Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Getting A Drag
I don't smoke. Never have done. Apart from the occasional "funny" cigarette, which doesn't count. Although why it shouldn't count I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something to do with the communal passing around of the spliff, which makes the illicit act not quite as bad as the perfectly legal, but shamefully solitary, indulgence of the lone fag-addict.
Never had the desire to, either. At school, the kids who did were the ones I'd been told always to avoid. They were the hard nuts who weren't going to pass their exams; whose parents were "common" (even though they lived in nicer houses than ours); and who took it in turns to snog the slapper from 3C round the back of the bike shed after Friday's RE lesson. And I didn't want to be part of that gang, thank you very much.
As I grew older, I started to realise that maybe nice people smoked as well. People like Marlene, plumes of blue smoke curling seductively heavenwards. Or James Dean, little boy lost, sexy epitome of cool, a Lucky Strike between his fingers. Still I couldn't bring myself to take that first drag, That association with the "bad boys" lingered, especially when I learnt what little Jimmy really liked to do with those Lucky Strikes.
And I'll have you know I've tried. One particularly reflective and melancholic night, I sat by the banks of the Thames, listening to the river gently lapping the shore. The stars shone down; the moon was full and bright. The image was perfect: me, the Young Romantic Hero, staring into the distance, contemplating the absurd futility of his own existence. And what was missing from that picture?
On the table lay a pack of full-strength Camels, left by a friend. I reached out to pick up the packet, experienced the pleasure of crackling open that cellophane wrapping. Flicked the carton, pulled out a slim, elegant tube of delight; raised it to my lips, savoured that mellow nuttiness, a teasing foretaste of what was to come.
("Strike a pose – there's nothing to it.")
Lit it. Sucked. Took a deep, dizzying drag of what I had been told could be that most exquisite of all pleasures.
And after I'd retched my guts, mostly over my Armani jeans, I picked myself up off the floor. And it was at this point, my dears, that I finally came to terms with the fact that, sadly, I was just not cut out to be the Young Romantic Hero. Or even a Really Bad Boy.