Amidst the shunning of what used to be good friends, and rising popularity as a middle school musician (which in hindsight is completely ridiculous!), my own hunger for defying authority and a moral compass continued.
One time, a friend named Kalen and I hit our own personal jackpot. It was early on in my 7th Grade year and the frost of winter was settling into the October winds. Kalen and I figured out that a lady at a local gas station was sympathetic to young people taking on a nicotine habit. Word about this lady spread amongst the miscreants in our grade and above, and got to us. We went to the gas station and put together about $1.50 between us, because back in 1993 that was honestly the price for a pack of cigarettes!
After some pensiveness on both of our parts I opted to be the one to go in and ask her for cigarettes. My heart was probably beating at 165 beats per minute and my palms were sweating like a gooey sponge that has been left in the kitchen sink for weeks. I walked up to her and whispered in grave nervousness; “uh… uh… can can can I have a uh… pack of Marlboro Reds please?”
I couldn’t believe what she did next. She whispered back; “Sure honey, just slide the money onto the counter and I’m going to slip the pack behind this rack. You go ahead and grab it, because there are cameras in here.” I pocketed the pack in what I perceived to be some sort of great victory over fear. It was crazy though. This lady was selling me cigarettes, and I wasn’t even far enough into puberty for my voice to change yet! In hindsight I realize that if I was in her shoes today, I would have never done what she did, and not only to avoid the punishment of the law, but out of principle alone!
So Kalen and I jumped on our bikes and rode victoriously to the baseball fields by our houses. We lived close to each other and this neighborhood park was a frequented hang-out spot for all sorts of vandalism, idleness and also some great times of playing baseball and football.
Nobody was around, and we nervously broke out the cigarettes. We both lit one up and puffed on it, feigning James Dean-like coolness and having no idea what we were doing. Kalen had to get home, so he left, and for some wild reason I stayed and had another by myself. I always had this weird independence about me that made me want to experience things in isolation. Maybe it was because I was an only child, or maybe it was just a strange curiosity deep within me to find myself alone with conscience annihilation and silence.
Whatever it was, I finished what I was doing and put the pack in my front jacket pocket, which made it stick out like 3 wallets stuffed into the pockets of tight disco pants. I biked home to face my Mother at the front door. I had no plan for a lie, and just thought I could walk in the door with my arms awkwardly covering my pelvic area where the pack of Marlboros was concealed so wonderfully.
Obviously my Mom cornered me and asked me what was in my pocket. I nervously replied; “Nothing!” And scurried into my room, frantically opening my closet door and shoving the pack into an old binocular case that my Grandfather had given me.
My Mom knocked on the door and I let her in, acting sheepishly innocent. She asked me why I smelled like smoke and if I had a pack of cigarettes, to which I of course replied “No!” with some measure of defensive anger. She went right for the jugular and opened the side of my closet where the pack was hidden. After a thorough investigation, which lasted about 10 seconds, she found the pack of Marlboros.
I had one thing to my advantage in all my hunger for mischief. I was a bad liar.