When I turned 18 we all went out and bought cigars together. We had reached a stage in our life when could make that mature decision to poison ourselves legally. My friends and I felt bold as we pointlessly smelled cigars in the humidified closet of the smoke shop run by gentlemen we thought were wise men. Those men were quick to tell us how silly it was to smell a cigar in a room full of cigars- you could be sure you weren’t smelling the cigar you had in your eager hand- no you were surrounded by the aroma-cloud of the cigars. The cigars spilled over themselves from their sweet and fertile-foreign origins. We looked like idiots trying to find the right 10 dollar cigar. A 10 dollar cigar I couldn’t even afford. Asking for money at the register from my friends was more embarrassing then the trivial smelling.
With the borrowed money from our parents, we bought many cigars over those next few months, and we enjoyed them on our parent’s porches. After our long days of football and the school books had been closed we would rock in leather backed rockers and plastic lawn thrones, as nauseous smoke filled our lungs and the patios. We would discuss all the things in our life torching our incense of man-hood. Wet chocolate stubs of tobacco sat in the corner of our mouths tasting what we were sure was important. We were the blind leading the blind- speaking smoke in smoke- we were a product of Amarillo’s finest. We were conceived in of the salt in the plains; our conservative parents had raised these boys on these porches carefully watching the ash grow on the ends of our torches.
The story often passed around at these meetings was how Abraham Lincoln would thread a wire through his cigar so his ash would hold until he finished the cigar- the longer the ash holds the more respect one held, and of course there was the supposed truth that the ash held a lot of the best flavor in. What a perfect narrative we had? Could there ever be a more accurate description of how fragile we, boys, were? Could there be a better description for vain pursuits of a group of senior men in Amarillo, Texas? We were concerned who could hold the most ash on the end of our cigar, sure it was in fun, but what metaphor: young men trying to hold onto their burnt cigar ash.
Certain Frontiers of boy hood are good, and this may even be one of them. The young man trying his father’s whiskey, the micro-steps into the right of passage into adulthood. I ultimately believe a boy trying his first cigar is fine and normal. I do however wonder what we are looking for. These weren’t our first tastes of nicotine- these weren’t our first tries at the vices available.
Jack and I stole his father’s cigars and small pulls from the handle of Bacardi a hand full of times one summer. We would wait until everyone was asleep, carefully open the cabinets in the pool room, and quickly hide behind the 3 foot wall that separated the patio from the backyard. If anyone were to have walked out you would have seen the tops of our blonde heads and smelt the cherry-milk smoke from the cigar. The difference between the back porches filled with 18 year olds and the back porches hiding middle school refugees is pride in the air. The 18 year old Will felt he had accomplished something and ultimately was owed an equal something in return. 13 year old Will was walking cross country to look at a dead body. 18 year old Will felt wise and was convinced he could (and should) not die; 13 year old will had just found out what death looked like and was he terrified and full wonder.
Jack and I threw up several of those nights we stole those cigars, we didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t care for anyone to know- we had done this for no one else but ourselves. We should not have done it, sure, but our motives were honest and humble in a sense, though this does not excuse stealing your father’s cigars. However, I do think I can afford to give the younger Will more grace while I slap his wrist. But I have little tolerance for the 18 year old- he asks for his picture to be taken on his birthday so he can post it to social media- he wants people to see him with the longest lasting ash on the end of his presidential cigar in a cloud of smoke. He wants to be seen- while the younger Will wants to see.