Letter to a forbidden love

I started smoking when I was 13.

Before that I was a rabid anti-smoker and had even broken and flushed Dad #1’s smokes more than once.  Guess it didn’t take too terribly much to flip that particular addiction switch.

I was riding my bike somewhere with my sorta friends from school.  One was named Bill and lived in a nearby beach community.  I went to his house once.  The short dead-end road was narrow as fuck and the houses jammed cheek to jowl.  The house itself was amazing though.  Full of family and laughter and warm colors and music and books and interesting things to look at.  It was everything I’d ever wanted in a home.  I was actually dumbstruck.  It was old and wound about with tight rooms.  When I was reading about the Burrow years later, this was the house that sprung to my mind.

So anyways, Bill and I and another kid, I can’t remember his name.  He had the most beautiful brown eyes but he played for the other team but hadn’t figured it out yet.  They both did, would, hopefully, figure it all out?  They were nice guys.  I hope they found what they wanted. I’ll call him Rafael.

So the three of us are riding our bikes.  We were going to Rafael’s house.  I was absolutely flying down this huge hill and had to take a sudden sharp right and didn’t realize that the road was covered in sand.  Down went the bike and of course, it being the early 80’s and summer, what was I wearing?  A freakin’ tube top.  Yeah I ended up with some serious road rash all down my right side.

Fucking ow.

The boys helped me and the bike up.  Thankfully we were at our destination for the most part.  I cleaned myself up and picked the gravel out of my skin.  I remember being very jittery from the crash and the pain of trying to erase my right breast with asphalt.  Rafael had stolen a half pack of his grandma’s Pall Malls.  So we each lit one up.

It tasted really gross but I had at least two, maybe three before we left.  My stomach was queasy but I wasn’t jittery anymore.

Never told, will tell, Dad #2 that I was a smoker.  His mother died of lung cancer and she was a very heavy smoker.  Started smoking because her doctor told her to because of her nerves.  Of course the nerves had nothing to do with the five boys who were always trying to kill each other and the alcoholic husband.  Nah, just pick up this habit that’ll kill you young and it’ll all be fine.  So I get why he really, really hates smoking and smokers.

Was a regular, daily smoker by 14.  Smoked unfiltered Camels and loved every one of them.  Loved the packaging art and the fact that they’d been around forever and the way I had to pick leaves off my lips if I wasn’t careful with tamping them before ripping the pack open.

And then there was the burn.

Taking in a deep breath of smoke and just feeling it sear all the way down.

And then there was the exhale.

Just as good going out as it was coming in.

I started working in restaurants at 15.  Practically all the kitchen staff, no matter where I worked, smoked.  Dishwashers were united in their love of anything menthol.  Line cooks tended to smoke Marlboro.  I worked with one chef who smoked Dunhills when he was flush.  I tried a pack when I was jonesing while in Canada.  Didn’t see what the fuss was about.  Was just appalled at how much the dang things cost up there.

Whenever I worked with ex-military guys, they would always smile when they saw my Camels.  They’d usually bum one off of me for old times sake and then cough their way through it.

I eventually worked my way up to the filtered ones and by the time I quit up to the lights.  But they all still had that burn.

When I was in Turkey, men were fascinated by the fact that I, a woman, was smoking in public and would often bum a smoke to try an American brand.  More than one was amused by the filter but they were always friendly and polite about it.

I quit quite some time ago but I still miss it, almost daily.

My youngest sister has one of those electronic thingies.  I asked her if it had the burn of an actual cigarette and was saddened and relieved when she said no.

I can’t start smoking again.

I won’t.

Can’t afford it physically or financially.  Won’t ever be able to afford it and that’s just fine.

Breathing is good.  I’m a big fan of it and would like to keep doing so on a regular basis.

But oh how I miss the particular burn and crackle and the first deep drag off a  just lit Camel fresh from a newly opened pack.

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