Let’s clear one thing up right away. I’m not writing this to justify my decision to occasionally smoke. At this point, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But so are fats, cookies, alcohol, in-laws, carbs, too much TV, and whatever else some new study has come up with. Smoking just gets judged the most. Besides, if you listen to theorists, we’re going to be in a nuclear war in like 10-20 years so why give up something I enjoy. Wow, that was almost justification. Whatever. The point is, I’m not naive so please don’t give me the damn surgeon general lecture in the comments.
The real point though, was to share why this is one of my comforts. First, you have to know that it’s pouring rain outside. This to me is pretty much paradise. I love the rain. I don’t mind that it makes the bottom of my jeans soaking wet or tracks in mud or forces everyone to wear sweaters. If weather can be a spirit animal, rain is mine.
Rain serves another purpose for me. I think best in the rain. Well not directly in the rain, I’m not completely crazy. But those days when I need to just think through life, not necessarily figure out little details or plan out a day, but just to process where I’m at in life, a cigarette on the porch with it pouring down rain just a few feet away is about as perfect as it gets. I’m not completely sure what it is. My only decent theory is that the methodical nature of the rain coming down and the consistent drags on a cigarette keep my mind from being able to psychotically multi-task. It’s a five-minute reprieve from the world.
That last sentence is a good reason for why I, and many of my friends enjoy a good smoke. Taking side the habitual cigarette breaks, sometimes life comes at you fast. It can be in a good or bad way but you just need to escape for a minute afterwards and process. But that’s not the only reason it’s a simple joy for me. There are memories and moments wrapped up in the idea of a cigarette too.
I don’t completely remember my first cigarette. I know I tried sneaking one from my grandmother’s pack when I was about 9 and reacted like most 9 year olds (grossed out). I had the occasional as a teen but I’d say I was 19 before I actually started smoking. I spent a few years smoking fairly heavily before drastically cutting back. I’m sure my mother would love to hear that I “stopped” because it wasn’t healthy but the truth is I just wanted to use my money on other things. So now it’s more of a treat for me and not a regular occurrence. The thing is, the memories are less in a smoking history but more in what you might call smoking moments.
Marlboros for example, scream my family to me. My parents don’t smoke. But my extended family in Texas, who we moved away from when I was 6, all smoke. And as far as I’m aware, everyone smokes Marlboros. My pack of Camel filters looks utterly out of place among them. But there’s a comfort there. Give me the smell of a Marlboro red and I am instantly transported to holidays and get togethers. Family is one of the most important things in the world to me and even the lingering smell of cigarettes says that to me.
I remember the day cigarettes seemed to, in an unspoken manner, elevate me from the children to the adults. My grandmother had passed away and while at the viewing, my aunts, uncles and I slipped outside to smoke. It was a sad moment certainly but from that moment on, I wasn’t treated as one of the kids. And it wasn’t the funeral that did it either. It was being out there with the adults of the family, understanding a different way of mourning, because being inside wasn’t working.
There were the long moments of the worst year of my life that needed a cigarette. When life threatened to bury me (and it did quite often that year) my best friend was always there. I’d lean on his shoulder, he’d share his cigarette, and for a few minutes, the world got pushed away. Everything was safe. When I think about those days, (though I try not too very much) those long drags on a simple cigarette are a big part of it.
Or the night last summer with my aunts and step-grandmother. A bunch of us had gathered in Lacey, Washington, for a family reunion. Several of us got there a day early and that night us girls stayed up late, sitting out on the porch, overlooking the lake under the night stars. We shared cigarettes, passed around what started out as a full tequila bottle (that only lasted about an hour before we moved on to the vodka) and gossiped. And every time we started to think it was getting cold and would go inside, we’d be in for about 2 minutes before someone would say “I’m just going out for one last smoke” and everyone would head back outside for another hour. The enjoyment of a cigarette kept our party going. (This was also the night I had the misfortune of getting advice from my aunts & step-grandma about how to make sure that I’m “happy” even though I’m single. Thank goodness I’d had about 7 shots at this point or I would’ve been embarrassed to this day).
Even social cigarettes can have memories. I think of a night at SDCC last year. It was a fantastic night, full of memories and laughter and friends. But the thing was, we had planned on going to Nerd HQ and actually going inside. We never made it. I remember only because we got all the way there and stopped for a cigarette. And just as one person would finish, someone else would light up and I think unconsciously that’s what kept us outside. No one would’ve wanted to miss out on part of the conversation by being separated. Again, I doubt this was conscious. But we ended up standing outside on a street for several hours having the time of our lives.
That’s why a cigarette is a comfort to me. It’s not about the addiction or the cravings. It’s about the memories. When life comes a little too fast, that cigarette lets me settle for a momentary slowdown.