I tried to kill myself in Woodshop class.
Quicker than Michael Jackson could Shamone Hee Hee, I pushed the drill bit into my wrist and turned it on. There was only one problem I hadn’t anticipated – it fucking hurt.
Faster than Cyndi Lauper could waffle iron the side of her head, I turned the drill off. There was some blood and I actually managed to drill a small hole in my wrist, but it was nothing a Band-Aid from the school nurse and a Woodshop Incident Report couldn’t remedy.
My scar ended up being shaped like a lightning bolt. Yes, I was the pre-Harry Potter of suicidal kids.
Attempting suicide ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me because I finally didn’t give a shit.
I was ready to smoke at Stoner Wall.
Band-Aid on wrist, this determined badass found her spot on the wall. Months of observational study paid off:
- Lean on wall, do not free stand.
- If conversation ensues, simply turn head to side or stare off into space without looking at friend. (Friend understands protocol and will not take personally.)
- Pull smokes out of pocket, not purse. Especially if you’re a dude. Hard pack is preferred. If new pack, flip pack upside down and beat into palm of hand. This is called “packing.” Then flip one smoke upside down. This is called a “Lucky.” If using a soft pack, be sure to flick out cigarette and put in teeth without cigarette touching fingers. This takes practice.
- Light up with lighter on high. Flame must be a minimum of three inches high. Do not light heavily Aqua Netted bangs on fire. Exception to rule is Zippo.
- Pretend to inhale.
- Extra points for smoke rings.
- Look very relaxed from hit, as if life is so hard that you need to smoke.
- Put free hand in pocket, but not same pocket as smokes.
- Flick cherry off with finger instead of stomping out.
I looked just like everyone else, except I was still wearing ruffled plaid shirts and cords and everyone else wore mullets and jean jackets with Iron Maiden Iron-ons.
Sandy was one of the only other girls at Stoner Wall. She hung out with a mullet-head named Tommy whose eyes were always bright red.
She bounced up to me, far too perky for the stoner crowd.
“Can I bum a smoke?”
I pulled out my stolen soft-pack of ugly-ass brown Mores, aka, the grossest cigarettes ever invented, but when at the mercy of New Dad’s choice of smoke and being cool, they were my only option. And my only connect for Kools, Eve, had moved to Fresno.
“Tommy has Camels. Come on.”
I followed Sandy to Tommy’s spot on the wall, grateful that the lameness of my smokes was unspoken. Could this girl actually be nice? It was doubtful.
She bummed two of the shortest cigarettes I’d ever seen from Tommy. I was used to Mores, which were approximately a foot-long, but these were even shorter than my Kools. And there was no filter.
Pretending to inhale was challenge enough, but now I had the added challenge of tobacco collecting in my mouth. I took Tommy’s lead and picked the tobacco out of my teeth and flicked it.
Flicking was a big thing with the smoking-crowd.
Sandy was super animated and talked really fast. She told me that she and Tommy had been neighbors since they were four, they lived two blocks from school and she could get cigarettes from The Sev with a note from her mom, but she didn’t have any money so she was out.
I immediately offered her my leftover allowance.
She counted it and calculated that we could buy one pack of brand-name smokes, or two packs of generics. Then we’d get one each. And they made generic menthols! This was a good day indeed.
We took off for The Sev. Tommy had detention, so he stayed behind. Of course, he didn’t tell me that. Actually he didn’t speak at all. Good thing he had a friend in Sandy. She talked enough for all of us.
Forged note in hand, the two of us moseyed up to The Sev counter. I hid my trembling hands in my corduroy pockets. The thought of getting arrested was mortifying, but my fear of never having a friend was just a touch larger than my fear of the consequences I may have to endure.
There were 8th graders everywhere, in line, at the Slurpee machine, hanging out in the parking lot – I’d somehow stumbled upon the Mecca of after school cool.
Now I wanted to get arrested. I fantasized about how many ranks of the badass scale I would go up with everyone watching as I was handcuffed and put into the back of a cop car. A sense of calm came over me. I pulled my hands out of my pockets.
The clerk looked over the note, looked up at Sandy, and handed over the cigarettes without question.
I knew this was when Sandy would bolt, but once we got out of eyeshot of the 7-11 clerk, she handed me my change and a pack of smokes.
“I owe you a pack when I get my allowance.”
I knew she’d never repay. I knew this was the end of our friendship. I knew she’d probably start bullying me tomorrow.
“You wanna come over and watch Days?”
I fought the urge to look behind me for the real friend she was talking to and to ask her what the hell “watching Days” meant.
Five minutes later, I sat in Sandy’s den on my very own Lazy Boy watching Days of Our Lives and chain-smoking generic cigarettes. There was a huge overflowing crystal ashtray on the small table between us. I occasionally gasped or pretended to tear up so she’d believe that I’d been following Days for years.
Through the smoke-haze, the figure of a tall, middle-aged, redheaded woman approached. Oh my God, it was Sandy’s mom! I mashed out my cigarette immediately. We were so busted.
“God dammit Sandy open a fucking door for Christ’s sake!”
Then she pulled a smoke out of Sandy’s new pack.
“I thought you had a carton, why are you bumming mine?”
This was unlike any home I’d ever been in. I wanted to live here. Yesterday.
Sandy looked at my wrist. “What happened?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s stupid.”
And that was the beginning of my 10-year friendship with Sandy, my addiction to Days of Our Lives and my love of smoking indoors.
 Zippo’s were so cool that flame length didn’t even come into play. Unfortunately, I was never rad enough to even figure out where to purchase one until I was about thirty. Zippo protocol was also very complicated. It included, but was not limited to, flipping open AND shut without using one’s fingers. One either had to open the lighter on one’s jeans, or simply with the power of a forceful flick. The opportunities for dorking-out were far too many for this new smoker, and Bic disposable lighters came in three-packs. With savings like that, Bic won out.