Today marks the second year of my life without cigarettes. It hasn’t been difficult adjusting. Not at all.
It doesn’t feel like a decade since the last time I smoked. It doesn’t feel like a century or even a millennium.
An epoch sounds about right.
Only kidding. Who wants to smoke cigarettes in this day and age? To whom does it occur every painful millisecond of their waking life that whatever else they’re doing they could also be enjoying the smooth, rich flavor of a premium blend cigarette? Not me.
Extinguish the thought. I don’t need cigarettes for the ritual, the inclusion or the distorted sense of rebellion against conventional wisdom infused in every puff of the finest Turkish or Virginian tobacco.
That’s because cigarettes are a part of my life that’s behind me. It’s all water under the bridge. And I’m standing on the bridge, looking down at the water. And in the water I see a reflection of myself. Smoking.
No, that’s not true. Smoking really is water under the bridge. (In Marlboro Country.)
Ah, cigarettes. We didn’t get along in college. It wasn’t until we were in Madrid together a couple years later that we started getting really serious.
We happened to be staying in the same pensione for budget travelers. Everyone there smoked.
There was an American that some of us befriended because women seemed to collect around him. And because he spoke fluent Spanish. But mainly because of the women. They thought he looked like Keanu Reeves. Like these two nurses from Barcelona who were sharing their holiday. They were both named Esther. The two Esthers had grown up in the same neighborhood and they worked in the same hospital and they had the same taste in…cigarettes. Lucky Strikes.
The 24 of us were inseparable: me, Keanu, the two Esthers and our everlasting pack of Luckies.
We went to the Puerto del Sol and stood at the plaque marking Kilometro Cero.
I asked for a smoke, to be like Keanu. I was overcome by dizziness and arrhythmia and a sharp pain up and down my left arm. Oh, to be 24 again, enjoying that first inhalation. The four of us smoked standing over the plaque from which all roads in Spain were traditionally measured. Then when we finished, we put out our cigarettes on the plaque, not just because we were a quartet of flippantly contemptuous dipshits, but more because it was what nicotine wanted.
It’s hard to say no to nicotine once you’ve said yes.
Returning to the states, I lost contact with Keanu and the two Esthers, but cigarettes and I grew closer and closer. We moved in together. We worked together. We were practically joined at the lip.
It was a long stretch from that first cigarette at Kilometro Cero to the bittersweet goodbye: 94,965.
But who’s counting? And what does it matter? I never think about Cigarettes anyway.
But, God do I miss them.
(May they all burn in hell.)