The Smokey Truth

My grandfather was recently in town from Florida. He asked me twice if I smoked cigarettes. I told him no.


I don’t smoke often. Here and there. I first picked up the habit in high school but quit during my senior year. I didn’t smoke all through college as I was preparing to become a police officer. You don’t see many police officers smoking nowadays. Thinking back, I have really only witnessed one or two cops smoking in my entire life.


I started up again when I was 21 and going through a time where I didn’t care about myself. My girlfriend of five-years broke up with me, I lost my conditional offer of employment with a great police department due to failing the color vision portion of the medical exam, and I was once again working at Big Lots–the same job I used to work in high school. Also, Camel came out with all these cool new cigarette flavors that I felt I needed to try.


As I previously stated, I don’t smoke often. I have about one per day during the weekday. I typically smoke outside in front of the library before I am about to write. When drinking alcohol, I smoke about 5 or so. Smoking goes great when drinking. I don’t know why. It just tastes better and feels smoother going down.


While living in California, back in 2007, I was accepted into this summer screenwriting class at UCLA. It was my first creative writing workshop. I was very nervous about reading my work in front of a bunch of strangers. To calm myself I had a cigarette before entering the building. I continue this tradition of smoking before class to this day and have held onto it during my time studying sketch comedy and improvisation throughout Chicago. The cigarettes are familiar to me and put my mind at ease, because whenever I walk into any creative writing/improv classroom I am freaked out and want to leave and hide. If I didn’t smoke that cigarette beforehand I might lose it. Not sure what losing it would look like. Maybe something like this:


With that said, you now know my basic history with smoking, which means I can move on to the important question of why I lied to my grandfather and told him I don’t smoke when in fact I do. The answer is simple: my parents.


My parents don’t know I smoke. I hide the packs in my room like a 12 year-old hiding a dirty magazine. My cigarettes are tucked away in a secret location that one would never suspect. Actually, they are in my middle desk drawer under some papers. One of the main reason I don’t want my parents knowing I smoke is because I am 29 years-old and live in their basement. The last thing I need is another reason for my mom and dad to think I am a loser. Smoking cigarettes, thanks to society’s views towards smoking and smokers, brings a whole new level of shitty/loser child into the mix.


“My son is living with us at the moment.”

“How old is he?”


“Does he work?”

“Yes. He’s currently saving money for graduate school.”

“That’s smart.”


“My son who SMOKES cigarettes is living with us at the moment.”

“How old is he?”


“Does he have a criminal record?”

“Not yet.”

“That will change.”


My dad smokes. He should quit. He’s been smoking his entire life. And he smokes a lot more than I do. My mom hates it. She constantly tells my dad to quit. If she is around when he is smoking she will be like, COUGH COUGH “Get that disgusting thing away from me.” I think my dad should quit too but don’t say anything because secretly I smoke and I don’t want the lies getting out of hand.


I wish I didn’t have to lie to my parents about anything, but I feel there’s nothing I can do. The deception goes back to when I first started smoking in high school. At that time I was lying or deceiving or whatever, because I wasn’t supposed to be smoking at that age. Things might have been different if I got caught, but I never did. Now I am 29 and harboring this smoking secret because of my living situation combined with my mom’s views towards my dad’s smoking combined with years and years of lies.


My parents have an idea of who they want me to be. I fault them for that but don’t at the same time. At one hand they are unreasonable people who expect me to be this perfect non-smoking person who works a normal job that provides me with a decent salary and health insurance which allows me to have a family and kids, own a house, and retire comfortably.


On the other hand, I don’t fault my mom and dad as I understand that they are parents and worry that I, their child, will not succeed and possibly end up living in a cardboard box somewhere on the street. I also understand how they wouldn’t want me smoking, but that is if they knew I smoked, which they don’t, so it’s pointless to talk about.


The main problem is the lack of communication and misunderstanding of who we are as people. I have grown up viewing and still view my parents as judgmental. They also have their own secrets that they refuse to share, which sort of explains my smoking secret. It seems like my mom and dad strive for perfection which is impossible to achieve. Throughout the years I have been slowly shutting myself down as all their worrying about my choices in life (me trying to pursue a writing career) has transformed from normal parental concern into something harmful. As of now, I rather not say anything than deal with being misunderstood. Dinners are silenced and the only sounds are that of forks and knives scraping the dinner plates. That last sentence was a bit dramatic. Anyway, I am not sure if  this silence is ruining our relationship or keeping it together, because it’s like neither myself or my parents want to say what either side is actually thinking. Instead we seem to remain in these secrets that have been built up throughout the years, but recently there is a growing fear inside me that all of these secrets will eventually come out as I am in the process of self-publishing my first book and once that hits the streets they will probably learn things about me they have never known. They may also find these blogs where they can read all this horrible shit that I have written. And when that day comes, I am going to be wishing for silence as I don’t want to hear lectures on how I shouldn’t have wrote about this or that, or how I shouldn’t have lied to them and grandpa about not smoking cigarettes.


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