Disclosure – Smoking Fetish Story

Rain was pouring from the sky in sheets as I crossed the long causeway to a gritty beach town at the southern tip of Texas – a town better known for Spring Break chaos than for having anything fun to do on a rainy afternoon on a more average weekday in late Spring. I thought about what to do with a few hours of time to myself.
I had been working remotely – I’m a senior controller for a fairly big company – from our home in Houston since the pandemic began, and had barely been to South Padre Island since the whole thing started. I wouldn’t have come down here at all during the pandemic, but for the fact that before the pandemic, my company acquired a smaller business based in a small city about twenty miles inland from this long, narrow spit of sand. Somehow, the task of getting this acquisition’s financial books in order and setting regular accounting procedures had been assigned to me as a “professional challenge,” a “big step for you,” and “a sign of our trust that you can right this ship.” Without the glossy language, the task could better be described as “fixing a financial dumpster fire,” built and stoked by people who actually ran a successful business that made a sound acquisition for my company – but had no idea how to really do the nuts-and-bolts of managing money. From payroll to vendor processes and general ledger accounting, it was a train wreck. And the management of my company asked me to clean it up, defuse any landmines in the books, and tie it all into the main company’s systems.
When the assignment was first given to me in early 2019, part of it did seem fun. But it would mean I’d be spending a fair amount of time down in the Rio Grande Valley (stretching west of the Island) away from my wife and two girls still in the single-digits ages. I could do a lot of the work from our main corporate office – but there are some things, with a project like this, that you have to do in person. Sometimes, you have to look folks in the eye to really figure out what’s going on. I had taken on “acquisition integration” projects before and I knew that much.
I also knew, though, that I was no longer really interested in the on-the-road life anymore, and had worked my way into a cushy spot at headquarters to avoid a lot of the travel I used to do. So, I did what professionals in their mid-40’s probably aren’t supposed to do: I balked at it, even if only just a bit, and said I wasn’t sure I’d want to spend so much time so far away from home. I still remember telling my company’s Chief Financial Officer. His eyes squinted and he cocked his head just a bit as I said, “Art, I’m just not sure I can make this one work.” He smiled a wry smile, probably surprised that one of his “go-to guys” was refusing to jump.
Or maybe it was admiration that a “numbers guy” had the chutzpah to demand better terms. At least that’s how I think he took it. The next day, he called me into his office. On the big TV screen next to his desk was a web page from Zillow, showing a long list of small-ish, but nice, beach houses on this little barrier island. “Stan, I get your reluctance and it’s reasonable. But what if we threw a beach house into the deal,” he said, looking up at the list and clicking one of the listings. “This one here looks great – a half-block to the beach, two bedrooms, all the trimmings.”
I looked at him with a puzzled look on my face, and Art – who is really a salesman in CFO clothing – grinned a wide smile because he knew he had my interest. “What we’d like to do is give you a nice chunk of cash that you can put down on one of these places, and we’ll give you a raise that will probably cover any mortgage. You’ll need a place to stay when you’re down there, and this way you and Susan come out of this owning a beach house. She and the kids can come down as often as you all want.”
I must have arched an eyebrow, because Art knew he had me on the hook. He leaned forward. “Stan, you’re the guy I trust for this. This is the biggest acquisition we’ve done in years. We want to make it very much worth your while, and you and Susan and the kids can have some fun beach time on weekends and in summers and such. And once you get things running right down there, you won’t be down there much at all. And then you can rent this sucker out to coeds on Spring

Break.” He turned back to the screen. “Look at this one – palm trees and a pool, the whole goddamn works. Don’t tell the team we’re bonusing you for this or everyone will be lined up at my door asking for this kind of thing.”
Art and I had worked together for years, and he knew I loved the beach – and that he had sold me. Susan was on board pretty quickly, dreaming of long weekends at “our beach house.” We’d been married long enough – fifteen years – that we were confident we could survive me being gone a few days a week, for a few weeks every month. Sure enough, it did work – I came to South Padre when I had to, and my family certainly enjoyed a lot of weekends, holidays, and a few weeks during the summer. The family and I built a nice routine of it, and I got a lot of heavy-lifting cleanup done on the books. All was well.
Until the pandemic. My company’s offices – in our Houston headquarters, down in far South Texas where South Padre was, and across the country – shuttered, and folks scattered to work from home. I’d come down here a few times, mostly to check on the beach house and at least go “into the office.”
But like a lot of people, I was mostly working out of a guest bedroom. Susan had long ago claimed the actual “office” room in our suburban house – she had transitioned her rather specialized law practice into a work-from-home-most-of-the- time arrangement after we had our kids, and long before it was widely accepted. She made the arrangement work before articles about how to do that flooded the Internet. As long as she was working and making money for her firm (and herself), no one at her firm cared, and she was closer to the Holy Grail of a “work/life balance.” So, with some rearrangement of a guest room, I figured out how to make working from home work, too.
For me, more time at home meant time to spend with my beautiful wife of sixteen years, and she smoked a lot of that time as she had since the day we met. But that smoking itself caused some challenges for our marriage, too. And it had done so for a long time before the Pandemic.
Chapter 1: Susan
So, some background is needed here before I get to tell you about what happened
on that beach island.
If you’re reading this, you likely have a smoking fetish – as do I. I’d confessed it to Susan when we were dating, almost twenty years ago and about three years

before we married. I made my confession late one night during a drunken discussion of our turn-ons.
At the time, she was a pack-and-a-half a day Marlboro Reds woman just out of college. Combine that with great looks, gorgeous blonde hair and deep brown eyes, razor-sharp intelligence, compassion, and a killer wit, and even though I was eight years older than her, I was determined to win her and would do anything to carry her heart over the gap in our ages.
And Susan was fine with my fetish – “it’s a little weird,” she said, echoing what’s now a common refrain whenever the notion of telling a significant other comes up on Smoking Fetish Kingdom. Indeed, in very mercantile fashion, she made it clear that if I indulged her sexual kinks, she’d indulge my fetish in return – and she already smoked, so there wasn’t much she’d have to give up in the bargain. And so, under her tutelage, I learned to suck her toes (it’s only weird the first few times, honestly) and also overcame my long-held reluctance to give oral sex and became a fairly decent practitioner of that art. This open discussion and bargaining was one of the things that convinced us we could build a long-term relationship worthy of being called a marriage, and we openly talked a lot about our wants and needs – as you’ll see later in this story.
For her part or this kinky trade, though, Susan accepted my request that she try 120s – what she initially called “granny cigarettes.” Somewhat methodically, she tried several brands until she decided Virginia Slims Gold 120s were her ultra-long of choice. These, she ultimately concluded, were the only 120 that tasted good to her and “weren’t like smoking air,” a phrase only a fellow smoker (like me) could understand as meaning they would satisfy a craving.
Here’s where devoted fans of the ultra-long fetish yell, “But what about Max?” at their screens – and it is true, Max 120s were stronger (“were,” and not “are,” because that brand has long been consigned to the ashcan of cigarette history). And Susan bought a pack of Max – only to crush out the first one half-smoked, proclaiming it “tastes like ass.” I didn’t ask how she knew that taste, grateful she was willing to try other brands in order to satisfy my fetish, and not wanting to appear ungrateful with an offhand remark. Capris, Eves, and Saratogas met similar fates (Capris and Eves tasted horrible to her, Saratogas were the brand of choice of a beloved aunt who had a smoking-related illness and so carried negative connotations). She smoked most of a carton of More 120s and liked the taste – until eventually she decided she was “tired of being stared at if I light one of these while we’re out anywhere, people must think I’m smoking a cigar.” Her

misguided purchase of Carlton 120s wound up with the nearly-full pack in the trash, because, as she put it, “it’s like you’re not even smoking anything, so why bother?”
Susan undertook this experiment in the months before our wedding. A few weeks before the date, I noticed she had essentially stopped smoking her Marlboros and was now always smoking Virginia Slims Gold 120s – almost literally “always” smoking them as the stress of wedding day built. I had never intended for her to switch to them full time – she was a committed Marlboro woman when we met, and the best I thought I could hope for was making Virginia Slims 120s her “date night” cigarette for my enjoyment.
But one morning after breakfast, Susan pulled out a long Virginia Slim, and held it out to me for a light. I lit the end of her cigarette and she took a long drag. Exhaling and looking at me with her ever-twinkling blue eyes, she said she was “going to keep smoking these granny cigarettes for a while more, at least.” With a little smirk, she added, “So I hope you enjoy watching. I really like the taste of these. And they have less tar and nicotine than Marlboro Reds.”
Her comment about nicotine took me a bit by surprise. Yes, we were both smokers – Benson & Hedges and a rare cigar for me. As smokers had started to do by the mid-2000s, we’d had to bend a bit in our lives to accommodate our smoking habit. Dinner in a restaurant that didn’t have a smoking section was followed by us joking about who would go outside to smoke first – before usually agreeing to just get the check and go to a bar, where smoking was still widely permitted. When we flew anywhere, we developed a pattern in which she would make a beeline for the front of the terminal as soon as we got off the plane – while I collected our bags and met up with her later. By then, she would usually be finishing her second cigarette, and with her craving satiated, she’d take over figuring out the next leg of our trip while I lit up. It was understood that smoking was part of our daily lives, and we’d find ways to do it. The notion of quitting, cutting down, or nicotine levels in cigarettes had never come up.
So, I let Susan’s comment about nicotine go by without rejoinder. I did, however, acknowledge that part of her apparent brand switch was a way to acknowledge my fetish. That made me feel wonderful for a moment – she was changing an integral part of her life that she did thirty times a day, as well as the taste, perceived status, and everything that comes with the choice of a cigarette brand; and setting aside the “less nicotine” comment, she was doing it in part for me. That’s significant. So I affirmed her acknowledgement by telling her that of all the 120s she had tried, the

Virginia Slims 120s were the sexiest. I remember her tilting her head at my comment, and saying that she found it a bit odd that I would “think about this in this much detail – like, even the specific brand you watch me smoke is a big deal?”
Yes, yes, in fact, the brand a woman smokes is a big deal – but I know here I am preaching to the converted. Susan likely guessed that like every man, I’d found something to pique my fetish interest on line – but just as I once saw her reading the Literotica page on her tablet, there’s some things in every relationship that are best left treated with the broad strokes of a Bob Ross painting. She’d be shocked to know that there are whole sub-forums for every element of this fetish, filled with huge catalogs of stories, videos and pictures – not to mention the hundreds of stories collected and published by unsung heroes of this mostly underground, yet global, community.
All the same, on that morning, puffing her Virginia Slim 120 after breakfast, Susan just sighed, and said, “Good, then this all works out pretty well, then.” I had stepped on, but not crossed, the line between my fetish being “a little weird” and “really weird,” and she was a sexy woman smoking a super sexy cigarette. We seemed to be in a good place.
The wedding day came. Following tradition, we stayed apart the whole day before the ceremony – she got ready at a nearby hotel suite with her bridesmaids, and I endured the taunts and jokes of my groomsmen who tried to calm my nerves on the big day. Seeing her walk down the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress, her smoking was the furthest thing from my mind: Susan was stunningly beautiful, smart, charming, and took no grief from me or anyone else. I was the luckiest man on earth for those qualities alone. When she came to stand next to me at the altar, though, I caught the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke mixed with her perfume. For a nanosecond, that intoxicating aroma – and you know what I mean, dear reader – reminded me I was even luckier because I was marrying a gorgeous 120s smoker.
After the ceremony, we went through the tedious process of having wedding pictures taken in the garden behind our church. At one point, the photographer started fiddling with his camera. Susan opened the tiniest purse I had ever seen her carry, pulled out a pack of Virginia Slims 120s, wedged the pack back in, and placed the ultralong between her lips. By instinct I reached for my lighter, and I fished in my pockets for it.
Through an unlit dangle, Susan asked, “You’ll light your wife’s cigarette, right?” We both laughed at the first time she referred to herself as my wife. I found my

