Can We Still Enjoy the After-Sex Cigarette?
Here are some stories in which tobacco has brought joy to my heart whilst simultaneously delivering toxins to the very same heart.
by jeremy glass
How do you write an article about tobacco without advocating smoking in the process? A couple weeks ago, I compiled a bunch of stories about coffee and thought nothing of it. Tobacco is different. It kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, has zero health benefits, and has an attached stigma that makes smokers filth in the eyes of non-smokers. Still, you can't deny it has a place within America's history and culture.
I’ve been smoking on and off for the last couple of years now and attribute my reckless abandonment to my health from television and good ol’ fashion chemical addiction. I can say, with certainty, that cigarettes haven’t positively affected my health and never ever will, but they have been the catalyst to some interesting social situations. Vice brings people together because we’re always going to need partners in crime to pat your back and tell you everything is going to be okay. Addiction runs hand-in-hand with passion. Passion leads to mistakes, but mistakes lead to stories. So, here are some stories in which tobacco has brought joy to my heart whilst simultaneously delivering toxins to the very same heart.
On my third date with a girlfriend–who I would later learn had lied about both her name and age–we met up with my roommate and walked across the bridge in Boston. Of course, at the time, I was none the wiser to her pathological liar ways, so I graciously accepted the false personality she presented. Alongside her mysterious past, she portrayed herself as a jazzy-yet-modern woman who loved good music and good tobacco. We were halfway across the bridge when she pulled out a tiny metal tin. Inside were four cigarillos–expensive ones. She asked me if I wanted one and I said yes. She offered one to my roommate, who politely declined. The three of us stopped and looked over the water to the city we all loved. The sweet aroma of tobacco enveloped the three of us and I had this nagging feeling of love deep inside of me. Of course, I later found out that that was her first time smoking.
I see her deep green eyes whenever I take a cigarette out of its pack. Admittedly, I’d taken a few more out of the pack than I promised, but quitting is such a bitch. She’s been the only person to accept my lax stance on smoking. I keep telling her I’m not addicted, but my craving during old movies and Mad Men make us both think differently. She’s never mad at me when I tell her I’ve slipped and smoked–taken a drag from a friend or bummed one from a stranger at a bar. She never rolls her eyes or makes me feel stupid for my undoubtedly stupid decision; she just tells me she’ll be proud of me when I’m done smoking. Because of this gentle persuasion, I never get anxious when I break. She’ll never be disappointed in me and that makes me want to be a better person and kick this habit more than anything else.
I was such a wreck when I first moved to Brooklyn. I was steeped in anxiety. I used to schedule my day to the very minute on this cheap graphed stationery I found in Chinatown.
9:21 – Wake up, shower, and make breakfast.
9:45 – Leave the house, go to the nearest establishment with WiFi and look for jobs
12:30 – Eat a healthy and inexpensive lunch, then go running.
The funniest part was, despite my expert planning, I never stuck to my schedule. I should amend that statement–I never started my schedule. I’d wake up at 9:15, turn off my alarm, and fall asleep for another hour. Then I’d get out of bed, buy a pack of Bugler from the bodega on Wyckoff Ave and roll a cigarette on my stoop. I’d sit and smoke and ponder my life while my roommates were busy successfully conquering New York. We all used to smoke in our living room and I remember my brother would always yell at me to turn on the fan so the smoke wouldn’t form a permanent nicotine cloud. After scouring the Internet for jobs all day, I would be overjoyed to have human contact when everyone came home. We’d swap cigarettes and stories and watch TV together as the inevitable haze took over the living room.
“Bro, wanna bone up?” My brother asked with a mischievous grin. Before I could answer, my mom spoke up.
“Are you boys smoking cigarettes?” Our mouths dropped and all the color left our faces, which was quickly noticed.
“Don’t think I don’t understand what ‘bone up’ means.” She said. All I could do was laugh. My dad was still swimming in the ocean, so he didn’t hear any of this. And he certainly didn’t hear when my mom asked if she could join us for a cigarette.
“Are…you kidding?” My brother asked.
“No!” She said, “Let’s do it. I’ve never smoked a cigarette before.”
So we all walked down the beach, out of sight from everyone and settled upon a small section of sand where a castle once proudly stood. Adam and I took out our concealed packs of smokes and lit up. I asked my mom if she wanted one of my Camels, but my brother insisted that she smoked one of his menthols.
“Ugh, menthols are disgusting,” I said.
“I like it!” said my mom. I could never have imagined this scenario. Every TV show and movie where parents find out their kids smoke ends in extreme punishment. But here we were on vacation in Cape Cod, covered in sand and smoking cigarettes. It was so weird but so nice.
Then there's the after-sex cigarette. After a ferociously unbridled sexual Olympic event, a post-bone bone is second to none. It's the rush of nicotine coupled with the heat in your mouth that makes you feel alive. But there's more to it than that. There are the times you share a smoke, a gesture that becomes oddly romantic as you pass the cigarette back and forth across the bed. You watch her inhale and see the filter stain red with her lipstick. You try to impress her by blowing smoke rings and realize it can't be done. You watch her do the French inhale and briefly become aroused again. You wake up the next morning feeling like you've gargled a bucket of sea urchins, but it felt so romantic at the time.
The way I started smoking was actually the fucking dumbest thing on earth. It’s worse than drunkenly asking for a drag outside of a bar, worse than succumbing to the bright colors of the boxes behind the counter, and it had nothing to do with Joe Camel. It was the summer after I graduated high school and I was with the girl who’d been slowly dragging me down to the bleak bottom of the universe. We were vehemently straight-edge; never drank, no drugs, no smoking. She was the kind of girl who told stories about herself and her life to everybody. But she, being particularly stingy and negative, never really had any interesting stories to tell people. So she would construct scenarios and memories and talk about them with vigor after they were launched. There was the time she threw a “fake rave” during New Years Eve, where she insisted all of her friends hang out inside of a humid room blasting techno and take breath mints that looked like drugs. There was the time where she jumped out of my car at a stoplight and went to Friendly’s for ice cream, leaving me blindsided in the middle of West Hartford. And there was the time she thought it’d be hilarious if we bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked. I, being the naive and submissive son-of-a-bitch I was, forced myself into believing it’d be a funny story. So we each took a drag. As far as I can tell from her Instagram, she now buys a pack a day while I’m busy writing stories about how tobacco has affected my love life.
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