I

II

I had been smoking for less than a year. I wasn't one of those "cool" junior-high kids, early adopters of the habit. One of my most lingering memories of high school is that of The Glamourous Julie (the Space Cowboy's unlikely girlfriend) having an unglamourous nicotine fit while waiting for the school doors to open one morning - she'd left her pack of smokes in her locker. Time wasn't "slipping into the future" fast enough for her.

Amanda had started smoking before I did, back during the long, grueling endgame of our relationship - perfect, for our love had come to taste like an ashtray, more often than not; armed with her pack of Marlboros, she could say with every kiss what we couldn't say to each other.

In both our cases, smoking just happened. It wasn't peer pressure - we had been surrounded by smokers for a large chunk of our lives, but never had an inclination to succumb. No peer pressure, just pressure; for Amanda, I was the pressure. For me, after the breakup, thought patterns slightly altered by an unplanned ecstasy semi-binge, the absence of Amanda was a pressure, teaming with many other pressures like Liliputians slowly wrapping me in duct tape, sticking the occasional pin in me, dangling from my earlobe taunting me mercilessly...

One of Randy's Luckies crawled into my hand, lit itself, and glued itself to my lips. Honest. After the initial nausea, detente was established.

III

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