Another Cold Day, Part 1

(by, 01 February 1999)

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Another Cold Day
Part 1 of 2

   Another cold day. Another morning of blizzardy conditions. Half a foot of
snow had fallen yesterday and they were predicting again as much today.
Belinda looked out the window and sighed. It was getting boring up here in the
middle of nowhere. But this was where she'd decided that she wanted to be,
partly because she could aff0rd it, partly because it was a good career move,
   Well, the and wasn't worth thinking about, was it ?
   Just then the doorbell rang. It could only be one person- Felicity Farmer,
with this week's delivery of groceries. When Belinda had subscribed to the
delivery service, she'd thought that she was a little bit crazy. Paying an
extra twenty dollars a week just to avoid having to root through the grocery
store, to make time for those stupid trips fifteen miles just to avoid a
little thing like starvation. But the recent spate of bad weather had
convinced her she'd known what she was doing. Her tired old Saab would never
have it down Cob's Lane's first hill in this weather, and Felicity had no such
problem driving her Trailblazer.
   Of course, food and boredom was a bad combination, but what was a girl to do
   As Belinda swung the door open, Felicity was lighting herself a cigarette,
deftly shielding the flame of her lighter from the strong wind. She lifted her
head and smiled, exhaling a large cloud of smoke which hung in the cold air.
   "Good morning, Belinda. Miserable weather, isn't it ?" She said this with the
most wonderful smile on her teenaged face.
   "Yes it is." Belinda pulled a ten dollar bill from her pocket and as always,
Felicity objected half-heartedly.
   "Come on. You took a year off before college to earn book money. Take it."
   Felicity drew on her cigarette and then accepted the tip as she exhaled
through her nose. Belinda was always amased at how the girl smoked. It was a
nasty habit to be sure, but the girl had a way of doing it which made you
almost forget that.
   "Do you have a lot of deliveries left ?"
   "Just one. That new person down the road. Anne. The truth is, her order's
practically exactly the same as yours."
   "Well, enjoy the rest of your day, Felicity. Tell your mom that I said hello,
okay ?"
   "Will do, Ms. Manello."

   Belinda began unpacking her two large bags of groceries. Everything seemed
fine until she got to the bottom of the second bag. That was when she found
something that was definitely not hers. A carton of Marlboro Lights 1oos. As
she didn't smoke, they most certainly were not hers. She looked at the carton
quizzically, then took them out of the bag,
   The carton had an interesting feel. It was lighter than she had expected. It
was perfect in symmetry, the rectangular lines taunt and enticing. She found
herself having the most absurd thought, no doubt born out of boredom. What
would it be like to open the carton and take one of the packs out and light a
cigarette from it. Weren't writers supposed to smoke ?
   Of course, they were also supposed to be drunken sots, so that was a silly
thought, wasn't it ?
   Just then the phone rang.
   "Hello ?"
   "Belinda ? This is your neighbour Anne. Anne Marie Feld from down the road. I
was wondering if by any chance- well, you're going to think this is passing
strange, but did you get my cigarettes in grocery order ?"
   Anne was the new kid on the block. Not that Cob's was exactly a block. It was
ten miles of poorly kept up dirt road. Oiled and tarred twice a year, it
pretended to the status of a road in the same way that the strike scabs had
pretended to be football players. You didn't exactly have a sense of community
with the twenty odd houses scattered along its length.
   "Marlboro Lights 100s ?"
   "Yes. That would be them."
   "I guess the answer is yes. It's not like Felicity to make mistakes-"
   "Oh, they happen to the best of us, I suppose. Well, feel free to enjoy them
   "I don't smoke," Belinda said, matter-of-factly.
   "Really ? A writer who doesn't smoke ? Only in America. You really should try
it. Smoking does wonders for the cognitive process."
   "I wouldn't know."
   "Find out. I'll be up at the end of the day to pick what's left up, if that's
   "Sure," Belinda said, and the line went dead.
   What was left ?

