Sibling Revelry

(by (now, 25 February 1996)

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Sibling Revelry

Like many I've been relieved to find that I don't stand alone in my 
fascination with female smoking.  I've actually been writing a book 
on various aspects of the habit but am very slow in composition.  
Perhaps someday.  In the meantime here's a little teaser and yes it's 
fundamentally factual.  Thanks for this unusual service that you 

They'd passed me earlier down on the first floor.  The 
indisputability of their relationship had first caught my eye but it 
was undeniably the early to mid-teen who had held it.  She resonated 
mallrat.  Eye shadow neat but just a bit too heavy.  Lipstick on the 
darkest fringe of red naively incongruent with her tussled auburn 
frizz.  A prepubescent off white sweater now fabrically challenged by 
her burgeoning maturity and what probably weren't Calvins but befit 
that product positioning.  The single concession to parental 
accompaniment was a pair of mini heels in lieu of outfit completing 
pumps which surely at other instances framed this ensemble.  Even 
without those four inch spikes ... let's call her Leslie ... stood 
half a head above her mom.  

Flat in both shoe style and carriage, mom ... who we'll call Sandi ...
 ducked her way through the crowd in an efficient if not graceful 
manner.  You needn't have closed your eyes to know that only a mere 
twenty year blink separated her daughter's packaging and parade from 
her own.  You also knew that somewhere along the line the peroxide 
had lost its octane and the hips had misplaced their sway.  If 
beneath the inattentive attire and transfixiveness an ember of hope 
remained, it certainly did so outside of her own awareness.  

And now here they were again.  Emerging from the elevator on the 
opposite side of the seating rotunda, they were walking directly 
toward me.  Being around noon, I'd just come upstairs myself to the 
Food Court.  Armed with an oversized plate of Yakisoba and a two 
hands sized iced tea, I'd meandered back through the table maze 
settling facing and just beyond the periphery of the smoking section. 

Approaching, it was now evident that they were actually a foursome 
not just a mother and daughter pairing.  Included we had a younger 
girl perhaps teenage, perhaps not, with a fashion sense either not 
yet developed or at least not yet indulged.  She'll be Stephanie.  
Trailing the pack was a boy, the apparent youngest by a couple of 
years, and best characterized as disheveled and just a little bit 
pudgy.  They continued single file zigzagging through the smoking 
section and just as they were about to emerge, Sandi tossed her purse 
on one of the aisle way chairs.  They had staked out a table no more 
than thirty feet away from me with vision only impaired by occasional 
foot traffic crossing the transversal walkway. 

A few words were exchanged and it was apparent that the boy had been 
appointed involuntarily as the table guardian befitting his adjunct 
role.  He plopped down passively as the females spread out to 
investigate the various fares.  His servitude however was brief as 
Sandi returned within a couple of minutes bearing only a cup of 
coffee.  Accepting money from her and apparently grumbling about the 
amount, he now set out while she encamped in the seat most 
immediately facing me.  Placing down her coffee cup she pulled a 
rumpled pack of green generic 100's from her coat pocket lighting up 
all in one continuous motion with a lighter which must have been 
stored within.  Eyes mostly closed and head reclining slightly, she 
drew again, smoke seemingly sighing out purposelessly of all 
available orifices.  This perfected if inelegant ballet of coffee and 
cigarette continued uninterrupted up to and beyond the return of the 

Leslie was the first to return shadowed by Stephanie.  They both 
bought back tacos and a drink.  Bro followed shortly straight from 
deep fried heaven ... a corndog, french fries, and a couple of 
doughnuts in hand.  No wonder he looked pudgy.  Three ate, one 
indulged, and not a word was spoken.  Not even eye contact was made.  
They shared a table and little else.  

Leslie dispatched her taco in short order and then reached beneath 
the table for her purse.  Within seconds she'd deftly fished out a 
cigarette, long and gold tipped, found and flicked her lighter and 
taken two, maybe three, consecutive yet unexhaled puffs.  A 
deliberate pause ensued which was then followed by a stream of smoke 
propelled tautly across the table and beyond.  She handled her 
cigarette with a blend of confidence and nonchalance that confirmed 
that whatever her age, she was unquestionably a seasoned smoker.  
Several more repetitions of these virile drives lined hard over 
second base suggested in all probability habitual as well.

Leslie's white darts now forcefully pierced Mom's listless releases 
but certainly not her consciousness.  She absently lit another 
cigarette off the butt of the first her eyes still affixed to 
something not there, her crowded solitude unspoiled by the moment.  
Stephanie on the other hand was now fully engaged.  From the moment 
that Leslie first lit up, Stephanie had not taken her eyes off of her 
sister.  Leslie took another puff, rounded the smoldering tip setting 
the cigarette somewhat carelessly in the makeshift foil ashtray, then 
incautiously delivered another torrent in Stephanie's general 
direction.  Vainly attempting to harvest the emission, Stephanie 
became subtlety yet unmistakably animated.

