Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

One-twenty-five

Posted by ilbebe on June 10, 2012

Personal choice- what a concept. Personal responsibility- what’s that?

In February 2007, I was at my wit’s end. I was being overworked at my job, had been since someone left before Thanksgiving and wasn’t replaced. One night my Dad took me out to dinner at a pub and we got drunk. I was trying to make conversation about a linguistics article I’d recently read, but he was more interested in throwing stupid double entendres at the bartender. After he ungraciously excused himself  (“I guess if I’m embarrassing you”) and declined my offer of a goodbye hug, I switched to gin. Gin? the bartender asked. Yeah, I said, My Dad Fucking Pisses Me Off Sometimes. I Don’t Talk To My Dad Anymore, the bartender told me. I don’t remember going home, but I must have.

I woke up in bed the next morning, showered and dressed, and walked to the train. I’d been getting this awful nauseous feeling for weeks as the train pulled in, thinking that rather than getting on, I’d be happier falling in front of it. But I didn’t, and when I got to my work, I had the scheduled meeting with my boss I’d arranged the day before to address my workload. I told her that I was being overworked and that it was driving me bonkers. Is There Anything Else? she asked. I broke down crying. I’m Not Okay, I said. She told me to take off as much time as I needed, and to go get some help.

I went back t0 my desk and called Kaiser to request a same-day psych appointment. This was deemed impossible based on my lack of an existing psych relationship with Kaiser. So What Should I Do? I’m Feeling Suicidal, I asked. I was instructed to go to the ER if I wanted attention. Did I Need An Ambulance. No Thanks, I said, I’ll Get Down There On My Own.

I thought it might be more pleasant to go to the ER in Walnut Creek versus Oakland, so I left work, got back on BART and rode out to Walnut Creek. En route, I called my friend Garrett to leave him a voicemail wishing him a Happy Birthday. I was walking down South Broadway in Walnut Creek towards Kaiser feeling like wet chalk and trying to will myself out of existence when I decided I wanted a pack of cigarettes. I went to a 7-11 and bought a pack of Natural American Spirit yellows. Not Camels, which my girlfriend at the time smoked, but yellows, which my ex-girlfriend K smoked. I smoked one and got dizzy, then continued on the ER.

Several hours later I’d been 5150’d and was being given an ambulance ride to Fremont. When we pulled up in front of the hospital, the ambulance man said Hey, If You Wanna Smoke, Now’s Yr Last Chance. They Won’t Let You Smoke In There. He seemed pretty solemn about this minor breach of protocol, which I thought was sort of funny since I didn’t really smoke. I had bought the cigs because I needed calming down, and it crossed my mind that cigs calmed people down. What I didn’t grasp is that cigs only calm down people who smoke and are craving a cig. For the non-smoking population, they have a negligible-at-best effect. But I figured I shouldn’t dismiss the ambulance man’s generosity, so I lit one up. I asked if he or the driver wanted one. They both got pained looks on their faces, and he explained that they had quit, together, the week before. Oh, Okay, I said. Inwardly I chuckled at their struggle.

I’m so glad I feigned my way through smoking that cigarette. The whole night through hell in the psych ward, I could smell my fingertips, and K was there to give me comfort. You Shouldn’t Be Here. You Need Some Sleep. I Believe In You. All the reassurance I needed was in the air around the first two fingers and thumb of my right hand, and that’s a feeling I’ll never forget. Thank God for K, and for that particular scent.

I got out of the hospital after a night, and still had eighteen smokes. So I smoked them. Oddly enough, what I’d heard proved to be true: smoking is habit-forming.

Five years later, I went on a pretty good bender after the latest in a series of pointlessly severe break-ups, and started having persistent chest pain. I thought about dying, and how I wanted to do it. I think, after twenty years of consideration, I’m successfully over any notions towards suicide. But alleviating the tightness in my chest, was it worth walking away from my best friends over? Smoking had become my constant companion; a treat to look forward to after a long flight, a reason to stand outside in the cold, something to put in my mouth to staunch the flow of uncarefully considered words out of it. But again, I thought of K, who doesn’t talk to me any more. I thought about how she used to believe in me. I guess in her absence, I’ll have to believe in myself.

I’ll probably go back to smoking one of these days, I have a historically poor will. The only thing I’m good at is keeping secrets. Here’s that weak will in action: I’ll share a secret with you. I don’t want to die like my Grandparents did, from smoking cancers. That’s no tribute. Better to live, even if it means walking past people smoking on the street and going Damn, That Could Be Me.

I guess that’s what I have to look forward to after long flights now- going to the curb to wait for a ride or the bus knowing that I care at least enough about myself to not court a heart attack at thirty-one. That should suffice, and if nothing else, it’s cheaper than smokes. Which I guess cuts closer to the core of me…being cheap…ahh.

There’s something that might help me replace smoking-thinking about how happy being cheap makes me. A cheap life ain’t worth nothing- It’s worth taking every last breath out of. Deeply.

Peace.

-Sunday, 6/10/12, Noon, front steps of my place. Sunny and warm. If it were done, better it were done with anxiety!

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