I blink at the screen like a confused owl, slightly amazed by so many kind comments, both here and even more on Facebook. I always find it astonishing that it is the posts about hopelessness and fecklessness and pointlessness that get the biggest and most generous response. In a world gone mad, I tell myself I must be cheerful and fine, that the tap shoes must go on and the show tunes be sung. Nobody wants to read about someone else’s problems, not when the world is so oppressed. No, no, no, make ‘em laugh make ‘em laugh make ‘em laugh; that’s the ticket.
In fact, when I write cheery posts, they are usually read by three men and a dog. When I lose the edit button and have a proper wail, a chorus of strangers rises up to cry: me too.
I do know this and I always forget this and I’m always amazed by this.
Still, I should not let this reminder allow me to tumble into self-indulgence. This is not going to become a misery memoir. I’m going to keep it snappy. Because you know, the will to live.
So, it is now Day Four. To my intense delight, my mouth no longer feels as if someone has lit a match in it. I feel this is surely a great step forward. Every single Google search informs me that my body is now free of nicotine. Each human I meet seems inordinately pleased that I shall no longer be ruthlessly poisoning myself.
I spend a lot of time outside. I never smoked outside, it was always a thing of office and desk and work, so I pull my trapper’s hat over my eyes and stump off to HorseBack and do work there. When I get back, I take longer than usual with my own horses. I find myself riding and laughing at five in the afternoon, because the end of the day was always a real smoking point. If I’m outside, if I’m with the good equines, then I’m all right.
And then I go inside and this crazy haze of voices starts yelling at me: fuck everyone, fuck it all, smoke your head off. Go on, shout the voices, you are not one of those bourgeois sensible people who do the right thing. You are a creative, you know no rules, you should live on the edge, play a little Russian Roulette. And besides, shout the wild voices, what about Great-Aunt-Nellie with her forty Woodbines a day and her still doing the Can-Can at ninety?
I start to tell the voices to shut up. They are so loud and sweary and sneery. They think I am a bore. Giving up smoking is such a bore. Depriving oneself of anything is a bore.
Then I think: no, no, First Amendment, freedom of speech, no safe spaces in this brain. So when I am walking back from the horses in the chill and the gloaming, I say, out loud, to the shouty voices: why do you want me to smoke?
They get a bit stuttery and shuffly. They don’t really know. They’ve got a slight self-destructive kick that they don’t especially want to talk about and there’s something about dulling the senses that they can't entirely explain. The shouty voices don’t really want to admit it but sometimes they find the world a bit much. It’s all a bit too big and scary and indecipherable and if they are busy smoking they’ve got a faint haze between them and the impossible stuff.
I stare at the shouty voices. ‘Oh my goodness,’ I say to them. ‘You are more properly nuts than I am. You actually believe that if you stay in your room and smoke you won’t have to worry quite so much about what is going on in the labyrinthine head of Donald Trump.’
They really are shuffling their feet now. They sort of do think that.
Somehow, I have no idea how, smoking for me has become a retreat, a pulling up of the drawbridge, a defence. I feel startled and mildly ashamed. I thought I was the bold sort who looked fears in the whites of their eyes. It turns out I’d really like to stop the world and get off. It turns out that I’ve turned tobacco into some kind of analgesic.
So the cravings come, hard now, with all their bonkers irrationality and their shouty voices. I reckon I’ve had about eight today and I’ve seen them off with a variety of tactics.
Tomorrow, I think, faintly, my cilia might start moving again. The cilia are beautiful and vital and I was paralysing them. Imagine, I say sternly to the shouty voices, those little darlings wafting about again like Noel Coward wannabees at a cocktail party or young artists interpreting the world through the medium of dance.
Just imagine that.