It is not allowed. This infuriates people. It makes you sick. It confuses you, and he clarifies. It makes you an outcast, and it will help you meet beautiful strangers.
Five weeks ago, I worked as elliptical, leg throbbing those annoying loops. The whole machine was choking his report morning mantra: down, down, down. As soon as I hit a certain threshold of sweat, I gave up, grabbed my bag and went straight into the cold winter air, still panting. I felt like I had a cigarette in his pocket, lumped together as small brick raw cash next to my car keys.
As smoke filled my chest and shoulders up so much that my keys are actually turned into his jacket pocket. It was like my mouth was filled with a viscous and something metallic. My throat seemed to radiate heat back and forth in space, where I stood. There was a flavor, a bit like burnt popcorn. I touched my tongue to the roof, a gesture intended to reassure the initial cough, it burns out there, a little electric. I pulled over the smoke, the returns from the cold wind in the face, and my lungs, raw materials and work with training, suddenly drenched in it. Light of the world fell on me, soluble and absolute, and I looked around to see if anyone was looking, half hoping that they were. I was a little high, then like all the other peaks, I know.
My lungs have been hit with a pair of scissors. I had two stray thoughts: something is wrong – the land rushed at me, and I thought that might fall – and that is correct – I was dizzy, wanting to see what would happen next. I went down on one knee. Then I breathed again, to the cherry coal.
The sky loomed large and seemed to be on my car and I stood there, a little wobble under the weight of serous resistance. I got a cigarette again pointed at him, and the sun seemed to leap up like a fish pulled on the line. I walked to my car, very slowly, savoring the cool ice in his mouth, burning in the chest.
I was a smoker for nearly a week, and this was the first thing that really works. I guess I was not breathing properly. But I was now. The first time I felt it.
I went to forty-six years before my first cigarette – oh, maybe I made an appearance here and there, but I never took a real drag. Then I made myself a smoker for thirty days.
This story is not about smoking cessation. This is a start. And since, for me, Thirty-four different brands of cigarette, eleven lighters, spiritual revelations and moments of clarity, meeting in the alley mouth, alliances with strangers on the streets of different cities, huddled together on the porch to look ragged hand cupped flash game in a blizzard, the eternal sore throat, cough, painful, multiple sessions, vomiting, six days a headache, increased appetite, dizziness, seizure, and the evil case that I can call only moral confusion. It also meant joining a sort of club, getting bitch slapped by hegemony, trying to adapt, and not wanting to fit in.
I do not like to tinker, so I worked quickly, and I would not want to commit to anything, so I kept it short. I wanted to get to pack day, arbitrary units, in which all smokers to measure them in one month. Then I would quit. If it made me sick, all right. I wanted to feel that. If I were a withdrawal syndrome, well, I’d deal with it. I had to understand. Besides, I figured I could lose weight.
So, as the morning light went on a day when I decided to start smoking, I turned, took a deep breath, put your feet on the carpet, and continued to do so. By lunchtime, I smoked six U.S. light of the Spirit. I smoked that first package in two days.
My first: walking home four long blocks from the school where I teach.
I do not know how to hold it. My fingers are attached to a small cigarette, looked at pigs, oversized, badly located. Smoke, ash and light filled my mouth, made his eyes water. I coughed at every resistance, even though I barely breathing. I covered all this up, walking quickly, thinking that I just look like a man with places to go, busy man, smoking a daily fact of life, not the poser given the small elements of style that I was obsessed with well-lit cigarette? How deep should I breathe? Anyway, I was concerned, like some stupid kid in ninth grade.
From there, I tried to hit him every two hours or so. During the week I was up to twelve days. I went to the store, bought a new bag and threw it on top of my fridge, when it was done. I tried all the brands I could find. In thirty days, I hit a pack of cigarettes a day. At the thirty-first day, I smoked cigarettes twenty-two. So I can honestly declare that I have smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day. For the day.
At the beginning of my insecurity drove me to call and ask for a cigarette company some pointers. I threaded my way through the voice mail menu, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, manufacturer of the American spirit, while I was talking with a representative named Sean, who seemed for the moment, quite well.
just picked up smoking,” I said, “and I think I’m doing it wrong. Something is wrong.””Sir?”
“I’m not holding a cigarette right, I do not breathe fully, I do not know how to ashes, I never know where to throw the cigarette butts. And when you’re old, just starting out, no one will teach you. Do you have someone who can help me learn how to smoke? ”
There was a long pause. I can imagine the face of this guy can almost hear the lips purse.
“We do not provide advice on new smokers,” he said. Then he took a deep breath. Poor guy. He should get a handle calls during the day. Only I was not eccentric.
“Well, when I breathe, it hurts,” I said. “It makes me cough.”
