Smoking (NF, draft 1)

Well, I suppose I’ve liked the way smoke smelled ever since I met Ian for dinner at Dos Amigos and he was standing outside, casual, with his hands in the pockets of the black hooded jacket I had given him for his twenty-first birthday. I’d seen him smoke before – I’d often stood on the porch with him, talking about nothing or the girl that he was fucking – but I think that night outside of Dos was the first time I realized that I liked the way it smelled.

We’d grown close in the year since I had met him with my cousin, which is funny because that first time we’d gone for lunch, Tyler had complained about how much his best friend smoked. “It’s bad for you, man,” he’d said in a voice that knew it fell on deaf ears. They were both four years older than I, and that was around the time that I worshiped my cousin, so it should have followed that I’d have grown to hate Ian’s smoking too, but I didn’t.

Then there was DJ, the first boy I dated who smoked cigarettes. Before him I’d said that it would be a deal-breaker, as far as guys go, but that was shortly after I’d started seeing Ian and my cousin a lot, and I think being around Ian might have changed things. I probably shouldn’t have dated DJ, actually; it didn’t last for very long and he had a lot of issues, emotionally, but I think he could have been decent if he tried. And as long as I’m being honest, half the reason I dated him might have been because of the smoking and how romantic the image of it was to me. I’d started reading a lot of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and the other great Expats around that time as well, and they wrote such lovely pictures of languid idleness. It didn’t hurt that most of the images that stuck with me from The Sun Also Rises were those of Jake and Lady Bret Ashley and Robert Cohn, how they sat outside cafes, drinking and smoking and quarreling the hours away. So I thought it was rather a nice picture, and DJ was a musician, and how much more romantic can that get in the eyes of a budding female writer, really?

Ian could have killed me for dating DJ when he found out. Like I said before, the guy had a lot of issues, and he got controlling really quickly – DJ, not Ian – and for weeks after we broke up I used Ian as a shield if we ran into DJ downtown. There wasn’t much to do where we lived, and wandering around the downtown area was kind of a popular thing with the people that I hung out with. There was a coffee place I was especially fond of, Drips, where they didn’t mind if you got a drink and sat on their overstuffed couches for hours, and it gave us somewhere to be that wasn’t our houses. Something like freedom.

Ian and I used to sit on the benches downtown, under blooming crepe myrtles, or in the pine chips on this small playground around the corner from Drips, and I’d watch as he brought a burning Marlboro to his lips. We talked about everything in a haze of mentholated smoke. I didn’t find out until it was too late, how our families used to talk about us and when we’d get together. We never did; we got close a few nights, at a few parties where he was drunk and I was sober, but something always came up. It was probably a good thing, because half our rambling conversations were about the girls he was seeing; Ian wasn’t much for monogamy back then. But right before I graduated from high school, he started showing me pictures of this girl that he worked with. He wasn’t seeing her yet, but he wanted to. He was so cocky about it; I remember him telling me one day, “I’m gonna date this girl, Eve,” because that was what he called me.

It must have been around this time, he was trying to quit smoking.

Something I’ve been working on. It’s not much yet, but there are definitely more stories to add. I keep having really terrifying moments where I feel like I just don’t have a portfolio worth submitting to MFA programs and I want to go so badly. This semester is the most free time I’ve had in a long time but it’s hard to sit still and write here. There’s so much going on, I don’t like writing on my bed, I miss my big anthologies, and coffeeshops are always jam-packed. I know I need to truck on, but it’s really difficult right now.

That being said…here’s to perseverance and motivation! And the elusive muse. As Liz Gilbert would say, I would like the record to reflect that I, for one, showed up today. 


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