Saturday, December 22, 2007

there is a hole, somewhere very near the center of me. a gap. a thing that i loved and hated and that is missing now going on three weeks. i have tried to fill it with other things, but nothing can quite compare. like a woman i loved but couldn't live with, not forever.

i know that it's for the best. that it's the only option, really. i don't want to die of something stupid. i don't want to be owned by something outside of myself. i don't want to spend fifty bucks a week to sap my vitality and kill my breath.

i don't want to be a smoker anymore.

i picked it up almost by accident, in high school, when my friends and i couldn't score weed. i knew it was a dumb habit, and my mom smoked when i was growing up, and i hated it, and i figured i wouldn't get caught. but i did, and the habit i picked up by accident when my friends and i couldn't score weed became a central feature of my personality for most of my adult life.

as anyone who has known me can tell you, i was a righteous smoker. the kind of guy you can just tell by looking at him is a smoker and loves it, the kind of guy who makes you want to smoke, even if you don't smoke and don't like it.

i was kind of like that with vice in general, but it was the cigarettes that lay at the foundation of it all. they were the basic building block of my pyramid of vice, a constant, regular infusion of chemicals and cool.

after college, i conceded that they were having a detrimental effect on my health and started smoking american spirits instead of camels. but then i realized how bad all those chemicals had tasted, and how good the spirits tasted by comparison, and it was like when you and your lover decide to stop using condoms when you fuck. so much sweeter, so much more intimate. and they last longer, too, like you do with a lover you know well.

but there's no getting around it. i always wondered, when i was younger, why it was such a big thing when the surgeon general said that smoking was unhealthy, like it wasn't before he finally said it out loud, like he was pointing out some 500 lb gorilla that everybody wanted to talk about but couldn't for some reason. it was obvious to me, as it must be to any smoker, that smoking is bad for you. it's as plain as the nose on your face. sure, you might not be able to intuit the percentage increase in your likelihood of developing x, y, z, and q life-threatening ailments, but anyone who has so much as taken a drag off of a cigarette should be able to know, right then and there, that this is something that's bad for you.

but that's exactly why it's appealing to the young-folk. you spend your whole childhood getting told not to do shit because it's bad for you, and then all of a sudden your balls drop and you realize that you get to make your own decisions and so you make bad ones because they're bad because you can. and for the most part, it's consequence-free for a while, because when you're young you're comparatively indestructible, even though you never know how much until you stop being.

but i ain't quite young anymore, and i sure as hell ain't indestructible. and the romance wore off a long time ago. sure, i still enjoyed it, sometimes, but after a while, you can't lie to yourself anymore. you know it's a habit, and that you do it because it drives you crazy not to, and even though it gets harder and harder every year, you keep at it not because you're a rebel or because you're punk rock or whatever it was you thought it made you when you were younger and dumber. you do it because you need it, or at least it feels like you do.

but you really don't. i really don't. that's what i tell myself anyway. that i'm going to be free of that enslavement, and that even if i crack, it won't be what i want it to be. it won't make me happy, it won't fill the hole there near the center of me, because in the end that hole was always already there, a part of me that i've tried to fill with all kinds of things, but that can always hold more. i know because now that i've stopped filling it with cigarette smoke, things are starting to come out. and even though it's like being battered by a constant gale-force shitstorm of emotion and random weirdness while i try and make my way through my daily life, i know that i need to keep walking. i've got this theory, see, and the theory goes that maybe once all that shit that packed down into that hole comes out, once all the sadness, anger, depression and other negative bullshit that i've buried under the surface works its way out, then maybe that hole will close up and heal over. sure, it'll leave a scar, but scars are sexy. open wounds are much less so, once you get past a certain age. if you've reached thirty without learning to heal yourself, if you still wear your damage like a cool tattoo, then something is wrong with you.

things are definitely wrong with me. there's no doubt about that. but i've got more scars than wounds, and the wounds i have are cleaning out and closing up. and it's hard right now, with all this shit coming out of me, overwhelming me sometimes in ways i don't entirely understand. and i hate it, oh how i hate it. feeling so unbalanced, off-kilter, not entirely sure what'll come out of my mouth or subconscious at any given moment, not always able to keep a train of thought on the rails, drunker than usual, and with a slightly nervous vertiginousness to my laughter sometimes.

but i'm still there, in the back of my own mind, sane and rational and mostly clear-eyed. but it's strange to realize that your instincts are off, that for a while at least you can't trust them, and you have to take a moment and filter what you're thinking and feeling back into some more rational frame of reference, because not everybody else is going crazy like you are.

it's okay, though. i've been through this before, and made it. yes, i went back to the dark side, but i made it a year and a half before i did, and this time is easier, in some ways, because i know more surely that this is what must be done than i did last time. and because i know that if i have even one cigarette then i am sliding down a slippery slope and i'm going to have to through all this shit again, and feel bad about myself on top of it.

fuck that. i'm going to make it. i'm just going to have to be crazy for a little while. so be it.

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