#18 Smoke Gets Everywhere

My college roommate at WSU was from Boulder, Colorado, so she flew back and forth on vacations. Airlines still gave out free cigarettes then and her collection was substantial. Several of us planned a smoking experiment on the floor of our dorm hallway and lit our first smokes. In unison, the gagging and coughing began. Good thing we were sitting down. That was it for me.

Throughout a masterful career as an all round athlete, exceptional student and generally Mr. Clean Cut All American Boy, my brother was vehemently against smoking. He announced often as a teen that he never would take up the hideous and unhealthy habit. Back then, it was the judgmental dividing line. Wild kids smoked. Good kids didn’t. That is except for sex and I was still very much in the dark about that.

About sex. A friend and I went into her father’s library one day. He was our Methodist Minister. She knew right where to find a book that explained and diagramed the mystery. So we learned what different body parts did, in theory anyway. It would be a long time before my body parts had the opportunity to do any of that.

But back to smoking.  I was about 22 when I learned that my brother had been a secret smoker through High School. My sister-in-law eventually shared the story of how he had a very bad car accident in High School. His face went into the windshield of the family Volkswagen. Instead of worrying about the lacerations on his face, his first priority was to get rid of the cigarette he was smoking. I remembered the accident but had no clue about the evidence. Somehow he hid it from our parents too. At least I understood now why he always made me ride in the back seat of the car, even when it was just the two of us.

I didn’t want my brother to smoke. But he had managed this for years. And I had zero pull with him. How could I stop him? Completely deluded, I hatched my plan. If he saw his sister breathing out smoke, he’d see how terrible it was. With the horror of that picture he’d throw away his smokes forever. And my sacrifice would be rewarded.

So I lit a cigarette. And another one. And another one. He didn’t flinch. I forged through the dizziness, the hacking and coughing, and increased my stamina to become a fully fledged smoker. I too hid it for a little while.

I’m pretty sure my brother still quietly smokes. But if he does it’s in the garage.

I quit smoking for about 3 years. Then on a trip to London I wanted to “just try” a British cigarette. I returned to New York and went through customs declaring two cartons of the damn things.

Finally got smart 25 years ago.


One Comment on “#18 Smoke Gets Everywhere”

  1. EJL says:

    I’ve read just about every one of these posts, and I like the writing. I think they’re terrific!

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