TGIF

(by LB831052@aol.com, 22 February 1999)


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   TGIF 

   I am a turncoat. A traitor. A disgrace to the cause. You see, I was a non-
smoker. Not a vehement one, per se, but a passive-aggressive one. If I were
with a crowd of people I would choose non-smoking, even if I knew there were
smokers in the group. If someone asked to smoke in my car or apartment I would
tell them I preferred they didn't. I was 27 years old, and I had never smoked.
   Then I met Dave. I was at the bar at TGI Friday's. I'm not into the singles
thing, I wasn't looking to meet someone. I was there waiting for (chronically
unreliable) friend who was meeting me for lunch. I wasn't even really
comfortable being at a bar. I'm more a resturant kind of person. But I could
pull it off if I needed to, so I sat there and eventually the bartended asked
me what I wanted to drink. I was embarassed to order a coke, so I ordered a
gin and tonic. I wasn't much of a drinker, but I could drink socially if I
needed to, and I knew they had a nice taste and a pleasant little effect. I
sat there sipping my gin and tonic and reading the paper that someone had left
behind, and worrying that by the time Christine actually showed and we ate,
that I'd be late getting back to work. The paper wasn't very interesting, but
I can't just sit and not do anything. 

    Off to my right I notice a new presence. Then a voice asked me "Are you
using that, Miss?" Thinking he was talking about some other section of the
paper I looked around and was face to face with the person I would come to
know as Dave. He kinda looks like Davey Jones of the Monkeys, but less goofy.
And he has a HUGE smile. Looking up that's all I saw, this huge, winning
smile. I seriously barely noticed the unlit cigarette hanging out of the
corner of his mouth. Actually, it's not so much that I didn't notice it, but
that it looked so natural. It matched his rakish look, the big grin, and his
confident charisma. Like the way the pipe looks natural in one of those
little wooden fisherman statues, or Santa pictures. I have to admit I was
flustered. I was so fixated on his huge, gentle, friendly smile that all I
did was smile wide back at him. Until he asked again. "May I?" Which of
course is one of those stupid set-ups right out of a sitcom. My dumbstruck
brain wondered how he could be reading my mind. How did he know I wanted to
be with him? "May he?" Well, yes, but I couldn't very well just say "yes,
please!" What the hell did he mean by "May I"? He pointed at the unused
ashtray in front of me on the bar. "Oh." And then he said "Thanks" and he
reached across me and took the glass ashtray. As he leaned in front of me I
smelled the aroma of tobacco on him. For the first time it didn't mean
something awful to me. Instead of being the smell of ugly old women and
unpleasant smoking relatives and my clothes for days after having to be in a
bar, instead it smelled warm and exotic. And my blood rushed though my veins.
I could actually feel it coursing.
   As I watched, Dave sat two stools down, and very casually fished a book of
matches out of the front pocket of his denim jacket, and flicked one to life.
He touched it to the tip of the cigarette still dangling from the very corner
of his mouth and sucked it to a glow, then whipped the match flame out. All in
one perfectly fluid, practiced motion. Then we made eye contact and he smiled
wide again, the cigarette still hanging out of the corner of the smile. He
introduced himself as Dave, I introduced myself as Sue, and we chatted. For
the next hour or so we talked about life and politics, about movies and books,
about High School and bad romances, and everything in between. He smoked all
the cigarettes in his pack and then went off to the machine to get more. I
don't think there was a moment we spoke where he wasn't smoking. Even when he
spoke, often enough smoke came out with his words. I was transfixed by
everything he did, including this. When the topic of smoking came up,
naturally enough, he told me how much he liked to smoke. He told me about how
it relaxed him and speeded him up at the same time. He told me how it gave him
something to do with his hands and pass the time while waiting. He made it
sound like a wonderful thing. I was somewhat embarrassed to admit to him that
I had never even tried smoking. He was a little surprised, but said that I
looked like a real goody two shoes, and said that he wasn't surprised at all.
And then he seemed a little more distant. I panicked. Ohmygod, I had had this
amazing connection with this person and smoking was going to get in the way?
Not likely. I asked him if I could try "one of those".  It sounded odd. It was
obvious what I meant, but it sounded like I was too disgusted to even say the
word. He furled his eyebrows like I had insulted him. This was actually
getting worse! I panicked further. I started speaking frantically to try to
get back to the level of comfort we had had. I had to regain ground.
   "Dave, I'm sorry. I don't mean to judge. You're right. I shouldn't be
