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Friday, January 14, 2011

Smoker's Diary #10: Limbo, Sera, Fugu and Other Metaphors

Photograph by Rob San Miguel
(Seoul 2008)
Whether you’re a smoker or a non-smoker, you’ve probably seen “that look.”  It is a subtle one and you might miss it if you’re not paying too much attention.  Luckily, if people give you “that look” often enough, it becomes quite easy to notice, and maybe, it may even infuriate you.  It’s quite a deceptive look because it can be delivered with a smile, an understated grin, a blank expression, with a gentle nod of the head, with an almost unnoticeable turn of the head, or with even a very personalized gesture like touching one’s cheek.  However, the weight of the message is in the eyes.  The eyes are like two looking glasses that refuse to deceive, or perhaps are incapable of deceit.  Smokers give “that look” to non-smokers, and vice versa.  Having been a smoker and a non-smoker at some point in my life, I have given both looks, and I am equally apologetic, for lack of a better word. 
The non-smoker “look”: Not all non-smokers give this look, mostly the self-righteous ones only.  It is that pitiful look that says “Oh you poor weak person. How can you let that small stick control you? You’re so helpless; you need help. You think you’re so cool and impulsive but you’re just one step lower in the addiction ladder. I’d like to see you when you turn old. You won’t look so cool with tubes running through your lungs.”  On the other side of the coin, we have the smoker’s “look.” It’s that look that says, “You bland, boring, tepid person. You are about as interesting to me as soggy tofu. Take a risk for once in your life; your life is so annoyingly safe. You think you will have a longer, happier and fuller life than I will ever have. I’d like to see you when you turn old while you sit on your rocking chair regretting the things you did not do.”
January 15 marks my thirtieth day of not smoking.  I smoke a couple of times during this first month, but still, this is the longest time in 4 or 5 years that I have not smoked more than 3 sticks.  I can’t say that it has been easy or hard.  It is actually quite surreal.  It is too soon to say I have kicked the habit but I come this far to just to throw it all away. I’m in the in-between.  It’s like I have voluntarily placed myself in limbo.  I couldn’t say I’m in purgatory, but then which side of me will take the place of heaven and hell.  Will Rob the non-smoker reside in heaven, and Rob the smoker go to hell, for its obvious symbolism?  Smokers puff white clouds. So isn’t it logical that smokers should be given heavenly symbolism? After all, we are always in ethereal state, in a manner of speaking.  To avoid this conundrum, let’s just say I’m in limbo, and not purgatory.  Thirty days is still a short time.  I am still quite nostalgic about smoking.  When I see smokers, I still look at some of them like actors maneuvering in slow motion black and white scenes, or in various overlapping colored scenes infused in the most seductive red, violet, blue and steamy yellow.  I still hear Sting singing “Angel’s Eyes” like a faint soundtrack, only to be interrupted by a perfect introduction:
“I’m Ben.”

“I’m Sera.”
“Sarah, with an H.”
“With an E, S-e-r-a, Sera.” 
This is what you call romanticizing the smoke.
On the other hand, I do not think I could keep smoking for the rest of my life.  Smoking is like wearing sexually suggestive clothes on ordinary days, say Monday.  Some people may love what you wear, and a brave reckless soul may even hit on you, ask you for a stick, metaphorically speaking, of course.  You may get invited to exclusive parties but, you may also repel others. It may even cause you your precious reputation, that is, if you are the type who cares about that stuff.  Eventually, you have to sartorially tone down even if the mind is willing, and the heart still demands for pleasure and people’s attention; however, the body may no longer be cooperative.  Nothing kills libido than a sickly stick figure wearing a bikini or trunks.  No matter how sexy Sarah Jessica Parker is or how smoldering Johnny Depp is, both stylish actors stopped wearing what they used to wear half a decade ago.  They still look classy but they are now also dressing their age and that makes them even more fascinating.  I think smoking is like that, eventually, no matter how much you want to continue smoking; your body will fall apart; unless of course, someone invents a totally non-carcinogenic and non-addictive cigarette. But then again, what’s the point of that?  That would be like eating Japanese poisonous fish, fugu, with an antidote injected into its flesh to neutralize the poison.  That won’t be fugu, it’s just plain raw fish, no different from tuna.
I think the question is not whether it is better to eat fugu sashimi or tuna sashimi, I think the question is: “Is sashimi the only thing on the menu?”  All right, now I have mixed so many metaphors, this has become a smorgasbord’s diary.
To end, I think we should stop giving those “smoker’s” and “non-smoker’s” looks.  We should just look at ourselves.  Did somebody call Oprah or is it just me? No, this is not the Oprah show so don't look under your seat, nothing is pasted under it.  (Wink).

Next: Smoker's Diary #11

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