It took us a few hours to get through the heinous task of editing our essay. It was mainly torturous because both of us would have rather been enjoying each other’s company instead of editing some pretentious English literature essay. When we were done, Drew asked me if I wanted to come over to his house to hang out. Of course I accepted.
His apartment was a small one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a walk-up. He kept it clean despite the fact that he did smoke in his apartment. The smell of stale smoke was muted, as if he had gone to some effort to try and cover it up. I guessed it might have been earlier when he was still unsure how I felt about the smoking.
“Nice place.” I commented
“Thanks.” He said, “ You don’t …uh… mind if I smoke inside do you?”
“Not at all- go right ahead. Actually, I think will join you since it has been about 3 or 4 hours since my last one.”
“I’m glad you are okay with it, because I’m not giving up smoking for a girl and I really like you so I wouldn’t want to have to pick between the two. I’m actually pleasantly surprised that you are experimenting. It is kind of fun smoking with someone for once. It seems like no one smokes now days.” He placed a cigarette in his mouth and leaned over with his lighter to ignite my cigarette before firing up his own.
“Do you not have many friends that smoke?” I said taking a drag off of my cigarette.
“Hardly any, actually.”
“How did you start?’
“Both my parents smoke and I was always curious as to why. The smoke always bothered me and for the life of me I could not understand why someone would want to inhale and exhale smoke regularly. At school, all I was told is don’t start because it is addictive and caused all sorts of bad things to happen to you. I was curious. I needed to find out why first hand. So, when I was 12, I stole a pack of cigarettes from my Dad. They were the same brand I smoke today- DuMaurier King Size. One night, when my parents left me alone, I tried it. I didn’t successfully inhale at all that first cigarette. I just puffed on it until it was finished. I kind of liked blowing smoke out but I didn’t see what the big deal was. I figured I was probably not doing something right, as the smoke did not look like it did when my parents smoked.” At this point Drew paused to take a sizable drag on his cigarette. I was mesmerized by the amount of smoke he took in and how long he was able to hold it in. As he continued his story, smoke punctuated his words captivating me even more.
“The next time I was home alone came a couple of days later. My parents were going to be home late from work and I had a couple of hours until their return. I had been watching my parents more closely to see where I was going wrong. I didn’t waste anytime in trying to inhale and I probably tried to emulate my parents too well by taking way too much smoke into my mouth and then trying to inhale it. Despite growing up in a smoking environment, this way too much for me and I hacked up a lung. I couldn’t believe my parents did that hundreds of times a day. I put the cigarette out and threw the rest of the pack out.”
“I’m assuming that was not your last time?” I asked wanting him to continue. I had been so taken with his story I forgot I was smoking. It was the most relaxed I had been during a cigarette and I was really enjoying the experience. Previous cigarettes had always been tinged with a mixture of fear, nerves and anxiousness. These emotions were the farthest thing on my mind as I took another drag on my cigarette, begging Drew to continue with my eyes.
“No, but I didn’t try it again for another few years. I was 14 the next time and this time it was with friends. My friends decided that they wanted to try smoking and since my parents smoke, I was voluntold to steal cigarettes from my parents for them. I felt kind of uneasy about it and from my last experience did not really have any desire to try it again. But I stole another pack from my father and one day after school me and two other guys went to the ravine after school to try smoking. At this point, I had not told them of my previous experience and I guess I was keen on keeping that quiet in case they were pros their first time and I was not. This was not the case. My friends both coughed up lungs after one puff each. Learning from my previous experience, I took a much smaller drag and successfully inhaled it, no coughing. I could feel the effects of the nicotine right away and I liked it. I took another couple drags and stopped when I started to feel lightheaded. My friends just stared at me, as I was the only one who managed to successfully smoke. I encouraged them to keep trying to inhale but every attempt led to fits of coughing. They decided then and there, that smoking was not for them and never did so again.”
“But obviously you did,” I interjected.
“Yes, I kept the pack even though I knew I would never smoke with my friends again. I didn’t know when I would smoke again nor if I would, but I knew that I didn’t want to throw the cigarettes out. I started by sneaking one a week, which slowly turned into one every other day, then into one on the way to school and one on the way home. My parents must have suspected something as I always stole the cigarettes from them. I guess they figured I would eventually come clean. My friends never suspected anything as even though I probably smelled like smoke, they figured it was my parents. This went on until I was about 16 and my friends started to drive. One day my best friend David decided he was going to come pick me up. Of course, I was already on route, cigarette in hand.”
“What did he say to you?”
“He asked me how long I had been smoking. To which I replied two years, but only two a day. He didn’t seem to care, but asked me why I bothered smoking so little. I told him it was the only way I could hide it. He asked me why I hid it from them, to which I replied, that I was scared of what they might think of me. He told me I was being silly and that we were going to tell our friends today. This made me a little nervous, but I was excited at the prospect of not having to hide this from my friends anymore. The way I ended up ‘telling’ them is very similar to how you told me you had started experimenting. David managed to convince everyone to go outside for lunch and after we were done eating gave me a cue to light up. Everyone was shocked, but no one seemed to care as much as I thought they would. From that point onward my consumption increased as I now added a lunch time cigarette to my morning and evening one as well as more cigarettes when I went out with friends.”
