My best friend and I were like any other adolescent pairing. We were constantly striving to out-do the other’s cool factor. This usually lead to a lot of big talking.
Bragging. Boasting. Bullshitting.
On the way home from school one day we started talking about smoking. I’m pretty sure that it started out with us recalling the times we’d seen others smoke but it soon became a rant about how we, ourselves, were practically pack-a-dayers. I don’t remember who was the first to claim that they’d smoked but I know that we were both lying. We were ten but that’s not the only reason I know we were lying. I know we were lying because neither of us tried something for the first time without the other. Until sex but that’s sort of a “best friend-free” right of passage – for most.
Before I could say “Punky Brewster” we were at Kenny’s Market buying a pack of cigarettes. In 1983 at ten-year-old could still get away with the “they’re for my mom” line. We headed straight for Taft Park and started working away at the pack. I don’t remember how many we had and I don’t remember if either of us were inhaling (unlikely). But I do remember the panic that set in when I realized that we were starting to REALLY smell funky. And my mouth tasted weird.
And I also remember thinking that I had the coolest best friend who knew all the tricks of the cool trade when she told me that chewing grass would freshen our breath. There we were; a couple of little pre-pubey girls who were already nauseated chewing mouthfuls of grass before heading home to their olfactory-verdicts.
I walked home for dinner, confident that my parents would neither notice the smell nor my grass-stained teeth. I ate my dinner with an inner glee that matched my heightened feeling of coolness. It was all shattered when my father, while driving me to my flute lesson, clued me in; chewing grass does not, in fact, cover up cigarette breath.