lighter, lit her up, and she took a greedy drag. Still dangling, she grabbed my lighter and said, “You can have a cigarette, Stan, he’s still putting the camera back together, or whatever he’s doing. This will be a while.”
“Good, I’m getting a little itchy,” I said, using the casual slang we used with each other to communicate a nicotine craving – seeing my beloved starting to puff away was giving me a just such a twinge. I pulled out a Benson & Hedges and stuck out my hand toward her, thinking she’d give me back my lighter.
“I can light my husband’s cigarette, too,” Susan said, smiling and still dangling her 120 from the corner of her mouth as she flicked the lighter to life.
A guest milling about behind the church later shared a picture he captured of that moment that’s become one of my favorites: my lovely wife in her wedding dress, veil pulled back and Virginia Slim dangling from the corner of her mouth, holding a lighter up to the tip of my cigarette.
Bringing the lighter down and still dangling her cigarette, Susan asked, “What’s the old slogan for these things?,” pointing with her other hand to the glowing tip of the Virginia Slim 120. “I’ve come a long way, baby? Something like that? I’ve come a long way if I can light your cigarette.”
Chapter 2: Planning To Plan
The next morning, a bit hungover and tired but still basking in the afterglow of a fun wedding, we headed to the airport in a taxi, enroute to our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. After we got out of the cab, I paid the driver and got our bags. Susan stood next to me with her pack of Virginia Slims 120s already out of her purse, and as I turned away from the cab with our bags, she held the pack up and asked, “It’s a long flight, but we have some time now, right?”
“Of course,” I replied, and I wheeled our bags off to a secluded spot away from the doors and where other smokers were clustered.
I lit Susan’s cigarette and then lit one of my own. “Hangovers are the worst,” she said between long puffs. I’d learned to tell when she was really craving a cigarette because – as with many of the smoking women you and I admire – she’d pull so hard on the cigarette that the tip would bounce up in the air a bit. After sharing some more funny stories about the wedding – who had almost hooked up with who, that kind of thing – she put out her cigarette in a weather-beaten ashtray,

having finished it to the filter well before me in another sign of nicotine’s call. She pulled out her pack again and I lit her up.
“If we’re going to be drinking as much there as we did at the wedding, it’s a good thing we brought a lot of cigarettes,” Susan said through a talking exhale off her first drag. We both bought cigarettes by the carton then, and packed one of each of our brands in the bags – and she had several packs in her purse, too.
“Oh yeah. I don’t think I can drink like that anymore, but I don’t know what cigarettes they will have at the resort,” I answered. After some more talking, we put out our cigarettes, and proceeded through the labyrinthine maze departing international travelers have to go through in every big airport in the country.
After an hour of long lines, moving walkways, and a monorail that somehow seemed to take forever, we got to our gate only to learn our plane was delayed. Between getting to the airport on the early side and the delay, we had an hour and a half to kill. I went to the restroom while Susan went off to explore options for lunch.
When I came out, Susan was walking down the concourse toward me at a fast pace and approached me excitedly. “There’s a bar here where you can still smoke. I thought they stopped that in the airport?” she asked, quizzically but with a note of happiness in her voice.
“I thought so, too. Maybe not in the international terminal? I don’t know why,” I said.
“Anyway, it has food, and I’m starved,” Susan said. “Let’s go.”
The hostess had barely sat us at a table overlooking the gates before Susan had a Virginia Slim pulled out. I raced to grab my lighter from my pocket and lit her up. She took a huge drag – as if she hadn’t just had two cigarettes and hour ago. Exhaling, she said, “So, you’ll still light my cigarettes, even as your wife? That wasn’t just a stunt to get me to marry you?” she asked.
I lit my Benson & Hedges, took a puff, and returned the wry smile she was giving me. “Stunt? It’s a romantic gesture. And I’ve been lighting you up for over three years now. Why would I stop now?”
“Good, because I like it. It makes me know that you’re paying attention to me. And, it is definitely romantic.” Susan laughed and took another puff.

“Speaking of cigarettes, though,” Susan said, holding the cigarette filter between two fingers and pointing the cigarette straight up in the air about a foot in front of her face, a gesture I’d never seen her make before, “at some point, we are both going to have to cut down and quit these things. Everyone does as they get older and when kids come into the picture. Not now, and not yet. But we’ll have to do it, and get it over with. I don’t want to be always in the middle of quitting forever like my mom. She gets the agony of always quitting and the cough from still smoking.”
I appreciated Susan’s reference to her mother. Susan’s mother Linda is a wonderful woman who had heartily welcomed me into their family. A real definition of a bubbly personality, Linda is the life of every party and greets even people she just met with big hugs and a thick Texas drawl. Linda was pretty smart, too – she’d had a good nursing career that she liked. When her husband Tom’s law practice started to take off when Susan and her older brother will still kids, though, Linda put her talents to work as one of those stay-at-home-moms who don’t really stay at home, but are always the center of organizing every neighborhood, school, and community activity within a mile. Linda was always surrounded by a whirl of activity.
Linda was also always surrounded by the aroma of cigarette smoke. Linda’s Achilles’ heel was that she was caught in the netherworld between being a full-time smoker and a former smoker. She had been trapped in that miserable place for years, wanting to quit for good but not ever able to pull it off.
Susan’s first memory is of her mother smoking. As Susan put it when giving me the “briefing” before I met her parents for the first time: “My mom was like a walking ad for Winston 100s. Always a lit one in her hand, or hanging from the corner of her mouth. She’d smoke all over the house, in the car with the windows rolled up, the whole thing. My brother and I would give her grief all the time, about how it smelled. Dad smoked too, but not nearly as much and at least he’d kind of be considerate about it. When I was ten, she quit work to stay at home and raise us kids, and she and Dad said it was because Dad was making more money – but part of me always thought it was because the hospital where she worked had started putting in rules about smoking.”
Susan had continued: “So my mom just became a full-on chimney – she smoked constantly. Then, I had my first cigarette at twelve and started sneaking them out of her pack. Mom caught me when I was twelve, and she wasn’t happy about it, but she smoked too so there wasn’t really much she could do, right? I mean, she told me about her cough – not like I didn’t know, as she coughed all the time, even

then – and about being addicted, and lung cancer, and all of that. But she knew she couldn’t stop me, so she didn’t try very hard.”
Linda’s concern over Susan’s smoking – and her own cough – grew over the next couple of years, as Susan explained to me back then. “So, on her fortieth birthday, at a big party we threw for her, she makes a big production of how she and my dad are quitting for her birthday. She tells everyone she’s read a book called ‘Switch Down and Quit,’ about how much nicotine is in different brands, and how you go kind of down from high-nicotine to low nicotine, and then you’re done. Dad had kind of weaned himself off cigarettes anyway by then, and had gotten into cigars as they fit his golfing-lawyer image better, I guess. In any event, he went along with it, and has a daily cigar, maybe two, even now. He kept his end of this whole thing.”
“But Mom, though,” Susan had gone on, back early in our relationship. “Mom? No way. It was a total fiasco. She even tried to rope me into it. One day, maybe a week after her big birthday party, she pulls out her book and shows me a chart of tar and nicotine figures, and tells me we’re both going to switch down. I was not a happy camper. I was smoking maybe five or six Winstons every day, I was happy with that, smoking wasn’t a problem for me, and I was a sophomore in high school. This was not the sort of irritation I needed. But she kind of lays down the law and goes, ‘as long as you can’t buy cigarettes for yourself, you’ll smoke what I buy. And you’ll be healthier.’ About the only thing we agreed on with this list was 100s or longer – me, I just kind of liked the longer ones and I’d always only ever really smoked her Winston 100s; her, because she had some theory about how a longer cigarette had a longer filter and was better for you. So, she reads down this list, and there’s some formula she follows about lowering the nicotine by a certain amount. And she decides – get this – that she and I are going to try three brands of cigarettes and get to pick the one we both like. She so overcomplicated it. And she picks out Parliament 100s, Eve 120s, and some weird brand called Silva Thins.”
At this point, I had interrupted the briefing. Very intrigued by the thought of my beautiful then-girlfriend smoking a 120, I asked, “Wait, so as a sophomore in high school, you had to smoke 120s?” The fetisher in me definitely wanted to hear more.
“The whole thing was such a huge pain,” Susan continued. “Every week, my friends would give me such crap when we’d sneak out to the parking lot to smoke or smoke after school, because I’d have either these super-long or super skinny

cigarettes, or the Parliaments with the weird filter, and I’d hear, ‘Oh, what’s Susan’s bizarre cigarette of the day?,’ that kind of thing. I didn’t really like the taste of any of them, but I was fifteen and couldn’t buy them, not any place in our neighborhood. So I hated it – probably mostly because I was fifteen and I didn’t want my mom telling what I could do or not do, right? – but I went along with it, because, at that age, for me, a cigarette was a cigarette. Beggars can’t be choosers. I was going to be fine, with whatever.”
“But not Mom,” Susan had continued. “Not Linda, not at all. The whole low- nicotine thing just was not going to work. She had limited herself to a pack and a half a day – she had been over two packs, easy – and between that, and less nicotine – man, she was crawling up the walls. She would bitch my dad out so bad for the most minor thing, in front of my brother and me, that half the time I thought Dad would just go to the store and get her a carton of Winstons.”
“So, this goes on for maybe three months – these long cigarettes, the Parliaments, some other odd brands off her list,” Susan had continued. “She’s a nervous wreck and still coughing up a storm, so she’s not at all happy. And then my Aunt Mindy, her older sister, was visiting one day. Mom tries one of her Saratogas, and she’s in love, love, love, with it. Mom was like, this is the best cigarette ever made. So, she looks up Saratogas in her book, and sure enough they have less nicotine and tar than her Winstons, so Mom is convinced she’s found a winner, right? She can get her nerves under control and then go down the chart when she’s ready. She gets a carton of these things, and just announces to me, ‘Well, Susan, we’ve found a new brand.’”
“And that’s when I had just had enough of this whole thing,” Susan explained. “I tell her I can’t stand smoking 120s, no one else in my school smoked them, and I don’t want to be different just because she is on this switch-down-and-quit thing. I said I felt ridiculous. I think she got it – she gave me the book and told me to find a low-nicotine brand. Almost all of my friends smoked Marlboro Lights, and she saw that they had even less tar and nicotine than the Saratogas, so she thought this was ‘progress’ and started buying me my own Marlboro Light 100s. I switched to Marlboro Red 100s my senior year when I could buy my own, and mom was not at all pleased. She made comments about the tar and nicotine, but there was nothing she could do about it by then.”
“But since then, Stan,” she said, “She’s just been all over the place. She smoked the Saratogas at least into my senior year of high school, and then Aunt Mindy was told she has emphysema, so that scared my mom into switching down again and

following her little chart. Every time I see her, she’s smoking a different brand, and she loves to tell me all about it. I think she wants me to start to switch to these brands, but I’m like, no way. She smoked the brown ones, I think Mores or something, for a while; then it was Capris, Kent Golden something, Merit Light or Ultra or something – she always has a whole explanation. But she still hacks up a lung all the time, and smokes like a pack a day. At least she has cut down. But she’s always saying how she’s ‘quitting.’ I’m thinking, Jesus, Mom, you’re almost fifty, you’ve been doing this for, maybe, nine years. When are you going to be done with ‘quitting?’”
In the airport bar, I thought about Susan’s comment and her fear of joining her mom in the Bardo between smoking and not smoking. This was about three years after Susan had given me this background, and Linda was still wandering through cigarette brands trying to find a way to life without nicotine. Hypnosis attempts, seminars, and nicotine gum had been tried and discarded, and at our wedding the night before, Linda had been smoking Kent III’s. Making my rounds among the guests, I’d overheard her telling someone about some sort of miracle, health- preserving quality of that brand’s filter.
“Your mom should just admit it, she smokes and she’s not going to quit,” I said. Susan finished her puff and tapped her cigarette in the ashtray. She exhaled in my direction. As smokers together, we had long ago stopped worrying about our exhales inadvertently going in the other’s general direction – and in one of the many details of my fetish I had not shared, I enjoyed her smoke drifting into my face. The cloud that had been in her lungs seconds before slowed as it went around my head, to join the haze filling up this last airport nicotine sanctuary.
“I know, right? Or,” Susan said, as a last wisp of smoke came out of her mouth. “Or…we could go the Scott and Kristen route. But that’s gruesome. I do not want to do that, not at all.”
Scott and Kristen were friends of ours – more precisely, Scott and I had been college buddies and started out at Houston-area companies together. He and I were both smokers, and in college he met Kristen – also a smoker. Kristen was a great woman for him, and she had become a good friend of mine too: before I met Susan, she was always either trying to set me up with girlfriends (sometimes successfully) or doling out helpful relationship advice to me from a woman’s perspective. She was a lot of fun, and it wasn’t uncommon for the three of us to do things together. When Susan came into my life, she and Kristen bonded almost immediately – in part, certainly, because both of them were pretty heavy smokers.

