In 1998 or 1999 there was a boy. It’s always about a boy. There’s a phrase for boys like him now, but back then he was just Lenny. He was the first of several boys that liked me less than I liked them and I was the puppy. I couldn’t drop my toy, and I was happy to lay on my back for belly rubs from anyone wanting to play with me. Every time I saw him, his kisses had this taste that I couldn’t place. It wasn’t quite beer or hard liquor. It wasn’t really cigarettes. It was beer and cigarettes. By the time I figured out what it was (because we never talked enough for me to ask him), I wanted the taste of that kiss more than I wanted him. I started smoking and by the time I figured out how to inhale, not cough and enjoy the feeling of oxygen deprivation that felt like being light headed, it was an addiction.
The few times I wanted to quit, I’d see a cessation commercial and it would remind me that I hadn’t had a cigarette in a while. I would wake up and smoke, go to bed and smoke, eat and smoke, exercise and smoke (I used to sweat willingly), have a cold with a nasty cough and sore throat and smoke. My kid sister would steal my cigarettes and snap them in half or run water over them. She loved me. I may have hurt her for that. In early 2000, I would buy 3 packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day, with an occasional pack of Black and Milds, or Djarums if I was in the mood. I was a friendly smoker, often sharing my smokes with anyone that would ask. Cigarette for cigarette, I would smoke about 40 to 50 cigarettes a day, spending about $15 a day on cigarettes. When I quit it was for the idea of having a family and it was very close to cold turkey. I quit smoking for my ex and the kids I saw in our future when I looked into his eyes. Cheesy but true.
In the last few weeks I’ve started craving cigarettes. It’s crazy, because I haven’t been a smoker for over a decade and a half (yes, I know my old is showing). There were rebellious times when I would buy a pack and sneak a smoke here and there when we’d fight and we were in our first apartment in North Hollywood. It was always when I was angry at my ex and trying to gain a little control. My actions tried to express that I’m a grown up and I can hide and smoke a cigarette because I’m a grown up. Let’s ignore the smell, and the taste. Let’s pretend that pharmacies won’t even sell cigarettes anymore because of how bad they are.
My sister and her husband and my other brother in law have cigars from time to time. I’ve had two cigars in the last month or so. I’ve also been burning incense at home. It’s a place holder, because what I’ve been craving are clove cigarettes.
I don’t want to be a smoker again. It’s the feelings around smoking that make a smoke break sound right. I feel the familiar feeling of rejection and longing that feel like I did the whole time I was a smoker and only dated fuck boys (before there was a cute name for them). There are people that will smoke while at a bar on weekends only. It’s the same idea. They are used to having a cigarette while sipping a cocktail and the two go together.
I’m not broken like I was when my marriage fell apart. It’s not like my crush on Mr. Hot and Visually Pleasing. That was never going anywhere and I never fell into the trap of his scent and looking forward to spending time together with engaging conversations and sweet smiles. It’s this feeling of “I really want this . . . It’s not right . . . I need to let go . . . but why can’t I stop obsessing.” I’m not just waiting. I’m meeting and rejecting people like I did before I met my latest crush. He’s still a great guy. He’s not like anyone I’ve dated before. I’m recognizing where I am and with him, I never offered complete transparency. I didn’t give him my full authenticity. I might be slightly pickier than I was right before him and entirely selective compared to where I was as a smoker. I might enjoy turning down dates a little less than before. I’ve found my compassion through him. I’m working on being less intimidating but it’s not easy when I keep thinking, “turn down for what?” Aside from the men in front of me being entertaining, I keep looking at the man behind me and I feel unease. I crave what is not for me and that feeling makes me want a cigarette to go along with my dysfunction.
This feeling is so dangerous because it’s so familiar. It’s easy to fall into patterns that feel the same as something else once did. I notice what I couldn’t see before and I’m trying my best to not fall into easy steps. I’m embracing alone time, even if it feels lonely at times because the loneliness of being alone is far less painful than the loneliness of being with someone that isn’t interested in an emotional connection.
Like all things, I know the feeling and the craving will peak and then pass. It always does.
Right now I’m considering ways to keep my hands busy. I may start crocheting a blanket or scarves. I might try knitting again. I might not. I might start making jewelry (that I’ll never wear because I prefer light weight pieces but always use natural and heavy stones because they’re pretty). In the end, a cigarette, like a cigar, feels a lot worse than it looks. I could taste the last one with every deep breath the next day. I had to wash my favorite sweater to get stale smoke out of it. The smell of burnt tobacco lingered on my hands and my sense of smell wasn’t damaged enough to escape it at all.
This feeling will pass and I’ll stop craving a cigarette, or a hug, or an easy smile and engaging conversations about everything but us.