Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Where I currently live right now has a balcony that lets me see a good part of the city. Down below, I can see people, going about their daily lives, walking up and down the street where I live in, oblivious to the fact that someone was watching over them, while they meandered along their, well, literally little, lives. Ever since Manila had the ordinance that discouraged smoking in public places, I assumed that people would resort to their little balconies such as mine for some “quiet time”, flicking their ashes down, unbeknownst to the little ant-sized denizens of the city.

I know I did. (Or at least, I tried to.) I don’t smoke, but I can. There was one time when I bought myself a 10-stick pack of Marlboro Lights just to see… for the next two weeks, I’d smoke a stick a night, looking for that “calming”/”de-stressing” effect that’s supposedly gotten from smoking… Inhaling the smoke, blowing it out, waiting for that “nicotine high”.

I actually never got any... :-p

To be perfectly honest, all I got was a bitter, nutty taste in the mouth, a painful burning in throat, and to make matters worse, diarrhea. This was actually true, when my friend Antoine took me out for Indian food (and afterwards coffee and smokes) some years ago. I swore it off after that, because it ended up so bad, I had food coming out of both ends of me.


For the longest time, I’ve equated smoking with pain and loss, it seems. Significant men in my life are smokers, or have been at some point or another.

My father, used to be a heavy smoker, he always claimed that smoking helped him think, and helped him concentrate, especially when he  was making his plans (he’s an engineer). He did it in semi-secret, though. He didn’t want my auntie, his older sister, to know, because it was a sensitive issue and she was always concerned about his health. Well, in my 14 year-old sense of idealism, I decided to tell on him so that he would stop. Well, he got mad, and gave me the cold shoulder for a week, or so (but it seemed much longer for me.).

My grandfather, who I love dearly (and still miss terribly), had emphysema for most of his 70’s to 80’s (he died at 83). He was a “stress’ smoker when he was in his college to middle age, probably from all the stress of raising a brood of eight, and from working many jobs. Well, when he got really sick, we took turns at the ICU. It was painful for me, because I had seen him in pain. He had become reduced to a mere shell of a man in his last days, and whenever his face would contort in pain from all the procedures they did on him, it tore at my heart.

And a boy…who I gave my heart away to, and would probably never see again, he was a smoker too. The curlicues of smoke that gave him an air of enigmatic mystery have been burned in my memory, an ephemeral testament to the pain and hurt that a secret, unrequited love could only sow in a foolish girl’s heart.

There was a time I’d puff on a stick when I was “upset”,  inhaling deeply, to get that feeling of relief, which I never ended up with anyway. Still, the act of inhaling became an act of frustration, something that was done because words would not be able to articulate one’s pain…

 But there’s none of that now.

Smoking has never been pleasurable for me.  Also, my vanity requires that I keep my lips in the same “crimson” color that they are, that my teeth remain unstained and intact, that my skin goes without a wrinkle before its due. Or that my hands not have that sticky smoky smell…

Of course, you’ve been told of the health risks and have seen the problems that it can lead to, but this is just my take on the whole smoking thing for now.

My father doesn’t smoke anymore, by the way. He’s stopped since last year, ever since he got diagnosed with DM. He is on maintenance meds and is on an absolute health kick, so I couldn’t be happier.



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