Today’s Red Dress Club prompt: write non-fiction based on memories inspired by the above photo!
My friend Michelle and I were hanging out one weekend, trying to find something fun to do. As sophomores in high school, we tried to be a little badass, but at the same time play the goody-two-shoes roles we were primarily suited for. It got boring making good grades, cramming into the photo booth at the movie theater, and taping ourselves with my parents’ video camera while we sang INXS songs (Don’t ask me/What you know is true/Don’t have to tell you/I love your precious heart/). We wanted to do something really bad. Something cool. Something we ordinarily wouldn’t because we were too good.
We peered into my fridge and saw the box of pink Franzia wine my mother had grown to love lately. Franzia made its first appearance when my dad came out of the closet; because really, how else does one cope with her husband’s sudden revelation that he’s gay after 20 years of marriage? But the wine wasn’t appealing. Besides, we could drive through the Daiquiri Stop any old time (remember: this is New Orleans!). We were 15 year-olds, not wine connoisseurs.
Inside mom’s purse on the counter I spied a pack of her Benson & Hedges cigarettes. There were a few already missing so we figured she wouldn’t miss another two. We each took one and scuttled up the stairs two at a time, stealthy as mice.
We went to my room and locked the door behind us, whispering and giggling. We’d never smoked a cigarette before and couldn’t contain our excitement. Frankly it was hypocritical of me because I’d been leaving my mom nasty notes bitching about her smoking and non-mom-like behavior, such as sleeping over at her boyfriend’s house. But the rebel in me still yearned to know what all the smoking fuss was about.
We prepped my room, marveling at our brilliance. We opened my window, which had a screen on it and turned on my ceiling fan. We crouched together near the window and lit up. Trying to breathe, puff and not cough too much proved impossible. It didn’t taste very good and it stunk. Our eyes watered and we turned red choking on the smoke. My room started getting pretty cloudy; the damn screen was in the way, preventing us from hanging our lit cigarettes outside. The ceiling fan seemed to make things worse; it sucked the smoke back up into my room rather than expelling it. After several coughing fits and picking bits of tobacco from our teeth, we stubbed out our cigarettes. And we realized with a sudden panic that my room reeked.
We didn’t have a clue what to do, so we called Joe, our friend from school. He smoked cigars so we thought he’d know how to get rid of the stench.
Michelle dialed. He answered on the third ring.
“Joe,” Michelle whispered into the phone.
“What do you want?” he asked wearily.
I huddled next to Michelle and our ears shared the phone as she explained our predicament.
“You have to help us,” she pleaded.
“Okay,” Joe said dryly. “Here’s what you do. Wet a big towel and swing it around the room a bunch. Then put some vinegar in each corner of the room. That should do it.”
“Thank you so much!” we shrieked together into the phone before hanging up to prepare.
I tiptoed downstairs to get the vinegar. Meanwhile, Michelle wet my bath towels and wrung them out. Then we swung them around wildly, like magicians’ assistants for some sort of freak show. Each corner of my room had a Dixie cup of vinegar in it. Unfortunately my room started to smell worse than before.
Luckily my mom noticed neither the smell in my room nor her missing cigarettes; and if she did, she didn’t say anything about it. My guess is since she was a smoker herself, she couldn’t really detect the scent elsewhere.
As for Joe, he confessed many years later that he didn’t have a clue how to help us that day, but he knew how desperate and gullible we were.