He was standing outside the student rental house. His hair was bed-smashed, curly and sexy. He wore a sweatshirt adorned with an anime character of unknown origin, and brown corduroy slippers probably previously seen under his grandfather's bed. He looked at once menacing and childlike, staring absently up the sidewalk. He raised his hand to his face.
And took a puff.
A loooong, deep inhale that I could feel, through the metal skin of my car, stopped briefly at the corner, the morning sun making simple shadows of complicated things.
I exhaled when he did.
I miss smoking.
Let's get this out of the way before I get to the pleasure part. I DON'T miss smelling like sticky tar. I don't miss yellow teeth, stained fingers, ash spilling onto the carpet, feeling desperate when I can't find a lighter, plunking down $5 I could use for food or heat, coughing bits of my lung up every morning, and knowing I'm doing 'highlight-delete' on several years of my life.
What I DO miss, when it comes right down to it, is the ceremony.
Every new pack is a present. The clerk plunks the pack on the counter with a satisfying thud, the expectation in your sweaty hands. Ceremony, the pack thumped against your palm, the smooth tearing of the celophane wrapper, ripping away a corner of the foil to expose those white and brown beauties.
Oh, the smell!
There's few things that smell better to me than fresh tobacco. It's like leaves in autumn, like harvest time, things growing and useful. There's a specific motion to coax a cigarette out: left index finger up, right hand holding the pack, open corner up. Tap, tap, tap. Pack to left hand, right thumb and middle finger pick out the longest one, lick your lips, and place the sweet stick in your mouth.
Lighting a cigarette...oh...holy fuck...I can't explain the sensation. It starts with taste and smell, undeniably intertwined. Burning leaves, but school's out and we're free!, and your body begins to take over.
Breathe in deeply, hold it, let the smoke curl up like a warm cat inside your lungs, swirl about heady in your nose, it's like riding a huge wave, bodysurfing naked, and your lover coming inside you and with you, again and again. Each time the same and still different and you have but a few seconds to relax between the peaks before you arch upwards again...higher, so easy....
I suppose I also miss the drugs inherent in cigarettes. Nicotine is ruthless. But that's not the part that fuels my obsession. Not really. It's in my hands, my mouth, the shape my body takes when I inhale, exhale, the excitement of a new pack and expectation of another cigarette.
I haven't smoked a cigarette for 10 years. And still, every once in a while, especially when stressed, I feel the obsession creeping back. A friend, an ex-smoker as well, has agreed with me. Smoking is like any addiction. Once you're a smoker, you're ALWAYS a smoker. Just non-practicing. The urge never quite goes away.
I think I need more coffee now. My only drug. I have no choice but to drown myself in it today. It, too, has a smell I love, and taste. But it's damn hard to light.