Part 2: Buying a pack
Down that vortex, I’ve made whatever compromises with myself I need to cross the threshold, to buy the pack. This part of the process is unpleasant all around. Except for the impending fulfillment.
As I approach the vendor, I feel shame and embarrassment. I’m one of those people, those people who are part of the hideous, destructive chain of destruction that tobacco fuels. I don’t like being seen to be a smoker, don’t like the associations people have with smoking, with smokers. I don’t like the mistaken assumptions people make, the presumptions people have. (“You really should quit,” people say, unbidden. “Don’t you know smoking is bad for you?”) As if these banal platitudes have any salience for me, bear any useful relationship to the self-destructive path down which I’m headed.
But all this is in my head. In my body, I feel other things. Even with the decision to buy the pack, the symptoms I described in my last post on the subject begin, ever so slightly, to ease: I can feel a slight relaxation in my chest, of my breathing. My chest loosens, my breaths start to penetrate a little deeper, and that feeling of suffocation starts to abate. That’s not all, though: my pulse quickens just slightly, but perceptibly, and pleasantly. I assume this is the lift of adrenaline. My back begins to straighten. My head lifts, even my gaze rises.
Which presents a challenge, because the truth is, I don’t want to meet the gaze of the person selling me the cigarettes. I don’t want company in this moment, don’t want to share in the community of death it represents. I don’t like to think about how selling cigarettes is a crucial, lucrative part of her or his business, how the dollars ($13!) I’m forking over get divvied up among his or her family, the tobacco distributor, the tobacco company, the marketing and advertising executives whose livelihoods all depend on people like me, on creating more people like me, people driven for whatever complex (or simple) reasons to likely (or at least highly possible) suicide. Or about how those dollars now are gone from my family, from the good uses to which we might otherwise put them.
But I have to think about those things. My commitment to feeling what I feel, to noticing what I think, makes it impossible not to. And so I do – I think about how awful this thing I’m doing is, even as my body tells me, in every way I can perceive, that I’m doing the right thing.