Huffing and puffing, my last.

by Evans Yonson

(Note: Exactly one year today, I puffed my last Marlboro stick. A week after that I wrote this piece. Wow! I couldn’t believe that I lasted this long with kissing my Marlboro Man. I must say his lips are still fresh in my mind.)

BARCELONA – I started smoking while I was in the university decades ago. My first stick was a memorable one because I got caught by my dear Nanay (Mother). She frankly told me I was not burning my lungs, I was killing myself using her hard-earned money. It hit the nail right on the head. So, I had to wait for another two years to start my romance with the Marlboro Man all over again. Quite an affair to remember in the next 20 years or so.

How did it all start? Was it love at first puff? Or was it just to satisfy the craving to have something hot and smoky between my lips? How is the relationship going?

Immediately after graduating from university, I had my first job as a writer/researcher/community organizer. I needed to be with the farmers in high-altitude mountains of Mindanao. It was cold and I was all alone in this bamboo house at night. The only sounds I could hear were the noise of crickets and bats flying over. Farmers would accompany me on my first nights as we discussed their issues. I started drinking coconut wine and then the smoking followed. After four months, I was able to organize the farmers. They were able to train me how to huff and puff the right away. When I went back home, I told Nanay that I was smoking and she said like go ahead and burn yourself with your own money.

I moved to Manila with my Marlboro Man and all the wild horses. Ours was a love-hate relationship. When I went overboard, he would infect me with cough for 2 weeks. Excruciating pain. Once I decided to put an end to everything, put the fire off for several months. But his cowboys wooed me to take him back in my arms (well, my mouth) again. My man comforted me when I was broken-hearted. We would kiss each other between bottles of beer and shots of vodka on a rainy Manila night. He would stay longer when I was burning midnight candles finishing my Masters thesis. Everytime I took him between my fingers and slowly led him into my mouth, I felt blazes of ecstacy blowing me to high heavens. His breath brought fire out of my sleeping dragon.

Exactly one week today, I stopped smoking. It was not a painful goodbye to my man. I decided because I believe 20 years of 10 sticks a day is already too much. I said adieu to the cowboys with glee. I could never say I didn’t have fun with my man. It was totally a pleasure to be with him. I never saw it dirty nor stupid because I love his every single blow. I felt my Marlboro Man. I felt his pleasure. He touched me. He entered me. I have been to where the flavor is. It was worth it. But the last stick stumped the cowboys and horses into thin air.