I do something really sadomasochistic to myself.What I do is, I punish myself for not doing what my mind and body knows it ought to do: quit smoking.
How do I do it you wanna know? What is this sick, twisted S&M thing I do to myself? Nope, no whips, no chains, or gadgets of any kind. It’s simple: I stopped buying my tobacco by the carton (meaning 10 boxes at a time, in this case).
This wouldn’t be a big deal back in NY where every 24-7 bodega in the Creator’s concrete jungle has my brand. But here, in Yokohama, that number is reduced to a grand total of 3 (that I know of): Two shops in Kannai (a block away from each other,) and 1 shop in Hiyoshi. (There are several more in Tokyo and you better believe I’m always on the lookout for more, but those are even further away.)
Pretty slim pickings, right?
I’ve been smoking since I was 13, when I used to pinch my mother’s Newport butts, go to the bathroom, slide a towel between the crack at the bottom of the door, open the window, spark up, and pretend I was cool. By 15, I was buying my own Newports if I had the loot (loosies when I didn’t) or bumming them off of people, or stealing my mom’s, brother’s or sister’s when even loosies (cigarettes sold individually) weren’t in the budget. I was raised surrounded by smokers, in and out of my house. No wonder I took to it like Japanese kids take to Manga.
What this S&M self-punitive action achieves is it forces me to go the extra mile in order to get that monkey off my back, thus forcing me to come face to face with my jones on a regular basis. Look it right in its ugly mug and say, “though you have a face only a junkie could love I won’t let you down!”
Today was one of those days.
I woke up this morning and, after tearing my room apart for 15 minutes, realized that I had no smokes. I knew I had had one in a box in one of my pockets and that one was to hold me until I could get to Kannai. As long as I have one around, the jones pings me but it doesn’t rear its disfigured countenance. It keeps itself hidden away somewhere in the dark corners of my psyche and waits, assured that I will respond to the pings as I always do. Or else. But, the morning’s search was fruitless. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere. And I didn’t have time for a more thorough search. I had a bus to catch.
At the bus stop, where I would usually have my first blast of the day, my jones groaned, audibly. A gutteral discharge heard by even my fellow commuters, who were probably wondering why I had broken with the routine they’d gotten used to of standing a few yards away from the waiting area and getting my morning fix (which serves the dual purpose of putting their confounding malaise at ease while not secondary smoking them into early graves…yes, I am considerate.)
The commuters collectively flinched at the noise.
At school, after the morning meeting, it was time for my would-be second blast over my first cup of coffee. Caffeine and nicotine work as a team to jar me into full consciousness. Until that blast occurs, however, I’m usually useless. But, I had a glimmer of hope. A glimmer that had carried me from my home to the school without incident. The jones’ edge can have a very detrimental effect on my disposition, I’ve learned. The everyday irksomes can escalate to intolerables in a heartbeat. But the edge was held in check by this glimmer.
And, what was this glimmer, this shining beacon of hope: In the shed out back where my fellow smokers and I congregate to satisfy our respective joneses reside the tools of our addiction: Ashtrays, lighters, and boxes of cigarettes of varying brands. Among them a box of Black & Milds I keep there for convenience and for just such emergencies. Only, due to my sadomasochism, I often have to tap the emergency stash I keep in that box. Usually I know exactly how many smokes I have left. There’s something about the jones: to him, tobacco accounting is second nature. A smoker always knows how many smokes he has left, especially if the next pack is a thirty-minute train ride away. But, the glimmer…the glimmer I held on to was that my jones had made a rare accounting mistake, and within that box was not the “0” my Jones balance sheet read, but “1”, or at least a portion of one.
A Black & Mild is a hybrid between a cigarette and a cigar and it cannot be finished in the 2 minutes a cigarette can, so I often have to extinguish it several times over the course of a day. Sometimes I can smoke a single one the whole day at work.
So, the glimmer was my hope that I would find a clip, a damn roach of a Black & Mild, in my spare box in the smoking closet at school. The grimness of this reliance on a glimmer had me thinking about quitting again. To be this dependent on anything is enough to rock any world.
After the morning meeting, I grabbed a cup of coffee and along with several of my smoking co-workers, retired to the closet, where their Mild Sevens, Seven Stars, Hi-lites, Casters, Hopes, Peaces, Malboros and Kools awaited them. But, my jones is brand loyal. If I tried to substitute a cigarette (and, ironically, I detest cigarettes) or even another brand of hybrid, my jones would identify the alien immediately and…some of that “or else” ing would occur. And my jones’ “or else” aint no fucking joke! That monkey on my back starts to feel like a HumVee. And there’s no telling what kind of foolishness I might get into. One time I left work early- without a word. Just up and left. Another time I took a cab from my house to Kannai (About a $40 ride) because the Humvee was too heavy to carry around.
I spied my Black & Mild box among these alien brands…slowly I reached out for it…please God, have mercy on my addiction, get this monkey off my back…I grapsed the box…it felt so perfect in my hand, maybe the way a piano feels to Stevie Wonder’s fingers…I shook the box and…
Goddammit, there was a clip rattling around in there!
I let out an ecstatic roar and scared the shit out of my co-workers. Then they saw my face, and laughed. They understood!
“Loco sensei Chuudokusha dane” (You’re a junkie) Mori sensei said.
“Sou dane,” (Aint that the ugly truth) I said, as I kissed the filter and tenderly inhaled the sweet poisonous fumes.
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