It had been a very long time since I last smoked a cigarette. Over a decade in fact. I was never much of a huge smoker--a half a pack of day at my worst--but I loved it. I loved the ritual. The smell of the tobacco just before the flame torches it. I loved how the hot smoke would mix in my mouth on cold days. I loved how it afforded me a small break from the world. But I also knew that it was not good for me and that I needed to stop. So not more than a year out of college, I found myself sitting across the table from a cute girl, on a blind date orchestrated by my sister, talking about smoking. Or rather, my intent to someday quit smoking.
"Why don’t you quit right now?" she asked.
Because I was more interested in trying to impress a girl that I wanted to sleep with than anything else, I slid my pack of cigarettes across the table. And that was it. I never did get the girl into my bed, but I never went back to smoking either.
After that twitchy first smoke-free month was behind me, I actually found it pretty easy to quit. My willpower was strong. It also helped that California had just banned smoking in bars, so a layer of temptation had been removed in a stroke of perfect timing.
While I didn't crave it all of the time, every once in a while I would miss smoking. Sometimes I would walk past somebody smoking and I would get a hit of tobacco that just smelled good to me.
It had been a very long time since I'd even thought of smoking a cigarette when I found myself craving one while I was alone on a road trip. There was some song lyric about smoking and it hit me. I found myself pulling into a gas station and before I really knew what I was doing, I had bought a pack. I automatically tapped the pack, unwrapped the cellophane and tapped out a cigarette, just like I used to. The whole thing felt weird that it was so familiar.
The cigarette felt heavier than I remembered. Thicker. I put one end in my mouth and held the flame to the other. I listened for the crackle of the paper and tobacco catching, inhaled, and immediately fell into a massive choking fit While the actions of lighting a cigarette might have felt familiar, my body was not used to the toxic smoke and was not happy. I tried to take another drag, but my lungs were rejecting everything about it. This was not the pleasurable experience I once had. This was torture.
I crushed out the cigarette and threw the rest of the pack away. I didn't like the coughing. I didn't like the smoke. I didn't like anything about the cigarette. As much as I used to love smoking, it was clear at that moment as it had been when I first quit that I am no longer a smoker. Sometimes the body is smarter than the mind and my body knows that my smoking days are very much behind me.