DMO: What’s it been, today? Five days? Six days?
DMO²: Something like that.
DMO: That’s fine, that’s fine. We’ve done five or six days without before. They’re wretched, jangle-necked, wrung-out parodies of days, but they’re achievable. So what do we get with the six days? Are we proving something to someone, or trying to distract ourselves, or quieting a rising sense of panic, of what?
DMO²: The idea is to get seven days, and then eight, and so on.
DMO: And then what?
DMO²: Continuing on, in the same vein, for presumably the rest of our life – looking at it, as much as possible, as a daily process rather than a lifelong commitment, so as to avoid spooking the nervous thoroughbred horse of the spirit.
DMO: To what end?
DMO²: Well, it wasn’t working, obviously. You’re only supposed to chew nicotine gum in the service of quitting smoking for what, a few months?
DMO: I believe I read something on the back of one of the boxes to that effect. I assumed they were joking.
DMO²: You’re certainly not encouraged to chew a piece on the half-hour, every half-hour, until your mouth feels like it’s coated in hot tinfoil.
DMO: But it’s better than smoking.
DMO²: Is that strictly true?
DMO: Allow me to clarify: it is easier to adopt a casual attitude towards than smoking.
DMO²: Would you call sudden-onset jaw-clicking casual?
DMO [casually searching through errant pants and jacket pockets in case a stray piece remains]: Well, you know. Jaws. Also, times are bad. [Gestures expansively, then trails off.]
DMO²: What’s your suggestion, then?
DMO: Hear me out: We take another day off. Two, if you like, to remind everyone how easy it is to discipline the body. Then we – casually, mind you – start it up again, but this time, everything’s different. This time we stick to the word of the back of the box. This time we parcel out the dosage carefully, gradually adding it a small, tasteful vape and eventually also cigarettes again – merely as a buttress, for variety’s sake – rotating between the three on an hourly basis, until eventually we achieve a level of continuous nicotine absorption, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, while simultaneously ensuring that every cigarette feels like the first cigarette of the day, while also retaining optimum health, and also never dying.
DMO: I cede the floor to the gentleman in possession of his faculties.
DMO²: I’m sorry, darling.
DMO: Thank you for not saying “Tell me again about the rabbits, George.”
DMO²: Wouldn’t dream of it. Would you like to be carefully held?
DMO: Not just at present, thank you.
DMO²: Let me know if you change your mind.
DMO: So what’s going to be the thing, then? What’s our thing? What’s the one reliable secret thing we can always turn to in order to produce an instant, predictable, measure degree of physical and mental relief? What are we going to stuff in our pockets or hide in the bathroom? We can’t keep giving things up until we’ve cornered ourselves entirely. There’s got to be something.
DMO²: People sometimes talk about moderate, thirty-minute walks –
DMO [With sudden, certain clarity]: Which people? I’ll kill all of ‘em, with my fingernails and eyeteeth.