Oblivious to her mother and the second cigarette she was lighting, 
her undivided attention was intently focused upon her sister and now 
even more specifically upon her sister's momentarily unattended 
cigarette.  Instantly a conversation began between the siblings ... 
not one of words but ever more powerful darting glances and facial 
movements.  Stephanie's request to share her older sister's cigarette 
could not have been more clear.  Purposeful nods and a remarkably 
beseeching expression obviated any oral need.

Leslie's response was in kind but devoid of Stephanie's zealousness.  
For a pronounce moment for me and a probable eternity for Stephanie, 
Leslie hesitated stoicly.  Then, with a look equidistance between 
indulgence and indifference, she shrugged permission.  Instantaneous 
excitement illuminated Stephanie's face amid the contrasting 
disinterest of her family members.  A rush of near adulation for her 
sister swept over her as a new kind of bond was in the making.

Quickly, as if this window of opportunity might suddenly vanish, she 
reached out for the still freshly lit cigarette.  Tentatively, she 
rescued it from the ashtray, careful to tap off the slight ash in the 
process. Intently, she raised the new treasure to her lips and took a 
measured initial puff.  A facile and complete inhale foretold the 
coming of an equally adroit, effortless, and one might assume 
somewhat practiced exhale.  A second equally precise drag followed in 
what was now surely a previously (and probably often) rehearsed 
performance.  Once slouching in her chair, she now sat erect with 
shoulders thrown back.  Her entire presence had been instantly 
transformed.  A young woman dethroned the erstwhile child. 

Stephanie's exhibition was certainly more choreographed and less 
spontaneous than her sister's, none-the-less she was unequivocally 
more than a novice at this activity.  Underscored was an intense 
commitment on her part to join this family sorority with or without 
an invitation.  This ceremony was clearly a long awaited rite of 
passage.  Rapid fire she took a third puff then clearly 
apprehensively relinquished the cigarette as Leslie now reached over 
to reclaim it.

Anxiously Stephanie watched as her sister conducted an inadvertent 
clinic.  Leslie methodically took two more puffs ... casually, 
stylishly, expertly ... in such stark contrast to Sandi's indifferent 
inelegance.  Again the cigarette was put to rest and again the 
nonverbal machinations began.  Stephanie, now obviously hopeful that 
a routine had been established, re-flashed her doe-eyed appeal which 
was this time granted immediately without facial commentary.

Stephanie had ascended heaven.  She took a couple more puffs 
effervescently displaying a look of pure ecstasy.  With each draw her 
confidence manifestly increased.  Here she was smoking with her 
immediate family, a clandestine activity no longer.  Her very bearing 
screamed exhilaration, surprise, and delight.  No longer fearful of 
Leslie reneging on their unspoken contract, Stephanie amiably 
returned the shared resource to the ashtray.  Indeed a ritual was in 
the making.

And the waltz played on.  Leslie would take two graceful puffs, 
expose then swallow gaseous snowballs whole, pose momentarily 
mannequinesque, and then theatrically exhale her conical ropes with 
Stephanie fast at attention.  Stephanie in turn would follow with a 
pair of puffs that gained more credibility with every iteration.  
Progressively Stephanie appeared less self-conscious, more relaxed, 
and technically proficient with every successive draw.  Again and 
again they danced this intimate ritual until the cigarette had 
nothing left to give.

Watching her elation, I could only imagine the thoughts prancing 
through her head.  The wonder of being able to realize this long 
yearned for passion publicly and unabashedly.  An end to inconvenient 
and degrading surreptitiousness.  The right to display and smoke 
cigarettes whenever and wherever she wished.  A sudden interest in 
carrying a purse.  The delectable envy of her fellow seventh graders. 
The gateway to adulthood opened and entered.  And maybe best of all, 
the possibility of a newfound connection with her sister.

As for mom, who knows?  Sandi's failure to even acknowledge the 
vignette was de facto acceptance.  Whether resignation, approval, or 
indifference lay beneath was pretty much inconsequential.  The ship 
had set sail.  And to its dedication, this time Leslie completely 
removed her soft pack of Marlboro 100's from her purse, shook free 
two golden filters, and extended this gift to Stephanie.  Captured 
quite agilely between her fore and middle fingers, she stared in 
momentary wonder.  In mimicry of Leslie, she aggressively tapped it 
down and then in irrepressible glee caressed it securely between her 
anxiously awaiting lips.  Now hands free, Stephanie leaned cigarette 
outstretched across the table to intercept Leslie's approaching 
brilliant orange flame.  Ignition.  The smoking lamp was now lit, 
probably for a lifetime.  

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