“How did your parents find out?”
“Eventually my Dad noticed, as his cigarettes were disappearing quicker and quicker. He told me he was disappointed in me, but would not be a hypocrite and not let me smoke. Instead, he asked that if I was going to continue to smoke, I would get a part-time job. I started working as a bus boy at a local restaurant. This caused my intake to increase significantly as for some reason restaurant staff smoke quite a bit. I never really made friends with these people though, although it was fun to have people to smoke with for the first time.”
“Did you ever think of quitting because your friends didn’t smoke? Or did they ever try to get you to quit?”
“ Once I quit because my high school girlfriend wanted me to. I started dating her during grade 12, well after I had come out to my friends. By this point everyone knew me as a smoker. I guess she saw me as sort of a project. I was really infatuated with her, enough to give quitting an honest shot. Since I didn’t smoke too much, actually quitting was not that hard. I suffered the normal irritability and roller-coaster of emotions associated with quitting but within a week I rarely craved smoking except when I was at work, surrounded by the smoking staff. Part of it was that I was riding the new high of first love. We’d make-out all the time and I lost my virginity to her.”
“ So how long did you quit for?”
“ Six months. As the rush of new love wore off, I started craving a little bit more intensely at work. During a particularly stressful shift, I was on my fake smoke-break since there was no reason why I could not just go outside for a breather and my manager encouraged us non-smokers to do so. I happened to be out with one of the waitresses and she offered me a cigarette. I figured one couldn’t hurt. After 6 months of abstinence, I had quite the buzz going and figured it would be okay to indulge at work once and awhile. Once and awhile turned into every shift. I even started bringing my own cigarettes to smoke at work. It sort of killed me a little that I was keeping it from my girlfriend, but I figured she would freak if she found out I was smoking again.”
“ When did she find out?”
“ At grad. We were at safe-grad, you know where they take you out to a farmer’s field and supervise you while you get wasted, of age or not. I was pretty drunk at this point and one of my work acquaintances comes up to me and offers me a smoke. I didn’t quite know what to do, as my girlfriend was standing right there, but she answered for me. She informed her that I don’t smoke anymore. My work friend was quite drunk at this point and started laughing. My girlfriend asked my friend why she was laughing to which she replied, ‘Well I guess he has been “not smoking” a lot with me at work.’ My girlfriend was livid with me that I didn’t tell her I had started again and broke up with me right there. I learned my first important lesson about smoking that night. Never quit for someone else. Because truthfully I had never wanted to quit, so as soon as the novelty of having my first girlfriend wore off, I wanted to smoke again. I started smoking full time again that night. Actually, I started smoking more heavily after that. It was almost as if I truly embraced my identity as a smoker and vowed that I would never quit again for someone other than myself. Plus, I kind of already had a crush on the girl at the restaurant that ratted me out. We started dating shortly after, but it was more of a fling than anything. I think my high school girlfriend was the last non-smoking girl I dated. Until you of course, but I guess you smoke now… so yeah.” Our eyes met and we both shyly looked away from each other. Both of our cigarettes were nearly spent at this point I took one last drag on mine before putting out in the ashtray that sat on the coffee table.
“So does that make this a date?” I asked coyly, exhaling a cloud of smoke. The sight of the smoke coming from my mouth kind of excited me as did the prospect of potentially dating Drew.
“If you want it to be,” Drew winked at me.
“I think that could be negotiated. I guess it depends on what movie you make me watch.”
Drew laughed, “ Well, I was thinking something really bloody and gory.”
“I was thinking the Notebook.” I joked, knowing that he of course would not have it.
“Well, I don’t have the Notebook. Would Braveheart be a good compromise? It has blood, gore and a love story.”
“ Okay, I think I could live with that.”
He put the DVD in and we proceeded to cuddle on the couch watching Braveheart for the next three hours. Drew lit up a cigarette about once every hour, during which I sometimes would find it hard to concentrate. I would sometimes put my hand over-top of his and take the cigarette from him for a drag. He would smile at me when I did this, as I normally had a ridiculous look on my face, like that of a kid stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. It was the kind of date you wish could go on forever.
Feeling so comfortable, I fell asleep during the last part of the movie. Drew nudged me awake and asked if I would prefer to sleep at his place rather than walk home. I nodded yes to staying over, and he carried me to his bed. I fell asleep only moments after my head hit the pillow. I think I was trying to argue with him about him giving up his bed for me, but to no avail as that next morning I found myself cuddled in his bed with a note on the pillow beside me. It said:
Mel, I’ve gone to pick up breakfast and did not want to wake you as you looked so peaceful. Please make yourself at home.
I stretched my arms up and sighed. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day.