Two years ago this coming November, I quit smoking. In fairness to myself, or what may be the tiniest bit of remaining denial, I didn’t smoke a lot and I had not been a long-time smoker. Just a few years. There was something calming about the habit, and few things were more enjoyable than a smokey treat accompanied by a cup of good coffee just as the sun was coming up. For some reason, coffee at the break of O Dark Hundred has lost its appeal. Haven’t touched a cigarette though, since the day I quit. Besides the unhelpful effect it has on my health, there are people lined up who would kill me faster than you could say “lung cancer”.
Somebody who works where I do, but not in the same department, saw me heading out of the building and asked me if I was going for a smoke. I blinked in surprise. Normally, I don’t really give the bygone days of smoking much thought. I don’t dare. I don’t dare give it any thought at all. In fact, I am taking a risk right this very moment.
My best friend, whom I shall refer to as the Sicilian Hurricane (and who I will just say here and now loves me a whole lot), had an issue with my smoking. I knew she didn’t like it. I knew she knew I knew she didn’t like it. I knew it worried her, as it did some others of my friends and my brother. For a long time I would pretend she didn’t know I smoked, and she seemed to pretend to be unconcerned or even aware that I had the habit. I became adept at the prestidigitation of lit cigarettes whenever she would appear on the scene, as well as other acts of a covert nature surrounding my habit. Actually, I was an abysmal failure at said prestidigitation, or any covert act, much to the howling delight of my other friends with whom I felt no need to do this silly dance. An oft-retold story amongst them involves me hurriedly placing a lit cigarette in a soda can that was sitting on a railing directly above and behind where I happened to be sitting. I thought the soda can had soda in it. More fool I. I sat there having a lovely and pleasant conversation with l’uragana minuta Siciliana, while behind me, smoke was rising in a slow, lazy curl from the soda can like a miniature version of a quaint and rustic chimney. Of course, none of my friends tried to warn me. How could they? Why would they? Forsake amusement? That is not in our creed. I would have left any of them hanging in the breeze myself. The Hurricane never batted an eye, and I was completely clueless of my backdrop. It was not until later, when hilarity ensued that I grasped with mortified embarrassment what had taken place.
The Masters of the Universe have a perverse sense of humor. A week after I quit smoking, I was hospitalized due to a pulmonary embolism. I had wondered why I felt worse after giving up my smokey treats. The Hurricane lives in another part of the country than I do, but she called when she found out where I was. Smart woman that she is, she knows a captive audience. She had things to say and she was going to say them. Did it matter to her that I had already quit? Not a whit. Did it matter to her that I had decided I wouldn’t smoke again? Surely you jest. Did it matter that the embolism had scared me but good? Served me right. I lived through the vigorous expression of her opinion, (perhaps some might call it “spirited”),but barely. Strangely, my ear felt like I had been pulled around by it for about twenty miles, and a friend of mine who happened to be in my hospital room still says she wishes she had video of my face during the “conversation”. I’m surprised I don’t have a permanent wince engraved on my face.
For a while, I had dreams about having a smoke. Or tried to. They were always the same: I would be standing on a little dock somewhere on a pristine lake, enjoying the peace and quiet. A perfect time for a smokey treat, which would then miraculously appear in my hands. I would smile, delicately sniff the wondrous golden leaf and then the Hurricane would appear. In the middle of my dream. Tapping her foot, arms crossed and a look of “oh you had better not” in her dark eyes. Every darn time. Sigh.
Sometimes I would have a craving and the phone would ring, the Hurricane on the other end. Spooky just like when someone you’re thinking about suddenly calls.
So you see? I don’t dare think about the enjoyment, the minty taste,the mellowing effects. Even the fact that I’ve ever heard of a cigarette. My phone could ring. Shhhhh.