Dear reader: This is an excerpt from one of the memoir chapters in Painless Poker.
Cigarettes suck. That’s all there is to it. The hassle, of carrying them, buying them, even smoking them. And the worrying. I might run out! Do I have a light? And the stench. Sticks to everything, my clothes, the inside of my car. Yuck. And the hacking. HACKITTY GACK. And the cost. Ouch. Cigarettes are like the rake at poker, but without the poker, and with plenty of mucoid lung phlegm. And the littering. And the badge of weakness. And the blight of bleakness: I am killing myself. And I know it. And I know it’s a trap. And I know that few escape.
I dealt some poker in the basement games in Ohio. Did you know that when smoke comes off the lit end of a cigarette, it seeks out poker dealers and invades their skulls through any and every opening? It’s stifling, suffocating. But that wasn’t the worst. The worst was the toxic gray clouds billowing from charred lungs. So thick and foul I could barely breathe, I’m talking gasping. But eventually I’d get to take a break, thank goodness, and I’d rush outside, and have a smoke.
There was this guy in the Columbus circuit named Oxygen Tom. He was an older fellow who carried an oxygen tank with him everywhere because he had emphysema from smoking. He’d sit there and play good and peaceful poker. I really liked his game. And him. I often thought about Tom and his affliction, like The Ghost of Christmas Future, from Dickens. He was me, down the road, playing poker, nozzled up to a tank, acting like everything is fine. Except there was that tank.