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Surgeon General's Warning

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The sound of the rain would lightly fall off the ends of my hair and my shoes were constantly muddy from walking in the woods. Every day I went under the same tree for cover, I’d pull out my stolen menthol cigarette and light it up. I had one a day. I felt relaxed, awake, and at-ease. I felt the beginning of addiction.

“Can you make it to my concert tonight? I‘ll be playing my first solo.” My father never went to my concerts but I felt obligated to ask.

“Sorry, honey. I’m working really late tonight.”

I was in the sixth grade and was given the first clarinet part; it was a huge deal. For the past two months I had practiced my solo many times, just in case my father did show up. I craved for him to be proud of me for once. At our performances were required to wear black and/or white, so I decided to wear my lucky black dress.


After my solo the entire crowd cheered, I never felt more proud of myself. My mother possessed a huge smile when I faced the crowd after we finished our last song. My sisters were looking bored, of course, but showed interest when I made eye contact. That night we went out for ice cream and I still didn’t feel complete or accomplished since my father failed to show up. At the performance I noticed that all of my friends’ parents’ were there, cheering them on and giving a welcoming pat on the shoulder for a job well done. My shoulder was left untouched and I began to cry. I knew my father had to work but couldn’t he of taken the night off?

“I’m sure that he’ll be able to make it next year,” my mother said. She always knew how to read my mind.
Once I actually thought about it, my father never went to any event of mine, except when I played soccer. That’s when he actually seemed proud to be a father. I think that once my brother died of SIDS, he always wanted a son. And once I started acting like a boy, he’d pay attention to me. But as soon as I quit soccer, he went back to ignoring me.

But when I got home from my performance, I saw my father lying down on the couch. Shoes kicked off, beer at hand, and the ESPN channel playing so loud that I’m sure you could hear it down the street. He didn’t even look at me when I walked through the door. I knew he was drunk. My eyes began to swell and my tears burned my face like acid rain during the winter.
“F--- you, Dad,” I yelled through sobs as I ran upstairs.

He never apologized for that night.

•••

“It’s seven-thirty. Time to get up,” my father stated.
Seven-thirty in the morning? Are you kidding me? I thought to myself. With a groan I rolled to my right side and attempted to fall back asleep. I was in Chico, California staying with my father and his new family for two weeks. And I slept in the living room, on their god forsaken couch. The couch was more like a porcupine on steroids. I never understood why my father moved down here. It had to be at least 105 and all I wanted to do was relax in the bathtub with cold water running. But no, on this very day my father wanted us to get up early so he could parade his “kids” around at some benefit his work was cooking for. For some time, I’d hated my dad introducing me to his friends or people he works with. It all seemed so fake. My father knew nothing about me; I was a stranger.

I was sixteen years old and I missed all of my friends back home. This benefit that I was basically forced to go to had games such as a slip-n-slide, a large blow-up Spiderman that you could bounce around in, and horseshoes. It might have been fun if I was stoned. I suppose that my father was an expert at putting on a show for other people. He’s a great entertainer but I wasn’t enthused. It always seemed like my fathers’ job was always number one on his list next to God. To me the idea that he considers God and his job to be more important than his own children is absurd.

•••

Every year since the sixth grade I have made a two week trip to stay with my father every Summer. And every two years I stay for Christmas. When I’m there, I countdown the days until I can return back home and continue my real life with my family here in Oregon, where the weather is cold.

Just the way I like it.

It’s been six years since my parents’ divorce. And six years of inhaling nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, also formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. Every now and then I think of how I got started smoking cigarettes. Curiosity and boredom after my parent’s divorce. But both of them remarried, and they’re happy. So why am I still smoking?

The Surgeon General’s Warning stares at me in the face, warning that this could cause health problems or death. I shrugged at this thought, and lit up another cigarette.





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