I can remember the only picture I have ever seen of my great grandfather. He had to have been about 70ish year’s old, elbow resting on the table supporting his chin, eyes closed and a smoldering cigarette hung limp from between the yellow stained pointer and middle finger of his other hand. Such a weathered look in that image of him. The circles of smoke traced lines across his face to the point where one could barely discern between smoke and age. (It was probably both).
I grew up around cackling ladies sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee or PBR engulfed in plumes of smoke swapping stories or recipes while the men crowded the television whooping on the Detroit Lions smoking the same Winchesters. Smoking was a part of the social atmosphere in our family. They went hand in hand. I was never shooed away from those who lit a smoke in front of me. No one crossed the street to avoid subjecting me, the child, to the haze that I would inevitably walk through. Smoking just was. I hated it as a child. I hated sitting in the back seat of the car smelling it, or how it clung to my clothes, my hair, and how it never seemed to leave the tiny hairs in my nose.
I hated it, that is, until I started smoking at the age of 17. I stole my first cigarette from my mom. Rather, I stole my first pack my mom- Kool Menthol Ultra-Light 100s. I drove half-way across town, roll down my window and took a couple of daring (yet disgusting) puffs off of the cigarette and then proceeded to throw the entire pack out of the window. If I recall the flavor it reminded me of stale, lightly minted air. I did not see the appeal and the flavor of it was very off-putting. Later, however, I did manage to find a brand that did appeal to me-mind you this was early 90s- Newport Light 100s. I think this was due to the crowd that I hung around with and the social aspect of it. Everyone I knew smoked. They smoked to fit it. I smoked to fit in.
I never fit in though.
More to come…I’ll get to the unicorn part I promise.