So then…I slooowly slide a cigarette out of the pack in the drawer, careful not to make any noise that might alert my brothers or sisters or parents to my theft. I ease a pack of matches out — and slip them into my pocket with the cigarette, gently close the drawer, then silently slither off to my room.
Stage 1 of the Great Smoking Experiment – done!
I’m bound and determined to lose my Lung Virginity tonight!
For years, my Mom has vehemently lectured us 5 kids: “Do as I SAY; don’t do as I DO.” But surely smoking must be some magical mysterious marvel if she’s doing it 20 times a day!
Well, I’m 12 years old now and I will find out exactly what is so alluring about smoking tonight during Stage 2 of the Great Smoking Experiment.
All day long, I’m skittish as a cat on a hot tin roof, certain that everyone in the whole house must suspect my nefarious plans.
Finally, Mom drops me off at the Perkins house to babysit their two young sons. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins leave for date night, so I sweat through the next few hours with the kids – because clearly, I can’t light up while they’re still awake!
When the tykes are safely snuggled up and sleeping, I tiptoe out to the living room. I extract the lone cigarette and book of matches.
My heart is pounding. If my parents find out I smoked, they will kill me. Then ground me. Then kill me again. And I will go straight to hell. Because this is SMOKING – and DISOBEYING MY PARENTS – and STEALING. That’s the trifecta right there. Straight.to.hell.
But I MUST find out what is so amazing about this smoking thing. Why does Mom do it all the time if it’s so bad for you? Is she addicted to it? If I smoke one cigarette, will I become addicted too?
I sit on the couch, twirling the cigarette back and forth in my fingers. My knee is shaking up and down a mile a minute. I bite my lip. Should I really do this?
If I smoke this cigarette and become addicted, how will I get more cigarettes? Mom will notice if hers start disappearing.
Can I buy some when I ride my bike to 7-Eleven? Do I make enough money babysitting to support my habit? How much do cigarettes cost? Will I have to cut back on Slurpees and Heath bars?
Is smoking BETTER than Slurpees and Heath bars?
I smell the cigarette. It must be AMAZING.
I glance toward the hallway. What if the kids wake up and see me smoking? They’ll tell their parents; I’ll be fired; and they’ll tell MY parents.
I bite my fingernail. My heart is hammering.
OK, let’s do this.
I strike the match and light the cigarette. I put it to my lips. I inhale a tiny bit. Nothing.
I inhale again, more deeply. Nothing.
I inhale 3 more times. It tastes tobacco-y. And dry.
I sit on the couch, waiting for something magical or delicious or incredible to happen.
I hold the cigarette out and look at it hard.
Well, this is stupid.
What’s so great about this?
I take one last drag just in case the 6th time is the charm.
When suddenly, I hear a car in the driveway.
They’re home! They’re home!
I jump up and run to the bathroom . I throw the cigarette in the toilet and flush. Please go down, please go down!
I hear the garage door open – they’ll be here any minute! But the living room smells like smoke! And they DON’T SMOKE! So they’ll know I smoked!
I fling open the cabinet under the bathroom sink. There MUST be air freshener in here! Please, please, please let there be a can of air freshener! I’ll spray it EVERYWHERE!
I’ll just pretend I took a massive smelly dump. That’s much better than admitting I was SMOKING!
But there is no air freshener! The only thing I see is a big can of Raid Roach Spray!
So I grab it and run, spraying Raid Roach Spray all through the house, the hall, the living room – just as the Perkins walk in.
The overpowering foul odor of bug spray surrounds us, descending like a misty cloud all around the room.
They look at me quizzically as I stand there — wild-eyed, panting, and waving the can.
“Um, are you OK?” asks Mrs. Perkins.
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” I stammer. “I…uh…saw some bugs, so…uh…I sprayed them.”
“OK,” says Mrs. Perkins, as she puts down her purse. “But you know you usually spray the bugs, not just spray it up in the air, right?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” I say. I shrug and say “Pfft. Of course. Yeah, of course I know that.”
As I skulk off to the bathroom to return the spray, I see them exchange a look. A look that seems to say, “We’re entrusting our kids to this knucklehead?”
If only they knew.
I was almost a cigarette-addicted nicotine-addled smoking fiend!
— Darcy Perdu
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(Do you remember your first forbidden experiment? Was it as amazing as you thought it might be? Were you terrified of getting caught? Do tell in the Comments!)