The four of us had become great friends, and just the day before at our wedding, Scott was one of my groomsmen and Kristen was one of the bridesmaids.
Indeed, our wedding was probably the first “date night” Scott and Kristen had had in at least six months – that’s how old their baby girl was. You see, Scott and Kristen had gotten married about two years ago, and within months, Kristen was pregnant. So far so good, and that wasn’t what Susan’s “gruesome” comment was about. Susan was referring to a decision Scott and Kristen made to immediately quit smoking “cold turkey” when they learned Kristen was pregnant. Certainly, even the most hardened fetisher will admit that was the best thing to do from a health perspective. But they made the decision in haste, and weren’t prepared for the consequences of quickly turning their backs on the demon weed.
It got ugly for them, and for a long time. Between Kristen’s body making God- knows-what hormones to support the pregnancy, Scott a bit overwhelmed by the news, and no nicotine in sight, their arguments became the stuff of legend in our group of friends. They argued bitterly in front of us when we took them out for brunch to celebrate the good news, and wound up leaving as soon as they could, barely speaking to one another (Susan and I didn’t smoke while we were out to brunch with them – but as soon as they were out of sight, Susan could only say “God, I thought I needed a cigarette, but not as much as those two.”). On at least one occasion over the next few months, Scott would be burning up my phone reciting a list of Kristen’s alleged wrongs while he stormed through the streets of their neighborhood on a walk to try to calm down – while Kristen would be crying and wailing to Susan about Scott’s perceived shortcomings.
But, as with most smokers who quit, they got through it. And had a beautiful baby girl. A few months later, they brought the baby over to see us. Kristen and Susan got to talking about our wedding plans while we all hung out. Kristen spotted an ashtray on our patio – we had smoked outside that day, knowing they would be coming over – pointed at it and said, “You guys are still smoking? You’ll have to stop that soon for your babies!” with the slightly smug tone of voice former smokers employ with those who are still partaking of the vice. Scott rolled his eyes at me.
Susan, perhaps a bit surprised, made a joke of the comment. “Babies? More than one?” she said, before changing the subject.
But the comment apparently had planted the “quitting” seed in her mind, some months ago – and now, perhaps here in this smoky airport bar and grill, it was

beginning to sprout. I wanted to stomp it back down deep in the ground – not only as a fetisher, but just as a smoker myself who simply wasn’t ready or willing to even consider quitting. “We absolutely cannot go the Scott and Kristen route. You and I would kill each other. Could you imagine the two of us, not smoking at all? There would be bloodshed.” I said – obviously exaggerating but acknowledging what we both knew – we were both pretty heavy smokers. I held up my cigarette to make my point, and introduced the idea of cutting back – a concept I thought we both could live with – as a compromise. “Yes, someday, we’ll cut way back. Maybe a few cigarettes a day, something like that. But we have to do it in a way that we don’t just go over some cliff.”
“Maybe a few a day,” Susan said, exhaling again. She tapped more ash off her cigarette and paused for a second, then looked at me. “Maybe that’s at least something to aim for, that we can get to. Right now, for me, this is not good – I have been smoking like two packs a day for months now. I don’t know if I am used to more nicotine in the Marlboros, or the whole wedding planning thing. But it is a lot. I have been waking up all phlegmy and I don’t want to wind up like my mom.”
“I think it’s both,” I said. “You said there is less nicotine in those Virginia Slims than the Marlboros, and wedding planning was a pain for both of us. But look at it this way. You’re already smoking a lower-nicotine cigarette. So, you are already better off now than you were, and then if you cut down to maybe a pack a day, then you can think about the next step,” I looked at her, taking another puff.
“You’re right, and it is a start. We will need to do this, but not on our honeymoon. And it’s not going to take forever like with my mom,” Susan said, crushing out her Virginia Slim in the ashtray.
The waitress had arrived to take our food order. After we ordered, Susan reached for her pack and pulled out another Virginia Slim. Since she had just put out a cigarette, this was almost chain smoking, which – while she was a pretty heavy smoker anyway – was not something she did when she wasn’t drinking. I thought it especially odd given the discussion we had just had. As a happy fetisher, though, I had no problem indulging my pretty wife in a 120, and quickly sparked my lighter to life.
As she exhaled her first big puff, Susan asked, “By the way, speaking of Scott and Kristen – you do know she and I saw you, Scott, and my dad smoking cigars with a bunch of other guys at the outdoor patio last night at the reception, right?” I had been afraid this might happen. Tom had brought some cigars to the reception, and

passed them out to me and the groomsmen – the reception was held at the country club Tom and Linda were members of, and cigar smoking was pretty freely allowed on the outdoor deck. Scott had initially turned down the proffered cigar when Tom passed around the box, but pretty quickly relented when all the rest of us – never-smokers and smokers alike – took a break from the festivities and lit them up.
“Ugh,” I groaned, rolling my eyes. “Scott is going to catch hell today, I’m sure.”
Susan smiled wryly. “Not really.” She took a puff, inhaled deeply, looked up at the ceiling and exhaled. Looking back to me, her grin widened. “Do you know how Kristen saw him? From the other side of the patio – that corner where you check in to get a golf cart – with me and Linda, and Kristen was smoking a cigarette! She was so happy to be out for a night, I think, and she was drinking for maybe the first time in months, she just grabbed one of mine. You should have seen her smoke it – it was like it was the last cigarette ever on Earth.”
I don’t think Susan meant to direct her comment to my fetish. But all the same, it gave me one heck of a mental fetish image. Kristen did have a great smoking style, and before I’d met Susan, I always considered Scott a lucky guy – both for all of her great non-tobacco-related qualities, her beautiful red hair, blue eyes, and nice figure – and, of course, her smoking habit.
We chatted a bit more about the reception while we waited for our food, and I got the chance to really observe Susan’s smoking style. Like all of us in the fetish community, I notice these details, and with the exception of inhaling a bit deeper, her style hasn’t really changed since we first met. She’ll always put the cigarette in her mouth a little bit to the right of the center of her mouth, part her fingers a small bit – maybe an inch – and draw. I’ve mentioned how her draw can be strong enough to make the cigarette angle upward when she is trying to satisfy a craving. But she also has the habit of lowering her jaw down and hollowing her cheeks through most of her cigarette, too – although these behaviors stop when the cigarette burns down close to its filter, perhaps as the craving is fulfilled. She always inhales about the same way after taking a puff: opening her mouth a small bit to create a channel of air to be drawn in behind the smoke, as her chest expands forward and her shoulders hunch upward ever-so-slightly. Her body has figured out how deep to inhale and how long to hold her inhale – in each case, more if the need is stronger. Her exhales are never the tight streams of fetish video lore, but are almost an afterthought: usually a cone aimed loosely in one direction or another, as if her mind has already moved on from the task of getting

the tobacco smoke in to her body and can’t be bothered about how it gets out. Or when it gets out: Susan is something of a master of the talking exhale, little choppy clouds moving quicky to accentuate her words.
If Susan is a master of the talking exhale, I am her spellbound servant when she practices this art. In the relatively large number of sub-fetishes or interests some of us in this community have – cigarette cases, brown cigarettes, pipes, vapes, the list goes on – you can list me, dear reader, in the “talking exhales” group (among others). The little wisps that punctuate a smoking woman’s words are a big one for me. As with a lot of why we like what we all like about women who smoke, I’ll never know exactly why. For me, I’m comfortable speculating that the talking exhale tells me that the woman doing it is committed enough to the habit that she’s not going to stop her other activities – like carrying on a conversation – to exhale. She’s just going to smoke, that’s just the way it is. And exhaling the smoke is not going to interfere with whatever she wants to say. Her smoking, and therefore her exhaling, is just a part of her existence.
She demonstrated this as the waitress put down our plates. “I am starving,” came out of her mouth with each word carried on its own tiny blast of smoke, which pretty quickly merged into the hazy bar, as she crushed out her cigarette after taking one last quick puff and short inhale. As we ate, we started to figure out how much time we had before we needed to head back to the gate.
When she was finished eating, she reached again for her pack of Virginia Slims. “So we have time for one more?” she said, holding up a cigarette and knowing full well that we both always smoked after we ate.
“I think so,” I said, lighting her up before lighting my own Benson & Hedges. Susan took a long puff, inhaled deeply, stared out the window at the taxiway of planes for a few seconds while the smoke sat in her lungs, and exhaled a cone that cascaded and broke across the window.
“Sometimes I wish you could still smoke on planes, it’s such a long flight,” Susan said, pensively. She took another big puff, and with her mouth slightly open, inhaled deeply, held the smoke, and exhaled, all while gazing at the busy activity going on around the plane parked not far from the window. “I bet it was thick smoke on those planes, though,” she said.
“I bet it was as hazy as this bar,” I said, laughing a bit.

“I know, right? It’s like being in a cloud in here,” Susan agreed. I could tell something was on her mind as she continued to look pensively outside the window and repeated her big-puff, inhale-hold-exhale, craving-satisfying cycle.
“So, it’s a start, right?” she eventually asked, with another talking exhale.
“What’s a start?” I countered, well aware that her quick mind would often jump from topic to topic.
“I get down to a pack a day, and then we figure it out from there,” Susan said.
“Baby steps, dear. Rome wasn’t built in a day,” I said, all the same pleased that perhaps this talk of quitting was provisionally resolved. I didn’t want to quit, and I believed Susan didn’t either – but Kristen’s comment about babies, the slowly- tightening restrictions on smoking, and her recognition she’d been smoking “too much” had made the issue top of mind for Susan, at least for now. “Let’s remember you’re starting your first year of law school in about ten weeks,” I offered. “The stress of quitting during that might be the last thing you need.”
“Don’t remind me,” Susan said, exhaling.
“We are ‘planning to plan’ to quit, though, so that’s a start,” I said, quoting Office
Space, one of our favorite movies.
Susan smiled, put her elbow on the table, and held her burning cigarette in her hand. “So, what would you say, you do here,” she said, quoting a scene in the movie we both loved.
“I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to,” I replied back with the next line. “But actually, right now, I pay the check for my wife’s lunch and get her to the gate so we can go on our honeymoon.”
Chapter 3: Scratching An Itch
It’s about a four-hour flight from Houston to the Dominican Republic. Despite chain smoking in the airport bar, and keeping ourselves busy enroute with talking, some reading, and a little napping, Susan and I were both ready for a cigarette when we landed. First, though, we had to go through customs checkpoints – which took about another hour as several other flights landed at about the same time as ours, apparently overwhelming the small customs staff. By the time we made it through the last checkpoint, Susan was getting irritable.

