My chin resting on my hands, it was taking all my strength to stay awake through another boring freshman science lecture. There was a tap on my arm and as I moved, I nearly didn't catch the tightly folded triangular note that came skipping across my desk. The familiar bubble letters spelled out "Shelly" signifying that I was the intended recipient. In a stealth-like maneuver, I put my hands under my desk and unfolded the note as quietly as I could. I never took my eyes off the teacher as I slid the looseleaf sheet up onto my notebook.
"I can't get no... SATISFACTION!"
This was our code. I turned to glance at my friend who was eagerly awaiting my response. I nodded as she put two fingers two her lips to take a drag off an imaginary cigarette.
Smoking in my garage had become our favorite after school activity. I could only steal one or two cigarettes at a time from my mom, but my friend could get entire packs from her grandmother's cartons. She would light one and hand it to me, then light one for herself. We would stand there and talk, using wild hand gestures and pausing mid-sentence for a puff. We'd find ways to busy our hands so that our Marlboros could dangle from our lips as we continued to chat. It wasn't that we were trying to look cool, we were cool and smoking was just proving the point.
That afternoon, my mother pulled into the driveway, arriving home early from work. We threw our smokes to the dirt floor and stubbed them out with our sneakers. I scooped them up and we hurried into the house where I deposited them into the toilet and flushed. As I breezed past my mother on her way in, I made up some story about showing my friend something on my bike in the garage but needing to pee.
Later that evening, my mother stood in the doorway to my bedroom as I sat on my bed studying.
"Who was smoking in my house?" she asked.
"You?" I offered, staring at the page of my textbook.
"I don't smoke Marlboros and that's what I found floating in the toilet," she sounded so smug.
"Oh, then that was me. And I smoked in the garage." I looked up from my book, daring her to try to discipline me.
"That is not OK. You cannot smoke, you are FOURTEEN."
"I have an idea," I said, my voice dripping with false sincerity. "You can go downstairs, quit smoking, then come up here and tell me again that it's not OK for me to do. But until then, leave me alone."
She turned and walked away, never bringing up the subject again.
I loved the taste of those cigarettes. Acrid and bitter, with just a hint of defiance and a smattering of teenage victory.