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There I was in my Dad's jeep, with my best friend, just after the August combines came and hauled my precious bricks of hay, that had once been the very stones of construction for my fort, my hide-out, my secret place. At six, you have to have those secrets.
So, as it were, I moved to find other secrets. Then, there they were, staring at us, glistening from the sun sizzling through the windshield; Dad's cigarette butts in the ashtray. As we looked at each other, we didn't say a word, but knew what each other was thinking. As I reached to push the cigarette lighter in, my friend said "What if they see us?" "They can't see us, they're in the house," I said, most assuredly. Pulling one of the shriveled up butts from the tray, and straightening it out to a perfect two-inch stub, I raised it to my mouth and pulled the lighter out of its socket, lighting up my as it were to become. No one ever found out about that cigarette, and my friend never did tell.
Nine years, my parents divorce and eleven schools later, I found mysellf at Oregon City High school. Moving around so much had definitely left it's social-emotional dent in my mind, but when you're a high schooler you have to persevere if you want to be cool. Singing in every choir at the school, wearing out several sets of cheerleader pom-poms, playing basketball and performing in every play, was still not the answer. I still didn't feel cool.
Then I met Romy. She and I became inseparable. She had her own car that we occasionally skipped school in, and she dressed in the coolest designer clothes. She had her own phone, a private entrance to her room and even her ownjob! But when I saw her pull out her cigarettes one day, I knew right then that she had to be the coolest girl on campus! I even got my ear pierced right in the cartilage, just like hers. It was my junior year, and I knew, that year was going to be different!
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"Quitting Smoking Greatly Increases Your Risk of Stress." 123HelpMe.com. 30 Mar 2020
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Well, it sure was. My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and, ironically, skipping school and smoking became more necessity than trend. Although I knew smoking was terrible for me, I just couldn't quit. Not then.
After my mother's decease, I went to live with my nearing-emphysema father, and finish up my senior year in the tiny town of Jefferson, Oregon. The students in this country school were absolutely not going to accept any "outsiders" into their domain. I suppose when the city kid drives by them in her Fiero, while they areon their "walk" to school, a bit of resentment is to be expected. My need to fit-in increased ten-fold. Consequently, I was up to smoking a pack and a half per day. My flither, finding it necessary not to interrupt any of my grieving processes, while thinking that all teenagers go through stages, was of the impression that this too, would surely pass. I always had it in my mind that I should be quitting these cancer sticks, but not then. Not yet.
Years later, entering the work field as a bartender in a hard-rock night club in Salem, I had my first experience at trying to quit smoking. In retrospect, attempting such a death-defying act in a smoke-filled barroom, made me question my ability to reason at that time. Needless to say, I quit smoking, a million times.
Recruited as a night club manager to a ritzy club in Albany, (Go figure. It's barely on the map) the customers came in by the hundreds to see the upscale entertainment unheard of in such a small town. From where I was standing, they all sat at the bar purposely to blow smoke right in my face. That's what it seemed, as each night I would go home to shower, repulsed by my own smell. The only way to ignore the suffocating stench provided by the bellows blowing my way, was to keep a cigarette lit at all times to puff on, disguising the pronounced odor from the patrons' smoking stick of choice. Although I was still stressed out about quitting, I had increased my smoking to two packs a day.
Finding my next future ex-husband was the next mistake in my life. However, he did provide me with a long-awaited, ingenious way to quit smoking; getting pregnant. Not being able to bear the thought of being responsible for someone else's addiction, I quit smoking altogether. My daughter, Houston, being the center of my universe, was an easy reason to sacrifice my cigarettes and continued to be for four years.
While continuing my real job, having graduated to the conservatism of office management, I took a week vacation in the spring of 1995 and escorted my band (who included my neurotic husband as the drummer), my nanny, and my daughter to Memphis, Tennessee to record my first album I had been composing for some time. The trip was nerve-wracking. My husband, being suspicious of anything or anyone around me, brow-beat me to the point of isolation at all times. It was then that my secret smoking ritual began again. The fact that I got away with something without his approval, in a public restroom no less, (it's legal in Tennessee) was a confirmation that I still retained some independence. I still recognized the fact that, for my health, I really should stop smoking, but not then. Not yet. In fact, it was then that I discovered smoking Capri cigarettes was a good thing, as they are so small, they can be hidden anywhere: a sunglass case, in a shoe, a tampon box, or any other little secret cubby a girl might have.
Then, one day I was exposed. He found them in a vase in the cupboard, and no matter how many stories I told; "They're Angie's," I'd say, "Angie doesn't smoke," he argued. "Well, they must be left over from the move when I used to smoke," wondering if he'd buy that one. "You never smoked that kind." The guy was impossible. I was caught.
It didn't matter anyway. He got caught too; married to another woman at the same time, convicted him of bigamy, and it was exposed that he had three other children with three other women and a string of extra-marital affairs to boot. Well, if that didn't beat all. Anyway, I had my cigarettes. And smoke them I did. All the way to the attorney's office and then some. I'd suck them in and blow out the stress.
Looking back now, I am startled to realize that things that may start as a trend, or just a silly adventure, can very easily end up being an addiction - the lighting of an endless wick of our very existence. But I also recognize that half of the stress I attempted to combat, was created by the enormous amount of guilt and demand I placed on myself to stop smoking in the first place. It becomes clear to me then, that I don't want to quit smoking now. Maybe I'll never quit. But I'd much rather die from smoking than die from worrying about it. At least then I'd die doing something I enjoyed. Who can ask for more?