We were heading into the baggage claim area when she tugged on my sleeve. I turned to look at her and she looked down at her other hand, which had pulled her pack of Virginia Slims halfway out of her purse. “Can I be first to go scratch this itch?” she said, both of us knowing full well her itch was the call of nicotine.
“Of course, my dear wife,” I said playfully. “You go. I’ll get the bags and find you outside.”
The bags took, it seemed, forever – but in reality, only about fifteen minutes. While I smoked less than Susan and my cravings were less intense, I still had them, and I was feeling one now. Finally, I wrangled all of our luggage, and headed out to the front of the terminal. I found Susan in a little garden at one end of the terminal sidewalk that appeared to be set aside for smokers. In the ashtray next to her was one slowly-smoldering Virginia Slim butt, and she was almost down the filter of her second one since we had landed.
I lit up and enjoyed feeling the craving fade away after a few seconds. Susan finished her cigarette, stubbed it out, and pulled out another cigarette. “I’ll have one more while I am waiting for you,” offering a lame and unnecessary excuse for chainsmoking into her third cigarette.
“Then let me offer you your first light from a gentleman in the Caribbean, Mrs. Andrews,” I said. Susan puffed, inhaled, and exhaled – not holding the smoke in her lungs very long as she was well-sated with nicotine by now. “Very fancy,” she replied with a smile.
“I aim to please. Indeed,” I said, making an exaggerated point of looking at her feet, visible through her sandals. “It looks like you may be ready for your first pedicure in the Caribbean as well.”
Susan exhaled a cone of smoke and smiled devilishly – our code word for my licking and sucking on her toes and massaging her feet was a “pedicure.” “I am always up for one of your pedicures, Mr. Andrews,” she smiled.
We took a cab to the resort. As we observed the tropical scenery, I sat close to her and took in her smell – sweat from the Caribbean heat, mixed with cigarette smoke and a hint of perfume. The resort was spectacularly beautiful, and after making dinner reservations in one of the resort restaurants for a late seating, we walked around the grounds before going up to our “honeymoon suite.” There were pools, a beautiful beach, and a few little beach bars. A little tired from our day of travel,

though, we decided not to enjoy the amenities right then – and instead we each grabbed a drink and headed to our room.
Our bags had been brought up by the hotel staff. Susan changed and freshened up a bit, and then I did the same. The room had a large terrace overlooking the beach, and when I came out to join her in a guayabera shirt, she was sitting on a wicker sofa, nursing her drink and finishing a Virginia Slim. “A guayabera?” she laughed, crushing out her cigarette in a small ashtray on a coffee table in the middle of the terrace. “Did I marry Ricky Ricardo?”
I sat next to her on the sofa and took my cigarettes from one of the shirt pockets. “A gentleman can dress for any weather or locale,” I said with a mock accent as I lit up a Benson & Hedges.
“Can this gentleman give me another light?” Susan laughed, as she reached for her Virginia Slims pack on the table.
“But of course,” I responded, quickly reaching my hand out to get Susan’s cigarettes first, pulling one out of the pack, and holding it out to her. She took it from my outstretched hand and placed the filter between her lips. I lit her up, and after a quick puff and inhale, she said, “I have chosen a well-mannered gentleman, it appears,” through a talking exhale.
We chatted idly as we smoked our cigarettes – about the beautiful beach, about a few couples strolling by the pool – about any number of things – as we relaxed in the heat, humidity, and sultry breeze of the oceanfront resort. After she crushed out her spent cigarette, she slid away from me on the sofa, turned to place her back against the sofa’s arm, and lifted her bare feet into my lap. “So…what was it you were saying about that pedicure?” she asked, teasingly. “I think smoking 120s entitles me to one?”
This was a rare – but honest – acknowledgement of the kinky bargain we had made to satisfy each other’s pet interests. And as was standard practice with these acknowledgements, Susan almost never used the word “fetish” to describe either the simple fact that she liked her feet and toes massaged with my hands and tongue, or that I liked to watch her smoke. She preferred to just refer to the acts themselves, or use euphemisms such as “our things we like” or our “interests.” While not a prude, Susan was uncomfortable straying too far outside the lanes of mainstream, common sexual practices – if a sexual practice wasn’t in Cosmopolitan magazine or something she could discuss with her girlfriends,

Susan didn’t want to ascribe words to it, even if she’d be comfortable participating in it.
Susan’s choice of words aside, I wanted to tread carefully with my response, and wanted to be clear that I loved her and was attracted to her – not her-only-with-a- long-cigarette. My view was then, and still is, that satisfying each other’s fetishes and kinks is an important and fun adjunct to a healthy marriage based on love and trust. But flipped around – where the marriage is just a set of turn-ons without real shared understanding and love – wasn’t what I ever wanted, and I didn’t think that would be successful for us in the long term. To put it in a Texan analogy, a good marriage is a hearty chili and satisfying the smoking fetish, her toe fetish, or any other fetish in that (or any other) relationship is adding the hot peppers that build on, and complement, the flavor of the other ingredients. Kinks and fetishes spice up the dish and add excitement and extra flavor. But without real love, understanding, and trust in the marriage chili, all you have is a pile of hot peppers.
I didn’t think of this analogy in the second that I had to come up with an answer to her question. I’m glad I didn’t, because with her sharp mind, Susan would have torn it apart – after she stopped laughing. But I did have the presence of mind to say, “You, my love, are always entitled to a ‘pedicure,’ and to everything else I have to offer you. And I do love you smoking the long cigarettes, and I love lighting you up. That all definitely pushes my buttons. But I would give you a ‘pedicure’ because it’s what you want and what I can give you – even if you didn’t smoke those long cigarettes, or smoke anything at all.”
Susan gazed into my eyes – I think she got my message, but her mind was more in a sexual domain than a romantic one right then. “Interesting. And sweet, too. But for right now, I’d like to push your buttons one more time while you do a little soft massage. I like pushing your buttons,” she said playfully.
Susan leaned forward to reach for her pack on the table, but since she had changed positions and was basically lying on the couch, I was much closer. I repeated the process of pulling out a Virginia Slim, holding it out to her, and lighting it after she put the filter in her lips. Setting the lighter down, I started what she calls “the massage” of her feet – slowly running my hands along their length, from her toes to her ankles, and occasionally pressing my fingers into the arches of her feet. She had a habit of speaking her mind about what she wanted – a trait, I think, she got from her rather loquacious mother – and over the past several months of our relationship, she had spelled out how she wanted “the pedicure” to be done. I had proved a willing pupil.

Susan clearly enjoyed my gentle massage. I won’t boast that I was extremely good at this process – though I put my heart into it. Rather, the combination of finally being able to relax after all of the wedding chaos and the trip here, the strong rum drink she was sipping, the sun, and the gentle sea breeze let her really calm down and feel the effects of my labors on her feet. Her eyelids drooped just a bit and she leaned her head back as I could almost watch the tension of months of wedding planning and endless details ooze away. She gently moaned in relief – not a sexual moan, but more of a heavy, deep sigh – and slowly puffed on the 120.
After a few minutes, Susan’s cigarette was almost halfway smoked when she unintentionally flipped my “sexy dangle” smoking fetish switch. She leaned her head back on the arm of the sofa, stared up at the sky, put her cigarette between her teeth, closed her lips around it, and took a huge puff. I watched her back arch and her breasts heave gently upward as she inhaled, still dangling the cigarette – by now pointing, with her gaze, toward the few clouds in the crystal blue sky. She didn’t take the cigarette out of her lips to exhale, but after holding the smoke in her lungs for some time, just parted her lips and let her exhale just flow out around it – an exhale not directed or aimed in any way, just gently pushed through the space in her teeth on either side of her clenched Virginia Slim filter as she slowly let her back straighten a bit from the arch it had formed to inhale. She paused for a second, her gaze and her cigarette both aiming toward the heavens, as her exhaled smoke wafted across the terrace. She let out a short “mmm” before tightening her lips around the filter again and repeating the entire process. After another short pause, she did the entire sequence a third time.
Watching my beautiful, new wife take three huge, dangling puffs in a row off a Virginia Slim – and seeing the waves of relaxation wash over her – put me, for a moment, in a fetisher’s paradise. I do believe it was unintentional because she isn’t one of those women who naturally dangles her cigarette. I am sure, reader, you know what I mean: there are those women who just seem comfortable with a cigarette filter clenched hands-free between their lips, burning tip bouncing up and down as they speak, drive, type, or do whatever else.
And then there are women like Susan: perhaps more conscious of the presence of the cigarette, they will only put the filter in their mouth when it needs to serve as a conduit for the smoke, nothing more. Indeed, I’d only seen Susan dangle a handful of times, and in each case, it was because her hands were unavoidably occupied with something else and she couldn’t get a hand free to pull the cigarette from her lips. Each dangle was very short.

Susan had also made clear she didn’t like the dangling “image.” Sometime before – when she was still smoking Marlboros – she jumped in to helped me move an unwieldy piece of furniture around our condo, a task requiring both her hands with no ashtray nearby. She kept her Marlboro in the corner of her mouth, puffing on it a few times as we moved the furniture around the room. But as we were putting it down, she quickly pulled the cigarette from her lips and said, laughing, “I feel like a trucker with a cigarette hanging from my mouth.” Born and raised in the Houston suburbs and a sorority girl at a good college, “trucker” was definitely not how Susan saw herself.
A note here: if it’s the case that our community divides into those that love “the Dangle” and those that don’t, dear reader, please put my name down as clearly and irredeemably in the pro-dangling camp. Few things are sexier to me than a sexy woman with a cigarette projecting from her lips without a hand in sight. Teeth-clenched or lip-clenched – I don’t enter that long-running debate on the fetish forums, because either way is a great sight to see. That said, I’d never divulged this pet, sub-fetish to Susan, given that she’d been accommodating on even smoking 120s – and asking her to dangle could move my fetish into the “a little too weird” category for her. Another fetish gamble not made, in the interest of holding the gains I had.
And given all this, while I was fortunate to get any dangling show I got, I was pretty sure she wasn’t putting the show on solely for my benefit.
On the terrace, entranced by Susan’s awesome dangling, I had moved my massage work to autopilot. But apparently autopilot was good enough, because when her cigarette was spent, she held the butt out for me to snub out in the ashtray. “Can we go inside, please?” she said, more a command than a question.
Inside, on the bed, we wasted no time releasing the sexual energy that had bubbled to the surface – Susan having enjoyed the start of a ‘pedicure;’ me rock- hard, between her smoking 120s generally and specifically, if unintentionally, giving a masterclass in sensual dangling. For an hour, we made love, she received pedicures and oral, and there was all sorts of kissing and touching all over and in between, as we made out like kids under the high school bleachers. Finally spent, I lit her Virginia Slim and lit my own Benson & Hedges, and we lay on the bed, clasping our non-cigarette-holding hands together, and enjoying the blissful feeling.
And Susan really needed that Virginia Slim. In my time with Susan, I had observed that, as with all of us smokers, she had two types of nicotine cravings:

the fairly common “I need a cigarette” ones, and the flashing-red-light, “Oh my God, I am dying for a cigarette” ones. The one she had at the airport when we landed was definitely in the latter category – she practically ran to the front of the terminal. I didn’t get to see her satisfy that one, because I was waiting for our bags. But now, I got to watch her satisfy what must have been another hard-core, serious craving, sparked by the most prolonged intimacy we’d been able to enjoy in a while.
As soon as I lit her cigarette, Susan’s jaw didn’t just move downward to pull the smoke into her mouth – it practically snapped downward. She didn’t just hollow her cheeks a bit, either: the insides of her cheeks were almost touching, she was crunching them together so hard. After this huge puff, I saw her breasts gently push up the bedsheet she’d pulled over herself, evidence of a deliberate attempt to inhale the massive amount of smoke she’d just taken in all the way down to the bottom of her lungs. She held the smoke for what must have been eight seconds, before opening her mouth and exhaling a huge cloud. She wasn’t done with the exhale – smoke was still pouring out of her mouth, with a bit coming out her nose – before she put the Virginia Slim, its lit end a fiery red, back in her mouth and repeated the process, again and again for the whole cigarette. I picked up the ashtray from the nightstand and put it between us, and she had to make use of it often to flick off long gray pieces of ash. She was done with her cigarette well before I was – I was craving nicotine too, but distracted from my own smoking by casually watching her – and after she snubbed it out, she reached over to the nightstand on her side of the bed and grabbed another from her pack.
When she turned back, I was already getting my lighter ready for its task. She cupped her hand around the cigarette, its filter close to her mouth, and gestured with it. “These,” she said, looking at the 120 in her hand and then winking at me, “taste good, but man, they taste great after great sex.”
I played her comment toward us as smokers in general, and away from any intended reference to her switch to 120s for my fetish. “Trust me, I get it,” I said, dangling my own cigarette while giving her a light. “Only smokers can understand how good cigarettes after sex are.”
Susan inhaled, now with less vigor as her craving had been quelled. “Smokers, well, that is us, that’s for sure,” she said, with a laugh. Both calmed and recovered, we talked quietly for a few minutes and finished our cigarettes.

