I was in eighth grade, and in deep, meaningful lust. With Ginger.

She was tall, with long brown hair that hung straight over her shoulders. Her hips swayed when she moved, just so. And she talked to me, felt good to see me.

I had cool, budding cool,. I could see it. I knew all about Top Fuel and Can Am McLaren’s. I could sail and win at chess. I had a dirty upper lip and sixteen pubic hairs. I know this because I counted them each and every day.

And Ginger had breasts, big enough that you could actually see them swelling beneath her blouse. she wore black bras that showed through the white rayon. I dreamt of them when I lay in my bed at night. I dreamt of Ginger.

Ginger smoked. At lunch she’d head out onto the athletic field to light herself up a few Newports. One day I went with her. If Ginger smoked, so would I.

She shook a cigarette from her pack, and took it between her long fingers. I had matches, and quckly retrieved them from my pocket. I'd practiced for this moment. She lifted the filter tip to her lips. I struck the match, once twice, five times. Tried another match before one sparked. She took a long puff the exhaled slowly, smiling at me.

“You want one?”

I nodded me head nervously, and leaned back, hoping she’d notice the whisp of thin hair dirtying my upper lip. She grinned and leaned handed me the cigarette, which I stabbed to my lips.

“Let me get the light.”

Ginger lit with the first strike, and bent over cupping the flame between her soft fingers. I inhaled deeply, sucking the smoke into my lungs. It was musky, acrid. I leaned back and let the smoke ooze from my lips. Not even one cough.

Yeah, I was a pro all right. A real natural.

We sat there quietly, taking turns puffing on our nails. I could feel my head beginning to swirl as the nicotine reached for me. My stomach quivered. It was . . . nausea.

Ginger and I put our cigarettes out on the ground and headed back to school. My steps were uncertain. And the whole time back I wondered why anyone would spend a whole fifty-five cents a day to feel like that?

That was my first cigarette, and my last.

Thank you Ginger.

in 1971 cigarettes cost about 55 cents per pack. Of course everyone earned a lot less too.

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