Did I tell you I quit smoking? I quit smoking. And not just for health, or well-being, or because I am morally superior, though of course I totally am, but because San Francisco is not a safe place to be a smoker.
I should have kept that in mind. The last time I quit smoking, it was because of this very fact; I had been scared out of it. Very, very scared out of it.
Because, walking down Market Street, I pulled out my little thing of menthols, and was rushed by 50 strangers–street kids, the homeless, business men with wild looks in their eyes. Over and over, “Can I get one of those?” And I said, “Sure!” because I always say sure. If you see me on the street and want a cigarette, do not hesitate. I am what they call a “sucker.”
And then I added, “But it’s menthol!” and half of the pack dropped back. But the other half pressed on. So I handed out little cancer sticks, and all was well with the world. And the crowd dissipated, and I sat down for a moment on one of those little granite blocks next to the street–which I assume are for seating, but may just be eclectic street art, San Francisco-style–to fish through my bag for my lighter.
And across the street launched a woman with a sweater on her head. She banged into my legs and leaned down and yelled into my face, “GA BAH GOO FA NAY!” She wheeled her arms in the air and glared at me.
I said “Ow!” and slid sideways and leapt away from her, because I am a coward.
She followed me down the street yelling, “GA! GA! GA GA GA! HAGA! GA!”
I sped up. So did she, clutching her head sweater.
I stopped, and spun around and headed back the other way, and there she was in front of me.
“GA! GA! GA!”
“What?” I said. “What!”
She screwed up her eyes and thrust her fists in the air and screamed, “CIGARETTE!”
I thrust the pack at her and I ran away. Because I am a coward.
And because it clearly isn’t a good idea to smoke on the street in San
Francisco, I did not buy another pack. (Fear is an excellent inducement
to quitting. So is shame; it hurts, when people move away from you and
give you mean dirty sideways eyeballs when your smoke gets in their
eyes. Is that song in your head now? It’s in my head now.)
Well, that’s a lie. I did not buy another pack, except for when I did.
And when I did, they were all smoked up in one night, usually in one
bar. No regular-smoking smoking.
But for whatever reason, I started regular-smoking smoking again. I
just up and bought a pack, and have been taking smoke breaks at work
and regularly sitting out on the fire escape at home, reading a book
and giving myself emphysema.
Not being rushed at or yelled “GA” at, I got pretty comfortable with
being a smoker again. (Except for the shame and the smelling funny part.
That’s almost always what gets me to quit. The smelling funny. I want
to smell like flowers and sunshine! Not tobaccy and death. What? Oh,
right, eventual death. Uh huh, that’s a deep concern, too.)
So, right. I was smoking again for the time being. Until this afternoon, when I think I just quit again.
At lunch, I was shivering in the sun, for it is inexplicably cold here
in the Sunshine State, and smoking, for that is what I am now. A
smoker. And a kid comes up to me. No sweater on his head, no sign of
potential "GAH." He asks me for a cigarette, and I say yes! Of course!
Because that is what I say.
He looks at my pack, which is almost full, and says, "Can I have another one?"
And I say, "Sure!" And hand him another.
He says, "How about another?"
And I say, "Uh, sure. Here ya go."
And then he leans close, pushes his face right into mine and says quietly, “Why don’t you just give me the whole pack?”
I look down at my pack, and up at this kid, who is manifesting pure
evil, who looks as if he could either slide a knife into my gut or
shrug and walk away and it would be all the same to him, and I say yes,
yes okay, yes, sure, take it, here you go, I gotta go.
So, you know. I quit.