I’ve just passed my ten year anniversary of smoking – rewarding myself with a burnt ash cake, complete with tar cream and nicotine icing, with one lit cigarette in the middle which I can’t quite gather the lung capacity to cough out. My only wish? To quit.

I compare my addiction to cigarettes to that of a rocky long-term relationship with a fiery lover. We met behind the high school gym in 1996. She had a dangerous reputation, and I’d often seen her hanging around with the rebellious older kids, in their dark jeans and dirty jackets. When my friend Danny offered to introduce me to her, I was apprehensive yet powerfully intrigued. Against the grey pastels of a fading Saturday afternoon, I held the boutique-blue treasure box, fumbled with a lighter, and soon found myself engaged in a frantically long kiss from heavenly hell. My hands swooned. My lips sizzled. My head sang with merry-go-round dream liqueur. I was coughing with smiles. She was dark and lovely. Smooth and philosophical. She caressed her nutritiously intoxicating fingers across my virgin lungs. Her smell was on my clothes, in my hair, through my veins. Danny, later, partly saw to that, with a can of rexona and the questionable advice of rubbing dandelions into my fingers.

In the early days I had to hide our affair from my Mum, and more dramatically, my girlfriend. I would cradle my forbidden love in the back-shed, or in the toilets at school. There was something about her soulful wisps that provided an artful smokescreen from the sandpaper bluntness of the world. A private cloud laced with silk spores that were able to latch onto the tidal blur of time-chaos and slow it down, allowing my thoughts to coil and interlock with the spiritual cosmos around me.

As time broke-free and motored on, I realised the extent to which my sacred-secret girl was not mine alone. She was gossiping in cafes, swearing in bars, pondering idly at bus stops, humming along to the radio at intersections. She could be wrapped around me, smirking cheekily one moment, and dissolving like a chemical witch, the next. These would be periods devoid of passion, leaving just the empty bitterness of routine and a gloomy realisation that perhaps I needed her more than she could ever need me.

Over the years I would try and leave her. Cursing her memory as I powered along a swimming pool, committed to regaining my natural strength. At parties and bars she would taunt me, like a cunning ex, draping herself across my table, tickling my nostrils with a cruel, delicious feather. For at least six months, I remained defiant, yet despite my small army of self-empowerment, I was unable to resist the enemy campaign of academic deadlines, money troubles and relationship upsets, and sensing the aftermath of my emotional wars, she would swoop in, breathing my men back to life with her thick, medicinal poetry.

And now, our bi-polar union continues, swinging between joyous post-gig moonlight celebrations, and demoralising Monday afternoon fallouts, when I realise what I’m really clutching onto is the idea of escape, and a longing for meditation, and that her love is a cheap vindictive poison that tricks my senses and leaves me anxious and wanting.

There is a pain in my heart. I know this is going to be the hardest break-up of my life.