After a quick shower together to wash off the sexual and tropical sweat, I dressed for dinner – linen sport coat, shirt, and pants for the humidity, which was somehow even higher than a Houston summer. Susan wrapped her hair in a towel in an attempt to dry it. Dressed only in a bathrobe, she took leisurely puffs on a Virginia Slim while starting to put on her makeup. I idly turned on the TV to kill some time, knowing from experience it would take her a bit to get ready.
Most of the channels were in Spanish, and my very rusty high-school Spanish didn’t give me much help understanding any of them. The only channel that caught my eye – and was in English – was the hotel’s own promotional one, showing a stream of short videos highlighting the resort’s restaurants and amenities. Susan listened in, as this was a helpful guide for both of us. We had picked this resort fairly carefully, but it was a big place with lots to enjoy, and we didn’t want to miss anything in the ten days we’d be here. The third or fourth video was about the restaurant we were going to tonight, a beachside place considered the exclusive one (probably because collared shirts were required there, unlike the others at the resort). After extolling the food, the narrator explained that the restaurant had a full humidor and how “at nightfall, it becomes the Dominican Republic’s best cigar lounge.” Susan craned her neck toward the TV at this news, setting her nearly finished Slim in the ashtray next to her various beauty implements. “Why don’t you have a cigar after dinner?” she asked, a seemingly out-of-the-blue question for her to ask, and one she’d never asked me before.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I just had that one last night with Tom and Scott,” I replied. “I like them every so often, but there are so many types, it’s always hard to choose them. And I don’t smoke them enough to really know about them.”
All true statements for me, at least back when I was a new husband. Like probably every young American professional male in the late 90’s and early 2000s, I’d found cigars pretty ubiquitous – at bars, Tom’s golf club, bachelor parties, corporate events, what have you. But my demographic group cleaved cleanly into two groups: the guys who were “into” cigars and could tell you all about what they were smoking, where it was made, how many cutters and humidors they had, and another group of everyone else who would occasionally puff one mostly for the idle sport of it, once in a great while, and usually as part of doing something else. I was in the latter camp for sure. And while I’d found (to the amazement of some friends one night in a cigar bar) that my cigarette smoking let me inhale the thick cigar smoke without coughing up a lung, and I liked the overall bold taste of a cigar compared to cigarettes, regular cigar smoking was just something I hadn’t put much thought or effort into.

“Yeah, but that’s why you come to a place like this,” Susan continued, returning to face the mirror and inspecting her makeup. “The staff will know about cigars, and will pick one out for you. There has to be like a sommelier for cigars down there. And it’s fun. I heard that you had a cigar at your bachelor party and that you said it was relaxing,” she added with a wry smile. “And this place is all about relax-and- enjoy, that’s why we came here. You should have fun.”
“Whoa, what’s this about my bachelor party?” I asked, only half-jokingly. “What do you know about that?”
“That’s about all my dad would tell me, so whatever else happened, your secrets are safe with you and him,” Susan said, exhaling a final puff and crushing out her spent cigarette in the ashtray before heading into the bathroom to get dressed.
It was true that Susan’s father, Tom, would know. While Scott couldn’t attend it as a brand-new father, Scott had worked with several of my other friends to set up a bachelor weekend in New Orleans for me a few months before our wedding.
The guys had invited Tom as a courtesy, pretty sure he’d turn it down – but, to their pleasant surprise, he offered to underwrite a lot of the cost and was flattered to be invited. I think he saw it as a chance to get to know his new son-in-law better, and it turned out he was a fun guy to be around. At family events in Susan’s family, her mother tended to “hold court” and Tom wasn’t able to say much, so I hadn’t gotten to know him very well. But when we were able to talk in New Orleans, he displayed a great sense of humor.
We also bonded over investing: while Tom was in his early 50s and had been investing for a long time, and had surely built up a decent pile of wealth outside his law practice, I had taken to investing as a “hobby” after college and was accumulating a small pile of wealth myself. My parents had passed suddenly in an accident not long after I graduated college, and I had been able to invest my share of their estate. It wasn’t enough to retire on when I married Susan, certainly. But it was a foundation of security and would more than provide for a down payment when Susan and I moved out of my small condo near downtown to the house in the suburbs we’d talked a lot about. When he heard of my stewardship of this money and planning for a house, I sensed Tom liked knowing I had a good “head on my shoulders,” and investment strategy gave us something to talk about.

Hearing Susan now, I recalled that Tom and I had one of these conversations in a cigar bar at some point over that weekend of bacchanalia – Tom, the aficionado, had picked out cigars for the group of us – and it’s very likely I enjoyed it.
“Well, I’ll confess to that much, then,” I said. “Your dad really does know his cigars, and I did enjoy it.”
A few minutes later, now dressed, Susan came back into the main room of the suite. “I think if you want to have a cigar, you should. I was thinking we’ve had a long couple of days, and we should take it easy tonight. That bar looked like a mellow place to chill for a bit after dinner, then call it a night.”
Chapter 4: “They Are Just Better For You”
Soon, we were at the host stand at the beachside restaurant. The hostess looked us up on a reservation list and quickly scurried away, returning a moment later with the manager, who also perused the list. The manager, with furrowed brow and pursued lips, appeared to be very dissatisfied with how the night was going in his domain. “Sir, we seem to have some guests who have not yet finished dining with us – so we are unable to seat you quite yet,” he said, flustered his night was not following an orderly plan. “I apologize. I would like you to join us in our lounge, and we will seat you as soon as possible.” We assured him we were not upset as he led us to a small bar – although he still seemed bothered by the fact we would have a short delay.
He seated us at the bar next to an older couple and left. Susan commented on his irritation with the fact things were somehow not going according to his plan. “Things happen in restaurants and this is the last seating. He has to know this is bound to happen sometimes.”
A tall woman with dark hair – sixty-ish but still attractive – seated next to Susan turned toward her, apparently overhearing this comment. “Oh, yes, he is so upset,” she said, in a thick Spanish accent. “He sat us here a few minutes ago and I almost thought he was going to cry. We kept telling him it was not a problem, but he would not accept that,” the older woman added.
“I think there is something going wrong in the kitchen, maybe the food is not coming out as quickly as they want,” said a man I took to be the woman’s husband, also in a thick Spanish accent, and sitting on the woman’s other side.

“I am sorry, we were rude to overhear,” the woman said, smiling broadly. “My name is Paola, and this is my husband, Alejandro.” Alejandro stood up, came around his wife’s seat, and shook our hands. “We are from Spain and here on vacation. As I assume you are both vacationing as well?” he asked.
“Actually, it’s our honeymoon. I’m Stan, and this is my wife, Susan. It feels funny to say that,” I said with a smile. “We’re from Houston, Texas.”
“Ahh, Texas, we love Texas and have been there. To Dallas, and San Antonio,” said Alejandro, as he returned to his seat by his wife.
“Yes, it is lovely. Dallas especially,” said Paola. “And your honeymoon? So wonderful, congratulations. For us, it has been almost forty years,” she said, turning to Alejandro.
Alejandro smiled, leaned forward, and looked into his wife’s eyes. “It feels like only a day,” he said, and turned to me with a wink.
Paola laughed, loudly, and turned to Susan. “Are American husbands as full of, should I say, flattery, as Spanish men are?” she asked, before puffing on a short cigarette she had in her hand, but which I hadn’t yet noticed during our introductions.
Apparently, Susan had noticed Paola’s cigarette, though, as she was reaching for her purse on the bar. Susan was fairly conscientious of others when it came to her smoking – she wouldn’t have thought about lighting up if Paola had not been setting the precedent that it was okay to do so in the small bar at the front of the restaurant. Pulling out her pack of Virginia Slims, Susan replied. “Oh, Stan is full of flattery, as you say. For an accountant, he is not bad with words.” By now she had a Virginia Slim cupped in her hand, waiting for me to pull out my lighter. I found it and as I clicked the flame, she put the filter in her mouth and I lit her up.
As the flame took hold, I said, “I’m a controller, not just an accountant,” gently correcting her on my title. “And without words to move money around, no one makes any money,” I said.
“You are in finance?” asked Alejandro. “I am a civil engineer. In my business, I can design the world’s greatest project, but nothing gets built without money, allocated out by people like you,” he said.

And we were off to the races on a great conversation. Paola and Alejandro were fascinating and lovely people to spend time in a bar with. They were both nearing retirement age, and lived near the coast somewhere in Spain – I don’t know the geography of Spain very well, but where they lived sounded beautiful. Alejandro had formed a small engineering practice with some friends “way, way long ago,” as he put it with a smile – and now he and his partners were “letting the younger guys take over the business,” as he put it, “so we have fewer headaches.” He was modest about it, but it became clear his firm provided engineering services all over Europe and Latin America. Alejandro seemed to have one foot into retirement, and he and Paola had stopped by this resort for a week on their way back to Spain after spending a month visiting a few projects in Nicaragua and Mexico. He explained that on these projects, he was “still the man in charge, but I have the younger minds in the field doing the work. But sometimes, these clients over here want to hear the same advice my juniors provide them – but they want to hear it from the man with the gray hair,” he said, stroking a graying goatee. “Gray hair means experience,” he laughed.
“And a higher hourly rate,” Paola added. As she explained, Paola knew what she was talking about: trained as an accountant, she had worked with Alejandro and his partners for years keeping the firm’s books. As it grew, she managed a growing accounting team, until retiring two years ago to “do some charity work – and weed my garden,” she said. Paola was fascinated when Susan told her she was going to law school. Paola could only shake her head, explaining that when she went to college in the early 1960s in Spain, “I was one of only three women in the business school. All of the men thought I was only taking business classes to find a husband who could make money.”
With an impish grin, Alejandro interjected, “But she found the best men were over in the engineering school, on the other side of campus.” They told us how their college romance moved quickly into a happy marriage, with three grown children. “The secret,” Alejandro said with a wink, “is to keep almost no secrets from each other – share almost everything, openly, and honestly. But having a few secrets or private thoughts to yourself keeps you as an individual, in a strong union.” He linked his fingers together to illustrate. “Two hands, individual parts. But strongly tied together.”
I thought about how Susan and I had shared our kinks – at least many of them – but that I had kept a few kinks about my smoking fetish to myself. I was wondering what other kinks she was keeping from me as the conversation continued.

Soon, the hostess and the manager appeared. The manager smiled, much calmer than he had been forty-five minutes before when he had led us to the bar as reservations backed up. The bar – once crowded – had nearly emptied out as waiting parties were seated in the dining room, so I assumed the manager felt in command of his dining room again.
The manager and Alejandro spoke briefly in Spanish. My rusty Spanish didn’t let me understand the full conversation, but I did get “mesa” (table) “reserva” (reservation), “cuatro” (four) and “boda,” (which, in a testament to the brain’s ability to hold on to everything somewhere in its crevices, means “wedding”). Alejandro spoke to Paola briefly in Spanish, and she smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and replied – also in Spanish.
Alejandro turned to Susan and me as the manager looked on. “There is a table available now, for four. Paola and I have enjoyed talking with you and would love to continue the conversation if you would like to dine with us. Do not hesitate to say no if you would like to have dinner by yourselves, it is your honeymoon, and we will not be offended. But we love to make friends on these trips, and it is very Spanish to have a lively dinner in a group.” Susan and I thought it was a great idea, and we quickly agreed.
The manager seated us at a nice table with a beautiful view of the beach. Our conversation continued to be spirited and fun. After we ordered food and our drinks arrived, Paola pulled out a pack of short cigarettes – a foreign brand I didn’t recognize. “Does anyone mind?” she asked, holding up her pack. Susan and I both said “no,” and in less than a minute I had lit Susan’s Virginia Slim and I had lit a Benson & Hedges.
“Despite appearances, I am not the only non-smoker at this table,” Alejandro said with a laugh. “I am a cigar smoker, and if you do not object, I may indulge after dinner. But it is a strong smell, so feel free to object,” he said. Paola added, “I may enjoy a cigar as well.” Susan and I made clear we had no problem with that, and the conversation continued forward.
After we had all finished an amazing meal of fresh seafood coupled with more engaging conversation, two staff members came to our table. While one cleared our plates, the other took orders for after-dinner drinks. Alejandro ordered a strong coffee and I followed his lead, while Paola and Susan chose aperitifs. This waiter then opened a large box of cigars, which he displayed on a silver tray “if you would care to partake,” he said, with a thick Dominican accent.

