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September 25, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Quitters Never Win: A love story

I met cigarettes about 18 months ago. Sparks flew. We fucked on the first date.

A friend had introduced us. We were strangers to one another and our first encounters were fumbling and uncertain. My prejudices loosened by generous helpings of gin, I had let my guard down. At first I was embarrassed to be with cigarettes. We would meet infrequently; mostly in the dark, mostly drunk.

I knew the relationship was risky. I had been warned, and I promised I wouldn’t get involved. Cigarettes were no good for me. There was guilt and regret, but I always came back. My parents were unimpressed with my new acquaintance, suggesting that I find friends who had more respect for me, such as peppermint chewing gum or celery sticks. But I hate celery, and gum is too expensive.

Eventually I surrendered, the concerns of others’ no longer bothering me. Cigarettes weren’t all leather and tattoos. They had a softer side, always waiting in my pocket, willing to talk at any time.

Cigarettes fast became a part of my daily existence. We started to do it in public. Mornings were spent together, drinking coffee and planning the day. We would occupy one another on the walk to work, or the moments between lectures. And when the night came, we would sit together, shivering on the porch, and reflect on the day. They always knew what I was thinking, as though an extension of myself. Their mood was my own; moody blue smoke in the morning sun, a fiery glow and crackle in the evening air.
We were in love.

Time, however, seems to corrode that which is good. The idealism of our first months was soon marred by the realities of being so close. Some days they made me feel beautiful, and others degenerate. Some times bold, others timid. Both strong and weak. But we didn’t give up, determined to find the initial glory that had brought us together. Rapidly, cigarettes became demanding, forcing me to make sacrifices in the name of our bond. My wallet wept.

Quick, too, was the reluctant wedding. One day an impermanent dalliance, the next a committed bond. There was no bachelor party. Our honeymoon was a respite, full of justifications and rationalisations that it was love holding us together, rather than base chemical addiction. But not long after, we would share flights of passion, only to find the end in a guilty smear of ash and paper in a curb-side puddle. Each moment together was unceremoniously farewelled with a twist of the shoe.

I try not to see cigarettes as much anymore. This resolution has been less than successful. Cigarettes know how to make me take them back, writing me smoky love letters invoking the night we first met. Now they sit before me on the desk, laden with promise and despair in equal measure. I leer back at them, and inform them that this relationship has an expiry date. A moment later I apologise, and roll another.

Eventually I will file for divorce. The split will be acrimonious, the alimony patches and withdrawal. Red wine will never taste quite the same without my infallible companion, and no longer will I have an activity to punctuate awkward conversation. But maybe I’ll quit those too.

Until that tragic day, I’ll stick by cigarettes. For right now, I’m still in love. Despite the quarrels, doubt and guilt, cigarettes bring me moments of unmatched serenity. A time will come when this is no longer true, and I hope at that moment I possess the gumption to walk away. When that will be, I cannot tell you. But I do know that in the meantime I’ll learn to smoke in the shower.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Ben Johnson says:

    Why would you promote smoking? Considering that smoking kills people do you not think it is an abuse of your position of authority in VUWSA?

  2. Chris Matthews says:

    Fuck you, Emanuel.

  3. Shaun says:

    I have become something of a persona non grata around here lately, so hopefully my support of this piece doesn’t reflect on you. I thought it was a great read, very engaging metaphor. Not sure who decided it should go next to the ‘Dumping God’ feature that used a similar metaphor, but I think that was a mistake as this completely overshadowed it.

  4. Michi says:

    This week’s magazine layout was brought to you by the Latin alphabet.

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