Insomnia Revisited – Smoke
You knew it. The relationship meant more to you than it did to the other.
She loves me not….
It may have happened to you slowly – the realization like a jagged gutting with a blunt blade.
He loved me never….
It may have been fast, too, when it happened to you – a quick clutch at your chest and wham! Crumpled to the ground as if your feet and legs turned suddenly to ash beneath you.
Loved no more….
These are the things that keep us awake at night: The memory of the charming boy you loved; the smoky-eyed woman; the member of the family. The teacher.
And, maybe it was not someone, but something. Something you loved absolutely. And you came to know that it didn’t feel the same about you – could never feel the same. It hurts. Then it kind of goes away. And then, some of those old pains bubble up – the old pangs are the jostling ruminations of insomnia.
The last three nights were long ones and didn’t come with much sleep. Here is what I was thinking about: A relationship that meant more to me than it did to the other. I loved it absolutely. It loved me not.
But I didn’t care.
I am approaching a seven-year anniversary of smoking my last cigarette. People who have given up cigarettes often mention that they still have cravings, and there are certain common “triggers” for wanting to
smoke. For lots of people, stress is a trigger. For others, it is the time after meals. For many it is when they drink alcohol.
I have two triggers that make me want to smoke. The first is being awake. When I am awake, I want to smoke. The other is when I am asleep. When I am asleep, I dream of smoking. (And I haven’t forgotten why I am here – I associate lots of music with smoking cigarettes, too. More later….)
Cigarette smoking was my terrible girlfriend – the great non-reciprocating, iconic heroine of my life. The eventual realization that I had been on the wrong end of the relationship came over me seven years ago, and that realization has punished me thoroughly. And it has punished me often.
It’s not the same, (I know, oh, I know,) as when one suffers an unrequited relationship with a person. I have experienced that. But still it seems somehow like I have lost someone, too. Cigarettes were my companions. They gave very much shape to my life between ages 17 and 43.
So now, when I find myself staring at the ceiling at 4:07 a.m. and I think about smoking cigarettes, I can recall some good times. Here are some of the old smoky ways from the old smoky heydays.
Legendary wingman, and one of my all-time dearest friends, Sweet Pete is from southern California. When we were in college together, he despised the dry cold weather of Nebraska winters. As a way to confront that hatred on the coldest nights, he and I would get a pack of Kool non-filter menthol cigarettes, a few beers, a pint of peppermint schnapps, and a package of strong Velamint peppermints.
We would brace ourselves against the cold and walk in the dark to the cemetery or to the outskirts of town. We would walk on country roads passing the little bottle and eating mints, smoking cigarette after cigarette, breathing in the icy air.
Then we would go home and talk about the darkness and shadows, and about the starry sky, and we would smoke more cigarettes.
In October 1985 Pete and I decided to try on our hobo personas and head out west. It was time to ride the rails. We found a spot near the old depot in Hastings, Nebraska where we could stay pretty well hidden and wait for a chance to hop on a freight train. To prepare for our trip, we knew we would need supplies. For supplies, we would need some money. We took up a collection. Actual hats in our hand, we went around campus and asked our fellow students for pennies and nickels.
We got enough contributions for what supplies we needed: a carton of Lucky Strikes and a bottle of inexpensive Scotch.
We packed up a few things in a bag borrowed from our friend, Amy, and we had a couple of beers at a party that some of our friends from the Theatre Department were throwing. (I was in Medea that month, playing the least believable Jason that you might ever be able to imagine. So bad was I, that, to paraphrase Woody Allen, “Euripides would never have stopped throwing up.”)
After some time at the party, we had a couple of ”going away” beers at the Olive Saloon downtown in Hastings.
It became very late and very dark.
After one failed attempt to get on a westbound freight (long story) we thanked the police officer, and headed home in the black of night to regroup.
The next morning we agreed to get on the first train we could. Just as we arrived at our secret spot near the depot, a train came by. It was heading east. We did not care. We ran toward the rumbling flat car and jumped on. By the time we hit the edge of town, we had lit cigarettes poking out of wide smiles.
Some of these wonderful songs go through my mind in the lonely insomniac hours – smoky tunes from the vintage of college days. Hello darkness. Hello dear old Pete. Hello friend.
Favour by The Wake from Harmony (1982 Factory).
–Dig Siouxsie’s collar and her fab dance moves in the video. An enormous fave.
Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees from Kaleidoscope (1980 Polydor).
—Judy reminded me about this great one from those days.
Sex Beat by The Gun Club from Fire of Love (1981 Ruby Records).
–It’s difficult to pick just one song by XTC, but here is a favorite.
I Remember the Sun by XTC from The Big Express (1984 Virgin Records).
–Rude boy, Joe Jackson.
It’s Different For Girls by Joe Jackson from I’m The Man (1979 A&M).
–A favorite at the old Olive Saloon.
Up A Lazy River by The Mills Brothers (1952 Decca).
Crazy by Pylon from Chomp (1983 DB Records).
ICB by New Order from Movement (1981 Factory).
White Girl by X from Wild Gift (1981 Slash).
More Than This by Roxy Music from Avalon (1982 Polydor/Warner Bros.).
Perfect Circle by R.E.M. from Murmur (1983 I.R.S. Records).
–So much longing in this song’s insistent rhythms and Annie’s crystalline voice.
For the Love of Big Brother by Eurythmics from 1984 (1984 RCA).
–We could be sentimental. It was a luxury we could afford.
The Moonbeam Song by Harry Nilsson from Nilsson Schmilsson (1971 RCA).