My grandfather told me this story when I was very young and I still remember it to this day for it is such a beautiful story about love and how it can help you get rid of an addiction, specially smoking addiction.
When my grandfather was about 11 or 12 years old, growing up in the Caribbean, he picked up this nasty habit of smoking. He started smoking with friends as it was something that almost everybody did. I don’t think there was any law regarding the sale of cigarettes to children. As a matter of fact, the way these boys picked up smoking was from going to the stores to buy cigarettes for their uncles or stepdads.
The store owners would never think twice about asking for ID before they sell cigarettes to minors. As I said before, it was okay to sell cigarettes to kids and consequently these kids started smoking at a very early age.
So my grandfather smoked and his mother smoked and likely the rest of the household smoked too. My grandfather’s name was Oscar. By the time Oscar turned 17 he already had been smoking for quite a few years now and also drinking occasionally. I do remember that he said that he never smoked nor drink in front of his mom.
In these days, they used to have social dances on weekends and with those social dances comes good homemade food, homemade cakes and ice cream and of course girls. The girls at that time would not go out alone, they would always be accompanied by their parents or guardians at all social events.
Even though a lots of the kids, boys mostly, smoked, it wasn’t proper to smoke at social gatherings, specially if you were a kid. As a matter of fact, it was frown upon as a parent to have a son who was a known smoker. The boys still smoked nonetheless, because it was seen as being macho. After all, the tough actors in the movies smoked, therefore the kids thought that they would look good and handsome to the girls if they smoked.
Oscar at one of these social gatherings have met a young girl who was about 2 years older than he was. Being that the society wasn’t as liberal as it is today, meeting a young girl at a dance, rather seeing a young girl at a dance and starting to entertain the thought that she was pleasing to the eye and perhaps the only thing he could do about it was to have a dance together, meaning everybody is involved in the dance. No decadent moves like the kids do nowadays.
Anyway, I was saying, Oscar had seen Marie, the girl at the dance and he felt something for her. The thing that can be described as the beginning of love. Before long, he was writing her letters and telling her how he feels good when he sees her and wanted to know if she felt the same way about him.
Her response was rather vague. She liked to see him as well but there was something about him that she wasn’t fond of. She would not tell him what it was. She thought that if a young man smoked, that young man ought to have enough savvy to pick up on subtle little hints from girls. Women can be so complex and sophisticated, Oscar used to say, it takes a long time to begin to know a woman or to know what a woman wants.
Oscar could feel that Marie wasn’t head over heel about him, therefore he started to change his habits to see if that would turn things around. First he changed the way he dressed, then the way he walked and the choice of words in his letters. All the while he was still smoking with his friends and see himself as somekind of a cool guy who enjoyed smoking.
The feeling he felt for Marie was getting stronger every time he saw her. For the life of him, he couldn’t see why Marie wasn’t falling for him the same way he was for her. That started to drive him crazy and made him smoke even more.
What started as perhaps 5 or 6 cigarettes a day quickly turned into 20 to 25 cigarettes a day. Now all he could think of was Marie and the more he thought about her the more he smoked. What can I do to make her fall crazily in love with me? He thought.
By then, Marie had moved away to go to college and only came back to town every second weekend or so. Oscar was really feeling the agonizing pain of slowly losing his girl. What if she falls in love with another guy at college? All these thoughts would keep him up at night.
Finally one day a letter came from Marie saying that she has decided to move for good to that other city where she would find some work after college. She also told him that she could no longer bear the thought of falling in love with someone who may die from smoke related illness. You see, her mom had died two years earlier from smoke related illness due to her smoking one pack of cigarette a day for the last 25 years.
When Oscar found out that it was smoking that kept her from falling in love with him he instantly developed a deep hatred for cigarettes and anything that looked like cigarette. He later joined a group fighting against the sale of cigarettes to minors and also became an advocate for a smoke free world. He was still involved with the group when he died 16 years ago.