Star Smoker

(by, 07 May 2004)

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Star Smoker
by (Falling Ashes)

6:10 am.  50 minutes until the alarm goes off, yet I am awake.  Woken up, as
always, by the rich smell of tobacco smoke emanating from my wife, Starling.
My back is to her and I smile, surrounded by a noxious cloud that, after
almost five years of marriage, is a constant.  I can hear her wheeze.  Her
lungs sound like a slow leak in a bicycle tire.  She coughs a deep, hacking,
throat-rattling cough that could wake the neighborhood.  I turn over and throw
my arm over her slightly plump belly.  She looks at me with a smile as she
rolls the tip of her almost-spent butt on a fresh cigarette.  Now lit, she
takes cavernous hit on the newly lit Camel.  She removes it from her lips, and
takes a huge drag off her previous cigarette, which is just over a
half-an-inch long with at least an inch worth of cherry.  She finally exhales,
crushing out what little remains of her first cigarette of the day.  Before
Star even finishes exhaling, she brings the new cigarette to her lips and
takes another jaw-droppingly deep drag.  She doesn't so much exhale as breathe
the smoke out.  Smoke is constantly wafting out of her nostrils and mouth,
even when she talks.  Of course, her speech is often mumbled through a
dangling cigarette.  She powers down her second Camel and, as before, chain
lights another.  She has been up for four minutes, and is on her third
cigarette of the day.  This will continue in bed until she has smoked, at the
very least, five.  "Good morning, sweetie" she says, grinning through her
yellowed teeth clenching the new filterless.  "Good morning, baby.  And happy
anniversary!"  "You remembered!"  She gives me a hug, holding her cig behind
my back, slowly exhaling as she gives me a big kiss.  As she kisses, as with
almost everything she does, smoke trails out of her nostrils.  She leans back
and blows a thick cone skyward.  It is not OUR anniversary, but hers.  And her
cigarettes, with whom she has been with for twenty years.   She is
thirty-three, still striking, yet prematurely aged.  She has been smoking in
excess of five packs a day of mostly unfiltered camels since she was twenty.
Needless to say, she doesn't get out of the house much, because she simply
can't cope with NOT smoking constantly.  

Starling wasn't like the other girls when they all tried smoking for the first
time.  There was no coughing or hacking.  She didn't turn green or feel sick
at all.  Star, from the moment of her first inhale, was a natural, a born
smoker.  All of her relatives smoked.  Her mother and two older sisters,
Rochelle, 18 and Nikki, 20, were chain-smokers of the highest order.  That is,
until Star took up the habit.  Even they, at three packs a day apiece, were
amazed at little Starling's prowess.  From the day she started, she was almost
instantly up to two packs a day.  For a thirteen year old, that is
unprecedented.  It wasn't until she went away to college to live on her own
that the habit really took off.  Although smoking at home was no big deal,
when Star left she felt a new sense of freedom to smoke ALL the time.  She
would take a smoke break about halfway through each class, powering down one
or two cigarettes.  This wasn't enough, so she switched to Camel Straights.
Then she could easily suck down three cigarettes in ten minutes.  Even so, she
would wear a nicotine patch during class.  She had her own apartment.  She had
tried to have roommates, but even the heaviest of smokers couldn't stand to
live with her. Ashtrays were everywhere, and they were all overflowing.  One
simply couldn't empty them fast enough.  Her trashcans had piles of ashes,
butts, and empty packs, with little else.  In the bedroom there were ashtrays
on both bedside tables, one on her dresser, and one on her makeup table.  In
the bathroom, there was one by the sink, one by the toilet, and one in the
shower.   In the living room, the coffee table alone had three huge ashtrays,
or more accurately, candy bowls.  At home alone, with no fear of being
ostracized or gawked at, she started smoking doubles.  She had a jeweler
custom-make a short, double-barrel holder, which she still uses to this day.
This voracious appetite for smoking has its drawbacks, of course.  It was
nearly impossible for her to have a close friend, let alone a boyfriend.  At
bars, this type of smoking is tolerated.  But when someone would meet her in
another situation, they were almost always disgusted.   To Star's credit, she
doesn't really care.  As long as she has plenty of cigarettes, everything is
fine (she carries around a carton in her purse, just in case).  She is unable
to see a movie, or play, or even go grocery shopping.  At night, she wakes up
every hour or so to smoke a couple of cigarettes.   Her hypocritical mom and
sisters constantly chastise her about her health.  I worry about her too,
though I would never say anything.  The toll smoking has taken on her health
is quite obvious.  She coughs all the time.  The index and middle fingers and
thumbs on both hands are a deep yellow.  She has a sickly, grayish pallor to
her slightly wrinkled skin.  She very easily loses her breath.  Her skin,
hair, and all of her belongings absolutely reek of smoke.  And, as I said
before, she cannot utter a word without smoke billowing out.   And the wheeze,
that god-awful wheeze.  But, to me, all of this is beside the point.  I love
her with all of my heart.  Smoking is, and always will be, a part of her.
Star is exceedingly friendly, generous, and whip-smart.  She has a wonderfully
sarcastic sense of humor.  She is well-read and has a broad knowledge base.  A
card-carrying Mensa member and trivia buff, she is also a gifted painter and
songwriter.  Not to mention she's drop-dead gorgeous.  And she smokes.  She
smokes like the world's cigarette supply will dry up, RIGHT NOW.   And I love
her dearly. 

Starling finishes her fifth cigarette in bed and is ready for the day.  She
gets up and, using a lighter for only the second time today, lights her sixth
Camel with a cheek-hollowing drag.  Smoke wafts from her nostrils as she takes
a similar drag, then another.  As she walks toward the bathroom, she billows
out a huge cloud.  It looks as if smoke is emanating from every pore.  She
sits on the toilet to pee, dangling her already half-smoked cigarette.
Something catches her eye and the cigarette drops out of her mouth.  She
quickly picks up the smoldering butt with one hand, and a new cigarette with
the other.  Starling quickly lights the new one, then sticks what remains of
the old one in her mouth as well.  Double-dangling, she lets out a joyful
shriek and springs up while pee runs down her leg.   She counts in her head.
"Twenty cartons!  Oh my god!"  "Twenty cartons for twenty years" I say.
"That's like a months worth of cigarettes!  Oh my god, baby. Thank you, thank
you thank you!"  She tosses the old butt in the toilet and vigorously inhales
on the more recent one, then kisses me.  We have passionate sex (with me on
top, of course) with her dangling all the while.  This is the first time we've
had ten-cigarette sex in a while.  Exhausted, she takes out her old, trusty
double holder and lights up with a smoldering butt. Star deep-hits the
half-inch that remains on the old one before crushing it out and taking an
intense quadruple-hit off of the holder.  She blows out more smoke than one
human could possibly inhale and sighs.  Star lays her head on my chest while
frequently hitting the holder.  "I love you," she says.  I just wink: a
shorthand she obviously understands.   Finishing her twin Camels, she opens a
new pack and quickly extracts one and lights it.  All that remains in the
holder are cherries sticking out of the barrel.  She lays the still-burning
holder in the ashtray and heads for the shower with her newly-lit unfiltered.
I get up to pee and I smile as I see the billowing clouds of smoke rise above
the steam from the hot water in the shower, as she smokes her twenty-first
cigarette of the day.  The alarm starts to blare.  She is a remarkable woman
in every way, and I am so very lucky to have her.   

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