Adult Needs, Part 1

(by, 12 December 2003)

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By slimv

			Chapter 1:  Pillow Talk

Joss pushed back against his pillows and pretended to watch TV as he thought
about what his wife had just said.  The smoke from her cigarette drifted past
his face, a smell he had become accustomed to throughout their 20-year
relationship.  It was a smell he had come to associate with her and he
usually found it pleasant, but the association was not so pleasant tonight.

Cathy lifted the cigarette to her lips and pulled.  The smoke within her
chest was comforting but did little to ease the guilt she was feeling.

She wished he would talk to her, but there he sat beside her, staring
stoically at the TV, doing any thing he could to avoid the subject.

She took a deep puff and allowed her words to push the smoke from her lungs.
"I started when I was 12."

"That doesn't make it right," answered Joss.

"No it doesn't," said Cathy, "but right is a relative term.  We're not
talking about what's right or wrong.  We're talking about the way things are
and what we're going to do about it."

"I've heard this before.  It won't change how I feel," said Joss.

"So listen again.  Beside, this isn't about how you feel.  I feel the same
way, but that won't change things."

Joss sighed as he settled in against his pillows.  He closed his eyes and
inhaled the scent of her smoke as he listened to her story unfold.


I was 12 years old the first time I tried one.  I got them from my mother's
purse.  I did it even though I knew it would break her heart if she ever
found out.  I think I was more in love with the idea of smoking than any
thing else.  I liked the way she made it look.  She always looked so happy
and in control when she smoked.  She was happy yes.  But she wasn't in
control.  Of course I didn't know that then.

I almost chickened out that day.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened
if I had.  But deep down I know I would have tried it sooner or later. 

You know how much my mom smokes.  Her purse was always full of cigarette
packs and lighters.  I asked her once how much she smoked and she said she
didn't know.  I believed her.  There was no way for her to know.  She never
smoked just one pack at a time.  She had open packs in every room of the
house.  She'd throw another pack in her purse whenever she went out.  It
didn't matter if it was half or full or opened or not.  As long as she had
cigarettes, she didn't care.  So I knew she wouldn't miss the pack and the
lighter when I took them from her purse.

It was summer.  My dad was at work.  My brother was playing with his friends
down the street and my mom was in the kitchen gabbing with her friend from
next door.  She didn't see me near her purse and she didn't hear me go to the

I was so scared Joss.  You tried it when you were a kid.  It's a feeling you
never forget.  I knew I was doing something wrong but I had to do it.  Our
basement was so dark and musty.  No one ever went down unless they were
getting something from the freezer. 

It was dark and I tripped over a box while I was looking for the light
switch.  I was so afraid my mom would hear it and come down.  I sat there in
the darkness on the floor with my legs crossed, holding the pack and the
lighter.  I must have sat there for ten minutes before I got my courage back.


"Why are you telling me this?" asked Joss.  "I know you smoke.  I know you
started when you were 12.  Yeah, I tried it too.  But I was smart enough to
stop after the first one.  What's your point?"

Cathy put her cigarette out and lit another.  "I don't know," she said.  "I
guess I'm just trying to explain it to my self.  I'm trying to make sense out
of this too.  You sit there so fucking pious and righteous and perfect- the
big non-smoker.  You don't understand what it's like Joss, cause you don't
smoke.  I'm just trying to explain it to you."

"What's to explain?  You smoke because you enjoy it?"

She was frustrated but held her cool.  "Yes Joss.  I do enjoy it but it's so
much more than that and that's what I'm trying to tell you.  It's not as
simple as just enjoying it.  I'm addicted.  I want to quit but I can't quit.
You know what they put in cigarettes these days.  I took you on-line.  I
showed you.  The stuff they put in cigarettes makes it impossible for people
to quit."

"Some people quit."

