Bent Words

Bent Words

January 07, 2010

"So what's your motivation?"

I thought about the lady I stood behind in line at Walgreens. I just needed a few things and she just needed cigarettes. You could tell before she asked the cashier. She must have been younger than she appeared for there was youth hidden deep in the yellow lines of her face. I shifted from one foot to the next, trying not to look at the wrinkles surrounding her mouth like porcupine needles. Her eyes were dull as though she didn't care but I knew she cared. About this, she cared.

She pointed to a place just above the cashier's head.

"Three packs of Basic Menthol."

I thought about the times when I was at a place where no smoking was allowed. I wondered how long it would be until it was okay for me to excuse myself. And then I always tried to pick out the other people who smoked. I waited for them to give some hint, some clue, so I wouldn't miss an opportunity. There's strength in numbers, right? If someone else is doing it, it must alright for me. The guy in the corner with the button down shirt -- front shirt pockets hold a pack of cigarettes nicely. And the woman with him who's throwing on her coat. Prime candidates. I'll follow them if they go outside. If they aren't smoking I'll just head to my car alone. But I hope they're smoking.

You meet the nicest people that way.

I thought about the guy with the You Tube video, documenting smoking cessation options. Or something. He lost his teeth smoking cigarettes. All of them. He wasn't that old. Not very old at all. I couldn't watch the whole thing. It gave me nightmares. "But that sorta thing couldn't happen to me..."

I thought about my Mom. How much it hurt when I was young to see her smoke. How much I hated the smell. And the woman down the hall from me who has a five-year-old son. She was standing outside smoking a cigarette the other day in the snow. She had her son wait for her in the hallway while she finished. The smoke billowed in from outside as I walked into the building, following me as I climbed the stairs. "I won't be that person."

But I love to smoke.

And when I was asked if I wanted to quit, I said "No, not really. I love to smoke."

So what's my motivation?

Certainly I spend a lot of money on cigarettes but I figure that's like closet space. Just because you get a bigger closet doesn't mean you have more space, just means you have more shit. If I wasn't spending the money on smoking, I'd probably spend it on something else.

Can't deny it's healthier not to smoke and I won't lie -- I like my teeth.

It's not socially acceptable and, pretty soon, it's going to be even less so.

And then I thought about him. I thought about how he used to almost always have a cigarette in his hand. If he was wrenching, held between his lips. Even before I knew him. One of our first conversations was about his son and how hated that his father smoked. "I tried to quit." I wonder if Ian doesn't smoke now himself. I thought about how he used light up two cigarettes at once. After I knew him for awhile. One for him and one for me. How it became a habit for us so that even after we separated, we still lit up two at a time. One for me and... oops. Forgot. Old habits and all.

I thought about how I felt when we found he had Leukemia in November 2003. I felt helpless. Shocked. Betrayed by so many circumstances that seemed to be holding us back from just being us. And it might have been and it might not have been. But Benzene is a carcinogen found in cigarettes and research links Benzene to one of the causes of Leukemia in adults. In fact, smoking increases your risk to develop Leukemia by 30 percent.

It wasn't enough just to worry about him. To wonder every day or simply inquire. To be there for him or to leave him alone. To give a few bucks to the cause each year. It wasn't enough to say I tried. I had to do it. I had to quit. For him and for me. It was a bone marrow transplant that saved his life and, although it's all I wanted, I never could have been a donor then.

So that's why I'm ten days quit.

And counting...

Written at 11:17 p.m.