habit of years

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

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During that week-long break I spent in Penang, I casually took up smoking again.

No, I have no excuse–it was break, so I wasn’t stressed. I guess I should own up to it–I went back to nicotine to have some sort of travel companion. I love traveling, and I have been doing it alone for years now, but this time the trip was made a little bit lonesome because I was missing someone. I was wishing I had another set of eyes to look into while drinking that nth bottle of beer, or someone to point out the curiosities of a foreign place to. Cigarette in hand, puffing nonchalantly, one seems less alone.

Cigarettes are sneaky, they do not impose themselves on us much (the ban on advertising takes care of that), and yet when you hold one in your hand, it just feels right. For former smokers, there is nothing to re-learn, you take to it like a fish to water. And when you inhale the smoke and let it go to your lungs, it is both pain and pleasure. Blowing out the smoke, wisps of it that shoot out like a dreamy fog, this is visible catharsis–you can feel your cares going the way of that smoke. I say I don’t miss it, but when I go back to the habit, it just feels good to me, again.

I used to smoke menthols, but recently I have developed a liking for Marlboro Reds, the ones in the classic short pack with the flip top. I like it that the Reds are strong, they taste like real cigarettes, none of that bland light stuff for me. My dad smoked this brand, he used to send me to the store to buy it for him. I would return with the pack, but I would keep the change, in what was a child’s effort to make him stop smoking. He did stop eventually after he got sick, and is now smoke-free. I stopped too, in 2002 when I wanted to get pregnant. I stopped smoking for a long time, and companionship was found elsewhere.

And now here just recently, I found myself face to face with the little red pack during a PX run. It was there on the counter, looking up at me, saying, “Hi, Stranger.” Needless to say, I took it home.