I was just reading I, Asshole, the blog of the delightful SJ, and she was writing about her history with smoking, which got me thinking about mine.
The first cigarette I ever smoked was in a huge storm water tunnel which ran under a road near the netball courts in Orange. It was probably fifty metres long, and foul and it was fairly standard to be dared to run the length of it at some point. I guess we figured a dirty, wet, pitch black tunnel was the safest place to try smoking, if you can follow that logic.
Someone stole a cigarette from their dad. I can’t remember the brand, but it was a 16 milligram. I remember that because 16 milligrams, to a new 13 or 14-year-old smoker, in a dark tunnel, basically feels like death.
We smoked it, we discussed smoking it, we decided we’d probably smoke again and we exited the tunnel … at the end of which stood my mum and my dog. It was weird. To this day I have no idea why she was there, we didn’t live anywhere nearby, we hadn’t arranged to meet after school and I’m fairly certain she had no idea I was in the tunnel when she stopped.
She was more concerned with the fact that I was hanging out in a tunnel than anything else, but I caved under no pressure whatsoever and was all ‘I know I smell like smoke but there’s a very good reason!’. I forget what “reason” I gave, but I’m fairly sure my mum hadn’t suspected what I’d been doing and really, just thought I was insane.
I smoked really, really occasionally until about year 12, when I started my love affair with Benson & Hedges, Extra Mild. Extra Mild meant eight milligrams, which feels less like death, and more like … slow death. I’d been going to pubs to watch live music since I was about 15 and so my weekends now were music, Malibu and Coke and cigarettes.
Although my parents knew, I had no idea they knew, and because it was back in the days when you could smoke in pubs, I always felt safe because I had an excuse for why my clothes, and as a result, their house, always smelt like smoke. Then I moved out.
I smoked in Canberra, where I learnt the joys of rolling my own and licorice flavoured papers, thanks Dave. This talent would later be put to use by desperate fellow students for slightly more illicit purposes. I never mastered rolling with filters, but that’s fine, I just smoked unfiltered, licorice flavoured cigarettes, while watching fire twirling and helping my man friends through girl troubles. I smoked with a group of Pakistani men, who went through cartons of Marlboro Reds [death x 2] like it wasn’t no thang. I smoked before I ate breakfast and I smoked well into the night with good friends, because really, what else are you going to do when you’re 18 and you’ve just discovered postmodernism?
I moved to Bathurst and I smoked my way through a Bathurst winter and a year of dorm life before I moved into my first share house. It was a little pink house and it was across the road from my favourite pub. I think we can guess how I spent much of 2003. It was smoking which got me entangled in one of the most intense, yet chaste “relationships” I had during my uni days. It’s dangerous to smoke the same brand as an older man, who knows you’ll be on your porch at 1am, staring into the darkness, trying to make sense of being 21.
I smoked into a new share house, through two break ins, many shifts at Bunnings and several more winters.
Then I started Honours, which should have meant that I smoked more than ever, but for some reason, one day, it just didn’t feel right anymore. I didn’t have a health scare, I didn’t stop liking it, I just realised it was stupid. So I stopped, cold turkey, ending my career with a pink Fantasia which I had been keeping because I was a big fan of the Mr Bungle song, Pink Cigarette. If you have never had a Fantasia, let me tell you this: I must have been desperate, because I would smoke Malboro Reds by the carton, before I would smoke another Fantasia. But I went out lookin’ classy.
I quit cold turkey, except for patches, which I eventually stopped using because, first, they itch like crazy, and secondly, they made me have inappropriate dreams about the character Arvin Sloane from the show Alias. Yes, I mean sex dreams.
I know I can never smoke another cigarette, not even so much as a puff, because even though I don’t get cravings very often anymore, I loved it and I would smoke again given half a chance.
And there it is, my history with that hussy, nicotine.