Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nobody smokes in bars and restaurants in Chicago anymore. I don't come home pickled in nicotine and squeezing tiny puffs of smoke out of my lungs the next day. I don't feel the urge to hang all my clothes in gale winds to air them out. My voice doesn't start to crack an hour into yelling in people's ears. I don't wake up with my eyes red-rimmed and hungover from secondary smoke.

I'm not smoking anymore. I haven't with any regularity for a long time, but now the occasional smoker exigency is leaving me too. I never want to. I'm not contributing to the haze, inside or outside.

My ability--actual physical ability--to smoke started to fade pretty soon after I began cultivating my strongest adult flirtation with it. I never knew when it was going to happen, but sometimes even one cigarette would trigger a whole sequence of allergic/bronchial reactions that ended up with a trip to the doctor for the Z-pak and horrid gut-level coughing (pretty). But not every time. Enough to make me nervous, but not enough to interfere with the imperative for a smoke.

I've generally been a pretty amateurish smoker. The heavest period was when I was smoking when I was writing; those activities match each other beautifully, unfortunately, and you can blast through way too many cigarettes doing that. But that urge is long gone, and even the occasional urge to smoke with a drink in my hand or out on a balcony on a city night, or when I might have normally wished for the (this is the best part about smoking) prop of a cigarette with which to gesticulate and in which to siphon your social energy, is pretty much gone. I was watching Lindsay Crouse power through (unfiltered) cigarette after cigarette in House of Games recently and could remember only distantly how appealing I found that then.

I was thinking about it all again this morning because after just 10 minutes of minimal, outdoor contact with smoke last night, nothing in the old scheme of things, my voice is about an octave deeper. (I want to record an audio book--I think I could acheive the right plummy tones for older female characters right now. In my prettiest fantasies I sound like Jeanne Moreau's voiceover in The Lover but probably it's more like Vera on In Living Color.) When I opened my mouth to speak I wondered who was talking.

I think I am grateful that my body has told me No so vigorously and that I--er, eventually--heard it. If my body loved smoking, craved it, it would all be so much harder. As it was, I finally caught up (I hope).

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