The Lonely Smoker: Divorced, embittered, and academically damaged

A brutal break-up has a left a glaring hole in the LS’s life, but not with the kind of other half you might expect…


Welcome back to university, the place of alcoholic unions and brutal break-ups.

Back in July, I entered into one of the longest relationships of my life. Personally, I just thought we were two friends ‘hanging out’. It was all fun and games and hurried glances in the library. Then the summer ended, and suddenly my now burgeoning significant other started throwing around capitalised words like ‘Plan’ and phrases like: ‘Where do you see This going?’ By the time Christmas rolled past we were having weekly counselling sessions, mediated by increasingly exasperated experts, who insisted on dropping in references to my smoking as possibly impacting upon my relationship. After the Easter holiday my ‘friend’ had become the single most dominant presence in my head, the Venezuelan dictator of my dreams, making me question my sanity on an almost daily basis.

Fortunately, the first proceedings of my academic divorce arrived. Having got the university equivalent of a decree nisi, and ritually dumped my dissertation notes in the Ouse, I’m bereft. There is a giant hole now present in my life that even smoking cannot fill.

Fortunately, where cigarettes fail (on the very rare occasion) I thought there would always be alcohol.

Drunk after consuming everything but the glass and cap of a bottle of Famous Grouse, my history course-mate and I managed to stagger to Blue Fly, whereupon my companion promptly slumped (face-down, nose smeared in ash) atop the dubiously sticky and grey-gunk covered tables outside. It was the end. Even the allure of free Willow entry (from a bouncer who wasn’t Conrad – when did that happen?!) couldn’t lure us in as we staggered home like two rather pathetic donkeys, shop-soiled and spoiled, wailing: “I just want them back.”

The long nights, the unnecessary stress, the uncontrolled desire to set fire to everything, all fade into a rosy bliss of reminiscence at the high moments. The finished white typed pages float in my memory, assuming proportions equal to a half-starved celebrity bride, willing to say anything, anything, if it’ll get her to the end of the aisle/chapter (or the front page of Hello!). Checking the Wikipedia page on my subject is the closest I can get to the awful Facebook ex-stalking inevitably following any break-up.

Like any long-term relationship, the departure of my dissertation has rendered me profoundly mentally damaged. The under-rated necessity of washing – some people should really have learnt that lesson by now – and a psyche that borders on psychotic in regards to the arrival of anyone not in third-year in the vicinity of the library, never mind actually using a desk, are just two facets of my mental deterioration. Alongside which, I’ve developed a beautiful guilt complex, whereupon any time not spent on my dissertation produced a reaction akin to being caught cheating. Sweaty palms, racing heart, and carefully thought obfuscations, “I did not have academic discussions with that paper” characterised my behaviour.

My attempt to alcoholically cleanse myself of lingering feelings of guilt resulted in that pathetic display of third-year neurosis (combined with an abruptly messy realisation that four weeks of living in the library, drinking nothing, is not conducive to a university liver) and an acceptance of the impossibility of alcoholic absolution. The only thing left for me to do is await the judge’s final verdict.

Well that, and update the Wikipedia page.


  1. Steady on love, a facebook status would have sufficed

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  2. The article’s futile attempts to be clever left me unsure of what was actually being written about. Don’t quit your day job Hemingway.

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