“Do it like this.”
I take a drag on the yellowish filtered tip. The cancerous smoke fills my mouth. It tastes like ash. I spit it out.
“No, like this.”
Inhale. Hold. Hold. Deep breath. The smoke grips my lungs in a vice lock. It squeezes tight. It stings. Exhaled cough.
“You see, not to bad ey.”
If I were to know that was going to be the first time, the start to a filthy habit I might not have given into the pressure. I look back and feel like booting myself across the face. I was with my cousin and my friend who were a couple of years older than me. They had smoked before. We were hiding around the corner in the back garden. In the shadows of the devilish smoke. I knew it was wrong but they looked so cool. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t notice the grin of the devil in the fading clouds.
Fast-forward 13 years and I smoke a pack a day. Well used too. I have been cutting down recently. This habit has consumed my life. My wallet. My fingertips. My teeth. My lips. Heck! Everything has been consumed by the black tar. Inevitably driving me faster to extinction. Pulling me slowly down below. Deeply into the muck to sit with mammoths and saber tooth tigers.
It started off all those years ago when a box would last me a whole week, even more. I would sneak around the house late at night. Made sure my parents were asleep. Light up nervously. Puff like a paranoid person, jumping to every sound I heard. Throwing the cig to the floor. Waiting silently. Scouting the area like a meerkat. Clear. Pick it up and continue. This would be it. Just one or two a day in secrecy. My parents would kill me. I was only 12 years old.
But parents are not stupid beings. Trust me. When I got older I grew more confident. Gutsier. Didn’t wait for them to sleep now. Well I couldn’t. I was craving it too bad. That taste. That rush. I would sit in the bathroom with the window open full. Have the extractor fan on. Stretch as far out as the bars would let me. My mother would walk by. I would cringe when I heard her footsteps.
“You smoking?” she would inquire.
“No, just on the toilet.” I would lie.
She would be waiting when I emerged. She sniffed the air and shook her head disapprovingly. I would argue that she was smelling her own smoke. Yeah, she smoked. I always used that against her when I was accused. She wasn’t dumb though.
When I was 15 I finally stop denying it. I smoked full time now and they couldn’t stop me. Even after all their futile attempts. My father forcing patches on me. The disciplined hidings. My mother’s heart pouring pleas even though the fingers she used to wipe away the tears were stained by the tobacco sticks. I had started to go through a pack in two or three days. It was costly. I’d spend the money I had been given for food on cigs. I would rather starve than not have a smoke. Besides high school is all about peer pressure. Until I found a solution to my money woes.
In high school smoking was like a class. You had to learn how to do it without getting caught. I was apart of the experienced smokers – we never got caught except for that one time. My first bust. We were at our normal spot. Our watchers on either side of the route to monitor teacher activity. I lit up by this old caravan that was parked on the grass pathway between the science and admin block. Now the thing you have to know is that some of the cleaning staff hated our stompi barrage along their well-manicured flower boxes. To my surprise, that day, one of them took it upon himself to stop our ways. He didn’t approach from either side or else we would have known. He was hiding under the caravan. Grabbed my leg as I puffed away. Caught stompi footed. Dragged to the principals office and endured the normal lashing of what a disrespectful little turd I was. My parents were called. They were not too impressed but didn’t care either.
I had a reputation. I was sort of praised really. I would rock up with a thirties of Courtleigh. I sold loose smokes for two rand. I was the one guy who always had a smoke on him. Everyone wanted to know me if they smoked. Sometimes I was generous, maybe too generous and that would cost me. But what can I say I had a big heart and hated to smoke alone. If I got caught, which I did, it was always nice to have someone get caught with you, which I didn’t. That way you shared the wrath of our principal.
Here’s how a break time smoke went:
Break bell sounds.
Casually walk to the crowded bathroom.
Push through the bodies towards the last stall.
Ignore the shouting friends behind me.
Forget their pleas for seconds and thirds.
The one guy asking for lasts.
The other wants the lasts of the lasts. Desperate for a puff.
Hierarchies of first come first smoke.
I would smoke it half way.
Throw the rest to the mouth-watering fiends. Like a bloody carcass of scraps for the hyenas.
See them fighting over yellow pages.
The filter squashed so thin.
Covered in saliva and germs.
I didn’t care.
Walk away content.
Sell to those who craved more.
Did it all again the next break.
Made about 40 bucks in a day.
