My Dad woke me up that morning, and I had the feeling that I had forgotten something. I realized that I was asleep on the floor. That's right, it's Christmas day, and I'm on the floor because Aunt Linda has my bed. The little girl within me began to get excited the way I had done every Christmas morning for most of my life, but the young adult was not so anxious. There was something I needed, something I had forgotten, but I couldn't think of what it was at first. The answer came to me as I thought about the events of last night: Aunt Linda, Grandma and Grandpa, neighbors coming over, busy helping with food, answering the "how's school?" questions and such. Then going to my bedroom and helping with sheets for Aunt Linda, then bedtime, and that was all. Now I knew what was wrong!!
I never had the chance to secretly smoke cigarettes in my room like I had been doing every night for many months now. Shit. Oh well, that's OK, I thought. I can just slip off sometime this morning and have one. With Aunt Linda there in my room, I knew there was no chance to get them out right now without her seeing me, so I went down and had coffee with Mom and Dad.
I was 15 years old at this time. I had been smoking for over a year, just a few puffs with my friends at first (to be cool), but then I started to really like the way it made me feel. The dizzy and sick feeling I got the first few times I inhaled became a pleasant sensation which I wanted more often. I started stealing my Mom's Winstons and smoking alone in my room at night. I would usually keep a pack of Winstons hidden in the wooden chest at the foot of my bed with my dolls and stuffed animals on top keeping guard. After some practice, I began to get very good with inhaling, and I was able to smoke two cigarettes every night without my folks finding out. Summer vacation was great, because both my parents worked and I was able to smoke all day long. By the time school started again in the fall, I was smoking between 1/2 - 1 pack a day and loving it. How I handled the nonsmoking school situation is the subject of another story.
Now it was time for presents, and I had to play Santa, sitting on the floor in my robe and digging under the tree for the gifts and handing them out. I remember getting the long black leather boots I had loved so much in the store while shopping with Mom, and they also gave me some beautiful nail color, clear coat, files, dryer and all that stuff. I had this deal with Mom about letting me wear polish if I could stop biting my nails, and I was so proud when I opened the box that I held my lengthening nails up for all to see how long they had grown now that I had stoped biting them. I gave her a big hug, I smelled her cigarette smoke now close to me, and it smelled good to me for the first time in my life. In the past, I used to hate the fact that she smoked; I used to hate smelling it when I got close to her, but now it seemed to smell good to me.
Presents were done, and I ran up to take a shower. I had discovered that it was quite easy to smoke in the bathroom with the shower on and not leave a trace. With the window just open a crack, and with all the steam and smell of shampoo, soap and lotion, the air was always clean by the time my shower was done. The evidence was well flushed, Karen was clean and fresh-smelling, and (more important), she was happy and content after her shower. This time was different, however.
I started the water and then went into my room to retrieve a pack from the wooden chest. I unloaded the dolls and animals and dug down to feel for the Winstons under the blankets and clothes, but felt nothing there in the usual place. I remember groping around more and more, and taking things out and then recalling that I had finished the last one yesterday. It was so busy, I had not had time yesterday afternoon to steal another of Mom's packs, and I thought that I would do it tomorrow.....
Well, Karen, here we are. It is tomorrow, Christmas day, and there's nothing there: empty, vacant, missing, a void. I slammed the box shut and stormed into the bathroom.
How could I be so stupid! I knew that I had to get another pack so I would have it there, but I didn't do it. Karen, you are so lazy! There was no chance of getting one from the kitchen now, since everyone was there, so I sat on the toilet listening to the water and feeling the steam. I was reminded of the day that September just after the start of school when it was raining like hell, and everyone was taking the bus or getting driven to school. Nancy and I were on the bus, and we were missing out on the morning cigarettes we usually smoked on the way to school. We talked, and came up with a plan.
When the bus got to school and everyone ran out and stormed into the building, we ran around to the side by the gym door. The door was recessed into the building, so we were dry and no teachers were there that early because gym classes didn't start until second period. The door was blocked by some trees so no one could see us there. Out came the cigarettes, and I saw Nancy take a big drag, inhale, and then do a double-pump (of course, back then I didn't know that it was called a double pump). After I lit mine, I remember trying it, too, and I thought that it was cool. We smoked deeply and rapidly then, faster than I ever had before, and I was feeling pretty good as we bounced through the hall and went to homeroom.
But here in the bathroom with nothing to smoke on Christmas day, it was boring. I took my shower, going through the motions, dried, put on my lotion, then dressed in my room in my pantyhose, skirt and new black boots. My parents always wanted me to look nice on holidays, especially for Grandma and Grandpa, so I usually had to dress up a little. It seemed like an eternity before I got downstairs, but it had only been an hour. It was time to help Mom with the afternoon meal. I noticed that I had bitten one of my nails off.
I tried to make excuses to go out because it was SO important to see Nancy or Linda, and it couldn't wait, but my Mom stood firm and told me that I had promised to help with dinner and she couldn't do it alone. This was so important to the family, and on and on...I fought back, trying my best to escape to my friends, but she continued to hold her ground. We bickered for quite a while, and we both got mad and then got very quiet. I noticed that I had bitten another one of my newly-long nails off.
