He took the misshapen little hand-rolled cigarette his mate offered him and eyed it doubtfully. He had smoked before and quite enjoyed it- all his mates did – but this was something new. He’d nicked cigarettes out of his mother’s packet and lied about it and when he stayed at his grandmother’s she was stupid enough to give him money to buy his own, but this was something new.
“Go on, yer pussy! Just take a drag!”
His mate jeered at him through a haze of smoke.
Well, because his mate was doing it too – he put the soggy tip to his mouth and inhaled…
The cares he thought he had and that had threatened to swamp him floated away on a cloud of fragrant smoke that stung the inside of his nose and invaded his lungs. Life suddenly seemed so much easier – pleasant, almost.
And that was just the first.
What a crutch, what a pleasure, what a blessing! It dulled the girlfriend’s nagging voice, muted the grandmother’s sycophantic pleas and wiped his mother off the face of his earth.
“You don’t know what I’m like when I’m with my mates!” became the call to arms.
He did, however, find he needed the special smoke a little more each time to reach the place where calls went unheeded, tears could be ignored and job abandoned.
His grandma’s house became his refuge as he found he no longer cared what his mother or his father thought. His grandma’s purse became his bank or he punished her with silence and absence. The rare family get-togethers were punctuated with cries of “What’s the matter with you?”
He chanted his battle cry in reply:
“You don’t know what I’m like when I’m with my mates!”
He got nervous, stressy, thought people were following him.
Those handy smokes from his mate just took the edge off, eased things back a bit’ and if he had to pay a little more, well, it didn’t really matter, because they were mates, after all, and he was doing him a favour.
He didn’t want to see his mother, blamed her really, it was easier that way, as he didn’t have to see the disappointment in her eyes. He didn’t want that sort of help.
One day, his mate didn’t want him staying in the house while he smoked. He took his stuff and found a nice quiet place in the park, rolled up and floated… All that promise, all that hope and love, gone in a cloud of sweet, sweet smoke.
When he woke up, he was cold, he was hungry, he was afraid, lying in a pool of his own piss.