Saturday, September 15, 2007
11:30 PM |
Quitting Cold Turkey
In thirty minutes, Bubu
will be celebrating his birthday. It is a quiet Saturday evening, and he is in deep sleep right now, which is strange, considering that he's been an insomniac the last two years, and haven't gone to bed to sleep until the first light of dawn has shimmered through the bedroom windows. The last time I remember him sleeping this early was more than two years ago, before he had gone to seek a life in Cebu to work in a call center. When he decided that that
life was not for him, he had come back to Dumaguete, with a body attuned to a different circadian rhythm. For a long time, it seemed like we inhabited two different worlds: he was awake when I slept, and he was asleep when I went about my own waking moments. The gray areas where our worlds overlapped were few and precious, which could prove unsettling sometimes.
He had also acquired a new habit, something he said he picked up from all those other late night call center zombies: smoking
. This was something unexpected because I never could picture him before with a cigarette dangling from his fingers. Once, he justified it as the utmost in glamour, evoking Naomi Campbell and the like, which I countered with the usual anti-smoking rhetoric -- but if truth must be told, it is that there is no arguing with a man and his addiction.
It is an addiction I almost fell into. When I was a young editor of a local newspaper, I had grown a journalist's typical liking for cigarettes. To ease the nerves of deadlines, so to speak. (A complete hogwash easily solved by coffee.) One particularly busy Friday night, just as I was about ready to wrestle trying to put an issue of the paper to bed, I found myself outside the office, frantically looking for the nearest cigarette vendor to buy a whole pack. And right then and there, I froze with this epiphany: "This can't be good," I told myself -- and so I hurried back to the office, nipping a possible addiction before it had time to take root.
That was fortunate, because smoking -- from the tales of war some of my friends tell me about -- is one addiction that is hard to put a stop to. Thus, for his bravery on undertaking this endeavor, I toast Mark's trying to cut off the one
thing that has always bothered him ever since he became a vegan.
As he sleeps now, I look at him and do not see anything remotely approximating "celebratory" for a birthday boy: there's an unease in his slumber, a sadness almost. Like a man struggling with a loss. Before he had dozed off around nine o'clock, I had whispered to him: "I know what you're going through, I'll be here for you..." Because it is not easy quitting smoking cold turkey, like he did. He had made this promise to bid the habit good riddance a few weeks before, "on my birthday," he said, and now here he was suddenly face to face with a date with destiny.
He was trying to look calm and cheerful all evening as we drove around the city looking for a place to have dinner, but you could see the hidden itch bothering him, even as he tried to offset it by singing casually to the tune from the radio in his head. I blabbered about mundane things, the way people do when there's an elephant in the room. It was all very sad, and all I could do was to cheer him on silently. Because this too shall pass, I know, and habits can die if we really want them to.Happy birthday, bubu. And here's to a new life.
[in photo: mark in canlaon last june]
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
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