   About an hour had gone by. The groceries were long since put away, and she
had been sitting in front of her powerbook, slowly but surely crafting a short
story for a small horror magazine published out of a clearing house in Iowa.
She'd been there once to meet the chief editor. It was a two-hour drive from
the airport through cornfield lined road to the sort of place the locals
looked down their nose on. The horror mag was probably the most wholesome
publication they churned out.
   Still, while she was making the sort of steady progress which indicated
eventual success, it was going slower than expected, which meant that Belinda
was thoroughly unhappy with the way that things were going. Usually this sort
of half-assed execution of the work meant that some distraction was
interfering. Usually, it was a dating problem, which was why Belinda was
lukewarm to the concept.
   Only there was nothing about men clogging her cognitive process, as Anne had
put it. Instead she was thinking about that unopened carton, about what it
would be like to open it up, take a pack of cigarettes from it, and light one.
It was an absurd fantasy that she was having. Smoking was such a remarkably
disgusting habit and there was certainly no reason to do something as
irresponsible as try it out of the sheer foolishness of boredom.
   Was there ?
   Belinda stood up and walked into the kitchen. There was the carton, mocking
here silently.
   Try me, it was saying to her.
   Of course, as a writer, she understood the grammatical foolishness of saying
that an inanimate carton of cigarettes was speaking to her.
   Except that it was.
   Try me.
   Oh, it couldn't possibly be saying anything, and yet, she could here the echo
in her mind, relentless and unyielding. There was the promise of the heady
excitement of trying something new, something untested, something which would
be both unique and enjoyable. Could something that was so undeniably gross
actually be, at the very same time, enjoyable ?
   Millions of smokers seemed to think so, and that was the weird part. They
loved it, some even swore that it one of the best things in their lives. Not
only that, but surfing the net, Belinda had discovered something even odder.
There were some people- me mostly, but a fair share of women- who enjoyed not
only smoking but watching others smoke.
   The idea that a fetish could form around an addictive habit-
   So, what was it about smoking that was so cool ? The rush of doing something
dangerous and ill-advised. The sense of community which smokers seemed to have
? Was it all really just the result of those glamourous ads and the fact that
so many celebrities refused to stop lighting up ? There was no way for Belinda
to know. Smoking wasn't her specialty.
   But maybe it was time to give it a try.
   She found herself opening the carton.
   She found herself taking one of the packs from the carton. There was a tab to
start the cellophane and she tore it away easy. Cracked open the box. There
was a little bit of perfectly folding foil protecting the cigarettes- it was
amasing what machines could do these days.
   Carefully, she folded the foil back. There were twenty round cylinders
staring back at her. There was such organisation to it. Maybe it was the box.
She'd known people who smoked what they called soft packs. They quickly became
wrinkled and beaten up in the average purse, but she had a feeling that the
box was different somehow.
   Belinda stopped there, with the open pack sitting on the kitchen counter,
hoping that just opening and looking at the cigarettes would be enough. She
wrote for about fifteen minutes, enough to get an entire page down, and then
the siren song started up again.
Feeling altogether silly, Belinda wandered back into the kitchen,
obstentiously to get another cup. But the cigarettes were calling out to her,
begging for attention.
   She found a pack of matches in the utility drawer. The thought of lighting a
cigarette with one of the long fireplace matches was just a little bit too
silly to try, but here was an easier solution, should she decide to take it.
The pack of cigarettes sat there, indicating that she should indeed at least
experiment with this accidental incitement.
   Hands trembling, she pulled one of the cigarettes from the pack and lifted it
to her nose. The tobacco had a surprisingly pleasant smell. Very much
different than she had imagined it. Not that she had expected to know what
cut, dried leaves of tobacco smelled like. But she had expected it to be a bit
more along the lines of burnt version, and it wasn't. The scent she found
herself enjoying was so pleasant that it seemed a shame to even light the
   It didn't look quite as long as she had expected, either. The 100s were
definitely sleeker than the stubby kings that she associated with male
smokers. But when she put the cigarette in her mouth and looked down her nose,
it almost seemed to have grown.