Alejandro gave the box a careful review and exchanged a few words with the waiter in Spanish before selecting a dark brown, medium-sized cigar. “Why don’t you pick one out?” Susan asked, as she put her pack of Slims on the table. Feeling “in the moment” – relaxed, oceanside in the Caribbean on a beautiful night, newly-married, and digesting a great meal – I agreed. Alejandro asked, “Do you smoke cigars often, Stan?”
“Not really,” I said. “I’ve had them, and I smoke cigarettes of course, but I’m not a regular cigar guy. It seems right to have one here, though,” I said.
“It is right. There is no place better to have a cigar than the part of the world where great tobacco is grown. May I offer some assistance in choosing, as one who has smoked cigars for many years?” Alejandro continued to demonstrate he was a kind gentleman, and I gratefully accepted.
Alejandro and the waiter talked briefly in Spanish, before the waiter picked up a cigar the same size as Alejandro’s – but more light-brown in color. “This one is Cuban. You can’t smoke them in the States, but it is perfectly legal here – assuming Susan does not disagree with my interpretation of your laws.” Alejandro said, with a nod toward soon-to-be-law-student Susan. “It will have great flavor, but is, what I would call, medium strength in terms of nicotine. Since you smoke cigarettes, though, you should be able to enjoy it without being overpowered by it.”
The waiter cut my cigar but Alejandro refused his offer of a lighter, and the waiter went off to collect our drinks. Alejandro pulled out a large lighter that produced three adjacent flames when ignited. He illustrated how to “properly” light a cigar – toasting the foot gently, and then taking small puffs while turning it slowly – and then passed the lighter for me to try. Perhaps it was the combination of the great evening we were having, the adrenaline from being newly married, or just having a superb cigar – but my taste buds were in love with the blue-gray smoke from that cigar from the first puff.
By now, Paola had pulled a long, thin, dark brown cigar from a silver case she had retrieved from her purse and placed on the table. Alejandro placed his cigar in the ashtray, picked his lighter off the table, and gave her a light. At about the same time, I used my own lighter to light the Virginia Slim Susan had been holding in her hand while she watched the cigar selection and lighting process. After taking a long puff of her cigar, inhaling briefly, and exhaling toward the ceiling, Paola asked, “Susan, are you sure all this cigar smoke will not bother you?”

“Not at all. My father smokes them, and I actually really like the smell of a cigar, it’s kind of spicy,” Susan said, exhaling a plume of her own smoke away from the table.
“The smell – that’s how I started smoking them,” Paola said with a laugh. “When Alejandro and I met, we were both heavy, heavy cigarette smokers. Everyone in Spain back then smoked, all the time, everywhere. At some point when our kids were young and the business was growing, Alejandro started dabbling in cigars, sort of as a hobby. I liked the smell. Soon, all of this cigarette smoking was catching up to us – coughing in the mornings, a wheeze, all of that. But we were both very hooked on them. Alejandro’s doctor told him cigars in moderation were better for him than all of those cigarettes, so he switched over to all cigars, and it was not difficult for him to do that.”
Alejandro picked up the story here. “One night, we were out to dinner, sitting on the restaurant patio. I lit up a cigar, and expected Paola to light up a cigarette. This is when she surprised me. She asked me, ‘do those taste as good as they smell.’ I said I think so, and offered her one, sort of as a joke – I never thought my wife would smoke a cigar,” Alejandro laughed. “But she took it, and smoked it, right there. And after that, she has cut down on cigarettes by a large amount.”
Alejandro turned to his wife, who was just exhaling another puff. “Do you remember what your father said to me when he first saw you smoking a cigar? He was so angry. ‘How can you let my daughter smoke a cigar,’ he raged at me. I said, ‘How can I prevent her from doing what she wants? No one, not even you, is able to keep Paola from doing what she wants!’” We all broke out in laughter, as it had become apparent to Susan and me through our conversation that Paola was no wilting flower – she was very smart and accomplished, and not an easy woman to push around.
“This is true,” Paola confessed. “And now, I do not smoke many cigarettes at all. I have a few a day at home, and more when we are on vacation. But I mostly smoke cigars,” she added. Alejandro continued, “And we are both in fine form. I smoke four cigars a day – after breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one before turning in at night. But we no longer wheeze and do not cough much at all.”
Paola picked up the conversation. “It is true. Cigars are better. The doctors say they are just healthier for you, if you are going to smoke tobacco at all.”

Alejandro turned to me. “Stan, we talked a little about investing. If you want an investment that will pay you a dividend when you are my age, my advice is, set aside the cigarettes and have an occasional cigar. Even if you are smoking a few cigars a day, like me, you are still smoking less, and you do not inhale cigars nearly as much as you do cigarettes. And, you will not be smoking cigarettes all the time just because you need to – you will smoke a cigar when you want to enjoy it. We have many friends who smoked cigarettes all day and all night, all the time, and now they are starting to pay the price for it. Just my opinion, of course,” he concluded, as if feeling he had gone from a chat about cigars into a lecture.
I had actually been inhaling the cigar a little bit, but I saw his point. “Alejandro, you may be right – I am enjoying this,” I said, with a chuckle. I was trying to figure out a way to move the conversation away from more discussion about quitting or cutting down on cigarettes, given the talk Susan and I had in the airport bar earlier that day.
Paola spoke before I could, turning to Susan. “How about you, Susan? Do you only smoke these long cigarettes?” she asked.
“Actually, I switched to these a little while ago, from a much stronger brand, to be able to cut down a little,” Susan explained, while her free hand – out of sight under the table – poked my leg gently. I wasn’t sure if that was a reference to how she had switched from Marlboro 100s to Virginia Slims 120s in our kinky bargain, or if she wanted me to head off what could become a health lecture. “So, ultimately, I am going to cut down.”
“A wise choice, if I may be honest,” Paola responded. “And do you only smoke these long cigarettes, or have you tried cigars on occasion, as Stanley has,” she said, for some reason using my full name – although I was sure I had introduced myself as Stan. “I am proof that cigars can help you cut back on cigarettes,” she added.
Susan almost never heard me called by my full name, and I could tell she was very subtly suppressing a laugh at hearing it. “Honestly, I have never smoked a cigar with…Stanley. But I have smoked a cigar,” she said.
“You did? When?” I said, raising my voice a bit, not out of anger, but interest and surprise.

“At my bachelorette party in Nashville,” Susan answered, smiling. “We went to a cigar bar, and I had a cigar there. And I kind of liked it,” she said, pausing briefly before continuing. “And that’s all you need to know about my bachelorette party.”
Reader, not that you are keeping a list of your author’s interests within the smoking fetish world, but if you are: count me in the sub-fetish of women cigar smokers. “Cigar Smoking – All Mixed Up” is a must-stop when I peruse the Smoking Fetish Kingdom, and surely male fans of women smoking cigars have been around since before the Internet made massive amounts of pictures and videos of those women available for their adoration.
Needless to say, I was following this conversation with much interest. If my new wife took up cigars with her 120s – as Paola was suggesting she should – it would be the smoking fetish equivalent, for me, of hitting two home runs in a row in the final game of the World Series: nothing I could dream of could top that. And, this could become a daily occurrence in my life.
“You should try another one,” said Paola, after we all laughed at Susan’s bachelorette party comment.
I gave Paola’s suggestion a little push, buoyed by the thought of seeing Susan puff on a cigar. “Why not, hon? We came here to enjoy, like you’ve said.”
I could tell from her face that Susan was thinking it over as she took a long puff off her Virginia Slim. Inhaling, holding briefly, then exhaling, she said, “You know, I think I will. You have convinced me,” she said, looking at Paola and smiling. “Should I get one from the waiter, or can I try one of yours?”
“I would be happy to give you one of mine,” said Paola, “but I am sure you will be very disappointed. These are very strong and I guarantee you will find it unpleasant. The waiter will have something much milder for someone so new to cigars.”
Alejandro added, “In fact he did have some milder cigars in the case he brought to the table. I will get his attention,” and with a studied gesture, he put his hand up next to his head and pointed a finger toward the ceiling. The waiter caught his signal and was soon coming over. Alejandro said something in Spanish to the waiter, who disappeared and returned a minute later with the display box of cigars on its silver tray.

Perhaps a bit ebullient that my wife was going to smoke a cigar, my brain dusted off the “High School Spanish” folder, and turning to the waiter, I said, “una puro para mi esposa.” The waiter grinned and Alejandro and Paola laughed. “Your attempt to speak the native language is welcomed,” Alejandro said with a smile. “But it is ‘un’ puro, not ‘una’. Cigars are a masculine noun in Spanish.”
Paola chuckled. “This is true even when women are smoking the cigar. Alejandro would say about me, ‘mi esposa fuma un puro.’ Our language can be as confusing to you as English can be to us.”
Our attention turned to the opened cigar case the waiter was holding next to Alejandro and me. Alejandro was studying it intently. I was looking at it, noting it contained several brands and sizes – but not learning anything beyond that. Paola, glancing at it from across the table, said something to Alejandro in Spanish. He replied in Spanish and nodded in agreement. Turning to me and Susan, Alejandro said, “I would recommend, Susan, that you smoke this cigar,” as he gestured at one in particular – longer than my cigar but about the same thickness, and in an even lighter brown shade. “This is a Hoyo de Monterrey, very full of flavor and the spice you like. But it will not make you turn green from nicotine,” he said with a smile. “Of course, it is your choice, though. But Paola agrees with this.”
Susan rested her Virginia Slim, now nearly finished, in the ashtray. “I am fine with your recommendation. You two know much more about cigars than Stan or me. So, uh …what do I do now?” she laughed.
“I like that you focus on the process. To an engineer like me, process counts,” Alejandro said with a laugh. Alejandro gave the waiter a direction in Spanish, and proceeded to narrate the waiter’s actions. “Our waiter is going to cut the cigar tip, very carefully slicing the end off so you can smoke it. And then he is going to use the flame of the lighter to heat the other end. Just a little bit, to start the tobacco burning and open up the aroma.” This process looked familiar to Susan and me, as we’d seen Tom go through it dozens of times over the years.
“And now it is for you to bring it to life. He will hold the lighter at the end, and all you do is put the cut end in your mouth and take very small, tiny puffs – just take the smoke in and blow it back out. And rotate it a little as he holds the flame to it,” Alejandro said. Susan followed his instructions, and for the first time, right then, my wife was puffing on a cigar – to my secret amazement and delight. With the

cigar now lit, the waiter closed his lighter, exchanged a brief word with Alejandro and headed away as Susan took a big puff.
Alejandro’s eyes widened. “Oh no, Susan, be very, very careful. Just puff it and enjoy the smoke in your mouth. You looked like you were about to inhale that like it is one of your cigarettes. Be assured it is not,” he said, concern on his face. Susan pulled the cigar away from her mouth and exhaled. “Right – I learned that lesson in Nashville. I was inhaling my cigar and pretty soon, ugh, I was feeling it in my stomach,” she said.
“We do not want that to happen,” laughed Paola. “You can inhale some when you are used to them. But it is strong and the nicotine will make you sick if you do not respect it,” she said, before taking a big puff on her own cigar. Paola was quite clearly immune to any bad effects from cigar inhaling, if the bright red cherry on the end of her cigar and her inhale were any indication.
“Yes, exactly, that is it.” Alejandro said, leaning in to the table to make his point. “Think of your cigarette and your cigar this way. Your cigarette is like a big glass of lager beer – you can guzzle it down and it will get you drunk, perhaps, but it is not too flavorful, and its point is not to have flavor. Your cigar, though – it is like a big glass of good Scotch. It will get you drunk, more drunk, than your thin beer if you guzzle it. So, a good Scotch, you enjoy it, sip it slowly, taste all of its flavors. It will slowly get you drunk, just like the cigar’s nicotine will slowly do its work. But consuming either a great Scotch or a great cigar too fast is a waste,” he concluded.
“And doing either one will make you sick,” I added, puffing on my own cigar. “So, let’s just take them slow and savor them,” I said, enjoying watching Susan’s puffs – even if more restrained in light of Alejandro’s caution.
The four of us continued to smoke our cigars, and except for Susan commenting on hers – “I love this,” she said at one point – the conversation moved on to other topics. At a lull, Alejandro returned to a previous topic. “Bachelor and bachelorette parties – they are kept secret from the marriage partner in the States, as we try to do in Europe?” he asked.
“Usually we do, that’s the tradition at least,” I answered.
“Let me give you more unsolicited advice, but I have been married for forty years, and you about, perhaps forty hours. So, unsolicited, but from experience,”

