How not to quit smoking – book excerpt


Have nails, need coffin

If I can cope with tough situations without a cigarette, and I get used to that early on, then I can cope with just about anything. Can, will.

If I gave up whilst life was easy and stress free, I might find it easier. I might find it easier to take a step back, take a deep breath. Take a moment. Keep focussed. I’m calm, I just need a cigarette.

I might go a month. A month smoke-free. Life is still low key and low on stress.

What happens when stress comes out of the blue?

What happens when something I wasn’t expecting comes up and bites me on the arse?

What happens when everything hurtles into my life at once and leaves me clinging to my sanity by my fingertips?

I’ll remember how smoking used to help with stress.

I might be an ex-smoker. But just one won’t hurt. One to cope with the stress.

I’ve never had to cope with real stress without a cigarette before.

I take a puff on my friend’s smoke.

I later decide I want more. I apologetically ask a stranger on the street for a cigarette, trying not to wither with guilt and embarrassment as he begrudgingly opens his packet of Marlboro Lights. Not my favourite, but any brand will do right now.

I get home. All evening I’m losing my mind. Cigarettes. Smoke. I want to smoke a ****ing cigarette.

It’ll just be the one packet, I tell myself as I head down the shop. I won’t tell anyone. Just this one, I’ll smoke them slowly, then I’ll give up again. No one needs to know I faltered, had this delightful little moment of weakness. It’ll be my guilty secret. I’ll be smoke free again as soon as this packet is gone.

By the next evening I’ve finished, or am close to finishing, the packet. I’m an addict once more. I’m angry with myself, I’m feeling guilty. I feel worthless for not being able to keep it up. People know I’m smoking again. They smelt it on me. They are disappointed. ‘I mean, it’s your life man, but you were doing so well…’

I’m upset now.

So I buy another packet of cigarettes.

I’m a smoker again.

I’m an addict.

And I’ve been ever since I took that one puff on my friend’s cigarette to chill out.

Take that walk

730087The record oscillates as
an eyesore rug,
inviting and rough,
scathes against my palms.

The ceiling is
afraid to blur or turn, it dangles,
comatose, stares right through me,
yellowing and cracked.

I live inside
what I cannot change or borrow,
flipping through identity cards
which do not match my face,
my traits, my date of birth.
I am young and I am disgusted.
What’s worse,
I can’t even explain my reasoning.
But listen anyway;
my hell should be your ultimate priority.

I will not sugarcoat my lips
or blunt my tongue
or spare you;
I’m taking the plunge
and you’re coming with me.

Brain on a budget

I sowed the seeds.842061
I am utterly capable
of growing golden trees
on my inner skull;
but with the branches torn,
there’s nothing to catch
the lovely language
I am learning.

Like sand, like water,
crushed or running thin,
the distractions make me stupid.
I cannot scrape enough coins or time together
to gather designer brand knowledge.
The mundane mornings
are washing the colours
out of my mind.

The hours are scarce,
but look at this space.
I am putting it
all to waste.

July 19th – Poem

It feels like a Saturday.854075
There’s orange pulp in my water.
I’m depressed about my weight.
She says ‘sing cos it’s obvious,’
but how or why it’s so obvious
I can’t fathom.
I’m really far from home.
I never learned piano.
A walk around the block
sounds like too much
in this heat.
I spilled a drink on my phone.
I can no longer type the letter ‘k.’
I’m sick of Special K.
I’m glad I never got roped into trying
the other Special K when I was younger.
Outside it smells like bins.
Nonsense poetry is not what it was.
Whoever came up with the term
should’ve thought about how
it could be abused.

Bright lights and blurry faces

721088Brighton Pier is an area of unrivalled artificial beauty by night. From down here the Ferris Wheel looks as though it could take you to the moon; the waltzer, lurid with bright lights and blurry faces, inflicts a pleasant vertigo. The little huts that sell doughnuts and slushies, the street entertainers, nodding gratefully every now and then at a coin tossed into their hat. There are some regulars of course; families, bored teenagers, people like you; but although the majority of the people change and move on, the foundations never do.

