I was briefly reunited with my college friends this past weekend. We always do the same thing when we are together: reminisce, drink (probably too much), and share hotel rooms that inevitably look trashed by the next morning with pizza boxes, newly opened bottles of wine/beer and cigarette packs.
Because I had arisen at the crack of 5:00 AM the first evening together, I was informed that good gossip and serious boozing was five feet away from me as I dozed. This doesn't mean that I wasn't any fun. Because prior to hitting the hotel suite, we were at a bar on the water. And when I hear good dance music, I dance. Even if nobody else is out there on the floor yet. So, in my mind, I got the floor going. (Maybe if I was alone for a little, while my friends cracked up, watching through the window).
And after the rehearsal dinner, while friends had a puff of a cigarette, I finally caved and bummed one. "Why are you smoking, with all that running you do?" my friend asked me. (We had already agreed to go for a nice long run in the morning). Now here is a long distance runner/ex smoker asking another long distance runner/ex smoker. "I don't know. It's something to do, I guess," I told her. Of course in college, we all smoked. And I swore I would quit when I graduated. And I did.
Here is the story. Graduation day came along, and by noon, I was dying. I always needed a smoke in the morning. "Forget it," I said to my friend/co-quitter. We were driving twelve hours the next day to move out to Boston. If you smoke, then you know that long drives consist of a ton of puffing out the window. The plan was postponed. "When we get there, we'll quit," we agreed.
I went maybe one more week before I got sick. I felt exhausted. Completely beat. Then I found an itchy rash on my side. "Shingles," the doctor said. I went home and lounged on the couch, watching "20/20." Barbara Walters was interviewing Carol Burnett, whose daughter, Carrie, had just passed away from lung cancer. Burnett told Walters that before Carrie died, she said she was sorry to Carol. She apologized that she had smoked. That night, I had a dream about my lung. That it had a black hole in it. And I was done. For good.
Not even a year later, I went to see my Grandma, four hours away in New York. Her lung had "gook" on it and she was in the hospital. She was almost 90 years old. "Nana, how many years did you smoke?," I asked her. She thought about it and then said something incredulous like sixty years. I assumed she had lung cancer, but nobody seemed concerned. My dad called me the next day to tell me she had lung cancer. "I knew it," I said.
Then I was really done. The few times I smoked after that, I found it gross. I hated it. And then I moved to Madison and met my boyfriend. He had a similar story - smoked a lot in college and quit after. Then I discovered he would occasionally smoke socially here and there. Don't all hipsters? Next thing you know, I am bumming here and there.
Then we are back to this weekend, where my long distance runner/ex smoking friend is asking her long distance runner/ex smoking friend (me) why she is smoking. And I tell her "it's something to do." Bad answer.
After a nice run together the next morning, I ask her what her take is on smoking. She is getting her Masters in Public Health. She says, "You take a piece of paper. You put leaves in it. Then you smoke poison." Ok - enough said. I am done. And when everyone is smoking that night at the wedding, I refuse. Remembering, "Smoking poison."
And years ago, I went through an entire carton in one week. Sick. It's time to stop the smoking, kids.