I hold the smooth, slim stick in my hand and feel for the lighter in my bag. The light touches the flammable tip and I inhale, cloud myself with the haze of indifference. My few moments of oblivion, my few minutes of the day when I can puff sweet relief and silently declare that I don’t give a shit. A stick, then another, and then the moment is gone. My smoking buddies and I glance at each other and sigh, ‘Yep, back to reality.’
People say smoking is overrated. Whatever pleasure or relief you get from it is only psychological. If we’d been face to face, you’d hear me chuckle. That’s just the point, isn’t it? Everybody needs a little relief, a little forbidden pleasure, now and then. Wherever you get it, the pleasure you get is still something that you only mentally conceive. It’s not really about where or what you get it from - it’s all about how you want it to make you feel.
Overrated? Psychological? It is and it isn’t. It depends actually… what do you need relief from? This little cancer stick isn’t for everybody you know. In fact, it isn’t for anybody at all. But smokers have come to rely on it so much, they’d rather forget. From five sticks a day, to ten… to…to sticks?! Who does a couple of lousy sticks a day? More like a whole pack. Or two.
I’d rather forget. I know it’s not called CANCER stick for nothing. Heck, every smoker knows that. More importantly, smokers know that you can’t really say, “At least I was happy,” when you’re bedridden and diagnosed with lung cancer. But I’d rather forget. Stuff like that just don’t register anymore. You’d paste a graphic ‘Smoking Kills’ poster on my face and I’d just blow smoke right through it. Not a cynic. World’s crazy, but it hasn’t jaded me yet. Just being honest.
At a fragile, vulnerable age where the slightest fight between friends could mean the loss of the only security you know, the need to find an outlet overwhelms common sense and people like smokers turn to the momentary respite of the taste of smoke, the brief interlude between reality and pretense, so that even for a couple of precious minutes you can pretend you’re fine. It’s amazing the sense of false relief and security a meager stick of ground tobacco can give, but when you’re grasping at some form of sanity, some vestige of normality, you’d be willing to find that in just about anything. Even if it is only pretend, even if it’s only in your mind.
But somehow, somehow… despite all the psychological shit and cancer risks? Smoking does give me something tangible. Something that’s not only in my mind. I sit on one of Sted’s empty chairs, feel my empty pocket and look around. I never worry if I haven’t got a smoke. There’s always somebody who’ll readily give a stick or two. No lighter? Just a little hand signal and I’ve got a light. I hear some people preach, “Pati bisyo mo inaasa mo sa iba,” but here in Dumaguete? That’s never true. It’s the camaraderie ng mga nag-yoyosi. You don’t need to know each other’s names, don’t need to have anything in common, just the generosity to share a smoke, a light and you can settle in comfortable silence, filling the air in between with your brand of oxygen.
But sometimes, at times like this, I think and realize, even though I’m almost devoid of the ability to, I want to care. I want to remember. I want to stop depending on it, stop needing… stop thinking I need to depend on it… I know but I want to remember. I am aware and I don’t want to forget…I am aware I shouldn’t smoke. I know this bad for me. I realize this is a deadly habit. And I am painfully, painfully, conscious of the fact that despite all the relief and pleasure I derive from it… I DON’T FRIGGIN’ NEED IT AND I T’S NOT F**KING HELPING ME!
Damn. I need a smoke.