I am trying to quit smoking. Again.
I am trying to raze writer's block. Again.
I am still too all-around rusty for public consumption, but, in honor of the last time I tried and failed to give up the holy right-handed cigarette, here's something I wrote back then.
“We are all born with the same size soul.” 1.5.08
So says Metallica’s James Hetfield in the latter part of the heavy metal therapy doc, Some Kind of Monster. He is a few months out of rehab and speaking to a yard full of San Quentin toughskins, so there’s no question that the statement rings consoling under the circumstances. And, when I take it at face value, I find it a platitude worth cherishing, myself. After all, it was the “Chosen People” refrain that originally pricked up my prepubescent ears in synagogue, and probably inspired me, shortly thereafter, to raise up cigarette arms and Sharpied tags against the stalls of my Hebrew school bathroom, practicing swear words and gutter drawl with my fellow book-learnin’ refugee, Navah, the first-generation Israeli-American who, for one brief moment in 6th-grade, dubbed herself “Darkshine.”
But, having repeatedly—from the first acid dropped with scowling rednecks to stepping off a journalist’s path to sojourn in the shoe retail industry—rejected my biblical right to an upper-class berth, do I still find my soul to have the exact same weight as my beloved neighbor’s? Both in theory and in deep-felt desire, the answer is yes. But in practice, the question still begs: If indeed we are all born with the same size soul (whatever stuff that soul is made of, and however the calculations of weight and breadth can be made) then isn’t it possible that the forces of nature and nurture conspire at random and on purpose to reshape and resize it? Even astrology, which I’ve long held (and told to anyone who I’ve been pretty sure won’t laugh) is the exact, soft but scientific place where biology and environment meet, seems to hold in its charts the schematics for the soul’s leaks and buffets, its ebbs and flows and grafts of new, possibly dark matter where the old electric juice has escaped.
25 years ago Kerri Grauer taught me how to inhale, using one of her mother’s purloined Merits; two nights ago I smoked my latest last cigarette, splitting the remains of the pack with my boyfriend and our neighbor. We cursed the foul sexy instruments and swore we didn’t need them, but inside I was thinking of the power they’d once given me, the rush of cool identity flowing through my veins every time the 11- and 16- and 22-year-old me muttered “fuck” and exhaled smoke. Did this buffet the size of my soul? The cigarettes surely negated some lifespan, but is that the same thing? Is the finite length of our days part of the soul-size calculations, at any point in life’s process?
Back when I kept a regular blog—the first time around, anyway—a coworker and regular reader commented that she wished I’d answered more of the questions I posed. And maybe that’s how I keep the size of my soul somewhat expansive, by agnosticizing every heavy thought I have. I do know this: When faced with certain social difficulties, I have been known to comfort myself with various facts of my personality and birth. Back when I was a skinny, sheltered virgin treading the boards of Central Florida’s punk clubs, I would often curl up against my New York heritage for solace; now that I’m teetering over to the second half of my 30s, when I find myself surrounded by youngsters at rock shows, bars, and stinky warehouse parties my new favorite lullaby to my confidence is “I could buy and sell you emotionally.” Whatever works.