My first cigar was a bit like my first kiss—both tasted odd, reeking of cheap indulgences, lingering in the air for far too long afterwards. I regret one more than the other, but at the moment, it is hard to say which. But time will tell. Well, whether or not it tells the truth, I am not sure—but it will tell me something.
I tried to convince myself that I would want to wear dresses and cook meals from scratch and give birth to squealing babies once I really fell in love—and a kiss would be a nice way to start it off.
“You do things you never dreamt of, when you’re in love,” my grandmother told me. “You learn to accept the other person for who they are, and you get up at six in the morning to cook them breakfast because you love them, no matter what!” She said this as she cooked my grandfather lunch. I wondered how many meals she had cooked him during their marriage—thousands and thousands, I’m sure.
I was in Daniel’s truck when I should have fallen in love. Daniel was the perfect boy—well, what I mean is that he seemed to be the perfect boy. He fixed cars, played football, played trumpet in the school marching band, and even got good grades. My parents loved him. And I wanted to love him, too.
Dan adored me, but he would make fun of me sometimes for not being like the ‘rest’ of the girls. Oh sure, I didn’t exactly dress like a boy and I wore make-up from time to time, and I also enjoyed getting dressed up for dances—but something, he said, was so serious about me. I didn’t giggle when I should have, I didn’t hang up posters of half-naked male celebrities in my bedroom, and I didn’t spend very much money on my hair—I didn’t even have a designer purse. I preferred reading books, hanging pictures of impressionistic art in my room, and spending my money on more books and paintings, but I still wanted him to make me a girl. Alongside Dan, I knew no one would mistake me for being an unlikable girl—and I wanted to believe their new assumptions for myself.
We had been dating for two weeks and I wanted him to kiss me. I thought about what it would be like, his lips on mine, but something repulsed me about the act of kissing him. I didn’t want his face so close to mind, his gaping mouth with his pink tongue full of bacteria touching me. But I convinced myself it would be wonderful once I actually experienced it—the people in the movies seemed to enjoy it. So I probably would, too.
One day afterschool we sat in his truck waiting for traffic to die down before we left. The inevitable happened—he held my hand, kissed my cheek, and planted one on my lips seconds after. Hmm. Not bad. But… not good. I felt like there was a writhing slug in my mouth. I prayed for salt.
I waited for the clouds to part and the sun to beam down rays of womanly grace and girlish characteristics upon my being. I smiled at Dan and he smiled at me—he must have enjoyed it. Oh well, was this how it always was, then? As long as your guy is happy—maybe that is love. Being loved could be the same as being in love, couldn’t it?
I must have been desperate to get that taste out of my mouth, because that night I smoked my first cigar. I had been given the cigar as a gift from my grandpa—he loved smoking them and had always hoped for a grandson to smoke with. Unfortunately, all he was given were girls, so he told me the benefits of smoking a cigar after a long day at work.
“There, that’s nice,” he’d say, puffing out the first cloud of smoke. It seemed that he would get lost in the haze, reminiscing about the good ol’ days.
I wanted to have good days, too. Good days of other girls saying hi to me in the hallways and smiling at me as if I were one of them, and not some nerdy girl that didn’t get manicures or color her hair. I wanted to stand at the mirror in the school’s bathrooms and put on shiny pink lip gloss, and not feel like a freak doing it, or know that the minute the other girls walked out of the bathroom they would burst out laughing at my pathetic attempts to be Barbie. I was so lucky to have Dan.
After our first kiss, the following two weeks included many, many more kisses, and many, many more cigars I snuck from my grandparents house. I could tell that Dan really looked forward to those times when we would kiss, and I did, too—I always hoped that this time would be ‘it’. This time, he would look into my eyes and I would know that he saw me as a girlie girl—exactly what I wanted. Then, maybe other people would start to see me that way too.
One day during lunch, we sat outside on the school’s steps. The sun was hiding behind the clouds, but gave a hint of emerging any second. Dan held my hand, and kissed my cheek. I smiled, and he kissed me on the lips. After maybe ten seconds, he stopped suddenly and said, “What is wrong with you, anyways?”
I looked at him with the most puzzled, innocent face I could conjure.
“What are you talking about?” I knew what he was talking about.
“I’m talking about whenever we kiss, I feel like you’re doing me a favor and I’m just wasting your time or something. It’s like kissing a wall, you know.”
I pulled my hand out of his and looked at the ground. I was a failure after all—there really was no hope for me. Beside me sat a great guy who really adored me, and my heart was a blank slate of boredom, a passionless, beating heart that served no purpose but to keep me physically alive. But alive for what? Alive to feel empty and indifferent? Or alive to feel like the freak I really was? That would have to be it.
“I guess I’m sorry Dan… I really like you but I just…” I trailed off and mumbled something about being confused.
“Well, I really liked you, okay? But I just don’t think this is going to work anymore.”
He stood up and walked off somewhere behind me—I didn’t know where. And I really didn’t care.
Sitting alone on the steps, I thought I should cry. Isn’t that what normal girls did when their boyfriends broke up with them? I tried imagining that he had slapped me and said he hated me, but it didn’t work. My eyes were as dry as my heart and didn’t even burn for a second. I looked into the sky and saw a couple of birds chasing each other, a small airplane with some important destination, and a squirrel scurrying across the nearby grass. Life went on whether I was a part of it or not.
I pulled a cigar out of my backpack and lit it—I didn’t care smoking wasn’t allowed at school. I inhaled the taste I had grown accustomed to and even had started to like, and exhaled wisps of trailing shapes and mysteries that disappeared in seconds. A breath of smoke slithered up towards the sky, as if trying to escape—and just then, a sliver of sun peaked out from behind those gloomy clouds. Maybe that was the light I had been waiting to beam down on me—it shone on me, alone, and for the first time in a very long time, I was happy to be that way.
| If I decide to become a Mrs. Susee someday, and you decide to become a John Donne, then I will most certainly enduce my students to read and analyze your poems and short stories. |
My foreknowledge of some of the things you mentioned here and some similarities of other things made it a very engaging read for me.
It flows very well and the select dialogues that you included were effective. The picture you paint of the girl is familiar; it makes her human to me with layered thoughts and multi-dimensional feelings.
Ahh...I like it a lot!
|| Posted on 2008-04-11 00:00:00 | by Suven7 | [ Reply to This ] || A nice take on the subject. The comparison of 'barbie' vs 'real' girls isn't exactly new, but you avoided the other cliché-- wailings of 'I'll never be like them, WRYYYY? Why does the world hate me, they just don't understand!' |
Which was refreshing.
It was also nice that you didn't feel the need to villainize the Dan character. Too many people do. I appreciated that you recognize the difference between 'differing desires' and 'evil.'
All in all, nice work. The imagery was nice, and the speaker's thoughts flowed smoothly. Thanks for sharing.
|| Posted on 2008-04-11 00:00:00 | by saartha | [ Reply to This ] |