She wore stonewashed jeans, a long striped shirt, and dirty Keds with no socks. Her hair was moussed, dried, curled and sprayed. She knew just the right way to make her mother crazy with that sassy, all too familiar tone that announced, I am 16 years old, and you know nothing, no matter what she actually said aloud.
It was 1988. And my cousin smoked cigarettes.
The thirteen-year-old version of me was still a little bit in awe of this smooth-talking teenager. My cousin and her parents had come for a short visit. After dinner, we took a walk and stopped to watch cars zoom down the interstate far below my street, which was a hilly dead end road with little traffic. I watched my cousin as she adeptly lit a cigarette and inhaled. Exhaled. Over and over till I got a little dizzy.
“You smoke?” I asked, though the answer was obvious. “For how long?”
“I don’t know. A long time.” she laughed.
We were quiet. It was a warm fall night and the sun was slowly slipping beneath the horizon, casting long shadows across the road.
“Do you want one?” she offered me the pack.
Reluctantly, I declined, and immediately regretted it. She shook her head a little, rolled her eyes. She was kind, but I felt the impact of my decision. I was so not cool.
“You’re so thirteen.” she said.
Before I could respond, she offered something else. “I once told my mom I hated her. But I don’t.”
I didn’t say anything, just nodded soberly. I had smoked before, a couple of years back when instead of throwing my parents’ cigarettes away, I opted to try it out for myself. After several attempts, I gave it up because it was disgusting and made me cough.
Still, there was the cool factor. My cousin finished her cigarette, and stood up. We began walking back to my house in silence.
The night crept in and the distance between us felt vast.
This post was written in response to a prompt from Write on Edge (http://writeonedge.com/).