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Friday, January 7, 2011

Smoker's Diary #8: The Ambivalent Rabbit

Photograph by Rob San Miguel (
Seoul 2008)
One won’t hurt, doesn’t it? Well, with all the brutality of any disgruntled Oscar loser, I can unabatedly say that (with guiltless split infinitives and all), one does always hurt.  Oh yes! That one d*** s*** always hurt.  It always ruins a perfectly good thing.  It is that one word that ruins a perfectly good compliment. “You’re not that fat.”  “Really?”  “That” is what ruins an otherwise uplifting comment.  Any nicotine junkie devoid of personal agenda will tell you that all you need is one smoke to bring you back to the arms of the Marlboro Man or onto the lap of the Sobranie Lady. 

I spent the last night of 2010 in my friend’s house.  We drank white wine and finished a big plate of assorted sushi and, in between, we snacked on French bread and inexpensive cheese.  When we finished one bottle of wine, we mixed our own martini and drank it with pitted olives.  We talked for hours about myriad topics such as Kate Winslet, Sylvia Plath’s suicide, women whom we love, cargo cults, and blogging.  Before we knew it, it was already close to midnight.  My friend, who was rabbit-sitting then; yes, you heard it right; he was taking care of a friend’s rabbit while his friend was away on vacation.  It is peculiarly pleasant to be spending the last day of 2010 and the first day of 2011 with a jumping warm-blooded mammal, considering 2011 is the “Year of the Rabbit.”  Whether this is a good omen for my friend and me, it never really occurred to us until days later.  Anyway, it was a good thing that we slightly overfed the medium-size hare.  A well-fed animal of the year is always a good sign.

Hours before midnight, my friend (who stops quitting smoking) lighted one cigarette after another. He was not asking me to smoke, nor was he tempting me. He was just casually smoking like as if he didn’t know I used to smoke.  However, as a fellow demon, he did buy a small pack of cigarettes just in case I decided to take a respite from clean living, even for just one night before we welcome the New Year.

He didn’t mean any harm; it is just he and I came from the same circle of Hades, so close to the first ring of Heaven.

Close to midnight, amidst the cacophonous celebration and the devastatingly beautiful fireworks, I decided to light one cigarette.  Technically (to those keeping track), that was my second stick since I quit on December 15.  Still, since that was the last day of the year, I might as well plummet one last time.  As expected, the thrill was not there anymore.  Smoking has become mechanical to me.  I was told that if you quit long enough, the taste of cigarette will repulse you once you started smoking again.  To be honest, cigarette taste hasn’t repulsed me yet but the ecstasy of smoking is gone.  Surprisingly, my main motivation for staying smoke-free is simple boredom, not because of good health, but old fashion lack of interest.  It is like a relationship.  My cigarette and I know so much about each other. We finish each other’s sentences that it came to that point when everything has become mechanical, a routine. 

Could it be? Hmm, perhaps I haven’t really quit smoking but I am just in the nadir of my relationship with Miss Sobranie.  She and I are just in a strange phase in our relationship, the scheduled cool off, the inevitable chill.  The thought is disturbing indeed.  Here I am, confidently thinking that I am heading for a final divorce, but now I have this treacherous second thoughts. 

Truth be told, it only takes one.  That one smoke was about as harmless as bonus night with an ex.  It is harmless only if you are able to leave the building in one piece, without any pang of desire biting your spine.  It is utterly dangerous if you want to come back as soon as you leave the door, break down, fall on your knees and tell her “I will never, ever, want to leave you again.”

As midnight finally struck, and the first minute of the year ended, I find myself in a familiar black and white scene: smoke billowing to the ceiling, me in the arms of sweet nicotine, totally ambivalent.

Scene 1:
The rabbit, quietly nibbling, looks up at me and says, “Curiosity may have killed the cat but ambivalence creates more rabbits than you can handle.”

P.S.  23rd day after I quit. Fell off the wagon twice.

Next: Smoker's Diary #9

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