May 18, 2016

With one Malboro Light between us, I had my first drag of a cigarette in the garden of my Dad’s house at age fourteen. Cass had smoked before, (she was first to try everything) so she showed us girls how to inhale. On the exhale she’d blow out a line of smoke rings before passing the cigarette to the next girl in the circle. About a month later, I smoked a Malboro in my room and had to call my freind Luisa because I thought I was dying. “That’s a head rush, you nincompoop,” she said giggling down the phone. Within 6-months or so, we were all smokers. We’d nick a packet from our parents, or buy one from the corner shop, and meet in the alley after school for a cigarette or ten. In those days, you could smoke in cafes, so sometimes we’d pile into the basement of the local KFC and smoke through our lunch break. I don’t think I ever enjoyed it, but it was something to do. And it felt cool. At home, I used to smoke the odd sneaky cigarette in my room, until the day my Mum discovered the eavestroughs clogged with butts. I was 16 by then. “If you’re going to smoke, don’t burn the house down,” she said handing me an ashtray. Through university, and way into my 20s I was a smoker. I smoked on planes and boats and on the backs of bikes; I smoked on the streets of Hanoi and in piazzas in Florence; I smoked in the morning with coffee, and in the evening with wine. I loved every drag of my gloriously disgusting smoking life. Until I stopped loving it. In Toronto, I had few friends that smoked, so I started to feel like a pariah. I sat in revolting cafes and in freezing cold bus shelters lamenting that first Malboro Light. About a year before I stopped, my grandmother, who had smoked long, skinny cigarettes all her life and was battling cancer said to me, “the time will come when you won’t want to smoke anymore. You’ll quit when you’re ready. “I stopped smoking a few moths after she died and I haven’t had a cigarette since. I sit as close as possible to my smoking friends, relishing in the vicarious pleasure of the odd ciggy when the mood strikes. Maybe I’ll join them one day. And maybe I won’t.



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