Alejandro said. He rested his cigar in the ashtray and linked his fingers in the same gesture he made before. “Like I said, do not keep secrets from each other. Lean onto each other and keep secrets from the outside world, but not from each other. This is the secret to a strong bond,” he said, as he pushed his hands closer to demonstrate.
Paola, close to finishing her thin cigar, watched her husband with a pleased smile. Turning to us, she added, “He is right, don’t keep many secrets from each other, and not important ones.” She took a short puff of her cigar. “But remember – you are in a union, but you are individuals. So, as individuals, it is alright to keep a small number of secrets.”
Chapter 5: The Role Model
When Paola and Alejandro had finished their cigars, they prepared to excuse themselves for the night. Alejandro called over the waiter, spoke to him in Spanish, and handed him a credit card.
I was confused, and asked, “Wait, I thought this resort was all-inclusive?”
Alejandro replied, “It is, but not for things like cigars, which are extra. Do not worry, I have bought these. Consider your cigars a wedding present and a thank you for a wonderful evening.”
“Are you sure? Please, let us pay for them,” insisted Susan.
Paola, courteously but firmly, put her foot down to quash her suggestion. “Let us not talk money any more. It is done. You have given us a great gift of a fun evening, and you celebrated the end of your first full day of married life with us. That is an honor! One of the things we love about travel is getting to meet all sorts of wonderful people like you, and on your honeymoon of all times.”
Clearly haggling any more over who paid for the cigars would not be a good idea. We said our goodbyes and – while the resort was a huge place – assured each other we’d meet again, as our stays overlapped for several more days. They headed off to their room, hand in hand.
“They are so cute,” Susan said, as we watched them walk away. We took our cigars and walked to the small esplanade in front of the restaurant that faced the beach. A waiter approached and found us a little table where we could hear the waves crash on the shore and watch the moon dance over the Caribbean. After

we had ordered another drink – neither of us had drank too much, but we had a light buzz that went well with our cigars – we looked at the beach in silence for a few minutes, puffing away.
Eventually, Susan spoke. “This is good, but I have to slow down a little bit,” she said, putting her cigar in an ashtray. “I’m a tiny bit woozy. Alejandro and Paola were right about not inhaling.”
I agreed. “It’s tough for us not to do that, since we both smoke cigarettes and we’re used to it.”
We both sat quietly for a few more minutes, me still puffing my cigar slowly, as the nicotine was hitting me a bit too. Susan, apparently over any nicotine wooziness, picked hers back up out of the ashtray. “I think this is still lit,” she said, and started puffing hard on it. The cigar came back to life, and we became quiet again, enjoying our cigars and the view of the ocean.
“Do you think we’ll wind up like them?” Susan asked.
“Alejandro and Paola? I kind of hope so. Happy people, and happy with each other. Kids, careers, and travel. Apparently prosperous. A very full life. I’ll take it if that’s what’s coming for us,” I said.
“Me too,” Susan replied.
Susan looked at her cigar, now about two-thirds gone. “Do you think Paola is right about these?” she asked, pointing to the cigar in one hand with her other hand. “It makes sense, I think.”
“On the health thing?” I said. “I think it makes sense too. You don’t smoke as many of them as you do cigarettes, and you inhale sparingly if at all,” I said.
“And my dad, too,” Susan said. “He’s smoked only cigars for maybe ten years now, and he never coughs or gets out of breath. He can ride his bike for miles around their neighborhood. He’s Exhibit A for switching to cigars, and Mom is Exhibit B of what happens to you if you don’t quit cigarettes,” a reference to her mother’s nagging cough and wheeze.
Susan turned and stared at me as I took the last few puffs from my cigar, by now nearly spent. “You know, seeing you smoke that reminds me of my dad. In a good way,” she said, with a grin.

“I hope so, I guess. But, um, what do you mean?” I asked.
“Most Texas girls like me idolize their dads, and put them on a pedestal. If they’re not jerks, and my dad clearly is not,” Susan explained. “To me, and probably most of my friends with good fathers, your dad is the guy you use as a role model of what you want your husband to be when you grow up. Because as you are growing up, your dad is the guy who you can count on, who knows you better than you know yourself – most of the time – and you see him as the protector of your family and the provider,” she continued. “If you’re lucky, and I was. So, your dad is the prototype you have in your head when you date, and you subtly measure your boyfriends against your father. Girls like me go looking for a younger, cooler version of their fathers.”
I took one last puff on my cigar, which had taken on a foul taste as it neared its end. “So, I’m a younger, hipper version of Tom?” I asked.
“I said cool, not hip. Neither of you are hip,” Susan laughed. “But, otherwise, yes, you are. You’re both good with money, smart, respectful of women, courteous, and have goofy senses of humor. And you’re both confident and would protect your families,” she said. “You dress way better, frankly, than my dad, and you’re a better cook. But, yes, you have all my dad’s good qualities. And when you smoke a cigar, it kind of completes the picture.” She puffed her cigar and paused for a few seconds. “This is all meant in a really good way, Stan, not some creepy way,” she said. “Take this as a good thing.”
“I do,” I said. “I’m flattered, because I know how much you love your dad and look up to him. And I like him to. He’s a good guy and treats me well. He has sort of a quiet confidence, too, like he looks at me and thinks, ‘Stan, everything will be fine between us as long as you treat Susan well.’ And I’ve tried hard to convince him I will do that.” I said. “Plus, he has a taste for fine cigars and I have to say I am enjoying them too. Maybe we’ll have one more thing to talk about.”
“Maybe he can teach us both,” Susan said. “I don’t know why I can’t smoke cigars if Paola smokes them. She’s proof you can smoke cigars and use them to cut down on cigarettes. What did she say, she smokes a few cigarettes a day, and her long thin cigars? I can definitely get into that, I like these,” she said, admiring the light brown cigar in her hand.
“So you’ll tell your dad you smoked a cigar? How do you think he’ll take that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. But I kind of want to find out,” Susan said, letting her almost-smoked cigar rest in the ashtray. “Mom too – I want to see her reaction. Me smoking a cigar is one thing she can’t control about me or nag at me about.”
As we walked back to our room a bit later, I tried to process what it would mean if Susan took up cigars. From the perspective of my fetish, this was a very good development. Since women who smoke 120s and women who smoke cigars are both attractive to me, Susan smoking cigars had benefits that could play out several different ways. If she smoked both 120s and cigars for a while, it would be a near-constant stream of experiences to stoke my fetish – and fun to boot, if we both got into cigars. If she switched to all cigars, it would still mean the same amount of fetish gratification for me.
There was, of course, a more important benefit to Susan taking up cigars than my sexual gratification, of course. If Paola was right about fewer possible health consequences by switching to all cigars or using them to cut down on cigarettes, my wonderful wife – who I loved dearly – had a greater chance of staying healthier for longer, as we grew old together. The health consequences of smoking – often raised on the smoking fetish fora – are without doubt serious and possibly deadly, and quite properly weigh on the consciences of many in our community.
And either way, her smoking either form of tobacco would put off the nascent quitting discussion that she’d recently started. Setting aside my fetish, I had no interest in quitting smoking, although I accepted I should probably cut down from my pack-a-day habit – which had also stretched a bit under the stress of the wedding.
So, how ever this all played out, the fact that Susan apparently enjoyed cigars could pay off in multiple ways.
Chapter 6: El Mercado Turisto
A few days later, I woke up to the room service attendant knocking on the door with the pot of coffee we’d ordered. Both Susan and I were coffee junkies, and a pot of the local strong, rich brew, enjoyed in the comfort of our suite, had already become a favorite way to start our day. As the attendant put the tray down, I peeked out between the curtains and saw a dark sky.
The waiter saw me looking outside. “Very cloudy today, sir. Very rare for us this time of year. But it has to rain sometime,” he said. “This is a good day to go into

town. Not a good pool day,” he said, with a smile. I tipped him and after he left, I poured a cup for Susan and one for me.
I set Susan’s cup on the table on her side of the bed. She slowly woke up. “Mmmmm. Good morning, Stan. The smell of that strong coffee is so nice to wake up to,” she said, as she reached for her pack of Virginia Slims 120s on the bedside table. I lit her up, lighting her first cigarette of the day being one of my favorite light-ups of the day, given the importance of the first cigarette to any smoker.
“We should bring some of this coffee back with us to Houston,” I said.
“Definitely – is there a place here we can get some of this coffee? Or do we have to go into the town?” Susan asked.
Back in bed, I was lighting my own cigarette. “Actually, we should go into town. It’s raining today, and if it’s going to rain most of the day, maybe this is the day to take the resort shuttle down to the market and go around the town. We can load up on coffee and whatever else they have that we want to bring back. Gifts, that sort of thing,” I said. We’d learned from the resort’s TV channel that the hotel had an hourly shuttle that would bring guests to and from a nearby town with a tourist marketplace, and we were excited to go – but didn’t want to waste a great pool and beach day.
“Let’s do it,” Susan said, through a talking exhale. We turned on the TV and, from the graphics shown on a local news program, we confirmed that it was going to rain on and off much of the day.
After breakfast, we boarded the shuttle to go into town. Alejandro and Paola called out to us from the back, excited to see us. We were happy to see them too, and sat down next to them.
Both of them were wearing hats – Alejandro a white straw fedora-type hat, and Paola a wider-brimmed sun hat. “You are going to the marketplace to get hats – you both look like you have had a lot of sun,” Alejandro said, jovially.
“You need a hat here, for the sun. Today, for the rain, too,” added Paola. “We like this marketplace a lot – they have some great prices, especially on hats,” she added. The small shuttle headed off for the short ride into town.
Paola turned to Susan. “So, you didn’t get sick from your cigar the other night, I hope,” she asked.

“Actually, I didn’t – well, there was a minute where I thought I was going to. But I sort of slowed down puffing on it, and a little bit of queasiness passed. I really liked the cigar! Stan and I finished ours at the beachside part of the restaurant and it was so nice, just looking at the ocean, and having a drink and a cigar,” Susan replied.
“A perfect combination, and on the first day of your honeymoon!” said Alejandro.
Alejandro and Paola told us a little about the marketplace where the shuttle would drop us off, comparing it favorably to others they had encountered in their wide- ranging travels. I got the sense that they had no problem spending money on nice items, but enjoyed getting great prices. “Many of the things they have in this market are really well-made, but you never should pay the price they have on them,” Paola said.
“Exactly,” added Alejandro. “The bargaining, for me, is part of the fun. I will show you how to do it, as it’s always struck me that Americans don’t know that the vendor at these markets expects you to negotiate – his price is just an opening offer.”
Sure enough, Alejandro had plenty of opportunity to teach me how to bargain not long after the shuttle dropped us off. At the third market stall we came to, Susan spotted a large straw hat with a flower in it. The hat looked great on her. Alejandro said to Susan in a voice too low for the merchant – an older lady – to hear, “Start the bargaining, Susan. She can tell from how you are dressed that you are American, but show her you know some of her language. Hold up the hat and say, ‘Cuanto por este sombrero?’”
Susan did as Alejandro suggested, if a bit clumsily in her non-native tongue. The vendor squinted at Susan over her eyeglasses. “Cincuenta dolares,” she said, flatly but with a pleasant tone.
“Cincuenta dolares?,” Alejandro answered, with mock exaggeration. “No mas de veinte,” he said, with a wave of his hand. The vendor quickly understood that this would be harder than collecting fifty dollars from a young American tourist, and she began a process of bargaining with Alejandro in Spanish – who would turn to Susan and I for negotiating approval at each round of the quick session. At the end of it all, Susan paid the vendor thirty-two dollars and received the hat and a small leather bookmark with a palm tree embroidered on it – something Alejandro got thrown in the deal, kind of randomly, at one point. “This is how you do it.

