Dear adults in my family, and all parents of newly-adolescents:
I was 13 and a freshman in high school. I was en route to the Rocky Horror Picture Show when Lakeside Theater still let us do the whole live-cast routine. The dude driving the car said he needed to make a stop, so of course we went along with him. His “stop” was the Godfather’s Pizza parking lot, and his mission was to stand around looking cool with his ponytail and Jncos. Remember, this was 1993.
It was with startling perspicuity that I realized that being 13 and slouching idly in the parking lot at Godfather’s Pizza was not my forte, so I slunk around the battered Hyundais and mopeds, waiting for Sam to finish being straight-edge with his awesome, untouchable, weirdo 15-year-old friends.
Some girl from school named Yvette came up to me and asked me if I wanted to bum a cigarette. I had no idea what this meant. All I knew was that I was completely in love with the entity of Yvette and I wanted her to like me so much. She had black hair that she did up in a 1940’s housewife style and she was gay and she wore leopard-print belts and wrote poetry about how she wanted to be adored and all her lunchbox contents were weird things like Japanese candies and strains of apples I’d never heard of and I spent lots and lots of time wondering how she could have formed her personality so early and beautifully and perfectly. I said yes to the cigarette, of course. She took out a flattened softpack of Marlboro Lights and shook one into my palm.
What was I supposed to do now? I had no idea how to smoke. Yvette was above peer pressure, so I was completely flattered that she assumed I smoked. So I stood there like an idiot. I felt like an idiot, but the 29-year old me would say that not knowing what to do with a cigarette’s about the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of.
So I extracted my chain wallet from my pocket. My chain wallet had a picture of a bottle of Guinness on it. Guinness was a beer I’d never tasted but I was pretty sure I’d like it if I ever figured out how to order it. I opened the wallet and started to place the cigarette inside, and Yvette said, “What the hell are you doing that for?”
What came out of my mouth next was such a stroke of social genius bullshit that I thought I’d swoon over my own self at the time.
“Oh, I just had one. I’m gonna save it for later.”
What I realized later, much later, was that this was a rude-as-SHIT thing to do to someone who’d just bummed you a smoke.
Six months passed before I remembered that it was there. I was sitting at the bus stop at 6:30am with a girl named Emily and I was bored as hell so I took out my chain wallet (which I wore affixed to my cardigan sweater, one of the only acts of rebellion I could get away wth in my all-girls Catholic high school) and started organizing its contents. When the cigarette fell out, completely flat and incredibly stale, Emily gasped and grabbed it.
“I didn’t know you SMOKED,” she said, pulling a lighter out of her purse.
“Oh, well, I mean, I dunno,” I said, because I didn’t, in fact, smoke, but I was intensely impressed that she carried a lighter around in her purse.
She decided we’d share the Marlboro Light, which was awesome because it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever put in my mouth, and sharing it meant I’d only have to endure half of it.
I was, however, very proud of myself for smelling like smoke for the rest of the day. I knew I smelled like smoke, and I knew it smelled awful, but goddammit, that had to have been the reason Tracey and her friends, the juniors that sat in the back of the bus, didn’t fuck with me that day.
Now you know.
Sincerely, and NOT a Marlboro-Light smoker,