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Why, despite everything, I still love cigarettes

July 23, 2013

woman blowing smokeMy husband has started smoking again.

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. daniel craig smoking

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 stroked the curve of his ear and put my head on his shoulder. It was then I heard him whisper, “thank you.” He said it with such a sense of relief that it just about took my breath away.

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.

So, if you’ll excuse me – I must go have a cigarette. Or at least wrap my arms around my husband’s neck and breath-in deeply. smoking hooka

From → family, love

  1. A few months ago I was at a friend’s funeral in the UK (He never smoked ). He was only 54 and died of a stroke (Again he never smoked) . His wife and I did smoke years ago in the 1990s when we were all in the same area and saw each other often. He was a wonderful man full of opinions he gladly shared and we got our earful about smoking here and there.
    It was a strange funeral; in that the brunt of the enormous group present were business relationships. My friends worked together in the same office.He was laid to rest in a beautiful forest outside London in the town of Epping.
    After the funeral we attended a reception at a nearby town in a large pub. There was a large buffet spread, the snips of conversation I caught were loaded with business. A group of businessmen were crowding my friend’s wife, Sarah. She was going through the motions, but her expression shouted “Not now.”
    I bought a pack of cigarettes and went over to Sarah and whispered in her ear; “A cigarette like the good old days?” She smiled nodded and we walked outside, I think I grabbed a sweater, there was snow under our feet, but the cold made us feel more alive, we walked around to the back of the country pub and lit up. A few drags in silence and then she said “I am 43 and I just buried the love of my life” the rest of the conversation shared over a few cigarettes was I will always believe, very healing..
    A few months later I had dinner with her in Miami, and she had a cigarette, there was another smoker present, I did not join in. I know she rarely smokes, but I do know that as with you it is a tool, that is helping her get along while she balances the mourning of the love of her life.
    Brilliant post as usual Victoria.
    PS. ( I stayed in London for a week after the funeral, and smoked a cigarette here and there, I gave the pack with 10 cigarettes to a man who looked like he had seen better days in front of our hotel as we were about to board the taxi to take us to Heathrow he said out loud ;” Thank you and God bless you.”

  2. Love the way you write, grit mixed with poignancy! Van Gogh blending with Monet!

    Happiness and love always for your family…

  3. Thank you, Catalina and Billy Ray. Catalina – I love your story. Cigarettes are a mixed bag – a small vacation, a few minutes of solitude, intimacy with a friend. I lit up with a friend recently when we were talking about her marital problems. I don’t do it often, but it felt damned good and it was one of the most poignant conversations I’ve had in months. Big love to you both.

  4. Victoria, I don’t even know where to start~I’m a smoker, (and not content with this habbit) so the obvious place would be the fact that you overlook us suicidal, tobacco fanatics, which would be the perfect reason behind loving your post and would make the most sense. But in truth, I would have to agree with your commenters, Billy Ray & Catalina. Your writing, is as addictive as tobacco. No pun intended. And with what we are going through at this moment in our life; well, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. My son, (Inion’s baby brother) was admitted to the hospital today after three trips and the medical staff at our hospital trying three different times to hydrate him and keep him healthy but failing. He’s lost fourteen pounds, in less than three weeks, and we were told today, that after twenty four hours, the kidneys begin shutting down. He had at the time, been eighteen hours without going. They’ve tested him for everything under the sun, including cancer. And although we’ve been grateful that all of the tests have come back negative. We were told today by his doctor, “If we knew what was doing the damage to him, we could fight it better.) As of Friday, they will begin with tests for E Coli, Salmonella and parasites, all the while, my baby hasn’t eaten since Saturday and is dropping terrible amounts of weight, when he only weighed to begin with, 125 lbs and is 5’10”. I have been outside my mind, and feel as though I’m losing it. I’m tired, forgot what it felt like to sleep sound and break down crying randomly when no one’s around. Today, I asked Inion to watch him, so that I could go outside, and have a cigarette. While outside, I was attacked (verbally) by three medical providers, and lectured about what cigarettes could do. The final verbal assault by a lady who told me to walk off hospital grounds because it’s forbidden in the parking lot.

