As I perched atop the well-worn seat of Indy’s jeep, I couldn’t help but smile. I drew my seat belt across my lap, reluctantly tugging at the yellow tag to prove to the dictatorial smile of the attendant on my right that I was indeed secure, and memories of childhood trips to this exact, or semi-exact, location washed over me like the shame attached to the closing of certain browsers. The ride began and my smile grew wide like a menacing Grinch. I knew that I must find Indy and escape under the suburban home-sized bowling ball’s climactic roar in order to once again relish in the freedom of the outside sun. And when the time came, I did. I smiled victoriously at my girlfriend to make sure that she too was aware of the feat we had just accomplished.
When we exited our seats and made the long journey back through the tunnel, I giddily exclaimed, “Fuck, wasn’t that great?” To which she begrudgingly replied, “It may be better than Space Mountain.” A worthy debate to some, but hogwash to me. Indy is unparalleled in his all encompassing experience of reckless abandon and adventure.
Walking away from the now 80 minute line, we made our way toward Splash Mountain. The lanes were packed with the unabashed excitement of sub-teens and the ‘For the Love of God, let this day be over’ faces of their parents. Interspersed between these two sects were the couples like us, willing to pay a week’s worth of meals to attempt to recapture some semblance of the happiness we once had. All was fairly well, the possibilities near endless as to what line we could subject ourselves to next, but there was one hindrance that my dear other considerately illuminated.
“Do you want to have a smoke?”
A question uttered from the mouth of the many handcuffed to the inhaler. Not so subtly indicating how said-smoker should get their fix, if they don’t want to fuck up what may be a good-mood going. I had done well this day, avoiding my first cigarette so as not to disrupt the illusion that we were in fact two pure and innocent folk setting off to enjoy a nice day together. No smell to taint the aroma, no taste to tamper each kiss.
But she had a point. My fingers had begun to fidget. It was only a matter of time before I would enter the ‘indecisiveness’ phase of anxiety, forcing her to reconcile the situation and assure me, ‘It’s okay,’ with a demeaning and light pat on the back. With this in mind, I decided to take the plunge and visit The Happiest Place on Earth’s depraved cousin. For some reason allowed to play in the same vicinity: The Saddest Place on Earth.
As I peered across the Mark Twain river, watching the ducks glide blissfully across its surface, my quarantine zone began to manifest itself in my field of vision. A sight made obvious by the sadness emanating from its core. For any non-smoker, this isolated area is simply a gathering of tired habits and scowling inhalation. For any smoker, this isolated area is simply a gathering of tired habits and scowling inhalation. It is horrible and I wish proximity to it upon no one.
As I entered, I tipped my hat, as if to some old enemy who had benefitted from the passing of time to squash our quarrel. I looked to my fellow soldiers and as expected, not one returned my glance. This is not a place of friendship, but forced congregation. As I withdrew my Marlboro, my girlfriend and I found solace in an opening along the water. I thought, perhaps I can isolate my vision and avoid my reality if my peripherals are left unstimulated by the wreckage behind me. Of course, this was not to be true. With what was perhaps my third hurried inhale, a motion was caught at nine o’clock. I turned ever so slightly and standing there, toes tipped and head teetering over the river’s wooden embrace, staring at a duck beneath us, was a brown-haired girl, roughly seven years of age, imprisoned by her parents’ selfishness and subjected to my personal poison. With self-hatred boiling and breathing shallow, I attempted to place my cigarette where its lingering smoke would have to defy the wind’s physics to approach this beacon of still-pure blood. Without skipping a beat, the wily smoke accomplished the feat.
I awaited the cough. The ‘Why would you subject me to this?’ glare. The ‘Fuck you, parasite’ walkaway. But none of it came. Instead, it was something much worse: She didn’t react. She just stood there, head tilted, unaffected, lost in wonder as the toxicity perused the contours of her face. How could this girl be so unaffected? Why is she not reacting? How many tobacco-scented car rides must she have been exposed to? Do cigarettes burn like candles in her living room? WHY THE FUCK IS SHE NOT REACTING?!
And in the midst of this barrage of indignation, she walked away. She must have sensed the four minutes her parents required had transpired. Sure enough, as I glanced over to validate this hypothesis, there were the elders exerting that ever-so-precious effort to stand up once again and begrudgingly satiate the boundless curiosity of their seed.
As the family departed, I stubbed out my cigarette and took a look around me once again. There was another child peering out wide-eyed at the wonderland magically erected around her. Anxiously waiting with jittered legs and suppressed excitement for her mother to finish her cigarette. I paused and stood silent. I peered, like her, at the fixtures that painted our sight. The Haunted Mansion. I recalled the disappointment of its not-so-haunting experience, and yet I smiled. The Pirates of the Caribbean, with its utterly unwarranted hour wait time, wishing that mediocre-at-best let down upon no one, yet still I smiled. A pretzel vendor with his four-times-cost pricing and the deceptively unsatisfying mouse-shaped product dangling upon his racks, and yet STILL I smiled.
My focus returned to where I stood presently and I breathed in that pungent sorrow One Final Time. What did I see here? Half-finished cigarettes resting between the lips of never satisfied organisms. Eyes cold and teeth yellowed. Skin aged before its time. I listened as coughs demanded their cause to be extinguished. I looked at all this, all these people, and I made sure I knew that I was nothing like them. I am young. I can quit anytime, I’ve proved that theory five times already. I won’t end up like this, because I’m not like them. I wouldn’t subject my child to this. I’m not like these losers, the zit upon Walt’s face! I will NEVER return to this fucking place.
With all of these affirmations piling up in my head, I stood tall, grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and set out again into the Land of Happiness, leaving its cousin behind to play with the other blemishes. I was a new man. A new inner monologue started to take shape: ‘Why do I need to smoke anyway? It’s a disgusting habit that provides no real sense of relief besides the one self-imposed by its addictive qualities. It’s ridiculous. I’m smarter than that. I’m going cold turkey. I don’t even need a patch. My girlfriend will be so happy. I’m going to smell so good. I bet sex will be better, too. I’m going to be more active. Maybe start bike-riding. Yeah, that sounds good. Fuck, I’m so happy I decided to quit.’
Right on cue, two hours later, I was back. Apparently cancer just tastes too good.