I miss smoking, the way I always had someplace to put my hands as I walked next to a boy who wouldn’t hold ’em, the way my fingers would busy themselves at house parties where the only person I knew was the host. A cigarette used to be an invitation to strangers: come over this way, inhale with me. Now, instead, my digits dig deep in my purse for a slick black cellphone and they type meaningless messages to yet more strangers in many other rooms, jokes and quips in 140 characters or less until it’s time to go home. People talk to a girl with a cigarette, but a cellphone says I’d rather be anywhere but here, even on the internet, even places that don’t really exist. That’s not what I mean to express; it’s just that the cigarettes used to do my bidding for me and now I often find myself speechless, unsure of what to do.
It’s been two years and still I think about the way they fit between my fingers, the way I’d get carried away telling a story and look down to find a thick diner ash growing, the way I’d get high on something and leave the cigarette dangling between my index and middle for so long that it’d leave little brown marks where the flesh had burned. I miss friends bringing me exotic ashtrays and lighters from their travels, I miss the bond so quickly formed with strangers who spoke in foreign tongues. I miss the caves that would come to my rescue when it was windy out, two joined hands protecting my flame from the violent air. I miss the carefree of it all, the spontaneity; I miss the escape, the excuses I’d make for myself when it was time to have another.
Lately when I have a bad day it turns into a stretch of bad days, days where I feel heavy and blank and listless and useless. I don’t remember having these marathons of morose when I was a smoker, is this what happens when you nix your best coping mechanism and never replace it with a new one? Was smoking every time I got scared or sad or bored protecting me from whoever I am now? I used to recover quickly from these things when I allowed myself a smoke or ten, but now my refractory period feels black and endless, I’ve no idea how to protect myself from myself.
But I won’t smoke again, because I like the way my hair smells now. I like the soft of my hands, how they’re not wrinkled and raisined from too-many washes. I can’t tell for sure, but my body seems to work better. I don’t get so sick anymore, the only ails I suffer now are of my own making. I’m not so worried about my breath, not so worried about my throat, not so worried about the blood clots my gynecologist always warned me about. If I ever get pregnant, quitting will be one less adjustment on my to-do list, a change I dreaded the 10 years I lit up. I like waking up to new days feeling and breathing fresh, and most of all I like the idea that my lungs are slowly recovering from the damage I inflicted on them. I like the idea that something dark and filthy will get a second chance.