You take a deep breath, filling your lungs with air polluted by candy floss and hot dogs. It’s a smell you’ll never get tired of; it lulls you, soothes. Conjures the euphoria of childhood trips to the seaside, stowed away somewhere in many memories. Yours were slightly different to most; a bus, from Chichester, alone, usually, a three hour trip there, even longer back. Go early, leave early, that was the routine. But it was cheaper than the train. You had to be back before the sun went down, which was harder in the winter. But any time you got to spend on the pier was enough.

It’s raining tonight, though not in buckets. It’s that drizzly, cowardly sort of rain, as if the clouds couldn’t really be bothered. You don’t let it spoil your enjoyment; nothing ever does. You’ve been everywhere the last few years, settling in almost every big town in the country. Nowhere could ever keep you like this place can. You always come back.

Nearby the posh guy has been sticking out like a sore thumb in an expensive suit all evening. He’s still hovering near you, the type who legally lives in a semi-detached house, but technically his office. He’s the face of a nuclear family, complete with a sour wife, two or three boring little brats and a fat, smelly dog. He knows your type. Can sniff you out from a mile off the way you can him. Frankly he repulses you, with his beady eyes, pot belly, thinning hair and halitosis. Well, you aren’t sure about the last one. But there’s a 90% chance.

The greasy chips you consumed an hour ago, the best on the pier, feel more than ready to come straight back up. But you need a bed for the night and business prospects are not looking good this evening. As far as you can see, he is the only one around. He perches on the bench beside you, with a flicker of his lip meant as a polite smile. Nervous, you can tell. You lean back. Waiting. You know you’ve got him, but it could be half an hour before he musters the courage to ask…

He surprises you.

Life on Mars?

AlienEveryone has their vices. It’s kind of an unwritten human right. So long as you don’t let them consume you, you’re fine. Not that you’re happy, exactly, but who is? You know how to let reality become merely a dark star on the horizon, even just for an hour or two. You’re quite the expert, in fact.

You learnt at a young age that what happens to those little people in the shiny screens isn’t real; just life all made up with song and dance, polished and sprinkled with glitter. But it won’t stop you chasing it; whatever it is.

* * *

It was wrong to lie, but how were you supposed to get past your parents if you told them where you were really going – or indeed, that you had no friends? Either might have got you a one way ticket back to sitting on a couch which was actually red, not brown, once a week analysing shapes. They think you’re doing just fine now. And you intended to keep it that way.

There’s a trick for not paying for your tickets at the cinema. You simply walk past the usher, head up, confident as anything, as if you’ve every right to be there. There was no point trying to buy a ticket for half the things you wanted to see anyway. You were too young for the grown up films you so desperately wanted to see, with all the glamorous women and the smooth men undertaking dangerous missions or simply arguing about the bills, using bad words which made you giggle, their freedom endlessly fascinating. You couldn’t wait to be a grown up, to drive down gorgeous stretches of road in a convertible, to wear glitzy clothes you picked out yourself, to be bombarded with dinner dates from scores of gorgeous men and revel in turning them all down. One day you wouldn’t even need to go to the movies anymore. You wouldn’t need to watch so many films because you’d be so busy with the life many would kill for.

They all know you by name at the cinema now, from the ushers to the cashiers at the front to the acne-ridden kid manning the ice cream stand.

You go every week. Maybe you’re just not quite a grown up yet.

* * *

Of course, you like to talk about films, but the only other topic of conversation that can grip you is the UFO debate. People split into categories, you find; you’ve got your sceptics, born with neither imagination or sense of adventure. Then there’s the idiots, who are convinced with no evidence to back up their opinions other than a misguided article they read half of on the train that aliens are ‘out there.’ And, then there’s the pretentious moron (there’s always one) who showers an otherwise pleasant discussion with his long winded theories, the case studies he’s come across, the ‘scientific facts.’ The facts have never been important to you, though. You just like to think they’re there, sitting in their cosy spaceship, taking notes and drinking whatever Mars’ version is of PG Tips. Why complicate such a nice thought?

* * *

Videotapes unravel. DVDs get scratched up. The picture quality wanes, as if your eyes have eroded it. The soundtrack becomes sick of itself. The stories blur into one until you feel as though you could’ve written them yourself. Sometimes you’ve seen everything every cinema in town has to offer. It’s time to temporarily venture beyond the screen.
He was a bore, but you didn’t have to like him. You didn’t even have to buy your own drinks. The aftertaste was still bitter in your mouth when you let him peel off your clothes, the headache spitefully kicking against your skull before you even opened your eyes the next morning, the click of the front door as he left echoing through as a sneering reminder that you should’ve just stayed home.

