Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Might Be Wrong (or: I hadn't quite expected this)

For the first time I'm starting to seriously consider quitting smoking. This chest cold, which really is bronchitis, is a bitch, and though it's going away, the uncomfortably familiar wheezing that accompanied it hasn't. When I was a kid I was a terrible asthmatic, so much so that I couldn't even be outside without an inhaler on hand, because it was inevitable that I would need it. I was, it seemed, allergic to the air itself. Running, swimming, biking--all were activities I couldn't indulge in without fear of suddenly not being able to breathe. Years of allergy shots and trips to the ER at 2am to get nebulizer treatments and steroid injections culminated in my finally being able to smoke cigarettes, a habit I've enjoyed for the last ten years. But I've come to enjoy my active life, my life unencumbered by fighting for breath. This bout with asthmatic symptoms has, to be frank, frightened me. I don't want to go back to that. I refuse to. I could do both: be active and still smoke. But if I have to make a choice, I choose activity over smoking.

Plus, J. said recently, "You smell old when you smoke." I haven't smoked in front of him since. That was three weeks ago. And then this bronchitis nonsense has made it impossible to smoke without coughing and wheezing, so I haven't been smoking that much anyway. If ever there was an opportunity to quit, now would be it, it seems.

But I like to smoke. I like the rebel image it is associated with. And the intellectual image, too. And it calms me, gives me something to do with my hands, something to put in my mouth to keep words from coming out.

When David Sedaris made a point of devoting nearly a full quarter of his latest book, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" to quitting smoking I was so wholly disappointed. I felt like he was selling out: he was queer, quirky, funny, macabre at times, and a smoker. And now, he was abandoning one of those traits that made him a kindred spirit. I didn't like this last book because of it. It was like he was leaving us behind, just when we were getting kicked out of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Just as America was becoming "respectable" one of the rough-around-the-edges guys was joining them.

I don't know if I wholly feel that way any more. I love to smoke, but I also love J., and I love my life as it is now, which I guess you could call "healthy," though many of my friends would laugh at that characterization. I'm actually thinking about buying nicotine patches. They are just so fucking expensive, and quitting is such a life-long affair. I quit once, for a decent amount of months, too, but I did that with my ex, and when we split I went right back to the comfortable practice of rolling and then burning down a cigarette. I would be so pissed if, now, when I am poor, I sink all that money into quitting without too much pain only to then go back to smoking. I'd feel like a sucker.

There are lots of reasons why quitting would be a good idea, not least my health, but I also know that when school starts I will be so quickly drawn back to the allure of a smooth inhalation of tobacco smoke.

But maybe I should just think about right now. About how easy it's been to not smoke around J., about how few cigarettes I've even been smoking with this chest cold, and how, with a small little patch I wouldn't really miss it much. And how, if I did start to miss it, I could take up origami--J. could teach me to fold cranes. Or I could just roll a piece of paper into a slender tube like I've been doing anyway, holding it in my fingers like a prop. I think it's going to happen, actually. Tomorrow. When I get my amphetamines. It's agreed. So smoke up now, boyo, for tomorrow you begin anew.

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