Wow. My God. I quit smoking at the point of a stethoscope, the doctor in the Emergency Room of Samaritan Hospital listened to my death-rattle as I waited for the standard talk, the “you’re going to keep coming in here for this” spiel, to which I’d respond, “Yeah, I know, I know…” But it didn’t come. I figured he just forgot, but that’s not what doctors do… He gave up. He could hear in my death rattle the thousand times I said “Yeah, I know, I know…” to other docs, and how I’d probably be breathing air through a full-filter by the time I hit the parking lot. I had become the hopeless; the damned of the smoking areas.
But I’d had it myself. I think the more people nag you, the more you carry on the bad habit as kick-back. It’s when everyone leaves you alone that the last disapproving voice remains; your own. So, on Christmas Day of 2015, after leaving the ER, I quit. No patch, no gum, just a little fever, chills, a truckload of aggravation and irritation, and staying away from people for a while. I quit, and it’s been over two years, but I know I could always go back. It’s a giant monster that is still capable of swinging through my brochial forest grabbing stands of deadened alveoli.
I smoked approximately eighteen-thousand-and-sixty-seven packs of cigarettes in my life. Packs, not cigs. Packs. I’ll probably catch bronchitis for the rest of my life. I fear going to get a lung cancer screening. I didn’t have to go to the Emergency Room this time, and that’s probably because I quit two years ago.
As a kid, I never thought that middle age would be like this. Hell, I never thought middle age would be. I told my Physics teacher, Mr. Parisi (oddly enough, in a smoking cessation class,) when he asked what I thought was going to happen when I was forty, that I hoped to be dead by then, and he said, wait till you’re thirty-night and think that. Boy, shit, wasn’t he right as rain when I turned thirty-nine. I owe him a beer one of these days.
When we’re kids, we act like middle age don’t exist, and for a small few beloved, it never does, but for the rest of us, we wake up and one day the big 4-0 is a date you can glance at on the kitchen calendar and the kids at the store call you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ un-ironically. You’re not dressing up to look “new” any more; you’re just trying to match that good picture you took five years ago, the one you didn’t pay a second mind to then, but it’s one of the few you have left.
So, with all of this rant, my birthday is in three days, and my lungs are butter. I couldn’t blow out a cake with the right amount of candles. My parents are deep-cooking a slap of corned beef – all day, with cabbage and soda bread – and maybe I’ll be able to taste it. I may actually be sick over three Nor’easters. I love Nor’easters, and I’ve had to love from afar.
The moral of the story? Buy my book. I need Luden’s. Also, if you’re young, and you think you won’t outlive the consequences of your shitty decisions, you probably will. Moderation is your friend. Take it out with you when you go partying. Ain’t nothing sadder than a cat that used to hang.