Scenes from a Life: Breaking Bad

By seventh grade, everyone knows who the “good” girls are, and everyone knows who has a reputation for flaunting the rules. But sometimes, if you’re one of the goody-two-shoes, you get this crazy urge to do something unexpected and, dare I say it, Bad? Especially if your parents are squarer than square. This is my story of how my best friend, let’s call her Marie, pulled me into her Breaking Bad adventure, how I one-upped her back, and how it all ended in a case of hallucinatory guilt.

Marie’s mom was a smoker, so it was easy for Marie to snatch a couple of cigarettes one day and hide them away for the next time I came over. The populars in the seventh grade class had started smoking, and Marie was on the cusp of throwing over her halo for a piece of them. But she had to practice, and I was to be her partner in crime. We crept out of sight into the canyon near her house and struck a match with trembling hands. We each lit up, very carefully practicing the technique of sucking in the toxic air only as far as our cheeks and blowing out smoke. We attempted holding the cigarette in different ways, not knowing whether the bunny ears pinch, the open palm faceward, or the open two fingers backwards hold would be the approved method. We neither inhaled nor set the canyon on fire, but we thought we looked cool, which made the afternoon a great success.

At the time, I lived next door to someone who was experimenting with juvenile delinquentism. She’s now a highly respected middle-aged businessperson, but those junior high years were touch and go and included dealing a little Mary Jane. Once she’d heard of my vast cigarette experience, she offered to introduce me and Marie to her stuff. I guess Marie decided this would look good on her aspiring-to-popularity resumé, I thought it would be good for my she’s-not-so-perfect reputation, and the date was on. Since we’d practiced our “I didn’t inhale” technique, we managed to look awesome and yet feel absolutely no effects from my neighbor’s stuff.

It all ended the night of the queen of the populars’ birthday party. She had scored several packs of cigarettes, and somehow gotten rid of her parents. Marie and I had been invited as satellites to her star, and as all the in-crowd lit up, we fake-puffed right along with them as if we’d been doing it for years. Next morning, after the sleepover, I was dropped back home (my parents were out). Walking in the door, I had a terrible realization. I stank like smoke. My arms, my hands, my hair, my clothes. What was I to do? I jumped in the shower and scrubbed. I washed my clothes. And still, everywhere I went, the smell of smoke followed me like the hand of God, pointing to my guilt. Inescapable.

By the time my Mom came home I was quivering with nerves. Would she notice? What would I say? Was it time to confess my delinquency? Blame it on the other girls? Throw myself on her mercy?

When Mom arrived and saw me waiting at the door, she said, “Sorry the house smells so smoky. We had a fire last night and forgot to check the flue first.”

I thanked fate for intervening and never smoked again. I swore I would never put myself in that kind of panicked quandary again. Back to being goody two-shoes. It was just a lot easier.