   There it was, perched between her lips, just waiting to be lit.
   She struck a match and it hissed to life.
   Lifting the flame, she applied to the end of the cigarette and the tobacco
and paper caught. It began to give off smoke, slightly harsh, but not as
altogether unpleasant as she had imagined.
   Belinda stood there for a moment. smoke curling lazily off the end of the
cigarette. It drifted idly, some of it going up and into her nose.
   She put her fingers on it just above the filter, so it wouldn't pop out of
her mouth when she inhaled.
   Opening her lips slightly, she allowed the filter to penetrate into her mouth
slightly and then closed them down again so that she would have a good tight
seal when she inhaled.
   Smoke rushed into her mouth as she drew air in.
   The first thought which came to her as she felt the smoke expand into her
lungs was that she was lucky to be living alone because she would be able to
do this all day without worrying about the house getting smoky or anyone
questioning what she was doing.
   "Whoa-" she said aloud, as smoke came pouring out of her mouth.
   That was getting ahead of herself. One puff and she was thinking about
smoking all day ?
   "I don't even have an ashtray !"
   The phone rang. She reached over and picked it up.
   "Use a bowl," the voice at the other end of the line said.
   "What ?"
   "A bowl will work fine. Anything ceramic."
   "Anne ?"
   "Yes. I figured you'd be trying it out about now."
   "How did you know ?"
   "Just a little touch of intuition, that's all. How do you like it ?"
   Belinda thought about how to answer. 
   She wanted to lie, to say that it was so awful that she was sorry she'd
broken into this woman's carton to waste a cigarette. The words were on the
tip of her tongue, but as they were a lie, she didn't feel so good about it.
   "I like it, Anne. I guess that I should thank you for the encouragement. I
   "Don't guess. And you're welcome." She hung up then, leaving Belinda to
wonder how it was that the woman had known what she was doing.
   She took another draw on the cigarette and smiled as the smoke flowered in
her lungs, leading to a nice headrush.
   "Wow !"
   She tapped the ash into the bowl she'd taken out of the cabinet and walked
back into the living room. Could she smoke and write ?
   Well, despite the fact she'd been a published writer since her sophomore year
of college, she'd never really gotten to be more than about a four finger
typist. She'd be down to two fingers, but that was better than none.
   She began working, and as she drew on the cigarette again and again, she
found herself struck by the most perfect idea for the story, something so
radical that she had to wonder where it came from.
   Was it the effect of nicotine ?
   She hoped so.
   Because just as she was looking forward to smoking all day, she was looking
forward to having a good reason to smoke. Not that she really had anyone to
answer to, but still, people would ask, wouldn't they ? 
   Of course they would. When she'd seen Felicity light up, wasn't that the
first thing she had thought ? Why ? Why would a smart young woman planning to
go to college be a smoker ?
   Could she really understand that, she wondered as she stubbed out her first
cigarette. It seemed easy enough to fathom. She finished the idea she's
started while smoking the cigarette, telling herself that she would wait at
least an hour before lighting the next one. But twenty minutes later she was
ready to spell check her story and then begin the laborious, and for her
boring, clean-up work that always came with shorts. Making sure the characters
had the same name from beginning to end. Modifying the occasional clumsy
sentence which had snuck out without any sort of warning.
   She decided that she could do that work with a cigarette in hand just as
easily. Walking back out towards the kitchen she admired the way the house
seemed to be remembering what she'd done. Non-smokers talked about the smell
of stale cigarette smoke. But there didn't seem to be anything stale about it
at all. Rather it was a pleasant reminder of what she'd been doing.
   The pack felt very natural in her hand. She pulled a single cigarette from it
and wondered how many she would have the opportunity to smoke before Anne came
to retrieve the rest. It would have to be soon, wouldn't it ? She would show
up at the front door, with a life long commitment to smoking, and ask for the
cigarettes that were rightfully hers, perhaps leaving the remainder of the
pack that Belinda had opened but nothing else.
