myself to go out and buy a pack of smokes so I can go out back to read with a cigarette.
Fuck, I miss smoking.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to die.
I mean I know we all die; kind of inevitable, no one gets out alive, blah de blah blah. Could be hit by a bus tomorrow, blah de blah blah. Not everyone who smokes dies of lung cancer, blah de blah blah.
I’m fond of breathing, though. Deep, without a hitch.
I like not waking up coughing in the middle of the night. I like not having that itchy feeling of impending nicotine withdrawal every hour of the day. I like being able to run on the treadmill without wanting to heave my lungs through my nose. I like not having to change all my clothes before I go out so I don’t have to see my childhood friends’ disgust mirrored back to me on adults’ faces because the smell stays in your hair and on your skin unless you shower every time before you leave the house and even then your fingers are still telltale and yellow.
I realize I’ve done a good thing here.
But for the first few months, I couldn’t watch a Tarantino movie.
I couldn’t watch any movie with smoking in it, or any TV shows (though smoking on TV, unless you’re “Mad Men,” has been pretty much cleansed from the airwaves, which I think is misguided and stupid; I didn’t smoke because of TV; I smoked because my parents smoked, my grandparents smoked, my aunts and uncles smoked, my friends smoked; not because of the fucking TV). Back then watching other people smoke made my fingers twitch and my body spikey and I beat back those banshees of “Smokesmokesmokesmokesmoke!” with the hardened stubbornness of a rock-bottomed 12-stepper.
I changed the channel. I swore. I ate Twizzlers. I even pretended to smoke them, which was highly unsatisfactory, and so eventually I just chewed them and was an angry bitch instead.
The first week was unbearable. Not totally “un-“, I suppose, since I obviously bore it, except I don’t remember anything but being furious and sad and “please just either make this easier or hit me with a goddamn monster truck I swear to fucking god.”
The first month was a tornado and I was the Wicked Witch riding my bike through the storm cackling as if my lungs were Dorothy and I would GET THEM, I would GET THEM just you WAIT it’ll only take time but I’ll GET THEM!
The second month I was full of myself and proud and “I rock, all you poor pathetic smokers!” but when I passed one outside I would suck in their second-hand smoke through my nose and smell it and taste it like rubbing cocaine particles into my gums. And hate them and envy them and hate myself for not being them and if they could do it, why couldn’t I? It wasn’t fair.
The third month I despised every non-smoker on earth because they made it look so easy and FUCK IT WAS NOT EASY and I still wanted cigarettes and shouldn’t this part be over by now? and the only thing that kept me going was The Calendar. Every morning I worked out in the gym and when I got home I’d write in the square of the day before: “DAY 72” or “DAY 89” in giant letters – I had to wait ‘til I’d made it past midnight, I could take nothing for granted – and I thought to myself how soulsucking it would be to have to write “DAY 1” again.
Fuck you and your unrelenting record, Calendar! I will not give up!
Six months in, I can watch smoking on movies and TV, though not without a vestigial wince, a dryness to the mouth, a clench of the fingers. Sometimes I gorge on second-hand smoke. Sometimes I hold my breath so I won’t like it. I can’t even smell Twizzlers anymore without becoming enraged.
This entire entry has been hell, remembering and re-feeling and clenching my right fist where the cigarettes used to nuzzle. I miss inhaling and breathing out a cloud of my existence, shortened perhaps but proven, right there, hanging in its own foggy miasma.
I miss books. But I will find them again.
Because I will not give up.
I will not give up.
After six months – six MONTHS! – I will not give up.
Today is DAY 181.
But I won’t write it on The Calendar ‘til tomorrow.