In silence, or with just a few words, we got everything ready and called everyone to eat. I don't remember much during the dinner except that I was eating a lot. After the food, my Mom, my Dad and Aunt Linda were all smoking and talking at the table while Grandpa was trying to talk to me and wasn't getting much response. I watched the others taking drags, inhaling and exhaling and saw the smoke filling the room. To this day, I feel bad about being so removed from Grandpa, but I just didn't feel like talking.
After the meal, my Mom and Aunt Linda and I picked things up and set up the dishwasher. They were gabbing on and I was pretty quiet (but I did apologize to Mom for being such a bitch earlier). I began working out a plan to get a pack of Winstons from the drawer when they went into the living room, but it was completely foiled when my Mom opened the drawer, pulled out the last pack from the carton and walked out into the other room. This was turning out to be an AWFUL day for me!
We were all sitting in the living room on Christmas afternoon: Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Linda, my parents and me. They were chatting about everything: politics, family members, sports, clothes, what work was like, everything. We had a cookoo clock that ticked and I kept hearing it swinging back and forth endlessly as the afternoon went on and on. At this point, I realized that I had gone over 24 hours without a cigarette.
I was watching Aunt Linda sitting on the couch, smoking her VS120's. She was in her 30's then and has long, blonde hair. The ashtray was on the arm of the couch, and she sat with her elbow propped up, the smoke drifting off into the room as she spoke and laughed and tapped ashes into the tray in an easy motion. You guys would love to watch her, because she takes long drags, spreads her fingers wide apart and closes her eyes when she smokes. Her inhales are also quite deep, and, although I have never asked her, I think that she really enjoys smoking.
My Mom was dangling a Winston and my Dad was smoking his Marlboro red. Both my parents have smoked ever since I can remember. My Dad has since quit, but my Mom smokes on, committed to her habit but complaining about it all the time. They're a weird couple, but cute. In any case, all this smoking was driving me crazy and I was crossing my legs back and forth and swinging my feet in my new leather boots as I drummed my fingers on the coffee table. I thought that the day would never end. It was probably my worst Christmas ever. Another nail, now the third, was gone.
Finally, it began to get dark, and the doorbell rang. I jumped up to answer it, hoping, just hoping that it was Nancy. She had planned to come over later in the day so we could exchange gifts. My Mom was by the door first, opened it, and she began to tell Nancy that we were busy. I saw Nancy standing there in the cold, holding a paper bag. "MOM!" I screamed (a little loud for the occasion), "Wait! I need to see her! I have a present for her. OK?" My dear, wonderful, sweet, adorable, mother agreed and let us go upstairs.
Nancy and I went to my room and closed the door. I grabbed the gift I had bought her: a yellow fleece top that I knew she really liked. As I handed it to her and wished her a Merry Christmas, I asked if she had a cigarette. She handed me the paper bag she had been carrying and she grinned. As she started to unwrap her gift, I looked into the bag and saw two gifts: One was a small funny-shaped package and the other was an almost-square box. I took the box and it felt a little soft as I squeezed it. I smiled and peeled the wrapping away and saw that it was 4 packs of B&H regulars. In the meantime, Nancy was opening the box and looking at her sweater. We both said thank yous and hugged each other. I smelled smoke on Nancy, and began to feel like my ordeal was nearly over. My angel of mercy had come at last. As we hugged, there was a knock at the door. It was my Dad.
Slipping the packs of B&H under the blanket of my bed, I asked Dad to come in as I began to unwrap the other gift from Nancy: a cute brush and comb set. I showed him the gift and he smiled, then told me that it was time to bring Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Linda to the airport. Nancy had to go because I wasn't allowed to have friends over at night alone, so we went down and I kissed everyone goodbye, giving Grandpa a special hug. My parents were going to give Nancy a ride over to her house, and I squeezed her hand as everyone left and I was alone in the house.
I watched the car pull out and I waved from the window. Once the lights were a little down the street, I raced up the stairs and pulled out a pack of the B&H's. I peeled it open, tore the wrapper, tapped one out, then held it and realized that I didn't know where the lighter was. I ran back downstairs and saw my Aunt Linda's lighter there on the couch, beckoning to me. I sat down, put the cigarette to my lips, lit it, and took a long drag.
As I inhaled, I felt a rough sensation in my throat as the smoke rushed past it on the way into my lungs. I held my breath for a few seconds and then exhaled. The old, wonderful feeling returned. Thinking of Nancy and me by the gym door, I dragged again and did a double pump. As I blew out the long stream of smoke, I propped my arm up like Aunt Linda had done and tapped a few ashes while a little dizziness came on. I felt so wonderful after such an awful day, and it felt so great to sit there and smoke. I knew that Santa had come for me at last. I got what I really, really, really wanted for Christmas, and I was so excited. I finished the B&H and then lit another one. As I smoked, I remember forming my New Year's resolutions: 1) I would never allow myself to be without cigarettes, and 2) I would "come out" to my parents about my smoking.
I smoked almost half of that pack that night, between the living room and my bedroom, and I also kept each one of my resolutions during the following year. The worst Christmas had turned into the best Christmas.