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Now I'll Never Be Popular

She was probably some delinquent teenager’s mom. Middle-aged, not real tall, a little stout, her bright red hair (most likely applied in her own suburban bathroom) was quite the contrast to her summery Barney dress (as in purple dinosaur, not Simon Doonan).

“Pardon me, can I buy a cigarette from you?”. She looked like a middle-school art teacher randomly whisked from her Midwestern classroom and placed, sans smokes, on 45th Street.

“Absolutely not, but you’re more than welcome to have one,” I said, pulling the pack out of my front pocket. “Here, have two, I’m quitting tomorrow.

She thanked me and asked for a light, which I’d already taken out of the same pocket.

“So you’re really quitting tomorrow?” she said, exhaling that first long drag. You know, the really good one.

“Yep, I’m getting hypnotized.”

Unbenknownst to me, I'd just grown a second head.

“Oh, that’s yucky,” she said, shaking her head while taking another hit. “You be careful with that hypnosis, that’s scary stuff.”

“It’ll be fun,” I assured her. She thanked me again and was off, hopefully in search of L'oreal.

Maybe I was assuring myself. My shrink and I had been talking about me quitting for quite a few weeks. I kept saying “I’m quitting after I return from Europe, because it’s just rude not to smoke overseas.” He told me when I was really committed, we’d do hypnosis.

Last week, I’d reached Commitment Point (conveniently located just a mile or so past Hacking Meadows), and told him so. I went in a week ago, fully expecting to watch some magical swinging timepiece and come out of the session miraculously cured; or at least without the need to light up every time I walked outside of a building or saw someone with with a fag in his mouth. Or a Marlboro Light.

It was a regular session, going through the usual checklist: meds, sleep patterns, stress, etc. “Okay doc, let’s move on to the hypnosis. I’m done with the cigarettes. In fact, I’ve purposely oversmoked today to try to make myself sick of them. Just finished off the pack, so I’m ready to go.”

I was fired up to quit firing up.

“Oh,” he said, looking at his notes, “we haven’t done the pre-work. Let’s do that and then next time we’ll devote the full session to putting you under.”

Pre-work? Oh dear.

It was a series of questions and visualizations. Why do you want to quit? What are you afraid of if you don’t? What will you be like as a non-smoker?

I got to talking about lowering my cholesterol, my fears of the pain of heart attacks and open heart surgery. How both my grandfathers died fairly young of heart disease. How having a stroke would be the worst, because your brain still works, but you can’t make yourself function. How we watched Larry’s mom die of emphysema, and how horrible and irreparable it is.

Fun stuff.

We talked some more and then he said, “Let’s talk about your feelings about death. We haven’t really talked about death too much.”

I reminded him I was seeing him as a psychopharmacologist, and that I really just came for the pills, not the therapy. “Indulge me,” he said, tapping his prescription pad.

So we talked about death. My fears, my thoughts, what I wanted done with my remains. What Larry wanted done with his. Did I want to be buried with Larry or separately. Why?

Lots of things I don’t really think about. Lots of things I’ve never talked about. Maybe I should, or maybe I can continue to live in a healthy state of denial. I mean really, if I quit smoking I won’t have to worry about mortality. Right?

Anyway, the session ended and he seemed to have enough “pre-work” data in his head to do the hypnosis. We scheduled it for Friday morning.

All that talk of death and illness and the stress of visualizing it … well, it wasn’t so pleasant. I mean just ‘cause the nation was going into mourning, did that require me to start picking out a coffin of my own? Compound that with my unfulfilled desire to just be done with it and I was a jumble of nerves.

No hypnosis and no tranquilizer prescription. Just what was I my insurance paying for?. Then I started wondering just what was he going to do on Friday. Make me all trance-out and then scare me with my own fears? If I wanted to shell out money for someone to be sadistic to me, there are way hotter options online. I’m just sayin’.

Too many questions. Too many unknowns. It was enough to make a boy want a cigarette. Or six. And so I bought another pack. What the hell, I still had two days now till hypnosi. Why quit before I had to?

Fast forward to Friday. I’d finished my new pack (waste not, want not). The hypnosis went well. It was pretty much just a guided visualization. I think I might have drifted off a couple times, but I stayed focused and played along like a good patient. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I left feeling that I wasn’t really hypnotized at all.

“Then it must have worked,” my sister told me over the weekend.

It’s been 5 days now. I’ve grabbed for a pack a couple times, even though I’m not holding. It’s kinda cool to catch yourself reaching into your pocket to pull a pack out and then realize that it’s purely out of habit. If they were there, sure, I’d be tempted to have one. But truth be told, I’m not missing them, and I’m a little surprised. I’ve got some Nicorette, just in case, but I’ve only had 3 pieces.

So maybe it did work, this hypnosis thing. Even though I don’t think I was hypnotized.

Nope, not hypnotized at all. Now, if I could hear a phone ring and not jump up, put on a purple smock, and sing “I’m a Little Teapot.”