I've said it so many other ways in efforts to rationalize it in my own head. I'll say, "We're all killing ourselves on different levels" and nod wisely, like the sage people seem to think I am. What I’m really saying is that he's killing himself. Slowly. That I don't want him to die. I'll say that he craves stimulants, which is my way of trying to add nicotine to a list of things he’s addicted to. Coffee, music, late nights, interesting conversations – I’m not sure he could live without them.
Fuck it. There's really no other way to say it. The man I'm in love with smokes a lot. My moods may cause me to try to explain it away or deal with it differently, but it doesn’t really change the fact. If I'm in a good mood, I'll laugh at him and tell him that I'm thinking of taking it up. I'll mime placing a cigarette at my lips and breathing out smoke. "It looks cool," I’ll say. Smoking is elegant in a way that only a girl obsessed with a smoker could understand.
"Don't ever smoke. It's bad for you." Sometimes I think he likes to keep me innocent, that he enjoys the way that I'm still wide-eyed at his fire-breathing. I don't smoke. I never have. I suppose I just don't have a reason to.
I took up flavored toothpicks awhile back. I must confess, I do like having something in my mouth. He says that I taste like cinnamon. "Do I taste like cigarettes?"
"Yes. That and espresso.” He doesn't know the truth. That he tastes like rain. Like autumn. He’s standing in the kitchenetter, half-naked, ashtray in hand. He never stops moving. Cigarette to mouth, breathe in, hold it, and exhale. I hand him a toothpick. "They're good for you. People use them to stop smoking, you know. They have menthol in them." I stand watching his expression change from thoughtful to mildly amused as I talk.
"Oh, yes. And menthol's great for you. If you smoke it, it makes your lungs bleed."
"Well, I'm not smoking it." I feel small. My arms are bruised from my clumsiness, my constant subconscious self-destructiveness, and I hold them closer to myself in effort to make myself even smaller. I’ve been told that those tender purple and blue spots are caused by blood. You’re not the only one bleeding internally, dear. (We’re all killing ourselves on different levels, you know.)
His hands shake sometimes when he reaches for me. I jump. "You're going to set me on fire, baby." He just grins at me.
"You didn't mean with the cigarette, did you?" To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I did. He breaths fire. It matters not whether he has a cigarette in his hand.
If I'm in a poor mood, I deal with his habit entirely differently. I make sarcastic comments and count the number of cigarettes he smokes. It's a vicious cycle, really. When I'm sad, he's sad. When he's sad, he smokes. When he smokes, it makes me sad. "That's seven. Gonna quit for tonight?"
"I would, but honestly, it's the only thing keeping me going right now." The only thing? I thought I kept him going. I'm reminded of an Alanis Morissette song I learned once. I’m tempted to sing it at him. I don't wanna be the substitute for the smoke you've been inhaling. What do you thank me for?
He may stop poisoning himself someday. I may stop slamming my arms on door knobs and car doors. Who knows? He might never give up what’s become his second breath. I may, as I’ve so often threatened to, take up smoking. I will become a fire-breather, and we will travel the streets together like quiet dragons, breathing streams of smoke and leaving scattered cigarette butts like wasted countryside in our wake.