Rebel Without a Cause

My left hand on the steering wheel, I shifted gears with my right then reached past the gear shift and pushed in the cigarette lighter. I could feel my little sister watching me from the passenger seat, but I didn’t look over at her and risk losing my nerve. I opened the glove box at her knees and pulled out a pilfered pack of Marlboro Lights 100’s, from which I shook one cigarette.


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I stuck the smoke between my lips as the lighter popped.

What are you doing?” my sister asked, incredulous.

Steering with one hand, I lit the cigarette.

“Smoking,” I answered, exhaling smoke to emphasize my point.

“Do Mom and Dad know?” she asked. She was eleven and concerned about our parents’ approval. I was sixteen and pretending unconcern.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“I swiped these from the freezer,” I added. I had been cadging smokes from my parents’ stash in the freezer for the past year. I’d tried buying my own. There was one cashier at the 7-11 near the high school who wouldn’t card for cigarettes, but when I went in there, I got so nervous, I ordered unfiltered Camels. Although I felt kind of like a badass when I smoked those, they burned my throat and left bits of tobacco on my tongue. It was less unpleasant to just take a pack from whichever parent had more on the door of the freezer.

The strange thing about me and smoking back then was that I didn’t even like it. Even though I’d grown up with two smokers from before I was born, those first several cigarettes left me feeling lightheaded and nauseated. I really had to work to start smoking.

It wasn’t peer pressure that started me smoking. My peer group were so anti-smoking, I made a point of keeping it a secret from both my parents and my friends. Before I got my driver’s license, I would only smoke after my parents were in bed or when I would walk alone after dark to the park across the street from our house. Once I was legal to drive alone, I traded my late-night walks for late-night drives, blasting Gin Blossoms and Tori Amos and puffing away behind the wheel.

I only had one friend who smoked. One night, she picked me up at my house and we drove around the block to the park. We sat in the car and smoked and shared a half-can of beer and then worried that we were too wasted to drive back to my house safely.

Ah, yes. We were rebels.

I quit smoking when I was 21, and those days are far, far behind me now.

When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to have smoker parents from whom I could steal cigarettes to feel like a rebel. With the life I lead now, what will my kids be forced to steal from me? I’d best keep a close eye on my cod liver oil capsules and my homemade deodorant.

Written for this week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop.