Sunday, April 08, 2007
I am miserable. I do not smoke, but our new neighbor seems to be a chain smoker, and the entire building, including Our Apartment, stinks. My hair stinks. My clothing stinks. I am coughing from second-hand smoke, and I am mad as hell.
This fire-breathing dragon goes in and out, dangling a cigarette from her thin, puckered lips. She looks years older than she probably is, and the wake she throws makes me gag.
Does she think it's sexy to smell like a burning dumpster?
When I was young, everyone smoked. It was a second-hand smoke world. Movie actors looked really cool, dangling ciggies sexily from the corners of their mouths.
I sneaked into the bathroom with a stolen treasure and got up the courage to light a match to something so close to my face. I gazed into the medicine chest mirror, expecting to be transformed from an eleven-year old innocent to a mysterious woman of the world. Did I mention sexy? That, too.
The thin white cylinder in my little hands with chewed fingernails was going to instantly morph me into a screen siren, a breaker of hearts, a woman who could purr, "If you want me for anything, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? Just put your lips together and blow."
That kind of woman.
Instead, I coughed. And kept coughing. I sneaked glimpses of myself in the mirror through bloodshot, teary eyes, still hopeful that somehow, the incredible mutation had taken place.
It hadn't. The smoke kept curling back into my eyes. I blew it away, then quickly took a puff. I wasn't quick enough. It snaked around and burned my eyeballs even as it was choking me. My eyelashes got singed.
I did not look sexy. I looked sick. Bilious has never been the new sexy.
I gave up smoking at age eleven.
My mother had warned me that smoking would stunt my growth. Since my short father smoked, the argument had some merit. But all my friends who smoked got tall while I did not. It's amazing how little it took to do that.
I've left a voice mail for the apartment manager asking if it is, as I suspect, illegal in California to smoke in common areas of a multiple-residency dwelling.
I don't think they will be happy if I take to entering and exiting via fire escape. It could lead to a law suit if I fell. Of course, I'd still be dead. But my family might get something out of it.
I sprayed the hallway mightily with Ozium, including my neighbor's door and keyhole. I opened the hall window and the door to the backyard stairwell. I crammed a draft dodger under our door. The noxious fumes still pervade everything.
If people want to destroy their lungs, it is their right. But they do not have the right to destroy mine. I could do that myself if I wanted to.
My whole world is going up in a carcinogenic haze.
Oh, where is that smoke-free planet when I need it?
I do understand how difficult it is to give up an addiction. I once counseled a woman at the domestic violence shelter I managed who was a serial smoker.
She had already had cancer, while her five-year old daughter suffered from emphysema and needed to spend eight-hour stretches hooked up to oxygen.
The child was unable to attend school because of this, but her mother refused to give up smoking.
"I've got 20 years invested in my smokes," she said. "Nobody's gonna tell me what to do."