Ah, I remember it well. It was July, the magical summer after my senior year. It was my friend's birthday, and we celebrated it in true eighteen year old recent high school graduate fashion:


Now, I live in beautiful Monroe, New Jersey, an huge township of open spaces and old people. It is also about twenty minutes away from Six Flags Great Adventure. I've been to Six Flags approximately four hundred thousand times. Why would this particular trip be so fondly remembered. I'll tell you why. It was in which I was handed a maginificently powerful key which opened countless doors to me: the door to smoking section in the diner we frequented; the door to the freezing cold terrace outside my dorm; the back door of the Target I worked at, by all the loading docks. What sort of key was this you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

This key was a Newport.

Don't get me wrong, at first I hated it. I hacked and coughed and made vile noises. And this was about a month before I even started inhaling. Nevertheless, I finished it, and bummed a few more over the course of the summer, mainly when I was bored or nervous. I was always such a clean cut kid all through grammar school and high school. A friend of mine saw me one day with a cig hanging out of my mouth and jokingly told me he no longer believed in heroes. But I didn't consider myself a smoker by any means. I just held the cigarette for the hell of it out of boredom.

Then I went away to college.

One of the rules here at Rutgers University is that there is no smoking in any university buildings. Now, I could live with that, but this also applies to the residence halls. So, it could be five below outside and you still would have to go outside for a cigarette. Or you can smoke in the dorms and risk getting caught and serve eight hours of community service.

Now, this didn't affect me, as by no means did I consider myself a smoker. But then it happened. On like my third day at school, I noticed her. One of the most gorgeous creatures to walk God's green earth. Her hair was a beautiful curly brown, which went perfectly with her big, dark eyes. She was a bit shorter than me, which, in my book, is a definite plus, as I am but five foot nine. I walked past her room and heard her singing along to a Nirvana song. I think it was Heart-Shaped Box. The feeling in my chest at that point meant two things: first, I was in urgent need of medical assitance, as I had a six inch butterfly knife sticking out of it. Second, I was falling for her.

So now I knew I liked her, and needed to spend some time with her. But how? I mean, I love Nirvana, but I can't expect her to listen to it constantly. But then one day, I saw my opening. I was walking back from class, and saw her standing, alone, outside the building, a Parliament Menthol Light 100 cradled between her middle and index fingers. At this point, my brain knew what I had to do: I had to run to the convenience store and pick up a pack of cigarettes. Having never REALLY smoked before, and, on the couple occassions I had, not inhaled, I wasn't sure what to buy. I really wish I had said anything other than, "Pack of Marlboros". I walked outside and ran into a girl I was friendly with, a Camel Light pursed between her lips.

"Hey, I didn't know you smoked," she said. I told her I was just beginning, and took a hesitant puff on my new best friend, Mr. Marlboro. Upon seeing my technique, she whispers to me, "You might want to try inhaling the cigarette". So I did. And, so help me, it was the most rancid sensation my poor throat had ever experienced. I steeled myself for another drag, and, thankfully, it wasn't as bad. Then I got light headed, and would be so for my next, oh, say, ten or so cigarettes. By now, my poor throat and lungs we're screaming at me to show them some mercy. Poor guys. They had always been nice to me. But I was taking orders from another organ at this point, and my penis wasn't taking no for an answer.

Now, I bought this pack on a Friday, and the girl went home for the weekend. I gave the Marlboro Reds to a friend in exchange for four bucks, and picked up some Marlboro Lights which went down much easier. Now, I was very generous with my cancer sticks, and by the time she got back Monday afternoon, they were gone. I continued with the Marlboro Lights for another couple packs, until I read the node on them and their questionable filters. I then switched to Parliament Menthol Lights, mainly because I wanted to smoke what she smoked. I already knew enough to know that a self-respecting male of the species doesn't smoke 100s. Except for my roommate. He's from Macedonia, and may be certifably insane. But I digress.

So fast forward a couple of days. I see her go outside, and I quickly grab my stogs and follow. So we head outside, and we talk. And talk. And talk. And then we quickly became good friends. And now I have no desire to enter into a sexual relationship with her, as I like just being friends. She even gives me relationship advice, and I am eager to hear it, as it is always rather insightful.

And now I like a rather staunch anti-smoking advocate.