Prompt: Happy Endings
Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?
I entered the room blindfolded. It smelt faintly of incense and dog farts. Someone was playing an instrument— I thought it was a flute but it was a laptop synthesizer, but very realistic nonetheless.
Ironically, the room was smoky. Someone coughed, which brought a sympathy itch to my throat. It was uncomfortable, but I thought, This is worth it— stifling coughs, tolerating primal odors and atonal music— to make myself healthy and socially acceptable again.
When they took the blindfold off, after they’d helped me sit, cross-legged, on a cushion on the floor, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the light. Candles, of course, but also the fluorescent glow of cell phones. They had a private YouTube channel, they had told me earlier. Many hundreds of hits. Amateur video photography was very popular among fellow believers.
The synthetic flute continued to play in the background, and I saw there were about twenty people in the small room. Murals of stylized men and what seemed to be bison decorated the walls, caveman style.
Directly in front of me sat a woman with a beer hat. You know, the kind of baseball hat that houses two cans of beer, and some straws that direct the beverage to your mouth. I couldn’t see the brand of beer, but from the colours I deduced it was imported and not domestic. Surely a good sign.
She wore camouflage face paint, circa Vietnam, 1965.
When the music stopped abruptly, nobody died, but the room dimmed as the cellphones were turned off and everyone looked up, where fragrant pink rose petals suddenly cascaded down from above, and something was lowered from the ceiling. It was covered in Christmas baubles, fresh lilac, and little cellophane bags of Hershey’s kisses.
It was a giant hook, all the same.
At that moment, I decided instead to go cold turkey.
And I did. I was tired of feeling malodorous and unhealthy from smoking one to two packs of Canadian cigarettes per day, and the stigma was getting downright hostile, with the deadly stares of the non-believers, and the cabal of miserable frigid outcasts in the night air, lighting up in desperation. Worst of all was knowing someone who mattered was dying, an innocent who was never in the cabal but contracted the cancer anyway. It was time to change.
The doctor said Buck up! and showed me pictures of other people’s lungs.
The hypnotist was bored, chanting his dreary message with such disinterest that I did fall asleep, though not into an hypnotic trance.
The acupuncturist accomplished nothing except occupy my idle, non-smoking hands early in the day, with his complicated recipe for vegetable broth to be drunk every hour without fail.
The smoky room, the sounds of a flute and the smell of dog farts and lilac were neither more nor less helpful. Metaphors were beyond the understanding of my physical addiction.
I quit on my own.