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“I’m just looking for a little help,” I said. “I see people on television, and I can see when they are not breathing, you know? I know they’re fake.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice stonier from each exchange.
“I do not want to be a fake. I want to breathe.”
Pause. Legs guy must be pushing up and down like a lawn mower piston. He kept his cool. Good guy, Sean.
“There really is no manual available,” he said. “You just inhale and exhale.”
“I’ve been using your promotions,” I said. It was true. Twenty-dollar gift certificate.
He thrummed with a finger on the mute button. “There’s really nothing I can do to help you.”
“Nobody seems to want,” I said.
“Do you smoke?” I said.
He admitted that he did not, and at that moment I thought, to hell with it. He has no idea what I need.
My friend smoked on and off for twenty years. It is not a heavy smoker – six or seven a day. She is out for many years at the time, but found it almost impossible to get for a lifetime. But this is – she did not want to participate. She cringed at the thought of my taking up smoking in the forty-six years old, and seemed happy to baby talk. She was concerned that I was made fun of her or trying to make some point. “It’s not a hat you can wear and carry around, to see how it looks,” she said, not long after I told her about the experiment. We walked down the street in the city. She picked up a cigarette between his fingers, like the courtroom evidence. “This is serious stuff. And you’re not taking it seriously.” Most of all, she says, she was concerned for me.
I reached down and picked up a packet from her pocket, her lips out of the smoke, said the fire, and made a bad joke. A cigarette, I thought it might help me do a duck.
She grunted and wheeled me. “You’re going to use it against me?” she said, suddenly angry. She even made a fist, with her cigarette clamped firmly in it. “You can not think, I like it. You can not.”
“You mean I smoke?”
“No, I smoke.”
She was right on the road. I used it all as a gag, illuminating moments when you have to, and not behave like a smoker, the person who puts some thought at the time and place for smoking. I hugged her, and we lit up, standing in the vacant half of the halo lamp store. Smoker’s support, the last unclaimed seats. I would feel comfortable, and cigarettes, which are provided. I wanted to catch up with both of us.
Anger at me ran deep among non-smokers, too. My youngest son, an asthmatic, athlete, honest guy, if there is one, begged me to. “You can not do it!” he said when I told him that I do. “No way. You will get involved.”
No,” I said. We were driving back from the gas station where I bought three different centers and orange Pall easier. “I just want to do look. I’ll be back before you know it.”
But it hurt him that I would even consider it. “It’s crazy, daddy. There’s nothing to try. What you should know about smoking? Just read the book. This is stupid.” He looked out the window of the car, gas stations rolled, each of whom I knew, equipped with a huge overhead rack cigarettes ordered by color, intensity, size of the dose. Kingdom. Type. The class. Each window rattling ugly and indistinguishable price box or package. He sighed. “You just think it looks cool.”
There, in a world turned on its head – the son of his father scolded for smoking – I was constantly low frequency argument. “Cary Grant also look cool,” I muttered. “And Sigourney Weaver in Alien.”
“Who?” he said. “Who is it? Honestly, Dad. It does not seem smart.”
The first cigarette at the bar: Kool, a guy I met on the work in the basement of the joint in Indianapolis. When I bellied up to the bar, had a pack in the ashtray. It was late at night, he was on the tequila, I bourbon. We had two doors and a staircase from the daylight. Twenty minutes later, I said I wanted a smoke. “You do?” he said. “I mean, do you smoke?”
“I just started.”
“You just started,” he said, repeating my ease. He had to repeat the question for yourself: “Do you smoke?”
When I looked at his Kools, they disappeared. He slipped them when I was not looking. “Do you smoke,” I said, pointing to the ashtray. “I saw your cigarettes.”
He pulled them out of pocket, tilt the bag back and forth like a bell. “I just took it back,” he said.
He put a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and pinched his eyes a bit. “It’s always good news to meet the guy smokes.”
I struck a match. “I’m starting to see it as a club.”
He shook his head and blew smoke in the tunnel is a dark bar. “Yes,” he said. “How to Rotary.”
He shrugged and looked at Kool.
“It is not without its charms.”
I started a little game. I gave each other the name of the resistance in my head. Every time I took out a cigarette, I tried to breathe more deeply – I called that the chimney. This rule is to kill me, send me a coughing fit. I have not thrown in the twenty years since I do not remember when. After that first week, his throat was dark, wet flue, stomach bag of smoke, so the chimney. After vomiting, I was always a breathe at least one more time, because it was better than that.