judgmental about something I know nothing about. Look. May I have one of your
- cigarettes - to try? There I said it. I don't know that I've ever said that
word in my life." He laughed. Thank god. Then I laughed too. "You've never
even said the word "cigarette"? I nodded. "I mean it does come up in
conversation, even amongst non-smokers. I've heard them say it". Well I
haven't said it before. And to tell you the truth, it felt really, really
weird saying it just now. It came out like I was spitting out a block of
wood." Did I mention that I had kept ordering gin and tonics? By this time, I
was well-along, if you catch my drift. Not that meeting this man hadn't messed
with my brain enough.
   "I think you need more practice then. Say it again."
   "What?"
   "The word"
   "Okay. I can say it. I can. Cigarette. There I said it. May I smoke one of
your - cigarettes, please? There. Please pass me your pack of - cigarettes,
please, I would like to - smoke one."
   And he did. He picked up his pack and offered me the open end. I reached
over. I hesitated. Then I did it. I touched one. It was squishy. And really
light in my hand. I felt like I was 5 years old and playing dress-up in my
mother's closet. We locked eyes. I took the cigarette and looked at it in my
hand. I tried to hold it in a lady-like fashion, not the masculine way Dave
held his. 
Once again I felt my blood rushing, and this time I actually felt my heart
beating in my chest. What was that doing in my hand? And a drink in the other?
And I was talking to this - man. And I was at a bar, and I was beginning to
feel like this is the moment. If I can smoke this - cigarette, I will
officially be a grown-up. I had never realized it before, but all my life up
until that very moment I had felt like I was pretending to be a woman, when I
was just a girl. And now I was going to become a woman of the world. One who
sits at a bar with her own drink and smokes a cigarette. And can even say the
word out loud.
   "Dave. Would you light my - cigarette for me?"
   And with that Dave brought the tip of the match to MY waiting cigarette and
made me a woman. I breathed in the slightest bit and blew the foreign smoke
out. It was not very pleasant. Which was really weird, since I had been
savoring the second-hand smoke from Dave. I thought it odd, so I took another
little puff. And it was still rather like eating cardboard. Then I looked up
and saw Dave watching me and my little experiment. In my mind this was the one
and only way to make this thing work. And at that moment it was the only thing
I had ever wanted. I put on my defiant face, locked stares with him, and tried
to appear confident as I put the cigarette, MY cigarette, to my lips again. I
pursed my lips tight and inhaled deeply. The smoke caught in my throat and I
couldn't breathe. I tried to hold back coughing, but my eyes started to tear,
and I coughed. A lot. Dave laughed. I laughed. I breathed deep chestsfull of
clean air as I laughed and looked at the burning cigarette in my hand with new
respect. Not as easy as it looks. Not at all. "How the hell do you smoke these
things?" Then I noticed he was touching me. I had coughed, and he had done the
normal, useless, patting on the back thing, and now his arm was around me. I
liked it there. I wanted it to stay there. I got nervous again. So as I looked
dead in his eyes I brought the cigarette to my lips again and pulled on it,
more gingerly this time. The smoke rushed in, I could feel it, and as I pulled
the cigarette from my lips I saw more smoke trailing out of the end I had just
inhaled from. In fact there was smoke everywhere. Between Dave's smoke and -
my smoke (it still seemed weird) and all the other smokers that had come to
the bar it was damn smoky. I realized that my sweater was going to smell like
smoke, like Dave (in my mind now), for days. And that was pretty okay,
actually. I blew the smoke out of my lungs and actually saw white come back
out this time. And I felt very light-headed.
   Dave was just starting to release me from my coughing fit when he saw I was
getting a little dizzy. He asked me if I felt lightheaded. I told him I did,
but also that it was kinda a good lightheaded. I decided to be bold and I put
the - my cigarette to my mouth and let it dangle there while I straightened
myself on my stool. Then I saw myself in the mirror behind the bar, cigarette
dangling out of my mouth, sitting next to this amazingly cute guy. It was
enlightening. There was a woman in the mirror. I could be that woman. I wanted
to be that woman. He saw me staring at my self, the cigarette dangling from my
lips. He smiled his wry smile, I looked at him in the mirror and I smiled,
cigarette in the corner of my mouth, like his had been. I turned to him and
raised my drink. "To the new Sue." We clinked glasses and I inhaled deeply
before removing my almost finished cigarette from my mouth. I let the smoke
hang in my lungs and I enjoyed the high. I was definitely dizzy now, but there
were too many reasons for that to count. So I downed my drink and slammed the