"Sure," said Cathy.  "And then they start back.  You know that.  Only 5% of
people who smoke give it up for good, and they never really lose the
cravings.  They're always there, the desire.  You went with me.  You heard it
with your own ears.  Dr. Avery didn't make it up."

"And it's all a conspiracy?" asked Joss.

"Damn right it is," said Cathy as she satisfied her cravings with another
lungful of smoke.  "All those anti-smoking commercials that the tobacco
companies pay for.  Sure they have to put them on but they're thrilled
because they know it makes people smoke more.  People see the commercials and
get scared and bothered and the first thing they do is light up to ease the
stress.  You've seen me do it a thousand times.  And all those quitting aids-
they don't work.  People just make money off them.  It's all a racket.  Once
you're hooked you're hooked."

"So what you're trying to say is quitting is useless?" asked Joss.

"You know it is.  How many times have you seen me try to quit?  The worst
thing about it is that I wind up smoking more than I did after I start back.
It's insane.  It's insane to start in the first place but it's more insane to
try to quit once you're hooked.  And you know it's worse for girls than it is
for boys.  And age makes a difference."

"How so," asked Joss?

"You know.  Remember what Dr. Avery said about women getting more addicted
than men.  It's like twice as hard for a woman to quit than it is for a man.
And he also said the younger a person starts, the more addicted they get."

Joss nodded his acknowledgement.  "Yeah, I remember him saying that.  But
that doesn't mean we have to accept it."

"That's exactly what it means," said Cathy as she took a draw from her
cigarette.  "You don't understand the emotions that go with this.  You have
no idea about the guilt I felt when I was younger.  I broke my mother's heart
when she caught me smoking.  I broke it time and time again when I tried to
quit but failed.  That's what I'm trying to tell you."

"It was so terrible Joss.  You didn't know me then.  I was so unhappy.  I
felt like my parents hated me because I couldn't quit smoking.  There was so
much guilt.  My mom blamed her self for my starting and I just thought I was
the worst daughter in the world because I didn't love her enough to quit."

"She gave you permission didn't she?"

"No Joss.  She didn't give me permission.  She and my Dad turned a blind
eye.  They knew I smoked but they didn't condone it.  I couldn't smoke in
front of them.  I had to smoke outside.  And they cut me down every chance
they got.  The worst thing was that they did it in front of my brothers.
They made me feel so small."

"What were they supposed to do?" asked Joss.  "Your brothers were
impressionable.  They didn't want them to make the same mistake you did."

"Neither did I," said Cathy, as she stubbed her cigarette out and lit
another.  "But they could have done it differently.  They didn't have to put
me down.  And what good did it do any way?  Both my brothers started smoking.
So what did my parents achieve?  Nothing!  The only thing they did was to
make me feel bad about something I couldn't change.  My mom ruined any chance
we ever had of being friends.  I don't smoke in front of her to this day.
You know that.  Does that make me any healthier?  I don't think so.  I still
smoke.  It was stupid and it was wrong."
"So what you're saying is it would have been better if they had praised you
for smoking?"

Cathy fixed her eyes on Joss.  "Yes, as a matter of fact I think they should
have done that.  I smoked.  I was already addicted.  The damage was done.
What would have been so terrible about making me feel OK about my self?  What
would have been so bad about my parents accepting me?"

She trimmed her ash and took a deep puff as she considered the thoughts
running amuck in her head.  "Girls mature faster than boys any way.  You know

"So now you're saying your parents should have treated you as an adult once
you started smoking?  They should have rewarded you for doing the wrong

"In a way I think they should have," said Cathy.  "You've said it your self.
Smoking is an adult habit.  Maybe my brothers wouldn't have started smoking
if my parents had treated me with respect, as an adult.  It's worth a try,
don't you think?"

"Maybe you're right," said Joss.  "I'll leave it up to you.  OK?"  He smiled
at her, gave her quick peck on the lips and rolled over.  "Do whatever you
think is right.  You know more about this than I do."

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