New Dad smoked More brand cigarettes. They were long and brown, which I immediately knew was not cool, but it’s hard to score smokes when you’re nine so you work with what you’ve got. By the time I hit middle school, I had the 7-11 note-from-Mom-trick down, but for now, I had to improvise. Starting a new drug certainly has its challenges. On tippy-toes, I lifted a pack from the carton New Dad kept on top of the fridge and headed outside.
One of the best things about this house was the river in the backyard. Well, I called it a river. It was actually an irrigation ditch, but it was chock-full of hiding spots and was alarmingly calming. I positioned myself in a small bank, struck a match, and lit that long, brown cigarette. I held the smoke in my cheeks and blew it out. I did it again. And again. I had no clue what inhaling was or how the whole thing worked, so it seemed like no big deal. Game on.
I put the pack in my little checkered tan and brown purse; due to poverty and youth, it was actually my first purse. I had not only a purse, but smokes in said purse. I walked to school like a badass. Just having them on my person gave me the confidence of Madonna. I wished the stogies were white, but they would do.
The first person I saw was greasy Eve. I pulled her over to the monkey bars and showed her the contents of my purse. She was not surprised.
“Those are gross. Let me get you some Kools after school. They’re minty.” She said, rolling her crusty eyes.
Who knew Eve was so cool? Ends up her parents and sister all smoked Kools. I realized right then and there that Kool cigarette smoke was a large portion of her unique mélange of stink. I now felt like even more of a badass. After all, I hadn’t even smoked an entire cigarette yet and I was already changing brands.
And did Eve ever deliver. She snuck a pack from her mom’s boyfriend’s carton and we found an excellent hiding spot behind a dumpster in her Section 8 apartment complex. I’m sure most kids smoked by nine who lived there so I’m not really sure why we hid at all.
After one hit off that sweet ass Kool I knew I’d found my brand. It was approximately 80,000 times better tasting than New Dad’s nasty ass More. There was just one big hitch in my giddy up, I couldn’t smoke at school! I was an exceptional student. I wasn’t about to get in trouble.
Therein lies the rub. It was time for plan C. Yeah C, as in cancer.
I devised a master plan. Eve and I would go to Sierra Stix after school for fries. I couldn’t take Marie because she’d never understand the smoking and would try to talk me out of it. She was very pragmatic for a 9-year-old.
Sierra Stix was the afterschool hangout for the cool kids, AKA, kids with parents who could give two shits of the whereabouts of their children. Or the luckiest of the lucky, kids with parents that worked swing shift.
They would eat dripping-of-grease brown paper bags of French fries and play video games while rocking out to exceptionally loud music on the juke box. This was a dangerous proposition. I was not only putting myself in the firing line, but was doing so an entire two blocks from school and from the false sense of protection I felt with teachers being within screaming-bloody-murder distance.
Eve and I stood in front of the heavy wooden doors of Sierra Stix. I unzipped my purse and made sure my Kools were showing. My little hand shook as I heaved open the humungous door. The sound of Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” poured out into the parking lot and ricocheted off my bones it was so loud. I immediately felt this was a place my cool big sisters would hang out in their tight-ass camel-toe jeans with roach clips holding back their feathered manes, not where plaid cowgirl shirt and blue cords lameass me would be. My Kool induced cool was sucked into a vortex somewhere very far away from me.