This post was supposed to be about music but then this lady made me think about smoking and why I started this ridiculously expensive habit. We all thought that all the speeches our folks, teachers and sucha-like figures of authority were just trying to suppress our youth and so called freedom. Few years down the line it all makes sense now. This will be my feeble attempt at explaining why I smoke.
I grew up watching my dad smoke. This man was a chronic smoker. He would burn through a pack of Embassy Kings in 24 hours. He had emergency packs in the car, at home and in the office. It did not help one bit that his brother-in-law worked at BAT and would conveniently ‘gift’ him with cartons of the stuff.
It took the valiant efforts of my mother to scare the smokes outta him. After a long fought out battle that included scenes of bad tempers, cold sweats, patches and the occasional relapse, he finally handed in his lighter.
I remember an instance where we were driving down to the CBD from the hills in the south of Nairobi aka Upper Karen known to near mortals as Ng’ong (insert all Karibu/Kwaheri Nairobi jokes here.) As we were driving past Adams Arcade, he suddenly slammed on the brakes and parked the car on the side of the road. Confusion reigned in my young mind only to see him shoot out and approach a complete stranger for a puff of his cigarette. (This was way before being a smoker that contributes Sin Tax to this fair republic became an offence punishable by jail, fines and the embarrassment of being carted off belt first into the nearest Black Maria.)
Anyway, a few years down the line, I joined one of Kenya’s National schools full of hope and ambition of a brighter, bully-less future. The glass veil was soon shattered by the first tall, smelly-sweater-clad, have-no-idea-what-a-shower-is-for fella I met at the administration bloke who helped me with my heavy load by volunteering to carry my heavy Nakumatt carry bag. Unfortunately (for me at least), he had clearly skipped class the day that the teacher taught the lesson on getting items you are carrying to their destination. Either that or his mental gps malfunctioned and showed him his cubicle as the correct destination for my stuff.
I quickly learnt that school and politics were very similar in that your survival is exclusively dependent on the kind of people you associate with. With this in mind, I was quick in identifying the right click and quicker than you can say “missing tomato sauce”, I had been initiated into the clique that ruled the school. This meant freedom, less chores and most of all, food with condiments.
The downside of this situation was that I had to be ‘with it’ whatever it was. Soon, I was the idiot at the wrong end of a cancer stick. Guess I thought I could put up a show, just to be cool. And that is how I started smoking, to be cool, to avoid being bullied, to have access to my own stuff. On the 4th of September, Mono Year, I realized I was now a full blown smoker.
It’s now been almost 10 years of quitting, intentions to quit, relapses and shifting cigarette brands. Time limits set and broken, research done and proven useless, thousands of hard earned shillings spent on patches and nicotine gum and I am still smoking. Cigarettes have gotten me through hard times, almost accidents and heartbreaks. They have been there on hot sunny days at work in Industrial Area, to cold dreary days at home with no job to look forward to, through periods of serious creative drought, to seasons of bountiful literary harvest. They have been an enemy to my health, but a friend to my sanity.
However, there comes a time when even best of friends have to part and I think that time has come. It’s all fun and games until the toy becomes a crutch, when you can’t hobble through life without your trusted aid. I have made the decision to quit smoking. I have to stand on my own. I can’t keep on relying on manufactured pieces of death rule me. I’m tired of having to hide as I puff away, of buying packs and packs of confectionery and heavy, expensive cologne to hide the truth of my actions. Of having to sneek out at night when I spend a night at a residence other than my own to partake in a 5 minute ritual of inhaling tobacco flavored carcinogens. I have made the choice to be free.
NB. – Listen to this awesome jam from Fena. You will love it. Promise.