Pressure in My Chest

The following is an essay I wrote for my (College) English Composition Class. I was supposed to write about peer pressure. This took me about half an hour to write.


“Come on, man. It’s not like it’s weed or anything.”

I coughed as I inhaled the smoke. My lungs really shouldn’t have been so surprised to catch the fog, as I’ve been here for five minutes. I thought I had gotten all of the choking and coughing from my system. No, the only thing that was coming out of me successfully is my health. I’m sure if it was a physical manifestation, it would be spewing in chunks right now. Oh yeah, that’s a good mental image I need right now.

I grimaced at what I thought was my friend. “I’d rather it be weed. At least that won’t kill me.” I lied. I wouldn’t have preferred either. If I was backed into a corner, gun to my head, I would have chosen marijuana. I’ve never done either, and I doubt I would like it, but I would do the best with the choices I was given.

He seemed nonplussed and took a longer drag than usual, I suppose just to prove how much a man he is compared to me just breathing it in a coughing up a fit. I looked over to my proverbial right. She didn’t seem concerned about it. In fact, she looked pretty serene as her slender fingers held the cigarette with what could only be practiced ease. I had to smile at my luck. Of course she smoked as well. Hell, with my luck, while we were holding hands yesterday, her long dirty-blonde hair could’ve hidden the current object of my detestation behind her ear. I looked on her person and had to stifle a chuckle as I quickly deduced I was probably right. She didn’t carry around a purse, and her jeans were too tight to put anything in her pockets, much less a single, fragile cigarette.

My skills of observation also screamed to me that both of my friends, my best friend and my girlfriend, were daily smokers. Sure, they knew how to clean themselves up very well, but now they had all their defenses down, all their features…paling, in a way.

And to believe that all this time, they didn’t bother to tell me. I have a horrible sense of smell – I suppose that is the consequence for my keen eyes for detail – but when I do smell the smoke on them, I only assumed that their parents were the smokers, like my mother. Just thinking of my mother coming up in this situation made me groan. She was the smoker that made me never consider drugs in my lifetime.

For the first time, they gave me a look of actual concern. “You okay?” She asked me, speaking for the first time since we started this little incomplete smoking triangle. I could see the concern in her eyes. But the sparkle that I usually saw – the sparkle that made me really question the definition of love and all that came with it – had dimmed in her eyes. They were cloudy, and a little bloodshot. I could tell that I was probably no better looking, having been in this smog of carbon monoxide for more than a few minutes.

I don’t want to be the nerdy joykill in this situation. I really don’t want to be the guy that warns in a Carlton Banks-like voice that ‘you know you’re going to die from that stuff, right?’ I suppose, in this situation, I would be a buzzkill. But I had to say something. I couldn’t just say nothing, just watch as they kill themselves with the stuff. That’s secondary manslaughter, right?

“I probably should’ve told you I hate cigarettes,” I muttered, leaning against the wall. We were on the side of the local library building, the taboo of everything not lost on me at all. It was closed today, and I don’t know whether to feel thankful or disappointed. If we had known the library was closed, we wouldn’t have walked up here. If we hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t have talked until the Sun came down. And then he probably wouldn’t have randomly pulled out a cigarette, like he was trying to show off that he had gotten a new habit. And then she wouldn’t have mellowed and revealed what I supposed was something she would have told me when we became more serious.

“Why?” She simply asked, and all I could really do was give her a light glare. I never really pegged either of them for the smoking type, so I never said anything about it. What was her excuse? What was his excuse?

She was one of those girls I could easily see as one I would love to wake up to every morning. He was one of those guys I could trust to handle my ring at the altar, while I stare into her eyes.

And I hate to say it, but this changes everything.


Author’s Notes: How do you feel about the fact that no names were said? Original? Or annoying? I’ve never seen it done before, but I tried to make it so it wasn’t confusing at all, and fits with the flow. Have I succeeded? Tell me.

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