Again, I fell into a routine, smoking about 6 per day without Drew and 10 per day with Drew. Post-thanksgiving weekend Benson and Hedges Gold 100 became my new go to brand. I liked the way they tasted and their nicotine hit was without compare. Sometimes, when I felt like a change, I’d buy a pack of the full-flavour B&H menthol 100’s. I didn’t mind menthol, but it wasn’t something I could smoke all the time.

Lindsay and I became inseparable study buddies. I basically never offered her a cigarette again after the sleepover night. Thanksgiving weekend had really freaked me out with my powers of persuasion and if Lindsay was going to smoke it was going to be on her. I had decided, if she ever asked, I’d give her one. But she never asked. Part of me was sad about this, I would have really enjoyed a female smoking buddy, but on the other hand, I didn’t want her to feel pressured. We alternated between studying at her apartment and studying at the Library. I’d step out for smoke breaks when I needed them and Lindsay would watch our stuff if we were at the Library or just keep studying when we were at her place. She never really talked about my smoking or teased me since that night, she simply accepted it as something that was. At least she did until recently.

It was early December and we were studying at Lindsay’s for our organic chemistry lab exam at Lindsay’s apartment. It was cold out, probably about -20 Celcius, and I was putting off going out for a cigarette. It was amazing how long I could legitimately go without when motivated by the subzero temperatures.

The truth was, I was starting to have trouble concentrating and Lindsay was struggling with understanding a concept. I understood it, but was having trouble explaining it because it had been 4 hours since my last cigarette.

“Ugh, I fucking hate organic chemistry!” exclaimed Lindsay frustrated. She slammed her book shut.

“Well, I think this is the perfect opportunity for me to go for a smoke.” I started to move towards my jacket and Lindsay stopped me by standing in front of my coat. “What the fuck, Linds?” I was a little irritated that she was blocking my way.

“Calm down… I was just thinking, nothing in my lease says I can’t smoke in here, and it is really fucking cold out. If you cracked the window and blew your smoke out, it wouldn’t be that bad.” She offered.

“Are you sure?” I asked incredulously. It was awfully generous of her to offer.

“Yeah, actually, I’m feeling a little wound up tonight, perhaps a cigarette might help?” She asked, hopefully.

“Only if you want one. Are you sure?” I asked, thinking back to my guilt for introducing Lindsay to smoking those many months ago.

“Oh, I’ve wanted to for awhile, I’m just scared of getting addicted. I guess I’m so stressed about this exam, I’m willing to take that chance.” She rationalized, eyes pleading.

“Of course you can, I just wanted to make sure that you were making this choice of your own free will.” I replied, handing her a cigarette. “I’ll be honest with you, I felt a bit like I took advantage of you last time.”

“Seriously? No way! I might have been drunk, but I knew what I was doing.” She said as accepted the cigarette from me, placing it between her lips. I flicked my bic and brought the flame to the end of her cigarette.  She seemed to remember how to get it lit, drawing lightly on it. She made a face as the smoke entered her mouth and blew the first puff out without inhaling.

“Oh yeah, these are regular, non-menthol.” I remarked, putting a cigarette in my own mouth and lighting it up. “We should probably move to next to a window, unless you want your place to be full of smoke.”

“Yeah, let’s move to the kitchen and open that window.” Lindsay replied. She passed me her cigarette and opened the window which was above her kitchen sink. She then proceeded to sit on the counter beside the sink. I passed her back her cigarette and mine and hopped to sit on the counter on the other side of the sink. She passed my cigarette back to me. She then took a small tentative drag off her cigarette, inhaled and exhaled a wispy stream toward the open window. She smiled and repeated with a slightly larger drag. She looked perfectly content. I then realized I had been staring and took a very long drag off my own cigarette, inhaling deeply and without exhaling I took another drag and inhaled, and held it in for a bit before lazily exhaling. I also smiled. It had been far too long without smoke in my lungs.

“I prefer menthol cigarettes, but….I fucking love how they make me feel!” She took a more enthusiastic drag this time, using it as a literal exclamation point on the end of her sentence, exhaling a sizable cone toward the window.

“I know, I feel the same way, although I think it feels different for me now. Less buzz, more just focused relaxation.” I took another long drag as I wasn’t feeling content yet.

“But it still feels good, right?” She asked, taking her longest drag yet, almost as if she was emulating my own style.

“Of course, the moment it stops feeling good and I stop loving it, I will quit.” I asserted.

“Woah… I think I might have smoked this one a bit too enthusiastically, are they stronger than the ones we smoked before?” Lindsay stated. “It went from awesome to woozy real fast.”

“Yeah, it is easy to over do it at first. I find it pretty hard to get too much smoke now days. If you are done with it, pass it to me and I’ll finish it.” I offered.

“Smoke two at once? Bad ass, Mel, bad ass,” She noted as she passed me the cigarette.

