Monday, December 22, 2008

Nicotine Fit

I do not know my limits with MS. I only discover them after it is too late.

Today's discovery came about because of cigarettes, or rather a lack of the same. It is snowing here, you see, and the night has deposited an inch or so of sleet on top of the snow, and neither the snow nor the sleet are going anywhere soon, as the temperature remains at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (not to mention the wind chill factor, nor indeed that the wind is blowing like a bastard out of hell).

This, of course, means no possibility of driving. It means that the only way to get cigarettes will be to walk eight blocks to the 7-11 store.

I decide to quit instead. I am struck suddenly with a profound sense of the sort of desperation that nicotine addiction can drive one to. I resolve that this is where I draw the line--between prudence and madness, between addiction and self control.

Ten minutes later, in coat and hood and hat and gloves, I head out the door.

One of the first things I realize after 2 blocks or so is that the wind is blowing in every direction at once. This is not actually supposed to happen according to natural laws, but the evidence, as it buffets all sides of my body, is undeniable.

The second thing I realize, on perhaps the fourth block, is that I have MS and my left leg has stiffened up like a frozen screw and bolt, and I am probably not going to make it to the 7-11, much less back home again.

Frozen also are my nose and my lips, along with my last Camel, which, protruding from the unfeeling corner of my mouth, may or may not have burned through the filter and down to the skin--I don't know, because 1) I can't feel my face, and 2) I can't see out of the film of ice that has formed on the lenses of my spectacles.

I am halfway to the store, halfway from home. I forge on, doing my best to bring my left leg along with me. If I don't make it, if I collapse here in a snowbank, people will at least be able to follow the drag marks left by my useless foot. He came this way, the searchers will say, I can see the track from the side of his Nike.

A block away now. My face is a frozen mask, my lips rigid in the form of the last puff they took on the Camel. In my own imaginary mirror I look just like Lee Harvey Oswald at the moment he was shot by Jack Ruby. If you have ever seen the picture, you will know what I mean. I have taken off my glasses in order to see the snowdrifts in my way, but I think now that my eyeballs themselves are freezing, for I can see hardly any better than before.

Can I really, having come this far, enter the 7-11 looking like this--frozen face mimicking the shock of murder, eyeballs fixed like a doll's, dragging my left leg as if I had in fact just recently been shot?

But of course I must. It's between that and joining the snowmen I have met in yards along the way.

The clerk, a friendly woman from Nepal who knows me well, brings my cigarettes to the counter without needing to be asked. It is a stroke of good luck that she is there, for I cannot move my lips, and another employee may not have been able to understand my gestures.

I held up a hand, however. Then I removed the glove and and spread my five fingers.

I'm not doing this again. Not anytime soon. Five packs will last me five days, and perhaps, just perhaps, both I and the city will thaw out by then.

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