So here I am, sitting at the coffee shop, ready to write write write my day away, but all I can think about is smoking a cigarette.
I’m facing the window, and outside the window is Super America, and all of their packs of cigarettes. There’s a long haired gentleman sitting in front of the cafe window, slightly obscuring my view of Super America, who is smoking a cigarette. I can’t see his face, but I’m sure he looks satisfied.
When I was little, I was once asked if I wanted a cigarette by some big kids who were riding on the merry-go-round in the park behind my house. I told them that they were bad kids, and that I would never smoke. When I went to my Brownie meeting that week I stood proudly, healthy pink-lung-filled chest puffed out, and told my group how I had stood up to the big kids. I guess I wanted to be a hero for saying NO the way I had always been told. But there were no back pats, or cheers. Just a mundane, “Good job, Courtney.”
I started smoking when I was ten.
At first, I would just pretend to smoke while I was standing on a neighborhood girl’s front porch, one arm bent across my flat chest while the other lifted the cigarette to my lips, feet in third position. I would suck the smoke into my mouth, and then let it out slowly. Sometimes I would really try to sell the authenticity of my coolness, and push the smoke out through my nose.
Eventually a girl, maybe Jessie or Theresa, would ask me if I was really inhaling, and I would smile and nod, sucking hard on the cigarette, and inhaling deeply. I don’t remember coughing, but I probably held it in for fear of betraying my new, cool image.
After that, I started stealing cigarettes from my mom and her boyfriend (sorry, Mom). They were Benson & Hedges 100’s. The tax stamp on the cellophane always seemed to me to be a mysterious marking- an indication that cigarettes were from the exotic world of adults, where they actually paid taxes, and bought things with stamps, stayed up late, and told each other stories that made them laugh in a way that kept kids up late, trying to understand what was so funny.
Following this time, there’s a empty slot where memories about smoking should be.
Maybe I didn’t smoke. Maybe I did. I remember getting drunk for the first time around then, during a New Year’s celebration. My brother’s friends egging me on, and making me Long Island Iced Teas. I smoked a cigarette that night, in front of my brother, and his friends, all of who I had an intense crush on, and all of who I wanted to impress, by drinking and smoking.
I remember getting into trouble for that.
Then, perhaps I didn’t smoke.
Eventually, I did again.
My step-sister and I would stay up late calling in requests to the radio stations, and listen to our songs, smoking cigarettes in the dark.
I loved that time.
I loved laying next to her in bed and watching her face light up in the orange glow of that exotic adult knowledge. She’d tell me about sleeping with boys, and smoking pot–two things that they did in New Jersey, a lot.
And I would smoke silently, listening to her loud drags between sentences, watching the faint outline of her black lipstick on the white filter move in and out of her mouth like it was sewing her words into the world.
Around the same time, my best friend and I would go out to the field across from my house and smoke. After we were done, we would roll in the grass, and rub flowers in our hair to hide the smell.
Her parents didn’t smoke, so they weren’t fooled by our attempts to conceal the stench. She was almost always grounded. My mom did smoke, and still does, so I don’t think she ever knew by smell that I was smoking. I think she knew because of other clues, like visits to the dentists when he would ask me, “Are you smoking?” Sometimes my own lipstick would show up on filters that piled up in the ashtray, giving me away.
Later still, I remember buying a carton of cigarettes with some friends while on our way to a punk show in New Jersey. Roger opened the carton and dumped all ten packs on the floor of Jack’s van and we cheered.
Around that time, my mom caught me smoking for the last time. She was disappointed, but relented to my years of hiding the habit.
And so I started smoking all the time. Every day. As much as possible. Especially at the diner. My friends and I would drink coffee and smoke, all night. Smoking was a way to meet boys, new friends, and served as a mechanism for others to identify the type of person I was before they met me.
I didn’t want to date boys who didn’t smoke, and I didn’t want to make too many friends who didn’t smoke, because I wanted all of my friends to be wild, bad, greaser-esque kids who weren’t afraid to get dirty.
Years and years later, I quit smoking. That’s how I met Bob. He had come with me and some friends of mine to see a band play. This was after the smoking ban in Philly, so everyone, except me and Bob, kept going out to smoke between bands. We just sat at the bar, not drinking or smoking, and talked.
But then, I went back to school, and started buying loosey Newports from the corner store by my house to help me concentrate while writing papers. And ever since, I’ve been back to smoking a few cigarettes a day.
I’ve got to be honest, I don’t want to quit. I love smoking, especially only one, two, or three a day. It is satisfying, it makes me feel cool (still), and it’s a nice conversation starter. But, now that I’m getting married, my life isn’t just mine anymore. Even though I don’t feel like a few cigarettes are going to kill me, to think about how they are compounding with the smoke I’ve been around for my entire, entire, entire life makes me feel upset.
The only good thing about pressure is release. If I feel all of this pressure to get a cigarette, how the fuck am I supposed to release without the only thing that can do it?
Times that are awesome to smoke:
In the morning, with coffee
After a big dinner
In the bath
After a whiskey drink
At the beach
On a stoop
During a road trip
Impersonating any number of hip people
At a BBQ