I think about buying a pack of cigarettes all the time.
My body feels no need for it, never has, but my little heart remembers the feeling of the inhale in my lungs. It flutters at the memory of a second of ease after it all hits my blood stream. My lungs aren’t so fond of the memory.
There’s nothing cool about smoking to me. Sometimes it looks nice in a photograph. But the nonchalant attitudes are always overshadowed by the threat of preventable cancer. I don’t think about buying a pack of cigarettes because it’s cool. I think about buying a pack of cigarettes because it’s dangerous. Because a pack of cigarettes is who I used to be.
Back when I wasn’t so stable, so fragile, and so willing to call out my own bullshit, I liked the idea of living a dangerous life. I liked living it, too.
Stranded on the streets of a foreign city overnight because there was no hostel for me to lay down my sweet head, planning trips all over the country where I would live out of my tiny but mighty Kia Soul, and resigning myself to a life of solitude because marriage was just one more thing trying to tie me down.
I didn’t smoke cigarettes often, but when I did it was because I wanted to feel on the edge of living because being stuck in the middle was painful and boring.
There’s a lot of worst nightmares running around in my head, but living a boring life is probably the scariest.
People who have never smoked a cigarette in their life get married young, have kids young, buy a house with mommy and daddy’s money young, and grow old young. People who have known the pleasure of a few pulls may do all that too, but at least they can say they were reckless at least once.
I miss being reckless. My money, my life, my home, and my friends are all stable now. They’re all steadfast and a dream come true that I never knew I had, but sometimes I want to walk into those bars that I hate going to and make a man hand me a cigarette from his pack just because I can.
Back before I turned 18, my friends didn’t let me smoke because I was underage. God bless them. But as soon as that magic number hit, we sat around fires with packs of cloves and old man tobacco pipes thinking the whole world would open for us any second. It didn’t.
Ever since that eighteenth birthday, I pried the oyster that is the world open with my bleeding fingers until it stopped slamming shut on my hands. Life became so difficult that cigarettes stopped being dangerous. The way I was living was already dangerous enough: pursuing an education and creative growth and… love. But now my life is safe and those cigarettes keep calling my name. Not often, but enough to make me miss who I used to be even though I’m sitting right here. Truthfully, I haven’t changed all that much. I’ve just grown.
My partner doesn’t like when I smoke cigarettes. Probably because of my fragile health and, well, cancer. But God bless him, too. Whenever I reach for a bum he doesn’t question me. He knows I miss that time in my life. He knows I need to feel connected to the spontaneity and wild side of the life that shoved me in his direction.
There are quite a few friends I made because of a little cigarette. Friendships that have since been forged in tiny, paper encompassed fires. We were misfits in a pristine little bubble where boys and girls don’t make their sexual debuts until marriage and where gay is just an old timey word for happy. Those little cigarettes connected us as rebels who just wanted to feel alive in an old and dying environment that didn’t want people like us in it anyway.
I know I don’t need a clove to make it through the day or the week or the month, but I think I might need a few more before my last inhale. Even if it’s only to remind me of the youth I pretend I don’t have anymore.
I don’t really want a cigarette. I guess I want danger. And if it’s just a feeling for a second after an inhale of cancer, then so it goes. The desire kind of makes life interesting.
Photo by Josephine Jael Jimenez, 2018