Why, despite everything, I still love cigarettes
Okay, this is nothing new. He stopped when I was pregnant with our now almost twelve year-old son and began again when our youngest daughter (now 6) was born with cancer. The doctors had told us as much. They told us that people, okay parents in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) tend to pick up old habits. Men and women who haven’t touched drugs in fifteen years are found shooting up in the bathroom; former sex addicts will take a ride on any willing X-ray technician in one of the broom closets; svelte pilates moms will gain 35 pounds in a 4 1/2 week period – bingeing on ice box cake and Jell-O parfaits offered in the hospital cafeteria. Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised when my husband turned to me just after one of the more troubling diagnoses we’d had to endure, and said, “Don’t judge me, please. I need this just to cope.” He took out a pack of Marlboros, peeled one out, and lit up like he’d just gotten laid after six months in the desert.
I was upset, of course. I don’t want my beloved to get lung cancer or any of the other insidious diseases that we all know cigarette smoking can cause. But I also understood – and I’ll be damned if I was going to nag him about it.
So, instead, I leaned in and kissed him – taking a deep inhale.
I used to love the smell of cigarettes. More specifically, cigarettes and whiskey mixed together. For me, it is the smell of sex.
When my husband and I were first dating, he smelled of cigarettes and whiskey all the time. It may be one of the reasons I married him, if I’m to be completely honest. And while I was not happy at all about my husband compromising his health because of the trauma accompanying the birth of our daughter, or his subsequent inability to kick the habit even though our little girl has, by and large, recovered from the worst of it – his smoking habit lit a fire to my libido that baby cancer might have under most circumstances crushed. Cigarettes helped us continue our relationship as a loving, married couple in a situation that could have easily destroyed any romance that we might have desperately tried to conjure as we struggled to hang on to our faith and our sanity.
For that, I must thank the native Americans for inventing this terrible habit, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and other such companies for selling it, and us masses for taking it up like the chumps we are.
Because, if it weren’t for the cigarette – my husband and I might have lost each other. I might have crawled deep into myself and become a woman consumed by my struggle to keep my kid alive and be a decent mother to my older, healthy babies. I might have begun to look upon my husband as merely a partner in the basic survival of our family. He might have begun to look at me as someone who simply needed him to ensure our financial survival while I fanned the fires at the hospital and at home. That happens a lot to people under merciless, unremitting stress.