    Let me say this. Not only did I relate to your story, but what a wonderful woman you are, to be able to let go of a habbit and hold onto your husband. You didn’t only find a way to turn your head and allow him his human weakness, but make it sexy as hell and rekindle a passion and fall in love again.

    When you smelled that cigarette and found yourself transported to a time and place triggered by a human sense, not only stimulating your smell, but your mind and the rest of your body as well, you made you and your sweethearts bond that much stronger bringing you through a horrific time that I can only imagine was pure hell. As for your husband, he doesn’t need to smell a cigarette to make him fall in love and appreciate what he’s got. Any wife with a mind, body and soul that great, you yourself are his trigger and a far greater habbit than the one he lights!!!

    Well written post my dear, and thank you for putting the first smile on my weary face all day after spending too long in a hospital next to my baby’s bed!

  5. Inion, I’ve just read your post and am heartsick. You and your family are in our minds, our prayers, and most certainly our hearts. If you need a friend – please don’t hesitate to call me. I’ll message you my cell.

  6. Cigarette smoking was my parents’ hobby and something I still associate with love. It’s such a sociable habit except to those who need to feel superior about never having smoked. I love the way art, movies and fiction have captured (glamorized) the habit. Why are some bad things beautiful? Often I feature smoking on my blog and maybe a little too much in my fiction, but the way you write about it here takes my breath away.

  7. Thank you, Adrienne. My mom still smokes. My grandmother smoked until her last day (she died at age 92). The cigarette was a huge comfort to them during hard times. I’m not saying it’s good for you, but it’s not a worthless habit, like you say. And it looks beautiful on film 🙂

  8. Great post and pix. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Victoria. I too have battled and can understand how hard it is to cope when our children’s lives are in the balance.

  9. Life is very short and there’s no time… as the Beatles said a long time ago. My dad smoked for 70 years and he coughed a lot in his later years, but, at 85, he didn’t die of anything smoking related. I gave it up at 40 and I’m glad I did, but sometimes we all need to say fuck it and just get on with enjoying the briefness of it all.

  10. Beautifully written and very moving. Thank you very much for sharing this post!

  11. Thanks for reading 🙂

  12. There is no rhyme or reason to cancer. I’ve lost a husband, with no family history of cancer…he was exposed to radiation in the military. A father to lung cancer, who never smoked a day in his life and always lived a very clean and healthy life style, with no cancer in his family history. A mother to breast cancer, no family background of cancer. From my perspective, something is going to get us all eventually…to each their own on choices like smoking…

  13. Debra, my dad was a family doctor for some 65 years and he said that most of the lung cancer patients he came across did not smoke. And you’re right – something’s going to get you one way or another. My daughter was born with cancer and I’m pretty sure she was a non-smoker, too 🙂

  14. I am a smoker, also. I have smoked for more than 40 yrs. One of the bad habits that I got from the US Navy. I’ve tried to quit on a number of occasions, but just never break the habit. I’ve tried just about every stop smoking medicine on the shelf, but no deal. I would stop for awhile, then just start up all over again. My Mother smoked for many years, but finally stopped. She passed away from Cancer of the Spine. I should stop, and I know it. One of these day’s, it just might kill me.

  15. Karl permalink

    Smoking is very sexy, lets just admit the truth

  16. Anonymous permalink

    I understand completely. I love the smell of my fiance. We struggle with the life we each are choosing. I’m sad to say he is too busy listening to everyone else except his heart which I dare to say is me.
    It is cigarettes and brandy that is what keep me company today.And art which lead me to the photo and article.
    Beautiful. Bravo on the photo and your lives which touched me today.

    • Thank you. I’ve had many days when a cigarette and drink are my only company and there is a lovely melancholy to it. Ok, it’s not always lovely, but it does have meaning…

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