Thursday, January 27, 2005

Topic: "Discipline from Mother"

Friday afternoons in middle school, I'd get special permission to ride the school bus home with my friend Alicia. Whole teems of us would end up loitering shamelessly at the plastic tables and chairs outside the St. Louis Bread Company on spring and summer days. We'd scrape together enough change to buy one large fountain drink and use the free bread butter from the condiment station to grease down a table. Leaning back in our chairs, we could slide the cup easily in the direction of a thirsty cohort without having to reach. There were free refills. We were not eagerly awaited by the staff. Luckily for us it was before we started to care about that sort of insignificant detail, and maybe even a little beofre we started to blatantly ignore it.

One Friday, Jenny Sherwin showed up with a pack of Camel Lights. "Gross," I thought. How had she gotten them, anyway? She lit one, and in an instant the vision of purity I had of her disappated with the smoke trailing out of her mouth. It wasn't just her, though - it was everyone. Alicia, Carlyn, Mike ("Mike?!"), Tammy - my "boyfriend", though he ultimately refused an actual cigarrette, directed people to exhale toward him, professing that he'd always liked the smell.

I was disgusted. I was confused. I was enchanted. Everyone else was doing it. I took my friend Tammy by the hand and dragged her to the parking lot behind the building. "Okay, so, how do you do this?" She laughed uproariously at me. "What do you mean, how do you do it? Put it in your mouth and sort of suck on the filter to get the smoke in your mouth, then blow it back out." Easy enough. I tried it, tentatively. She laughed again at my choking and sputtering. Afte a couple more tries I sauntered back to my friends, convinced I'd mastered the requisite coolness factor of smoking. We spent the afternoon sitting around lazily in the sun, like other Fridays before this one, with the addition of our new shared secret.

I sidled up to Jenny as nonchalantly as a thirteen-year-old girl can approach another thirteen-year-old girl and asked to bum a couple of smokes for the road. She scoffed a little, I think. I thanked her coolly and stuffed the two cylindrical sin sticks in the inside pocket of my stonewashed denim purse. When my dad pulled up, I jumped in the car self-admittedly smelling like smoke and complaining that a couple of stupid people I barely knew had been smoking, and bristling with the excitement of what was probably my first (not last) blatant rebellious act. I ran up the stairs at home and stashed the cigarrettes in my jewelry box, where no one would ever find them, and totally forgot about them for a few days.

Until Monday afternoon.

After my mother got home from work, she came into my room, shut the door, and sat on the side of my bed.

She never did that.

She had her serious face on - the one that makes the corners of her mouth turn downward in a thin-lipped frown and her eyebrows raise high behind her glasses. "I need to talk to you about something," she said. "I came in your room this mornign to look for a pair of earrings [cue my heart stopping] and I found cigarrettes in your jewelry box." I immediately started to cry. "I just wanted you to know," she continued, "that smoking is not acceptable." "I know, Mom. They're not even mine," I heard myself saying before I could stop myself, "they're my friend's she wanted me to hold them for her and now I'm getting in trouble and it's so stupid..." I sobbed, in terror and now potentially in much more trouble than if I'd just owned up to it. "I don't think someone who would ask you to do somethign like that is a very good friend. You should never, ever offer to do something like that. Smoking is bad for you, it makes you smell bad, it turns your skin and your teeth yellow..." "I know," I sniffed. "Okay. I love you." "I love you too, Mom. I'm sorry." Sorry. Sorry for what I hadn't said. Sorry for what I had said. Sorry for what she didn't know. Sorry I'd told a lie to keep her from being angry with me. And later - much later - sorry she hadn't seen right through it.

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