A piece I wrote while quitting smoking. Read at Montana Slam, February 2012.
I’ve been smoking for 15 years. I’ve quit so many times you’d think I’d be good at it. You must know the blackness of my insides, the reasons I loathe such a habit.
But cigarettes are like men in my life. I crave them. I consume them. I leave them only to return to them again.
I live for them, yet I die a little every day for them.
Today is day 1 of my last pack. It’s cigarette 20 of 20. It’s delightful. They all are, especially this one as it carries the weight of finality.
Now it’s day 1 of no cigarettes. Morning reminds me why I‘m quitting, the rasp of a smoker’s cough rattling through my insides. My skin—defined by chemicals.
By afternoon it seems lonely without a cigarette to visit. 4:45 p.m. is skin crawling, programs dragging, computer crashing, crazy woman emerging. A stop to the grocery store after work is maddening. People dive across my path, small children are screaming underfoot. I am lost between butter and blocks of cheese.
Clocks tick every moment that I have existed in this day without nicotine, and I fail.
Pack 1. Cigarette 1. The lighter spurts and the smoke rises. I drag deeply, that lost friend waiting like cancer and I know better and I just don’t care.
Heartbeat slows, blood stops buzzing, pulse quiets, barking dogs become just barking dogs and this is the best moment of calm I could ever buy.
Dropping the cigarette’s end to the cement, I am not guilty. I feel empowered, satisfied. I light a second cigarette. Its pull is subtle now, like waking up with a familiar lover. I feel the blood lingering in my veins, decaying with each inhalation. I hear autumn approach with subtle humor, twitch my toes against the cooling cement.
Today is day one of my last pack. It’s cigarette 3 of 20. It’s delightful.
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