Red. Stars.

Who: Grace
Age: 50s
City: New York, NY
Profession: Unknown

Dunhill Reds. I remember smoking those as a kid growing up in Australia. In mid conversation with Grace, I’m reminded of how few Americans choose imported brands like these. Grace hasn’t noticed my lost-in-thought expression and continues, “I was with him for a at least a year.” She looks down but passed Jack, her 9-year-old Shiatsu who sits adoringly at her feet. He seems well looked after. “Woow, he broke my heart.” I give her the, girrrrrrrl-I-get-it, look. “Anyway, that afternoon, I felt like I needed something to remind me of him so on the spot, I bought a pack of Dunhill Reds, his favorite. I smoked the whole pack that day and then the next day, I went out and bought myself two packs of Reds and smoked those all that day as well. And then I was hooked, for a while.” Wow, that’s a first, I say. “I was never one of those kids who smoked during school or college.” Right, I affirm. “I started smoking 40 cigarettes a day for a guy.”

Which brings us to the acupuncture clinic. In the last few years, Dr. Yamaguchi has helped her kick this monstrous habit with needles. Grace is lanky and reminds of Ann Bancroft; her style, her charm, her grace. But her skin gives away her years as a smoker. And, the “habit-kicked party” happened a while ago. Grace continues to see Dr. Yamaguchi for other physical and emotional ailments. Did I mention years? That’s right, $100 a visit, twice a week, for the past 9 years to get, what some aficionados have coined, her “Yama Fix”. I can’t even begin to calculate how much money that adds up to, and I can’t afford to at the moment.

Grace continues, “But look at me. Like a new person.” I sense a dark loneliness, complexity and love, the lack thereof, in her life. It’s fleeting and I would never mention it. I want to ask her what she does, how she’s able to sustain these visits but my instincts tell me some things take time, trust and a little familiarity. I swallow the thought.

Sometimes the stars don’t align for this kind of intimacy.
And my gut tells me sometimes this question can be the hardest one to answer.