I was just one day away from seven weeks into the Great Smoking Cessation of 2011 when I had a full-on, mouth-watering, brain-seizing urge for a smoke.
It was, truth be told, the strongest craving I’ve had so far, a powerful impulse that drove out all other thoughts and left me feeling small and, somehow, chilled.
I stood in the maelstrom that is compulsion and swayed.
Not that I haven’t had the urge to light up before, but to find myself wanting a cigarette almost exactly seven weeks from the last time I lit up, well this was rather unexpected.
Maybe it was the fact that Mary was smoking.
When in doubt, blame Mary.
Dagnabit it, Mary!
The words formed in my head of their own accord. “Hey, gimme me one of those, why don’tcha...”
But it didn’t sound right.
“Got another one?”
No, no, no.
“Hey, how ‘bout you…”
Somehow, none of them struck just the right tone.
And worse yet, not one of them would’ve convinced Mary to give me one.
She watches me out of the corner of her eye, you know. She’s been very conscientious about smoking around me, going so far as to leave the room for the first couple of weeks, leading to shouted conversations that include descriptions of gesticulations and the sound of one or possibly both of us doubling over in laughter and falling off the furniture.
I watched her watch me. Could she tell what I was thinking? Was it possible that I was drooling? I self-consciously wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, swallowed and then licked my lips.
So let’s say, just for laughs, that I bum a cigarette. Then what? I quit quitting and buy a pack? Take up carrying cough drops and little perfume spritzers again?
Nah. Like I said, I don’t smoke anymore.
And so I suffered. A small suffering, in light of all the possible ways to suffer, there’s no doubt about that. I let the desire wash over me, climb up my pant legs, fill my pockets, soak my shirt, cram into the gaps between my ears.
It tasted like ashtrays and late-night coughing fits.
And then the craving went away.
Hi. My name is Pearl, and I’ve not had a cigarette for seven weeks and a day.
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