I need to quit smoking.
He leaned on the table and watched her rummage around in her over-sized, zebra-striped purse. She fascinated him. She wasn't like anyone else he'd met and he liked that. He liked different. He was never interested in normal girls.
She located the pack of cigarettes. He watched as she placed one gently between her lips and flicked her lighter in one smooth move. He couldn't help but find it sexy. She had to have noticed it in his eyes.
"So, do you want one of these, or do you want something else?"
He hadn't smoked before. He wasn't sure why really since just about all his friends had. He was much more into alcohol than nicotine. But there was something about her that made sucking carcinogenic smoke down into your lungs seem so worth it. Later on, of course, he would think it was an idiotic move on his part.
"Yeah, I'll take one of those … and maybe something else."
She reached down into her bag. He was certain that she was angling her body just so he could sneak a peek down her white vintage blouse. He licked his lips. She handed him the cigarette and flicked her lighter.
He didn't cough and thought that was odd. It could have just been that he was already under some spell. He'd watched enough people smoking to already be a good actor about it. He wondered if she knew she just popped his smoking cherry.
He'd raced up to the roof of the art department building. The previous class had taken a toll on his nerves. What he really wanted was a drink after getting raked over the coals in the latest project critique. Somehow he got landed into a class full of feminazis and headed by an instructor that was barely older than any of them and had a set-in-stone definition of what art was.
They had all seemed to gang up on him during the critique and accuse him of "sexualizing" his latest painting. Where he saw an alien landscape, they saw vaginas and penises. He wondered just what the fuck he was doing in the class still and why he hadn't just dropped it and moved on ... although he probably would drop it now.
He leaned against the wall and peered over it. About 6 stories below, in the dumpster, was what remained of his painting. He actually felt quite embarrassed and regretful about it now. You know what? Fuck you guys, you just don't get it! That's what he said as he grabbed the thing and stormed out of the class making a b-line for the exit door at the end of the hall.
He fondled the box in his front pocket. He really didn't want to get wrapped up in an addiction but he could already see which way the wind was blowing. He reached down into his pocket, flipping the lid back on the box and extracting one cigarette. He hung it from his mouth while he reached back and grabbed his lighter.
He stood for a long minute still gazing down into the trash bin below while the cigarette dangled from between his lips. He couldn't help but think if all his art was really trash. He cupped his hand over the cig to prevent the wind from blowing the lighter's flame and sucked the smoke deep down into his lungs.
He stood out on the balcony of her apartment. His hands were sweating and his heart was racing. He'd wished he'd had a few more drinks at the party. She was in the bathroom taking a shower because she'd said she wanted to relax a little. Her tone and mannerisms didn't go over his head. She had wanted him to join her in there and he was too fucking shy. He wondered how long she would put up with his shyness as it had been over a month since they started going out.
But it had been four years since he'd gotten laid. He figured most people would find that pretty pathetic and it was a fact he actively hid from her although the question of, "why haven't we done it yet?" was bound to come up soon. He had to give her credit for her patience though.
He sat down cross-legged on the balcony since there was a distinct lack of outdoor furniture out there. In fact the only two objects out there were a half-dead potted plant and an ashtray.
He lit another smoke. It was the 3rd one he'd shot-gunned since he stepped out on the balcony and closed the sliding glass door. He wondered why he couldn't be like any other dude and just go in there and fuck his girlfriend even though he knew the answer was because the last one told him he sucked.
He wondered why stage lighting had to get so fucking hot. He could feel the beads of sweat dripping down between his shoulder blades. The four or eight (he'd lost track a long time ago) beers he'd consumed had done a number on reality. For a moment he wondered if what he was experiencing was really real at all.
He leaned on the side of the stage and attempted to focus on faces out in the crowd. He felt like he was slowing burning up from the inside out and decided it had to be those fucking gel lights. He wondered why manufacturers hadn't figured out a way to make those run a little cooler.
Suddenly he felt a tug to his left and there was someone screaming in his ear.
"Hey dude! You got a smoke I can bum?"
He thought for a minute then reached down into his pocket. With a shaky hand he brought out the box and held it out in the direction of the voice. Although he needed water his brain kicked off that familiar craving for whatever was in those cancer sticks. It was as if his fellow smoker read his mind because in front of him was one – then two – then one again – cigarettes. He assumed his first attempt at grabbing it failed as he felt the dude place the smoke into his hand.
"Hey you got a lighter?"
It was an easy enough question, now if he could just remember what pocket he had put it in. He tried to nod and let his new friend know that he did but that it might take a minute to find it. He was partially successful. The lighter slipped out of his hand and fell out onto the stage. A frown formed on his face as he realized there would be no smoke without fire.
As if in answer to his prayers the guitarist must have noticed the sad scene – two distraught and decidedly drunken smokers with unlit cigarettes hanging from their mouths to the side of the stage and one red lighter laying in front of him. With a push of his foot he slid the lighter back over to the direction of its previous owner.
"Here dude, lemme light you up."
He noticed a long time ago that cigarettes and booze went together like ham and cheese – the perfect compliment. And now, there was a 3rd element that went oh so well with the chemical cocktail of a lit smoke.
He'd been the tag along on this particular outing but when he saw one of his new friends score an 8 ball from a promoter he knew he was happy he did tag along. Of course he wasn't an addict or anything. He didn't buy 8 balls for himself after all. He'd just bum bumps here and there when he saw it was available – or do the occasional rail at a party.
They'd licked the ends of their unlit cigarettes and dipped them into the baggie of white powder. His ex-girlfriend was the one that showed him what a coco puff was.
He sat himself up and leaned back against the wall. He was pretty sure it was his puddle of puke on the floor next to him. At least he hoped it was. The smell of it was a little too close for comfort but he was too wasted to get away from it. He'd lost track of all time. It had probably been hours since the show ended. He wondered why no one had come looking for him. Someone always came looking for him.
He struggled to get out of his black leather jacket. Finally, after half pulling it over his head it came off and he tossed it out in front of him mindful of the pile of sick next to him. And then the craving hit. At that moment, more than anything else in the whole wide world, he wanted a smoke. He had remembered leaving them in his jacket pocket so he reached over and grabbed the jacket again locating the box in the right pocket. To his utter dismay, the box was empty. His mind raced ... no, this can't be! He searched his other pockets and came up empty handed. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back onto the tiled wall of the bathroom. For whatever reason he didn't stay like that long but opened his eyes and looked down on the floor. There in the middle of the pile of puke was a single cigarette.
No less that 15 seconds elapsed before he was smoking it.
When his breathing finally returned to a somewhat normal pace he reached onto the floor to grab his jeans. He found the box in the front pocket and pulled it out. He took out two smokes and shoved them both in his mouth to light. He handed one of the lit smokes to her.
"That was …"
"I never thought it could be like that."
A/N Part II: