The Smoking Gang

(by Clytissa, 02 August 2003)

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The smoking gang.
By Clytissa.

They come to the coffee shop every Monday, and they always sit outside,
because they all smoke. I, a non-smoker, sit inside, read the paper, and
glance occasionally at the ladies in the open air.  There are three regulars:
Tammy, who's blonde, a bit plump, Meg, a redhead, fine boned, freckled, a
classic type: and Linda, a tall voluptuous brunette. None of them are
beauties. None of them play with their smoke, or use it to tease men. They
just - smoke.

I think the fetishists..and I'm one of them, make no mistake about it; I have
a good solid fetish that's haunted me since I was 15:.. the fetishists forget:
not all smokers are cute little high school girls terrified of their first
puff, and not all smokers end up chaining and gasping for breath by the age of
20.  Most of them are just normal people who feel better after a milligram or
so of nicotine delivered every waking hour. They don't do much strenuous
activity, they'd rather sit around in coffee shops and smoke with their
friends, and that's where I see them.  So, who am I? Your average lady, mid
40's, who knows that she missed out on the smoking bus decades back, and can't
bring herself to get on it. There are too many good reasons. My life is set,
but I find a sort of release by being a surreptitious watcher. I don't see
many artful smokers, but I see a lot of mums, having their quick fix.

So here I am, watching the regulars. They don't know I'm looking; I've got the
newspaper that I'm reading angled to cover my occasional glance. And they
don't care, anyway: they're talking mum talk, about their relatives and
friends. Each of them has her cigarette packet in front of her, and the first
thing they all did on sitting down was to light up. They have a pattern; light
up, take one puff, let the hand drop, then another puff every half minute or
so. They'll get about ten half hearted drags off each cigarette, and they'll
almost forget it's there. 

They smoke like men, I sometimes think. Men are no fun to watch; little puffs,
little exhales, no art to it.  I want to see plumes, banners, wreaths of
smoke; big drags, smoke taken all the way down to their socks, lungs full of
smoke held for ten seconds before it reappears, creamy full exhales..all
that..and I'm still waiting, and watching, in hope.

So much for men.

The women are doing their usual routine, inhale, exhale, tenuous little wafts
of smoke. Bah. I decide to have a proper read of the paper, when I see another
one of the gang, a less regular member, coming around the corner. This one's
name I know; too: she's Beccy.  She's another nondescript mum, brown hair,
blue eyes, medium build, but she does have a very nice chest and a slender
waist to set it off. I watch unobtrusively as she sits down, and notice she
seems agitated.  She greets her friends, and half looks at their cigarettes,
which have almost burnt out. She's frowning, tapping her foot over one crossed
ankle, looking restless. The friends notice. Through the half open window I
hear their concerned questions.

'Bec, what's wrong?' It's Tammy, the blonde, and she looks concerned.

Beccy thinks, and decides to confess. 'I'm not going to make it,' she says.

'Oh,' says the redhead, Meg. 'But it's been a week, hasn't it?'

'Yes,' says Beccy,' and I can't stand it. I need one now..I'm going mad!!'

It's pretty easy to guess what she's on about, seeing as she's the only one
without a ciggy packet in front of her. The others look at each other, and
under their concern I can see a little imp of devilment; Beccy wants to join
the gang again, and now she can see she wasn't any better than them. But
they're going to make her crawl a little.

'Only a week?' says Linda, and she reaches forward, takes a cigarette out of
her packet (she likes B&H, by the way; the others prefer Escort, which to my
mind is a nasty, sickly sweet brand.) Beccy, who's hanging on to her self
control, watches helplessly as Linda extracts the cigarette, puts it slowly in
her mouth, and applies her lighter. She takes, for the first time I've seen, a
long, solid drag, and exhales it just over Beccy's head. My goodness. It's a
big, thick plume. I almost stare, then conceal my surprise behind the paper.
Linda takes another deep drag, and lets go another mighty cloud.

Beccy's staring at the cigarette. Linda draws again, and the tip glows fiery
red. It doesn't stop glowing for five seconds or so as Linda drags down a huge
hit of smoke, holds it, then lets it out. This time she uses her nose and
mouth, and for a second or two her face is concealed. She's amazing. 

The other ladies are getting in on the act. Linda's cigarette is almost
finished; those mighty deep drags did it in a couple of minutes, and Meg gets
out her packet, and lights up as well. Not to be outdone by Linda, she too
drags deep, holds the smoke in for several seconds, and arcs it out over poor
Beccy's head.

'You bitch,' says Beccy, possibly meaning it. She's hanging out for a smoke,
we can all see that, and these bitches are torturing her. Tammy laughs, and
gets out her cigarettes, and joins the other women.  Within seconds the table
is surrounded by a dense veil of smoke as the three of them go for it hammer
and tongs.

Bec's face is a study, and I swear she's trying to inhale the second hand
smoke. Linda stubs out her cigarette, and immediately gets out another, which
she flicks into life and starts dragging down. Not to be outdone, Meg,
finishing hers, lights a new one off the butt.

Beccy's almost in tears. Linda looks at her, and says, 'It isn't going to be
easy, just like we told you.'

'It can't be your hubby's decision,' Tammy says, lighting her new ciggy from
the butt of its predecessor, 'It has to be yours.'

'Willpower,' says Meg, 'is not all there is to it. So Kevin wants you to stop
smoking; well, does he feel like you do? Does he need it as much as you do?
Look at you, Bec, one week and you're gagging for it.  You'll never be able to
ignore it; you're screaming for it. I bet if I offered you this cigarette here
- the one in my'd take it and smoke it to nothing in two seconds.'

I bet she would, I think, watching carefully but transfixed regardless. Bec's
leaning forward and breathing in the smoky atmosphere. And already Linda's
starting her third, with no sign of slowing down. Why she hasn't begun to
cough with all the extra smoke load is beyond me; but she doesn't look as if
she's even getting dizzy. This woman is a fact, all three of
them are.

Meg looks at Beccy, who really seems about to cry, but even though she takes
the cigarette out of her mouth and offers it across the table, Beccy won't
give in.

'It's bad for me,' she says.

'Right,' says Linda, taking a long drag, her cheeks going hollow. She looks
good like that, and maybe she even knows it, because she tilts her head back,
and lets out the plume in a long, dense cloud, before breathing in her
cigarette again.

'It's bad for you, too,' declares Beccy.

'We agree,' says Tammy, finishing her butt in one long deep inhale, that
doesn't come out for a few seconds.  Megan takes a long, solid drag and lets
it out in three perfect smoke rings. 'Nice,' Linda laughs, and makes a couple
of her own, and they start a contest, rings going everywhere, colliding and
mixing around poor Beccy's head, as they play with the smoke. It looks like
fun, and around the coffee shop other eyes than mine are watching; I glance
about and see the butcher is glued to his window, and the delivery boy from
the supermarket is standing open mouthed. Part of it is probably that laughs
are rare in your average shopping center, but some of it has to be the male
reaction to girls being naughty. Which was probably the reason Kevin wanted
Beccy, if you think about it.  Pity he seems to have changed his mind.

Beccy can't take any more. She makes a grab for Linda's cigarette pack, and
whips a B&H out of it.  Linda, laughing, with smoke pouring from her nostrils
and mouth, won't let her have the lighter, but gives up after a few seconds.
Hands trembling, Beccy tries to light up, but drops the lighter. It skitters
away on the ground, and she starts to go get it, cursing, the virgin cigarette
bobbing in her mouth.

'Here,' says Meg, taking pity, 'start on this', and she gives Beccy her half
smoked Escort. Beccy, desperate, her nicotine starved tissues driving her
crazy, sucks on it in desperation, and it's a pitiful shrunken thing in two

'Oh,' says Beccy, between drags, 'Oh, shit, I needed that - oh!' and she soaks
it into her poor deprived lungs, not even bothering to take it out of her
mouth.  It lasts maybe half a minute.

'Want a B&H?' asks Linda, knowing that it's a stronger brand. She knows also
that Beccy's going to need a lot more nicotine and fast. Beccy starts to take
one, then shakes her head.

"I'll get my own,' she says, and walks the few steps to the nearby Smokemart.
The women watch as she comes out with a carton of Camels.

'Camels?' says Linda. 'They're pretty strong.'

'I know,' says Linda, lighting up as she speaks; she's bought a new lighter
too. Her hands aren't as shaky now. 'But I need a fix fast.' And she drags
deep on the Camel, making the end glow, and only coughing a little as the
smoke saturates her lungs and her tissues. Her plumes are thick and creamy.
She breathes her way through the cigarette in a couple of minutes, then chains
another. She's as good as LInda, the butcher, delivery boy, and I notice; good
chest inhales, big strong exhales. Her chest lifts up and down with her
efforts; a nice effect which doesn't go unnoticed by her watchers. Poor Bec,
though, in her need, has no eyes for anything but the smoke she needs so
badly. I see the other ladies are looking around, and they see the observers
too. Little smiles pass between them, and I nearly laugh when the cigarettes
are lit up again, and some rather arty smoking begins, before they eventually
tire of it, leaving the field to Beccy, still chaining away, but slowing fast.
Well, time for me to go to work. I fold the paper, get up, and leave the women
to their fun. They're all back to their usual boring habits, even Beccy, now
looking more relaxed and satisfied: a quick puff, a cursory exhale, a half
forgotten drop of the hand. You'd think smoking was an unimportant thing in
their lives.  But we all know better now, don't we folks?

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