I do something really sadomasochistic to myself.
How do I do it you wanna know? What is this sick, twisted S&M thing I do to myself?
No whips, no chains, or gadgets of any kind. It’s simple: I stopped buying my tobacco by the carton (meaning 10 boxes at a time, in this case).
This wouldn’t be a big deal back in NY where every 24-7 bodega in the Creator’s concrete jungle has my brand. But here, in Yokohama, that number is reduced to a grand total of 3 (that I know of): Two shops in Kannai (a block away from each other,) and 1 shop in Hiyoshi.
Pretty slim pickings, right?
But thank God for those! Otherwise I’d be importing them from the States. Gotta Love Yokohama!
I’ve been smoking since I was 13, when I used to pinch my mother’s Newport butts, go to the bathroom, seal the crack under the door with a towel, open the window, spark up, and pretend I was cool. By 15, I was buying my own Newports if I had the loot, bumming them off of people, or pilfering my mom’s, brother’s or sister’s when loosies weren’t in the budget. I grew up surrounded by smokers, in and out of my house. No wonder I took to it like Japanese kids take to Mickey Mouse.
What this S&M self-punitive action achieves is it forces me to go the extra mile in order to get that monkey off my back, thus forcing me to stand toe to toe with my Jones on a regular basis. Look it right in its ugly mug, capitulate and declare, “though you have a face only a junkie could love, I won’t let you down!”
Today was one of those days.
I woke up this morning and, after tearing my room apart for 15 minutes, realized that I had no smokes. I knew I had had one in a box in one of my pockets and that one was to hold me until I could get to Kannai. As long as I have one around, the jones pings me but he doesn’t get all pimpish on me and start acting out. He keeps himself secluded away somewhere in the plush accommodations of my psyche and waits, assured that I will cater to his whim…
But, this morning’s search was fruitless. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere. And I didn’t have time for a more thorough search. I had a bus to catch.
At the bus stop, where I would usually have my first nicotine blast of the day, my jones groaned, audibly. A guttural discharge heard by even my fellow commuters, who were probably wondering why I had broken with the routine they’d gotten used to of standing a few yards away from the waiting area and getting my morning fix (which serves the dual purpose of putting their confounding malaise at ease while not secondary smoking them into early graves…yes, I am considerate.)
My fellow commuters collectively flinched at the growl.
At school, after the morning meeting, it was time for my would-be second blast over my first cup of coffee. Caffeine and nicotine work as a team to jar me into full consciousness. Until that blast occurs, however, I’m usually useless. But, I had a glimmer of hope. A glimmer that had carried me from my home to the school without incident. The jones’ edge can have a very detrimental effect on my disposition, I’ve learned. The everyday irksome can escalate to intolerable in a heartbeat. But the edge was held in check by this glimmer.
And, what was this glimmer, this shining beacon of hope?
In the shed out back where my fellow smokers and I congregate to satisfy our respective joneses reside the tools of our addiction: Ashtrays, lighters, and boxes of cigarettes of varying brands. Among them a box of Black & Mild I keep there for convenience and for just such emergencies. Only, due to my self-sadomasochism, I often have to tap the emergency stash I keep in that box.
The jones makes tobacco accounting a second nature. I can’t even use a calculator except for basic computations…but I, hell, all smokers always know how many smokes they have left, especially if the next pack is a thirty-minute train ride away.
But, the glimmer…the glimmer I held on to was that my jones had made a rare accounting mistake, and that within that box was not the “zero” my internal Jones’ balance sheet read, but “one”, or at least a portion of one.
A Black & Mild is a hybrid between a cigarette and a cigar and it cannot be finished in the roughly two minutes a cigarette can, so I often have to extinguish it several times over the course of a day. Sometimes I can smoke a single one the whole day at work.
So, the glimmer of hope I was clinging to desperately was that I would find a clip, even a damn roach of a Black & Mild, in my spare box in the smoking closet at school. The grimness of this reliance on a glimmer had me thinking about quitting again. To be this dependent on anything is less healthy than smoking itself.
After the morning meeting, I grabbed a cup of coffee and, along with several of my smoking co-workers, retired to the smoker’s closet, where their Mild Seven, Seven Star, Hi-lite, Caster, Hope, Peace, Marlboro and Kool cigarettes awaited them. But, my jones suffers from brand loyalty. If I tried to substitute a cigarette (and, ironically, I detest cigarettes) or even another brand of cigar, my jones would identify the alien immediately and…some of that “or else” ing would occur.
And my jones’ “or else,” well, let’s just say it aint nothing fuck with!
That monkey on my back starts to feel like a HumVee. And there’s no telling what kind of foolishness I might get into. One time I left work early without a word. Just up and left. Another time I took a cab from my house to Kannai (About a $40 ride) because the Humvee was too heavy to lug around.
I spied my Black & Mild box surrounded by a posse of Japanese brands looking stalwart as always…slowly I reached out for it…please God, please, have mercy on me, get this monkey off my back. I grasped the box…it felt so perfect in my hand, maybe the way a piano feels to Stevie Wonder’s fingers, counted to three in my head and shook the box and…
Sweet Jesus, there was a clip rattling around in there!
I let out an ecstatic roar of gratitude scaring the shit out of my co-workers.
Then they saw my face, and laughed. They understood for they all could identify.
“ろこ先生中毒者だね” (you’re a junkie) one teacher said.
“そうだね,” (Aint that the ugly truth) I laughed, as I kissed the clip’s ashy filter, lit it…and silenced the jones.