"Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excruciation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning."
— Tom Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker)

I used to smoke. I'm not sure if this would come as a surprise to anyone or not. I don't think I "look" like a smoker. I probably didn't, back in the day, when I was in college, wearing black leggings and leotards and vintage clothing and being difficult. I smoked, generally, Camels or Marlboro's (Mar-Burloes, as we'd call them when drunk, which was often).

My parents were both smokers. They smoked Benson and Hedges for as long as I could remember. He'd smoke while writing music, at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee (cream and sugar) early in the morning. I'd wake up and sit at the table with him, while he smoked and composed, until I'd fall asleep and he'd put me back in bad.

After my dad died, my mother would smoke every night with a glass of wine and a cross word puzzle. She'd smoke late into the night, and now, realizing how hard her life must have been at the time, I'm sure she was smoking one cigarette after another to avoid going to sleep. The older I got, the later I'd come home from some show or date, I'd expect to find her asleep. But she was usually up, smoking, puzzling.

I began in college of course, in the theater department of course, and years after I'd read a book which would go on to influence me in many ways, of course. Smoking was a symbol of all that that was transition in my life, trying to pass as an adult, dealing with my still grieving mother, hiding my own grief, finding sexuality, learning to create on my own.

I liked the ritual of smoking more than the smoking itself. I liked buying the pack, opening the cellophane, smelling the freshness of the tobacco. I liked lighting them. I had several gorgeous old lighters and one precious cigarette case. I liked the first inhalation. I liked having something to do when there was nothing to do, hours sitting on a bench seemed purposeful. I liked having one in my hand, like a friend, when I'd sit up late and write. I liked stubbing them out.

I didn't like the leftover smell, and still don't, though I never minded kissing smokers. I didn't like knowing that my father's pack or more a day habit probably contributed to his final and fatal heart attack. I certainly don't like realizing that my mother's similar habit probably led to the die off of multiple capillary tracks in her brain.

I quit about a year after I moved to Seattle. I just....quit. I'm sure that my smoking, though daily and copious at times, was not a true addiction. I just didn't like smoking one morning. Odd. I guess maybe I was changing into something lighter and healthier, though the Seattle I moved to was certainly a smoker and shooter's paradise. I did a lot of healing in Seattle. I'm glad about that.


Sometimes, I miss smoking. I miss having something to do with my hands, my mouth. I miss having a companion when I write. Coffee is too harsh on the belly, and booze? I can't afford the after effects anymore. Smoking reminds me of my family, of writing and theater, of late nights and early mornings, of backstage, of bars, of being dark inside. I miss having something to do in between the moments when things are happening, but the next thing hasn't happened yet, when the spark of match hitting paper lights up possibility.