A Bad Habit
It was a ghastly habit, that’s what I was told, but it got their attention. Maybe that’s why I hung onto it like a little boy does a slingshot, but that’s far too innocent a comparison to try and peddle. I was a bad man, and not for just this habit, but the attitude in which I lived my life.
Truth is, I was caught between two worlds. The lure of bad can feel good. Stretch the truth, bend a rule, break an oath, and one day I woke up and the fine line I’d crossed may as well have been in China. The exact time and place I crossed over couldn’t be found or recalled.
It’s not so much the act as it is the attitude or perspective. I’ll admit a big part of the reason kids start bad habits is them trying to exercise their independence, show the world they’ve arrived so to speak. To young people it’s all about image, and to mature folks that lack wisdom or who are haunted by a habit that they started by barely inching over the line, with a smirk of mischief on their face.
As a youngster, I was disgusted by the habit. I remember my grandpa, my mom’s dad, when visiting would borrow an empty can out of the garbage and line it neatly with a paper towel or napkin, the edges folded over the top of the can. He’d leave it sitting around with the brown stains of tobacco spit turning the innocent white paper towel into a repulsive sight… Only my mom’s dad could have gotten away with that in her house.
By the time I was in high school, my football coach’s tobacco-stained mouth had little impact on me. I was used to a world that treated boys like men and wasn’t shy about telling them if they were coming up short.
“Where’s the powder puff twins?” He’d yell for the two smallest kids who didn’t have an ounce of aggression in them for the hamburger drill. I recall the tidal wave of tobacco juice that preceded his disgusted tone and words to the timid hearted boys.
You’d think that would have been enough to turn me off from that ugly habit. But I sought the rough and tumble coach’s approval. The smatterings of tobacco rain that flew from his mouth in praise when I’d sacrifice my body to lay someone out was music to my eyes… and my ears as the one note ring played at full volume between my ears.
I wasn’t as blatant when I coached high school lacrosse, but a wad of Redman was usual evident in the bugle in my cheek if someone was paying close attention. I can’t recall how long it’s been since I’ve had a chew of tobacco, maybe two years now.
When the weather is just right and I’m outside, a breeze hits me in a particular way, I find myself reaching for my left pocket. There’s nothing there… there can’t be. If there was a pouch of tobacco there I’d almost certainly fail.
Isn’t that what happens once we cross a fine line and pollute our bodies? Once we compromise or breach the line it becomes like the weak link in our chain. The chain doesn’t keep us in bondage, it keeps us from it.
Funny how this world has that concept backward… No wonder the lines are so easily broken and so many of us live in bondage.