I started of by smoking Stuyvesant Red. This was my friends doing. Moved onto Dunhill Red because I was Indian like that and it was time to fit the stereotype. Then to Stuyvesant Blue because I wanted to go lighter thinking it was safer. Idiot! I then found that Courtleigh was my brand and smoked it for years until I noticed the price was just too much for me to handle anymore. Now I smoke Princeton Red or recently changed to Paul Mall. It is strong enough and relatively cheap. A whole 15 rand less than my beloved Courtleigh. Yet my body needs the nicotine fix so much that when I didn’t have money anything would do. I am so addicted that I would dig through my mothers ashtray just to find a smokeable stompi. Collecting loose change like a charity case in order to buy loose. There were times when it was really rough and I would do anything for that smoke. Disgusting, filthy and down right wrong. I am ashamed of it.
There were times that I can remember when the mates and I would arise after a heavy night of partying. Everyone itching for that smoke. All moaning about the hanging headaches after too much booze. Sharing is caring and throughout the night a lot of cigarettes went down. So here we are ten guys waiting to see who has a cigarette left. No one has change to put together like we normally do to buy a box. Everyone is moody and irritated. Until someone brings out the hidden smoke. The one kept away for just this reason. It is like Wrestle Mania but no one actually waits their turn to enter the ring. It becomes a free-for-all death match and we all struggle to even get a small taste. One pull though is all you need yet it just makes you sad because you want more and you can’t. I was always smart and saved one just for myself that I would sneak away to smoke. But that is my little secret. I would have a full smoke whilst they struggled over the one.
Over the years I have developed a routine especially when it comes to my cigarettes. The times I smoke are registered into a constant schedule and works perfectly with my body and mind:
The morning coffee-dump-smoke
Wake up with the tired encrusted on your eyelids. Shuffle to the kettle half asleep, half awake. Pour the java. Slump onto the toilet seat. Freeze your cheeks. Light up. Sip. Release. Let go of the sleep and waken your mind to the day ahead. The best and only way to wake up.
The after chow smoke
The best time to smoke a cig is after a massive meal. To sit with a stomach full and lightly puff away fills your contentment meter all the way.
The after sex smoke
Sex and food are like two peas in a pod. Though you shouldn’t try them at the same time. Messy and rather ugly unless it’s chocolate body paint or strawberries and cream. But after climax to lay there with your lover at your side puffing away at ecstasy. Ding, ding, ding meter of satisfaction filled to the brim.
The drink accompanying smoke
A smoker cannot simply have a drink without a cigarette in their other hand. The two tango on your taste buds. After a tequila shot the first thing to grab at is a smoke to subdue the fiery Mexican pulling on your gag reflex.
The hidden smoke
Kept away for times of need. Especially after a heavy night of partying. But you had to keep it a secret to have it all to yourselves. A craving smoker is ruthless, cunning and deadly. They will circle you like vultures. Just waiting for that scent of fresh smoke and opportunity to swoop in.
The fixed smoke
Down to your last smoke and it breaks. There is no point raving on about it. Tear it off from where it is broken. Turn it around and stuff it back into the filter. Smokeable.
The stress releasing smoke
Stress is bad for you. So is smoking and please I am not here endorsing it to those that are reading. You shouldn’t smoke. IT WILL KILL YOU. But I am just expressing my need to smoke especially when I am stressed out. Be it a fight with someone, anxiety or nerves a smoke has become something to calm me down. It is not healthy for me, true, but it does put me at ease.
The friendly smoke
I have realized that I meet people whilst smoking. Standing in a crowd, sitting in a smoking section of the bar or just by myself and you are sure to make a friend who smokes too. They will either ask to borrow your lighter or bum a smoke from you. Conversation then becomes commonplace and presto, new friend!
The goodnight smoke
A smoke before bed is my bedtime story. This is when I know the day is done and I can sleep peacefully.
Since my inception the forces of nicotine have driven my mind and body downwards into a spiraling mess of cravings, withdrawal and frustration. I become agitated when I don’t have the fix. Trembling hands when it’s been too long. It is the worst addiction any one could have. To consistently smell like a fire hazard where people turn their noses in the other direction. Trying to find the exit. Bound by law to isolation in public places. Stained teeth, blackened lips and orange fingertips. Told you taste like an ashtray. I can snap at someone if I haven’t had my smoke and I need to. Missing out on important happenings because you were too busy smoking outside. It has become a nuisance in my life. It brings down my savings. It is killing me, literally! Yet it is the hardest thing to quit. I have been trying to do the best I can and it seems I am getting there. Slowly but surely I will rid this toxic product from my life. Cutting down bit by bit until one day it is completely out of my system. I have a beautiful girlfriend, my future wife, and she has made see that I need to be around longer to share in a magical life with her. She, us and our future are my reasons why I am slowly weening myself off this terrible habit. Rid myself of this terrible addiction. Before I go up in smoke.