   It almost seemed unjust, in a strange way. But then Belinda forced that
aside, the same way she occasionally forced aside thoughts of paying the
monthly bills when she was between checks from publishers. Not that it was a
frequent problem, but if you could stare your American Express bill in the
face and laugh, you could face any challenge.
   Instead of thinking about how many cigarettes she would not get to smoke, she
thought about the one she was about to light. It was an entirely pleasant
thought. She placed between her lips, enjoying the sensual feel it gave her to
have it there. She paused before lighting it and admired herself, the strong
reflection from the window over the kitchen sink showing her quite clearly
what she looked like with the unlit cigarette perched precariously between
eager pouty lips.
   As soon as she lit it, she was going to log on to the internet and read about
other smokers. It was her impression that smokers rarely took to the habit so
quickly, that she was experiencing something unique and unusual. She brought
the match to life and drew on the cigarette as the tobacco caught, drawing
smoke into her lungs, marveling at the fact that the smoke did not make her
gag and cough, that the smoke curling upwards from the cigarette didn't sting
her unaccustomed eyes.
   That smoke was so delicious that the thought of masturbating rather than
surfing sang to her. But she ignored it. She had research to do, after all,
and as long as the phone service held out- it was notoriously flaky during
storms- that was exactly what she planned to do. Read and search and learn
about her new-found habit, try to find other women to whom smoking had come so
   She drew on the cigarette again and walked towards the living room, wondering
if she was the sort of woman whom men would judge an attractive smoker.
   That she was attractive in an every day sort of way was not in question. She
knew very well that she was good looking, that her breasts were ample, her
stomach flat, her ass cute in an unobtrusive sort of way. Her strawberry
blonde hair framed her pale New Englander's face in a way which accentuated
its fullness. Men were wont to cast her a glance or two, even go out of their
way to talk to her. And on the rare occasions when a smile broke out over the
top of her block mock turtleneck, she could be, according to one friend,
`entirely arresting.'
   But was she an attractive smoker ? That was a different question entirely.
Did she look good with a long 100 in her hand, or better yet, in her mouth ?
Were her exhales enjoyable to watch as well as experience.
   There was no way to know the answers to these questions. All Belinda could do
was smoke and hope the rest of it would sort itself out in time. How much
   She dialed in, glad the phones were still working. Once she was out on the
internet she went to deja news and typed in `first cigarette.' There had to be
people who'd posted to newsgroups about their first experience with tobacco.
While hers had probably been better, easier, or more enjoyable than most,
there had to be others who'd had similar things happen to them.
   There were quite a number of postings. A number of them were in alt.stop-, which certainly wasn't what she was interested in today, or
any time soon. There was another group alt.smokers, but she didn't find what
she was looking for there, either. She began selecting from the hundreds of
postings at random, finally finding one in alt.selflove.
   The poster was a woman. 
   i came home from school this afternoon after a long walk through the snow,
expecting my family to be home, as it was coming down quite hard and steady.
it's not like Mom to take chances, although my older sister Nanci has a friend
in town she can stay with when the weather's bad. 
   i was excited but nervous at first. you know how it is when you want the
house to yourself and you have it, but with no idea of how long you have it
for. when you're really young and your idea of going over to the darkside is
stealing some ice cream from the freezer, there's no downside to being alone,
no panic or fear. after all, you're not doing the sorts of things that will
get you in real trouble, even if you do get caught.
   I wasn't going to pinch ice cream, though.
   no. nanci and mom both smoke. nanci started when she was my age- 16. she's
twenty-five now. she lives on about four hours of sleep a night. i've never
been sure whether it's the cigarettes or the caffeine that keep her going, but
she gets up at four in the morning, opens a pack of cigarettes, smokes about
half of them, then goes to work. she's the luckiest bastard. she works in a
private law office as their law clerk. the lawyer and her administrative
assistant both smoke, so nanci can smoke all day- which she does. she takes a
second pack to work, smokes the whole thing, then comes home and finishes the
pack she started in the morning.
   why is this relevant ?
   (end part 1)

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