...The Quit Smoking Express...What Shall We Name Him?
He started out as a single cell of thought. He was each a tormenter, abuser, a caretaker and an animal. He lived in the Tree of Demons in the Forest. He was but a small pod on the branches who swelled and grew with the seasons of my life. He watched me pass by underneath him as he grew and transformed into the thoughts of insecurity and abandonment that I had been forming in my mind. I created him from all of the fearful thoughts and nightmares. He was born onto the landscape of my mind very early. His name was Sugar, at first.
Oh how I loved Sugar. How I still love Sugar. What an excellent companion on any journey, always so close and in abundance. His white glistening crystals gleaming in the sun, his rock candy allure...he spun himself into reams of airy pink love at all the carnivals and spread himself evenly over every Lucky Charm. I would pick out his marshmallow pieces and forget the rest, being brutally disappointed at the ratio between marshmallow shapes and oat pieces.
He lay in the dark creases of my mothers pocketbook and he even came to the door once a year, carried by a Girl Scout. He loved gum the most, with its long lasting sugary glue that tapped into every tooth and left a sticky film. Soda came next with its insidious syrupy calm that could last well into a hot summer afternoon. Dr. Pepper, A & W Root Beer - yes, they even made these flavors into lip gloss...
M & M's became a serious route of addiction as did candy bars. So much Sugar, so little time. He found a home in every cell of my body and even though he made me feel like shit, I still kept going back for more. I never hid huge stashes of him anywhere but I was always thinking when the next time would be that I would see he was.
His Many Disguises
October 31st had to be the most glorious night for the manufacturers of Sugar. They poured him into the most vile of creations, and I would take those tiny little red and white slim boxes of candy cigarettes out and be fascinated with them. Decades later, my own son would come home with that same product in that same slim packaging except this time they were disguised in a box with The Hulk on them. They were promptly thrown away.
I remember the Forsythia tree that I would sit and play with my Barbies under. I remember the huge tree in the front yard that I was never quite tall enough to climb and the days I would ride all the way to the deli to pick him up, Mr. Sugar. I would sometime be late for school because he would be calling me to pick him up first at another corner store. He was strictly prohibited in school, but I snuck him in anyway.
It was about this time, when I was "sneaking" him into places and thus always carrying him on me that I began to notice his brother, Nicotine. He was much more sophisticated at the time and he seemed to be what older, smarter people wanted the way that I wanted Sugar. I was first introduced to him in the corner of a dark basement with a friend who assured me that it was no big deal.
It was indeed a big deal that lasted off and on for the next seventeen years. He and I and Sugar all went everywhere together. We also had a close relationship with White Carbohydrates that loved to watch us yo-yo into highs and withdrawals and be part of that roller coaster ride of addiction to substances that would lead me here, To you. I am illuminated now that I have been trying to slip out from under the long shadows of addiction and habits that now threaten my long term health.
You Wanna Ride?
Nicotine became my best friend. He came before everyone else, even Sugar. Sugar tried to drive a wedge between us. He wanted to be the third wheel and sometimes I thought that Sugar and I were better off without Nicotine so I would ramp up the intake and blow Nicotine off for those cavities on a stick - lollipops. Oral substitutions said all the books. Use a toothpick - nah no way when there was my old friend Sugar in so many awesome shapes and sizes. Not to mention he was an incredible rush of high that I thought would indeed take Nicotines place.
Nicotine was not to be outdone, however. He was sure to hang out with all of my friends and he was still allowed to be everywhere. He was in restaurants and riding in cars and on trains. His deathly rattle sang out of my fathers chest every so often and he would always lure me back. Some horrid unspeakable anger would send me right back to him where I would inhale instead of exhale and I learned to suck down my anger and emotions into a smoky inferno of complacence that took residence inside my body, misdirected and sinister.
I could not be happier. I could suck down all that pain and anger and just "let it go". I could "be cool" and let things slide. I could even hang out with Nicotines really great friend, Alcohol. He was a pisser. He didn't really like me much at all. He would leave me blind on a sidewalk in the middle of the night. It would be Nicotine who would always be there after, making me feel better.
Alcohol and I got in some trouble together. Nicotine had always made excuses for our bad behaviour. Intimately entwined again, we left behind Alcohol after one too many times hugging a toilet. As I travel still on the train, Nicotine is still on board, way back there saying "Hey! You Wanna Ride?!"