Blowing Smoke

We hopped off the expressway four hours into a five hour drive. Me and my sons, on a spring break excursion. We were all ready to get home but I had to go to the bathroom and it was way past lunch time. The boys were finishing up a movie in the back seat.

I decided to take a rural exit in the pristine Berkshires, a well known destination for stressed out New Yorkers and Bostonians. I scanned the businesses looking for an appropriate pit stop. There was a funky tapas place, but not open for lunch. A train station that had been converted into some sort of florist/restaurant but that wasn’t open either. 

Finally I pulled into a well apportioned parking spot on the main drag of town and found an old-time convenient store with a familiar cold cut company sign in the window.

I instructed the boys to look over the sandwich menu. “Be right back,” I said.

When I returned from the bathroom, Will knew exactly what he wanted. John announced there was nothing that looked good except chips. 

“Got to have protein,” I reminded. 

“Do they have bacon?” he asked. The friendly woman behind the counter nodded. “Make it a BLT please,” I said. We retrieved some drinks and then sat at a little table outside. People filed in and out. It was clearly a spot for regulars, on their way to and from.

“What does Dorothy want?” John asked.

“Dorothy who?” 

“In the book.”

Seriously? Wasn’t this why we’d bought the car with the DVD player, so they could be in the back seat entertained and I could listen to outrageous political radio or books on tape? Instead he’d been listening to my book about classmates getting ready for a fortieth high school reunion. It was hardly racy but still not appropriate.

“Dorothy is hoping to see someone that she didn’t have the courage to talk to in high school.”

“Why would it take courage to talk to someone?” John asked.

“Beats me,” I said, loving the fact that the concept didn’t yet register.
I added. “That’s really an adult book John.”

“Are there adult words?”

“Some. But it’s about adult stuff, things that are interesting to adults.”

I waited for the next question, there was always a next question.

But as I looked over, John had taken a big gulp of air and was holding his breath. A disheveled looking woman walked by.

Oh god. Was he holding his breath in response to seeing someone less fortunate? Pangs of disgust and embarrassment raced through me.

“John! Why are you holding your breath?” By now the woman was inside.

“She was smoking. Remember the commercial?”

“John, you can’t get lung cancer from someone who smokes walking by you.”

“You can’t?”

“No. The commercial was making the point that if people smoke all the time around kids, they’re putting their health in danger.”

“Have you ever smoked?”

“No,” I said definitively, and this was actually true. I’ve never tried a cigarette. Like John, growing up I was asthmatic. When the seasons changed, allergies made my insides feel on fire already, adding actual smoke never seemed smart.

“I did smoke a cigar once or twice in college,” I said remembering our “tradition” at the radio station where I worked of celebrating after a big project. It was clear John could use some help appreciating shades of grey. 

“Could that give us lung cancer?”

“No,” I tried again. “If Daddy or Mommy smoked in our house or the car everyday and you and Will were exposed to it, that would not be good. That’s the danger.”

“Did Dad ever smoke?” Will asked. I’d almost forgotten he was sitting there, he’d been so silent. 

“Daddy has never smoked for a long period of time but I think he’s tried smoking,” I said.

The truth was Rob had smoked on and off through high school and college. Just two years ago I’d actually suggested he start up again.   

We’d been walking in to Mass General Hospital, to visit my father-in-law, who was dying. My husband was in unspeakable emotional pain. As we approached the automatic doors of the hospital a handful of smokers were congregated. 

“I love that smell,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world, if you had one,” I said, wishing him a few painless moments.

“It’s hard to have just one,” he said smiling, “That’s the problem.”
We had a good laugh. I was fairly certain I was in a small minority of women encouraging their husbands to smoke. 

I returned to the conversation at hand.
“Lots of people smoked when Daddy and I were little. Now people know how bad it is for them. It’s better not to start because it is very hard to stop,” I added, the boys still intently looking my way.

Then as if on cue, the woman, the one who’d started us down this twisted tormented trail exited the store. As she made her way to her car, I could see the carton of cigarettes under her arm. 

“Boys, smoking is bad but smokers are not.” There. That was the best I had. 

The sandwiches arrived. Silence consumed the table as we devoured our late lunch.

Had I accurately relayed the dangers of smoking while letting them know it was not the end of the world, even normal, to try things? Wait. Was that actually true? Oh god, why didn’t I say, “Never smoke, it’ll kill you!” 

I watched Will dive into his thick turkey sub, mayonnaise lining his lips. And John discreetly picking apart his BLT, to find just the bacon. I bit into my own many layered sandwich, thinking:

I'd better get my act together before the big sex talk.

1 comment:

  1. It is right that smoking is bad not smoker's . Smoking is not good for our health. If you are a smoker then try to quit smoking so that you can save your life. Smoking causes many health risks like cancer. You can electronic cigarettes as well for quitting smoking. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco or any other harmful product. It has only had e-liquid. So it is safer option to adopt. For more information you can visit here-