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One Full Week

"Who needs friends that try to kill you?"

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Updated May 28, 2006

One Full Week

Leslie Bainbridge

I have made it one whole week without smoking and I am weak with disbelief. Although I feel a bit shaky at night lately, I've awoken with this new promise of a new day, and no cough! And sweeter breath! I hit a note singing along to the radio that I have not been able to reach in a long, long time. I am coughing, but not as much as I thought I would.

This morning was rough, however. I really wanted a smoke. I have a few left in a pack on top of the fridge. My friend Geo had wanted me to throw them out (he has been instrumental in this process, and quit smoking a month before me), but the thought of that was too much to bear.

I walked to the fridge and raised my eyes to the top of the very place I'd been avoiding for one week. The nico-lair. Where they lay nestled in their packet, seemingly harmless. Sure enough, there they were. All perfectly white and compact, standing at attention in their wee box, looking at once both stoic and vulnerable. They'd helped me through so much, I thought. They had enveloped me and hid me from all of the scary moments of life. Moments like meeting new people, helping me to looking defiant and cool when in reality I felt self-conscious and shy. The veritable smoke screen, the wall of toxicity that put an effective screen between myself and the world. I didn't realize how much of a screen it was putting between me and myself.

So there they were. We'd been through a lot together. I shakily held the pack and wondered if I really felt like I could smoke. One of the things I had thought I missed were the accessories to smoking. The gold cases of yore, the cigarette holders I remember my Aunt Olive (who looked like Joan Crawford) toting, as her ruby red lips blew the smoke lazily into the lamplight. I was conveniently forgetting her death at 51 from a smoking-related illness, I was too lost in my illusive fantasy. There were so many cool lighters out, too! Flourescent ones that lit up, silver ones with etchings, pigs whose nostrils spewed flames, gorgeous seascapes, sports themes, psychedelic colors. All designed by their beauty to make us inhale the most toxic and dangerous substance legally available to mankind.

Hmmm. I pulled one out and sniffed it. A mixture of desire and disgust. It had held me captive for so many years, forcing me outside in freezing temperatures, while those healthier stayed warmly indoors and looked on me with sympathy, and some with empathy. It had made me panic as snowstorms came for fear of having to go out and by more in the cold. I had lit my cigarettes on stove burners when I had run out of lighter fluid - leaving circlets of burnt ash on the elements. I had tried cigarettes all over the world, Turkish cigarettes, English and French, cigarettes in Australia, Italy and Spain. We had been around the world together.

I remember one incident in London when I was on a date. My date had a gas stove in his apartment. I needed a light and could not find any matches. I bent over in what I thought was a very sexy pose to light my ciggy on his burner...a second later there was this WHOOOSH and I felt heat on my face. My eyelashes felt stubby and I noticed blackened stringy things like webs were floating around my personage. My nostrils filled with the acrid scent and I realized then that I'd gotten a tad too close! I raced to the mirror to check how much hair had been burnt! Whew! Not much, thank goodness. My date was alas, in hysterics on the floor. So much for the vamp in me.

And now, I was back in my kitchen staring at my travel buddies. I brought one gently to my lips and I spoke to it. 'You suck!' , I said, 'I mean seriously...thanks for the memories, but you are really making me ill. You have to go now, because I want to live a long and healthy life. I am really tired of feeling ill, dizzy, embarrassed and fatigued. So, see ya!'...and then I crushed it. Then I took them all out, ripped them to shreds, placed them in the garbage, and poured water over the broken bits.

Who needs friends that try to kill you? They have deluded me for far too long, it is the addiction that makes me think their blue smoke is soothing, it is only relieving the craving, it does not, and has not ever calmed me down. It has only been a week, and already my heart beat slows instead of the racy, jerkiness I'd experienced in the evenings. Goodbye, friend.

More from Leslie:
The Seduction
The Smokescreen
Replacement Therapy
Not One Puff Ever (N.O.P.E.) - Part One
Not One Puff Ever (N.O.P.E.) - Part Two

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