Thursday, November 01, 2007

October Epiphanies

I spent my 39th birthday primarily in rehearsals for the Rocky Horror Show in Concert.

I also took up smoking. There was no particular need to do that, although I felt it was a valid character choice for my role as the Narrator. So many ideas, so few seemed to click, and that was one of them.

Don’t worry, I may have opened the door to an annoying addiction, but for now I’ve tossed the remainder of my stash until further notice on the Show.

I did notice some remarkable phenomena, though. I started smoking, and almost suddenly, it seemed as though I had put myself through an unspoken initiation into like a secret society with its own rules and secret identification rites. Well, for instance, when I first lit up, people from all over the cast seemed mildly amazed that I smoked. Not so amazed when I told them I’d been smoking for all of two hours, but there it was, a bond had been forged.

People also started asking me for cigarettes. This is ultimately how I knew some of my cast mates to be smokers, themselves. This is also The Code of the Brethren of Smokers, which would read if it were etched in stone, “Any smoker in need of a nicotine fix may ask another smoker for a cigarette. That smoker must, regardless of any connection or difference he or she may have with the requestor, provide a cigarette, unless it is the last smoke of their pack.”

It’s sick, knowing that in so doing, smokers are enabling each other in prolonging a difficult habit to break, complete with innumerable health consequences and politically correct social stigmata, but to me it is a token of solidarity, a bond of mutual obligation that cannot be broken. It’s a beautiful thing.

I might never have guessed it about them all. Matter of fact, I was a little concerned that maybe I was single-handedly undoing the long, hard work some of my friends had done, trying to beat an insufferable addiction. I was the Enabler.

But there is also something else about standing around with other smokers. It’s inclusiveness. The whole cast is pretty close, but I felt oddly closer to my cast mates who smoked than I think even those cast mates I’ve known since prior to the whole Rocky Project. If we had nothing else in common, this was our link. Our bond. Like I said, solidarity.

I’ve been fortunate, however, in that I’ve been able to isolate my smoking binges to rehearsals and performances. I may be deluding myself, but time will tell. I’ll have time to more thoroughly detoxify myself, as we are between bookings for the show. I didn’t really have a problem with the smoking until the last couple of nights. I’ve been getting my own smoke in my eyes, and it’s not as easy to keep smoking on through the show (one characteristic I felt draw to for the Narrator is that, for whatever reason, he’s a chain-smoker, as evidenced by the half a pack of cigarette butts in the ashtray at the end of each two-hour show).

My 39 year old body knows what my brain-in-denial ignores: this shit ain’t good for me. My eyes were nearly literally burning out of their sockets this morning, and I can feel the singe in my throat and sinuses for a day or two after each show. Sometimes I still smell the smoke trapped in my sinuses a day or two after a gig.

The strangest thought that crossed my mind at all occurred to me as I was hauling my suit to the cleaners to sort of freshen it up a bit. I gathered it up in a little bundle and accidentally pressed my nose into it and breathed in.

It smelled sexy.

I once dated a girl in high school who smoked. I was so head-over-heels in the throes of a hormone rush that despite that I objected to my own mother’s smoking, I didn’t care that she did. I’m not sure if I made that association when I took a whiff of that smoky woolen suit, but there was some Je ne sais quoi that sort of pushed me toward being “in the mood.” I half contemplated keeping the suit in that condition, on stand by for those long nights when my wife will be working the late shift.

Perhaps if you’re looking for some affirmation to ease the turmoil of quitting smoking, this is not the best place to look. Know, however, that I am striving to keep this a more or less isolated group of incidents. I know the dangers of smoking and I do not condone the use of nicotine in any form, but as I enter my 40th year, I’m gratified to know that I am still open to new experiences and getting to know people from another angle. That is, even if it happens to mean that I may soon be getting to know the experience of trying to kick a smoking habit, and seeing non-smokers from “the other side.”

If it’s all the same, I think I will keep a pack handy. One of my siblings might need it more than me.

Peace and unity.