empty glass down on the bar. I pulled another cigarette from Dave's pack and
put it to my mouth. I took my nearly finished one and used it to light the new
one, like I had seen my babysitter do when I was little. The filter was red
with my lipstick and misshapen from my clumsy attempts at holding it on my
mouth. I sucked the cigarette alight, and excused myself. I needed to pee like
a racehorse.
   I stumbled off the barstool, and Dave helped me get my footing. My heels we
too high for being this tipsy. I carefully negotiated the steps down to the
restroom area. Reaching out to the banister was weird. I had a lit cigarette
in my hand, and no idea how to safely maneuver it. I walked past the non-
smoking section and saw the disapproving looks from that crowd. I also saw
more than the usual share of stares from men. I know that smoking is widely
perceived to be sexy, but I wasn't prepared for how differently people seemed
to regard you when you have a lit cigarette in your hand. I felt self-
conscious and powerful at the same time. I definitely felt like a grown-up,
like a woman.
   I reached the ladies room and reached a stall quickly. I was in a rush, but
everything was difficult, since I had this lit cigarette in my hand to deal
with. How could I even pull my panties down? Once again I put it in the corner
of my mouth, and thought of Dave. I smiled automatically. I pulled my panties
down hurriedly and hovered over the seat and let go. I can't tell you how good
that pee felt. I exhaled in relief and when I tried to breathe again the
cigarette was there thwarting my attempts. Without Dave watching, I had no
particular desire to actually smoke the thing. But there it was in my mouth.
What the hell. I inhaled and filled my lungs. I felt it catch in my throat
again, but I relaxed and let the smoke in. I felt the effect immediately. It
was very nice. The pee came more strongly. And then other things came more
strongly. My head was beginning to spin, and I couldn't quite keep my balance.
I leaned against the wall of the stall, and then actually on the paper
dispenser. I was very sick, yet I didn't want Dave to lose patience. I needed
to get up and get back out there. I wiped and flushed, and then my head spun
again. I fell to my knees and dry heaved into the toilet. My face was wet with
tears, and I knew my makeup must be a mess. I could feel the cold tile through
my nylons, and realized that there was a little dampness on the floor. So I
would have dark spots on my knees too. Great. The moment finally passed, and I
regained my composure. I stood up and straighten myself. This, of course,
meant putting my cigarette back in my lips to dangle while I used both hands
to straighten my skirt and blouse and undergarments. What a fucking mess!
   I stepped out of the stall and into the sink area. A young teenager was there
touching up her hair. She glanced at me like I was from another planet. I
looked in the mirror. I saw what she was looking at. I looked like a tramp. My
clothes all a jumble, obviously drunk, makeup all running, and a cigarette
dangling from my mouth. Times like these, all you can do is muster your
remaining dignity and get through it. I demolished and rebuilt the blighted
neighborhood that had been carefully applied makeup. I brushed out my hair,
and I fixed all my lines. Since I didn't want to choke in front of Dave again,
I smoked the whole time. At one point as I applied eye liner the smoke drifted
up into my eye and burned, causing me to tear and wrecking that side. So I
practiced holding my cigarette in my hand as I worked sometimes. After the
repairs were complete, I stepped out of my sanctuary. Right opposite the
ladies room were telephones and a cigarette machine. Well, now's the moment. I
fished out some singles and put them in the machine. I bought myself a pack of
Newports. I remembered all the girls in High School smoked them. I thought
they must be a good starter brand. I opened the pack of cigarettes, my first
pack of cigarettes and took one out. I lit it and inhaled deeply. The menthol
was amazing. Really delicious. Now this, I could get used to. Why in the world
would Dave smoke that other crap? I waked back through the non-smoking
section, brandishing my new pack of cigarettes in front of me. "These are my
cigarettes. I'm a smoker now", I felt like telling everyone. I made it back to
the bar and Dave was gone. The bartender was cleaning up the area where he had
sat. He was about to empty his ashtray. I put my hand on the bartenders and
stopped him from emptying it. "Wait. Leave that please." 
"I'll bring it right back after I empty it" 
"No please, leave it."
   He shrugged and put the glass ashtray back on the bar. I fished out one of
Dave's not quite finished butts. I put it in my mouth, and lit it with one of
the matchbooks on the bar. I inhaled it deeply. This was his cigarette. In his
mouth. He smoked through this filter, and now that same smoke is in my lungs.
   I was startled as Dave actually returned. "I thought you had left!"
   "Never!"


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