Last Puff

People ask me what I’m doing and I say ‘quitting smoking.’ They nod and smile and wait for something more, ‘ok, but what are you doing?’ That’s it, that’s all, there’s nothing else to be done. No room for anything else, no time no drive no nothing. Every fiber of my body is occupied by quitting smoking.

If I’d chosen drugs or alcohol as my personal addiction, right now I would be in a nice clean hospital, doing a little 4 week program. I wouldn’t be expected to cook, clean, think, respond, react or care. All I’d have to do is quit. And when I wanted to scream, I could scream, and there would be a nice doctor to talk to and some big burly boys to sit on me and keep me from flinging myself out the window.

Instead I’m here, in my room. I drink endless sips of water, chew the kind of mints that loudly shatter between your teeth into tiny shards of sugar-glass, rub cherry popcicles along my aching gums and wait for this to end.

Quitting is painful. I feel the fluid around my brain become thick and pasty, then it dries and every thought or motion causes my brain to scrub up against the rough bone of my skull. My mouth aches, and the only thing that relieves the ache is to bite. I take off my watch so I can gnaw on the back of my wrist. It hurts, but it hurts less. The biting feels better than not. My watch covers the tooth marks and the ragged red wound. Everything is loud, every sound unappealing. There is no music, no beauty in sound. It all translates to the slamming of doors.

“Act normal” is my mantra. I have to remind myself that no one sees things as I do, no one hears, feels, reacts the way I will. So I try not to react at all. I want to be okay but I’m not. I’m angry when I shouldn’t be, angry at everything. The tv is too loud, don’t speak while the water is running, too many sounds, please god don’t bang the pans.

Scents are magnified, intense and loud and let me tell you, the world stinks. The smell of cooking food stinks, the air after the rain stinks, my soap, my shampoo, things I thought smelled good – I only thought that because I smelled just a portion of what was there to be smelled. Now I smell it all and it stinks. My kitten goes out to play in wet grass after the rain and when he comes in he smells like sweaty little kid. I always thought he smelled sweet.

A friend once quit smoking, only he had this thing about the word ‘quit.’ He was not a quitter. So instead of saying ‘I’m quitting smoking,’ he would say ‘I’m practicing breathing.’ Sometimes I remember that and take a deep, deep breath. But of course, it stinks. And it hurts. Quitting smoking sucks.

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Cynthia Lugo

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