For me, it was always cigarettes. We had no need for words. No one ever understood me more or judged me less. What confidant had ever been so there for me, or had so many dimensions? The first-thing-in-the-morning cigarette. The after-meal cigarette. The driving-in-the-car cigarette (ah, so good). The slow/stressful/awesome/plain old everyday-day-at-work cigarette. The cigarette with a beer. The talking-on-the-phone cigarette. The I-just-slept-with-you-and-now-I-wish-you'd-leave-so-I'm-focusing-on-lighting-up-and-hoping-you-get-the-message cigarette. The I-just-ran-a-marathon-in-4:30:11 cigarette. I scoffed at dilettante puffers who had the nerve to call themselves smokers. Amateurs. Come on.

I started when I was 14 and never wanted to stop. I paused in my mid-30s, when I was trying to get pregnant, and resumed mere months after my daughter was born. People around me were smoking, and I couldn't not join in. The first few drags made the room spin and I thought I might throw up, but we were back. All the way. With us, it was all or nothing.

Still, no matter how strong the bond, you can't smoke in front of your child. So the next five, six years were all about sneaking. "Mama has to step outside now." I was always stepping out. I always felt the pull, and the pull made me churlish, even to my sunny girl. It couldn't go on.

If it's possible for your soul mate to have your worst interests at heart, to make you ugly and old before your time, to pit you against your dearest dear ones, to rob you of your hard-earned money, to be actively working toward your death, then cigarettes were mine. And I don't blame them for anything. In fact, I look forward to a faraway someday when it'll be safe to reunite. The 90-year-old lady bumming a light? That'll be me. It's the same way I think about heaven: probably not happening, but such a lovely dream.


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