Where I come from, smoking is not a gendered thing, tobacco is for everyone.
Growing up I always found women who smoked a lot attractive maybe because they were few or I could never talk to them about it, I did ask men though, who told me that if I smoked I would go bald, grow beards and other funny stuff people tell kids, but deep inside me, that didn’t scare me, it felt as if they were opening up my world to possibilities of whom I might be but in a different way, though some part of me knew it was a lie.
I wanted to taste a smoke so bad, I had always been super curious and one day, I did. I didn’t like it at all, maybe because I coughed my eyes out or something like that, my cousin and I had stolen a cigarette from his dad on a Sunday afternoon after church and we lit up while at the shamba we were so worried about getting the stench off our clothes, luckily there was that tree, mũthithida, we chewed on the leaves and backs of those young trees and we were fresh again. That trial died at that.
Years later, am in high school, my life is moving so fast, I have tasted several cigarettes by now, I am not chocking because you know, practice makes perfect but I could only take them on special occasions, like weekends alone, I loved how it felt being not sober for a split second, thinking clearly and deeply about not school, but myself, high school love and crushes at times punishments and teachers that didn’t make sense or was so guilty but I had a justifiable reason or reaction, but all in all, I couldn’t wait to finish my school life, and I did, by now I could take a packet and a half a day, was it a problem? No, I was a typical ‘goth’ youngster. Then came this day when i went to try my luck for KDF then I noticed how heavy my chest was, I could literally taste blood in my mouth, felt my heart beat loudly in my ears, I thought I was going to die. My cousin was with me on that day, complaining about the same things, he admitted out loud, “hizi mafegi ndo zinafanya tusikie hivi” it hit me, but still continued but I took off the half that day. Got to one packet.
Am in campus now, I am hustling like a dog to keep my school life rolling, I further reduced the intake to a few sticks a day, buying cigarettes was expensive, I didn’t have cash but I never lacked 50bob a day for my Dunhill, my girlfriend never liked it since she hated the smell and people who smoked, the irony, and because of this there were days of scolding especially when I burnt stuff in the house or turned everything into an ashtray.
After many years of smoking, I got into the movement, from a world of me smoking alone, to a world where almost everyone smoked, I felt like the universe was playing some kind of trick on me, I had decided to stop smoking but I kept going back on my decision since I loved smoking with my new found tribe, borrowing each other cigarette or lighters was just something I found cute.
One super hot day in Thika, my friends and I went swimming, we were playing in the water and laughing very loudly, my girlfriend called me and a friend, and she asked, “kwani uko na skuma kwa meno na bado hatujakula” . She laughed while asking me to open my mouth, she tried removing something between my teeth it wasn’t coming off. So she said, “ebu fungua mdomo yote” , so I did, she asked for her phone, took a picture of the inner side of my lower incisors. My 4 incisors had a chocolate brown coating that looked like it was oozing out! I was so shocked that I immediately stopped! I mean it, just like that, I stopped smoking and started cleaning my teeth with different toothpastes all in the hope of getting back my white teeth which were too far gone, still are . Because of smoking, I overcame my fear of dentists and have even booked a mouth cleaning and whitening procedure that’s going to happen soon. I still smoke once in a blue moon, but I haven’t had a smoke for months for almost 2 years, and for this I am proud of myself!