Where There’s Smoke, There’s Ire

I was fighting with temptation
But I didn’t want to win
A man like me don’t like to see
Temptation caving in
—Leonard Cohen, “On the Level”

* * * *
Not included on the long list of substances, people, and activities that have not even briefly scratched my addiction itch is, mysteriously, cigarette smoking.

I wrote, “mysteriously,” because I gave smoking its shot at me. For a period of time measured somewhere between one day and half a decade, I considered myself someone who smoked cigarettes.

I even spoke some of the same sentences that I have heard smokers utter:

“Terrible habit.”

“Heh. Trying to quit.” (Trying to quit? I was trying to start.)

“It’s disgusting. Wish I hadn’t started.”

If smoking shortened anything in my life, it was my sentences, apparently. They were all three- and four-word bursts of certitude, usually followed by an exhalation: of smoke from my mouth, and of my gaze to a point a hundred yards or so away, where life seemed to be happening for people other than me.

It seemed like the thing to do, or a thing to do, anyway, in my project of declaring myself a grownup. In the late 1980s, smoking was still something one could do indoors, in classrooms or restaurants. Whether or not you smoked, if you ate out or went out to the bars, you were a smoker for the time you were sharing space with smokers.

There may be photos of me with a lit cigarette in my hand … I held them between the ring and middle finger of my left hand, because affectation. Affectation or not, I had my own favorite brand, and not at all coincidentally, it was the same brand that my best friend at the time smoked.

(Perhaps he thinks back all those years and thinks the brand he smoked was his way of imitating me!)

It did not last, though. Even though I needed to carry one of my other addictions to the bitter end, smoking never became a part of my life. Not once did I derive a moment of pleasure from the sensation of flame in my mouth, and I coughed every time I lit up.

Nicotine had no effect on me that I could claim that I noticed, good or ill. When I asked friends what they felt that they felt when ingesting nicotine, none of their descriptions matched my absence of noticing anything in me. And I am someone who can describe in some detail the sensations I associate with other substances, good and ill.

Nicotine-free for more than two decades, because my addiction to affectation led me elsewhere.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 27 asks us to reflect on the word, “Smoke.”

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