Thursday, July 19, 2007

Of Smoking (Part 2)

Second time. I think I was in second year uni by then. It was sometime during the start of term because I remember it being cold. We were at this club. One of those parties organized by the Malaysian Singaporean Student Association. A few of us went out for some air. We, comprising of myself and this Singaporean chap named Terence, a fellow student in my faculty, were sitting in a doorway of a shop probably next to the entrance of the club. I remember the biting wind, those frosty blasts of wind that seem to hiss by you venomously as it swept through. The loud thumping beats were faintly audible from where we sat. Michael, my other Singaporean friend, who was the acknowledged Party Man was standing around in front of us looking about and doing little jog on the spots.
When I turned to look at Terence he had a cigarette out and in his mouth. That was fast, I thought. He was about to light up when I asked him for one. The usual 'I didn't know you smoked' routine played itself out. One minute later I have a stick in my mouth and his telling me to inhale it. The strange thing about it this time for me was that it went down nice and smooth. I don't remember why it was different but I still remember the surprise with which I took that first drag. Inhaling it was not a problem and so was blowing it out. I didn't feel like a rack of hot coals had been raked across my throat and tongue. That fragile bit of warmth that it gave me was uselessly delightful. I enjoyed the moment and indulged in the feeling of knowing how to smoke. The cigarette still did not quite feel so comfortable in my big clumsy hands just yet, it felt strangely foreign, like an intruder almost.
Ever since then, it came rather naturally. I'm not quite sure how it happened either. Maybe the cool air made it easier. that night. But even though I had the satisfaction of smoking one properly that night, I didn't immediately go out and get a pack of cigarettes. I just didn't feel particularly compelled to do so. I had two or three at the time. Because anything more than that would make me sick and want to throw up. Hilarious. That too cleared up after a few more tries, and now I don't have a problem with it unless I smoke cloved cigarettes. That stuff just makes me sick.
All this time, I understood of course that smoking was and is bad for my health, yet continued to do so every now and again. Funnily enough, I read a piece of trivia in Malcolm Gladwell's book 'The Tipping Point'. It said something like if a person smoked something like nine sticks a day for 2 weeks consecutively then that statistic would be like the tipping point to that person becoming a regular smoker. Keeping that in mind, I have always kept under that limit and take a break from it every once in a while.
So the good thing about it now is that I get to enjoy it but don't have the powerful need for it.
And there's one thing about having a smoke. It's a very social thing. It's easy to strike up a conversation with someone who smokes because there'll always be someone standing outside having one. Even with at least two people, there's potential for common ground simply because they smoke. They are immediately and irrevocably categorized into a group: 'Smokers'. These people also tend to be sociable and generous. They are always happy to share their stash with you and only too helpful with the lighter to boot and ready for conversation. That's the nice thing about lighting up too. The moment you do, you light up a whole new social world. Like an underworld beneath the non-smoking world that is slowly and surely conquering the world.
Getting a gift for a smoker is also very easy. One carton or a pack. Viola. I mean what else can you give as casually, as simply and as affordable as that. Non-smokers have to contend with flowers, or some cute but useless gifts that you will probably never use for the rest of your life or chocolate (Box of Ferre Roche).
Naturally there's a price to be paid to join this exclusive though widespread group. A shortening of one's life, the damaging of one's health and the usually strong smoky breath that tends to be a major turn off (unless perhaps both are smokers). I fool myself by telling myself that I keep my intake below the tipping point but that doesn't change that fact that I'm still smoking no matter how few. That however is a choice I make and that I am willing to live with. Though truth be told, I have no choice in the matter anyway.

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