Monday, January 12, 2009
A Roundabout Way To Say, I Quit
Make It Through The Rain
At 15 I left home – was caught in the rain. I knew I could never go back. I’d confessed to my Reverend (who just happened to be my dad) that I was in fact gay – worse, that the mechanic he trusted to fix his car was working on his sons engine - and that I was mature enough to take care of myself. The scene is as vivid today as it was over 24 years ago; my father resting his face in his hands and a guttural cry that I never heard from him before rumbling in his chest. I pray that I never hear it again. I knew whence that cry came from; the depths of his heart and soul. His dreams of my marrying and leading what dreams he may have had for me evaporating before his eyes. I remember pivoting to leave and his anguish transforming to anger as he flung a bottle of Liquid Paper at me, my reflexes saving me from having at least four front teeth knocked clean out of my head. The deafening sound of that small hard plastic jar bore a hole in the wall, pieces crumbled down to my feet missing my face by inches. My tears joined the wall fragments on the floor that day. I made a small overnight bag, but really had nowhere to go. The man I professed was my love lived a state away and even worse lived with his mom. But youth and ignorance have a way of giving us the strength and fortitude to NOT see impending doom – rather an alternative to success. I stayed in school, partied 3-4 nights a week and found myself in the midst of a cast of characters never to be seen again. They became my new family. My odd-end jobs on the books supplanted by my tail-end job at the end of many nights. As Kate Hepburn said to Redbook once, “I never complained, never explained.” I did what I had to do to survive and my rewards were only as gratifying as some of my encounters were depreciating. It can be said that the prayers of my parents and loved ones kept me safe – well, as safe as I could’ve been on the streets of NYC – and with each new person I met a new door was opened. The Lord gave me the charm to move ahead, learn – and fast – how to blend. Blend with the ‘haves’ and appear like I had always been there. Soon, I was working for fashion giant Womens Wear Daily (WWD) in NYC and as luck would have it I began dating one of the editors of the fashion giant. His unfortunate alcoholism proved our demise, but not before he taught me what was truly important and how to always be above the fray. It wasn’t long before I had to choose – play boy-toy to someone who I could learn from OR common piece for the next sex starved New Yorker that wanted to sample young Puerto Rican goods. Let’s just say, this boy was no fool…it was the toy box for me. Like all dysfunctional things, our odd roommate arrangement came to an end after his drunken visits to my room proved more than I could bare. I remember getting up from my bed in the middle of the night once to find myself pinned under his arm, the smell of alcohol permeating through the room. I shoved a cigarette in his mouth, grabbed my jeans and t-shirt from the chair and turned only to light his cig. As I wiped at my eyes and was about to walk out the front door, he called to me, cigarette in hand; when I turned, standing at the threshold he took a deep drag and asked, ”You were going to let a drunken man lie in bed with a lit cigarette and walk out? I remember the calm smile that lifted both sides of my mouth as I said, “Yes, I was hoping for the best…my best.” With that I turned and walked out. He never entered my room again. A few weeks later we both agreed that it would be best that I move on. So where is this going you ask? Simple, I’m smoking my last cigarette tonight. I’m announcing it because in the dramatic Oprah-esque tale that is living in your truth, I’m addicted and I have to stop. I look back at the addicted man I’ve become and like my hopes for the editor/roommate, I pray he’s charred when I look back; That the addicted soul that shares this shell lives no more; That the strong-hold and surprise won’t exist. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but somehow, I’ve grown as tired of the addict-within as I did of the alcoholic editor that thought he had a live in doll. My body has been used by the nicotine for the last time. The first-puff of nicotine now gone, I’m left with the smell and taste of a stale cigarette. It will be really hard, but I recognize that like many things in life, the smell and feel of them are littering my psyche and not just my physique. The addict thought he was getting ahead but really, the cigarettes like the editor have served their purpose. The next chapter awaits.
From smoking to be mature and cool-to smoking in the office- to please put that out in the building- to walk away from the building to smoke that-to everyone being the next poster boy and crusader for the smoke cessation movement-I’m tired. I will not fight for something that is basically betraying me from the inside. What difficult addiction/habit can you 1) admit to having 2) work to release?
Keep passin’ the open windows…