Later, when I learned to breathe well – in a fast and deep, from the fast and smooth – I call it bench press. Then there was the handle of breath, which I did in the presence of actual smokers. I turn my head (like a door knob) on expiration in the other direction, because the real smokers know, inhale the smoke comes out clearly and with some speed behind it, and not in a couple of curls, I exploded. Door handle conceal the fact that I did not hit it right. There was also a blackbird (hard, squawking cough that came in the fourth week), extra points (smooth, hard to do after a meal or argument) and darts (small input-output), which worked well after a workout.
I named them all. I thought that the new level of awareness.
As someone who loves his vices, I knocked enough permanent damage to a life already. I need to know if I was, you know, to commit suicide. I called Mehmet Oz, cardiac surgeon major at Columbia University and health writer in Esquire. The first thing he asked for my “dose”. I told him the number I was up to. He was very analytical; looking at my brain is not an experiment, as clinical research. “We should put you on the site to begin. We were supposed to help you in. How do you feel now?”
“Sick,” I said. “It makes me dizzy, it gives me a headache. First resistance or two easily. After that it different every time.”
“You poison yourself with nicotine. It takes a while for your body to learn how to deal with it. You are too fast. Your brain has not yet learned to produce dopamine to cause dependence. Nicotine, he did not throw the right switch in your brain. It is about isolation, the insular cortex. What do you really after is the production of dopamine. smoker uses cigarettes at certain times of the day produce dopamine as a means of self-medication. ”
I asked him if I end up talking through a hole in his neck.
“A month? No, No, if the risks do not exist. You’re in uncharted territory here. No one gets in your life. But if you quit smoking, your body will repair the damage quickly. It’s great thing about non- smoking. light repairs themselves. ”
The night before, I told him, I drew as hard as I could, right in the center of the chest. It made me quit. For three days I could bring myself to throw on the team. (It was like a card trick. I showed the maid again. I told her that her treatment. It is big smoker. “I thought you did not want someone smoking here,” she said later, staring blankly at the cigarette in hand.)
“I believe that,” Dr. Oz said my throw-up trick. “What I would like to see.” He said that with the curiosity of a scientist.
Here’s a good cigarette: in the second week: We’re eating out. I ordered a light beer, rib eye, and something called chic peas. My friend was in front of me, both of us in one of our back and foam, laughing, delighting each other, acting as a character, teasing out the familiar jokes. We never needed the company. The steak was well cooked peas – chic. And, as I pushed the record, I was amazed the first time in my life, poor sound diagnosis at the center of the chest. It was the kind of lift, as if someone had wrapped a string around my ribs, string gently pulling me somewhere. I put my hand flat on my chest and my friend looked at me vaguely anxious. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “It’s just, I feel, I do not know ….” I stopped and ate, to make sure that this is not some weird new need for more food. “I think I need a cigarette.” She smiled and stood up, stretched out her hand and we went to the door, stood on the obstacle ramp and two smoking American Spirits. She did not like my smoking is better now, but she accepted it and even allowed myself to enjoy it in such moments. Up and down the street, now covered with darkness, lights forming circles of light friendly, so it looked like some kind of garden. People were standing, one and two in the world out there, smoking cigarettes, quietly gazing at the stars or the car or from the windows of houses and shops.
“Wow,” I said.
“That’s a lot of smokers.” I snapped his fingers up and down. “Smoke in any light.” There were others there, I stood in the dark.
“Yes,” she said. “There are so many. There always is.”
One Tuesday, I was struck at the Detroit airport. I wanted to smoke, but I would also like to see what happens. Heh-heh. It seemed dangerous act, and quite possibly stupid, but what I can talk my way out. Cigarettes gave me the balls in such situations. I even had a fleeting thought that I could make converts, to start a riot right at the Mediterranean Grill in concourse A. I did lurk in the deep recess of the gate – thirty feet from any other passenger or further away from anyone with the right to shoot a blow dart in the neck and put me at 7:05 with no break in Guantanamo. Then I got lighter and calmly lit a Virginia Slim, my brand on that day.
What happens when you smoke in the airport – because my advice is that you never try to know yourself – is that a series of reactions into place mechanically, like science fiction, and if the collective consciousness of the place was made available to all equally, that allows a special, simplified reaction. Heads turn-clicking easier, bodies move in your direction immediately.
I took two puffs hard, because now the janitor jumped out of nowhere and goes hard on my right. The gate agent is rapidly walking distance, and the woman with the baby in her arms came up with a grimace. The other two were behind the appearance.
“You can not smoke here!” The woman said, turning a child away from me, as if protecting it from the heat of the fire.
“Sir, we assume that from the” North-West agent said to me in full of the run.
“I’m sorry,” I told everyone, stamping his foot on the bottom, ash fall on the carpet, like sparks from a welding gun. “I just started smoking. I do not know.”
Janitor pursed his lips. Thirty-five seconds have passed. Around the corner came to airport security. I was surrounded.