* * *

You were in love once. You went to dancehalls, ballrooms, fancy restaurants, cinemas with the 1930s themes. But you couldn’t be with him all the time because he belonged to somebody else. He was somebody else’s creation, in fact; a walking talking piece of fiction, with the face of a Hollywood star and the dialogue of an unappreciated screen writer. Still, you can’t help but sometimes pretend he is still with you.

Loneliness is strange. Familiar. Sort of warm; possessive and tender. Like an abusive lover, alternating between bursts of aggression and whispered words of comfort. But then again, people are such an annoyance that perhaps it is the lesser of two evils. It must be quiet out in space. A great place to sit and think though, you’d imagine.

Fear of flying


The solution perhaps

I’m not a nervous flier. No valium or Xanax for me, thank you.

I note that I am managing my claustrophobia very well. I am in a window seat and legroom is scarce, which isn’t great when you’re over 5’8″ and your legs make up most of your height. Thanks, tall gene.

I don’t complain, though. I hate people who complain; selfish, idiotic people who don’t realise it’s not entirely, if it all, the fault of the person they’re yelling at. I’ve dealt with enough of them in my own jobs. ‘They shout at the uniform, not the person,’ they used to tell us in the bowling alley where I worked as a teenager. Well, whatever they’re shouting at, even if they’re shouting at the wall, I never want to be that person who yells and complains. Who can’t be pleased. I never will be.

There is a young mother who looks like Lily Allen carrying a sullen toddler. The difference between her and Ms. Allen, however, is that she is permanently grinning, like she’s been slugging out of a bottle of liquidised Prozac. Just as I’m wondering who’d win in a fight between the two of them, the kid starts to whine. Great. The only thing worse than small children on aeroplanes is screaming small children on aeroplanes.
His mother’s smile doesn’t waver. ‘Come on, Daniel,’ she says, looking apologetic to the poor woman who she’s about to sit next to. ‘We’re on a plane, look! We’re going to fly!’

Yay! We’re going to fly!

I discreetly read over the shoulder of the girl next to me, poring over one of those magazines that I hate. Kim Kardashian’s still pregnant. I hope the sprog has more sense than her. Hang on, why do I care? Dip dye is still in. Some girl I’ve never even heard of has apparently started a cosmetic revolution by wearing a bit of smokey eyeshadow. Sod you, Cara whatsyourname. I’ve been doing that since I was thirteen. Next to her is a guy in a leather jacket chatting away across the aisle to his girlfriend. The plane staff struggle to move past them, but neither of them apologise. I think they are rude.

I’m not a nervous flier. No valium or Xanax for me.

I’m not sure I like being able to see the wing moving though as we take off. Though take off is usually my favourite part – I feel like yelling ‘WHHHEEEEEE’ – I’m a little concerned about that clicking sound I keep hearing. What the shit is it? Is the aircraft about to fall apart? Click, that wing looks flimsy. Holy hell. Did I tell my mother I loved her earlier? I can’t remember. Am I wearing any make-up? My reflection in the window tells me no. Damn! And I’m wearing these grotty jeans. I feel like I should be a little more dressed up for an event such as my death.

What is that noise? It sounds like the floor is falling away.

The girl next to me turns the page in her magazine. The guy on the end of the aisle is terrorising an air hostess about food.

I don’t complain. I hate people who complain.

The clouds are pretty. England looks like a toy town from up here. Size is all messed up now. If the plane crashed on a group of houses, it would probably only completely destroy one or two. From up here though it looks like we could flatten an entire village.

The clicking stops. Phew.

But that wing looks like it would snap if I stood on it. Stop looking at it. How does it keep the entire thing up in the air? How are we up here? Physics, I know. But I don’t even understand most of the jokes in The Big Bang Theory. How the hell am I supposed to know how a plane works.

Pass the valium.

Fear of flying was written by Stephanie-Louise Farrell.

Haunted – Four Tales Of Obsession

Haunted - Four Tales Of Obsession

 Principal category Short stories
 Word count (approximate pages) 11,300 (31)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

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