“Why not, I think I’ve only smoked two or three today before this one. I’ve never done this before.” I put both cigarettes into mouth holding one in my left and one in my right and did a two second draw. It didn’t feel like that much more smoke, but when I inhaled I felt the hit and it was instant satisfaction. I exhaled toward the window and a large cloud of smoke came out of my lungs. Then I just sat for a bit enjoying the feeling.

“How was that?” Lindsay asked after a second.

“Really fucking good…” I sighed. I wasn’t ready for anymore just yet.

“Yeah, now that the woozy feeling is passing, I feel pretty awesome. Focused, alert and yet relaxed.”

“Yeah it is the best. I don’t think I can finish both,” I remarked, stubbing out one of the two cigarettes, taking the other to my lips for a quick but satisfying puff. I took one more drags, hastily exhaling my smoke out the window. “Ok, I feel better now. Let’s tackle that organic chem problem again.”

We were quickly able to make sense of the problem after our break. We continued to study for about an hour and half when I felt the tug to have another cigarette. I didn’t want to impose on Lindsay again, but we probably had another hour and half to go before we were going to break for dinner. I figured no harm in asking.

“Hey, do you mind if I smoke another cigarette at your kitchen window? If not, I think I’ll head outside.” I asked, looking hopeful.

“No, no. Don’t go outside. Actually, if you didn’t mind, I might like a few puffs.” Her eyes pleaded.

“Yeah, you sure you don’t want your own?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m not sure I’m ready for your strong cigarettes yet.” she remarked.

“No problem. A few puffs in exchange for the privilege of being able to keep warm while enjoying my vice.” I bowed my head theatrically and we made our way to the kitchen. Lindsey deftly cracked the window and I had the cigarette lit within seconds. While I wanted and needed this one, I didn’t need it as desperately as I had the last one. This didn’t stop me from taking a long pull, inhaling it and holding it for a bit in my lungs. That always felt good. I passed the cigarette to Lindsay. She took a decent sized drag, as if she was unsure how much of the cigarette I’d let her have and passed it back to me.

“Fuck, I think I love smoking.” She noted, not taking her eyes off me as I took another long drag, held it in for a few seconds and exhaled towards the window. I passed her back the cigarette and she took another good size drag and exhaled a large cone out the window, passing me back the cigarette. The combination of the stress of exams and spending lots of time with me, I figured to myself that I would have a new smoking buddy soon. I wouldn’t push her though, I wanted my conscience to be at least sort of clear if she eventually came to the dark side. I finished these thoughts with a sizable drag and exhale towards the window. I held the cigarette a bit and then took another drag before passing it back to Lindsay.  We continued this way until the whole cigarette was gone.  I killed the cigarette, probably smoking as close to the filter as I ever had. Lindsay looked relaxed, I laughed to myself thinking that you’d think that we were smoking something less legal by the look on her face.

“Ready to get back to work?” I inquired, snapping Lindsay out of her reverie.

“Uh… yeah. I was just thinking about how relaxed I feel. Do you feel like this all the time?” She asked.

“It becomes less intense over time. Withdrawal feels like anxiety, so smoking relieves that so I guess I feel more relaxed after a cigarette.” I explained. I didn’t want to give her the wrong impression as how smoking makes you feel does change over time.

“Hmm interesting. What does being addicted feel like?” She asked, curiously.

“Not as bad as I once thought although I don’t think I ever really cared about addiction. I worried more about telling my family once I realized I was addicted. It feels like being hungry, and you know how you start by feeling a bit peckish and then slowly it builds to ravenous hunger, well it is like that. About every hour and half I feel peckish. After about three hours without, I feel ravenous. The time I can go without decreases the longer I smoke, but I care less and less.”

” So it doesn’t bother you that you’ve lost control?” She probed, genuinely interested.

“I guess I knew it was the price of admission, so it doesn’t bug me anymore.” I replied.

“Interesting… I guess I have some thinking to do. I fucking love smoking. I know if I continue I will be addicted but I guess it could be worth it in exchange for how good I feel right now. Plus, I find it is helping me focus. I’ve been so productive in the past hour and half.”

“Well you don’t have to decide right now, but do know that the more you experiment the more you are priming your brain to continue.”

“I know. Hence the questions… I don’t think I’m as terrified as I as after the first try. Perhaps I’m just meant to smoke.”

“I don’t know, some people seem to take to it better than others. You might be one of those people.” I smiled. “Ready to finish this cram session off?” I finished changing the subject.

“Yeah, let’s not waste this focused brain I’ve got going on.” She smiled walking back to the area we were studying in her living room.

We studied for another hour and half before making our way to the Vietnamese noodle house for dinner. We shared a cigarette on the way and enjoyed a lovely dinner before parting ways. I made my way to the train and smoked another on the way back to my place as my landlord made us sign that we would not smoke (in the basement suite or on the property).

Tomorrow, I’d see Lindsay at our organic chemistry lab exam. I could see that it wouldn’t be long before Lindsay made a decision about smoking, only time would tell. I passed out quickly that night, my brain and body exhausted from studying.