Welcome to Latin America,” Alejandro said, beaming, as we walked to the next stall.
Learning how to bargain paid off, as Paola and Susan did some pretty serious shopping over the next couple of hours. With a few more tips from Alejandro, and after observing how he got Paola a great deal on two dresses, I felt confident enough to negotiate prices downward on a dress for Susan. Alejandro and Paola – perhaps thinking we wanted some time to shop by ourselves, as we were newlyweds – excused themselves at one point, inviting us to meet them a the market’s central fountain if we wanted to join them for lunch at noon. Their perception was wrong, of course, as they were a lot of fun to wander around the market with, but all the same we wandered off on our own and told them we would see them at noon.
At the next stall, Susan picked up a leather cigarette case in a brownish-reddish color. “This can hold my long cigarettes,” she said, holding it up for me to see. “Can you ask how much it costs?”
“Sure. But why do you want it? I thought you were switching to cigars,” I teased.
With mock exasperation, Susan replied. “Wait, I thought you were Mr. Rome- wasn’t-built-in-a-day, let’s take baby steps about this, all of that,” she said. “Remember that? Between now and when I am done with cigarettes for good, I will use this a lot,” she said, referring to the case. “Here’s one that will hold your 100s, since I can’t imagine you’ll quit cigarettes before me,” she said, picking up a slightly smaller case in the same color. “We could have matching cigarette cases, but somehow I think it’s not your style,” she said with a laugh.
“Yeah, using a leather cigarette case is not really my style,” I replied with a grimace.
A thought, dear reader, on the cigarette case – next to the cigarette holder, it could be the most-debated accessory in the smoking fetish world. Is it as needed as the lighter or an ashtray? Not at all. Does it focus the image of a woman smoking her cigarette in a way the holder does? Nope – it’s sitting a foot or more from her while she’s smoking, on a table or back in a purse.
So while the leather or metal case doesn’t have a starring role in the act of a woman smoking, it can play important predicate roles in a woman’s smoking by providing anticipation (for us as observers) and some amount of discretion. The

case creates anticipation in fetishers because seeing it, before seeing its contents, fills us with questions: what brand does she have in there? If it’s a small case, does she refill it often? The first question is only answered by waiting for the case to be gently opened, and one of its occupants brought out for its fiery sacrifice in the service of the object of our attention. The second question is rarely answered unless the woman is directly asked or volunteers it – and asking about the case is a sure conversation starter in the right circumstance.
Then there’s the questions it raises about why she is using the cigarette case. Why is a woman with a cigarette case hiding her cigarettes from public view? Is it shame in her habit? Or fear of what her choice of brand says about her, given that a cigarette brand can say a lot about its chooser – whether correct or not. Does she hide her brand because she’d rather not be judged by it, or does she fear it could give a mistaken impression of her?
Or does she just view the case as a stylish, if unnecessary, accessory?
I ran through some version of these questions as I pondered Susan’s sudden interest in a cigarette case. I also considered my own position on cases as they relate to my smoking fetish – which is that they’re nice, but I have no settled view on them. I can take them or leave them. Others in the smoking fetish community have different views, and they are, of course, entitled to them.
But if Susan wanted a case, I’d be happy to indulge her interest. With my broken Spanish, I got her the cigarette case for twelve (“doce”) dollars. She put her pack of Virginia Slims 120s in them, and we went to a small café to grab a cup of coffee.
And smoke, of course. It had been a couple of hours since we had each had a cigarette after breakfast at the resort. I enjoyed seeing Susan satisfy a decent- sized craving. Seeing her new leather cigarette case on the table was nice, too.
We spent more time strolling the marketplace before meeting up with Alejandro and Paola at noon. Just as we approached them, the rain – which had been a light, misting shower – turned downright tropical, with buckets of water pouring from the sky. “Let’s get into this café,” Alejandro said, pointing to a bar near us. We dashed in and Alejandro got us a table near the street, where we watched the vendors in the marketplace – clearly not surprised by the sudden rain – cover their goods and move them to drier places at a steady, but not panicky, pace. We ordered drinks and lunch, and then I Iit Susan’s Virginia Slim and my cigarette as Alejandro lit Paola’s cigarette.

After a nice lunch, Alejandro and I repeated the process again of lighting our respective wife’s cigarettes. I was about to light my own Benson & Hedges when Alejandro asked, “Stan, it looks like they have a humidor over by the bar. I am going to see if they have anything good for my after lunch cigar. Do you want to join me?”
“Sure,” I agreed. It turned out, on Alejandro’s review, that the bar had a good selection of well-priced and well-kept cigars. Alejandro guided my selection of a medium-bodied one with Nicaraguan tobacco in a Dominican wrapper. We went back to the table and, with the cutter and lighter he had been carrying in his pocket – a regular cigar smoker, he noted, is always prepared – fired up our cigars.
Just after our post-lunch coffees had been served, Paola finished her cigarette and pulled her cigarillo case from her purse. Alejandro gave her a light as Susan looked on. I could tell from the look on Susan’s face that she was thinking something.
“Paola,” Susan asked, putting her nearly-finished cigarette in the ashtray. “I know you said those little cigars are too strong for me, but I survived the big one the other night, and I actually kind of liked it,” she said, breaking into a smile. “Would you mind if I tried one? Or, Stan, did they have these in that humidor, where you can get me one?”
Paola responded before I could, exhaling cigar smoke as she spoke. “Susan, of course I don’t mind, I am happy to give you one of these. On one promise, or maybe you would say condition,” she said, opening her cigarillo case and holding it out toward Susan. “These little cigars – the term for them is cigarillos, really, or sometimes panatelas – can overwhelm you if you are not careful. So just be cautious about inhaling smoke from it. There are still a lot of stores on the streets around the market for us to see, and I don’t want you to be too sick to enjoy them,” she smiled.
“Yes,” Alejandro added. “Don’t treat it like a cigarette, sip it, like I said the other night. Be gentle with it. Treat it the way I hope Paola treats my wallet this afternoon – gingerly, and without causing it any sickness,” he said breaking into a laugh.
I lit Susan’s cigarillo and she puffed cautiously. “Wow,” she said, exhaling a small amount of smoke. “This tastes different from the one the other night. It is stronger,

but sort of a nutty, vanilla taste the other one didn’t have. And a bit of some sort of spice.”
“This is the fun thing about cigars and cigarillos,” Alejandro explained. “They are like wines – there are thousands of types, and no two brands will ever be exactly alike. It depends on the soil where the tobacco is grown, the type of tobacco on the inside and where it is from, what tobacco is used for the wrapper on the outside, and even the skill of the person who rolls it up,” he said, enjoying teaching those new to his hobby some of what he had learned. “The fun really is, trying different ones to find the ones you like, as you would do in a wine bar. And your taste in cigars will change and grow the way your taste in wine does.”
Susan was becoming fascinated with the notion that smoking cigars could be like sampling types of wine – something we both enjoyed doing, occasionally picking up a “new” bottle and splitting it over an evening at home. “So, you just kind of pick out different ones, and figure out what kinds you like over time?” she asked.
“It’s that easy, and enjoyable,” Alejandro said. He puffed his cigar and thought for a few seconds. “The worst thing that can happen is you try a cigar you really don’t like, and you don’t finish it. Like if you open a bottle of wine and it really does not suit you – the worst you are out is the bottle, poured down the sink,” he added. He looked at us with a hint of curiosity in his expression. “Have either of you ever been in a cigar store?”
Susan and I looked at each other. “I don’t think I ever have. I’ve seen cigars in stores where I buy cigarettes, but I haven’t really looked closely at them, or gone into the humidor part of the store,” I said.
“That’s the same for me. I’ve never really noticed them, but I know they are in those humidor rooms or glass cases sometimes,” said Susan.
“Really? Well, I know a place we should stop in, as we go around the little streets here. For now, let’s enjoy our cigars and watch the rain pass away,” Alejandro said.
The rain passed, we finished our cigars and had more fun conversation, and – after some haggling, as Alejandro initially insisted on paying for lunch – we split the bill, settled it, and left. The clouds were still thick and the streets were still wet, but Alejandro and Paola led us on a short meander in the blocks surrounding the main market.

After stopping in a few stores, Alejandro pointed to one a few doors down the street from where we were. “Ah-hah! That’s it! That is a great cigar store, and I knew it was around here somewhere. My memory that it existed was correct, although I thought I recalled it being in the next block over,” he said.
We went in, and Alejandro struck up a friendly conversation in Spanish with the owner, a fifty-something man with slicked-back black hair with gray streaks. They spoke far too fast for me to come close to understanding, but at some point in the conversation Alejandro pointed to Susan and me. The owner stuck out his hand to shake mine. “Welcome,” he said to Susan and me. “Your friend says you are new to cigars, but I am happy to help you find some you will like,” he said, with a thick accent.
For the next ten minutes or so, the shopkeeper gave Susan and I a very short course in the very big world of cigars. He showed us the different sizes and had us smell different types of cigars, to begin to appreciate the wide variety of tobaccos that can be combined infinite ways to create the individual aroma, flavor, and strength of any given brand of cigar. Alejandro often interjected, stressing a particular point or adding something from his substantial knowledge. Susan and I were both very interested, asking a lot of questions and seeking further explanation of some points.
“But do you know the most important thing about the cigar as you smoke it?” the shopkeeper asked us. We shook our heads. “Whether you enjoy it. That is the whole point of it,” he said. Alejandro nodded in agreement, as he’d stressed the same thing to us as well.
With that predicate, the owner brought us around the store. He offered to put together a selection of non-Cuban cigars in a humidified bag for us to take home, and asked us how much we’d like to spend on the set of them. Susan proposed $200, which was more than I’d planned on spending – but it was a clear sign of her fast-blossoming interest in cigars, to which I of course had no objection. Susan also wanted to buy some long cigarillos like Paola’s, and the merchant said he had them in stock.
With yet more input from Alejandro, who was almost literally a kid in a candy store and picked out several cigars for himself, the shopkeeper assembled a group of forty cigars – four each of ten different brands. The set included a spectrum of different strengths, tobaccos, and shapes. He rolled them up carefully in humidified bags and packed them in a box, with a sheet of his store letterhead on

top. “As you sample these, you can keep notes of what you like and do not like, and what ones you want to try again. You may be able to find some of these in stores in Texas, but if not you can call me and I would be happy to ship you more. I have many customers in the States, all over the States, and in Spain, too,” he said proudly, turning to Alejandro in an admirable attempt to make a regular customer out of a Spaniard who had only shopped with him a few times before.
Including a fifty-count box of Susan’s cigarillos and a small box of cigars as a gift for Tom, we went over our initial “budget” by a fair amount. But we were having a lot of fun, and both Susan and I clearly wanted to get more into the intriguing cigar habit. As we were about to leave, the shopkeeper – pleased a returning visitor had brought him in new customers – gave Susan and I a sampler set of six more cigars. “These are some of the best of our local wrapped blends, Nicaraguan tobacco with our own Dominican leaf used as a wrapper,” he explained. “You can have these over the rest of your honeymoon here, and you’ll be enjoying the wrapper not far from where it was grown, and just miles from where the cigar was rolled. And remember, we have grown tobacco and rolled cigars on this island for hundreds of years, so we know what we are doing. But our cigars are a bit on the strong side – so puff slowly, enjoy them, maybe by the pool or the beach.”
Susan and I did just that, a few times, over the remainder of our honeymoon. While we both enjoyed them, Susan made a process of it – actually keeping notes on the flavors she could detect in each cigar. We returned to Houston to start a more routine married life, with a new, shared tobacco interest that had all started because Susan idly mentioned that I might want to have a cigar after dinner.
Chapter 7: Switch Down And Quit
After a wonderful honeymoon, we settled back in to life in Houston. Susan had about a month and a half before law school started, and she had left her job before our wedding – to finish the wedding planning and have a little time to get ready for school.
One morning after breakfast, I told her I was picking up cigarettes (we normally bought cigarettes on our own, but the pennypincher in me had found a “discount tobacco” outlet not far from the highway on my commute) and asked her if she needed any.
“You know, I think I do,” she said. “Can you get me a carton? That should last more than a week,” she said. Internally, I doubted it – she’d been up to two packs

a day before the wedding. But, sure enough, over the next few weeks, she started capping her smoking at a carton a week. Despite also having a couple of cigarillos and a couple of bigger cigars each week, she was, in fact, slowly getting her smoking back to a lower level.
I started regularly buying her a carton of Virginia Slims 120s and a carton of my Benson & Hedges when I was running low – a carton could still last me about a week and a half. Susan somehow seemed to match her demand for cigarettes with the supply, only once missing her mark. This happened one night when we were on our terrace, Susan smoking a cigarette and me smoking a cigar. After Susan’s cigarette had been out for about ten minutes, she picked up her pack and looked in it. Opening it and holding it up so I could see that only two cigarettes remained in it, she said with astonishment, “Oh, damn, I really thought I had more. I am out after these two.”
“Don’t worry, hon – I am going to that cigarette store tomorrow after work, and I have plenty of these,” I said, pointing to my pack of Benson & Hedges on the patio table.
“You sure I can borrow off you?” Susan asked, half-jokingly.
I sighed. “It’s not borrowing since we’re husband and wife. What’s mine is yours,” I said with a smile. “You know where I keep my carton anyway, just take what you want.”
“Well, what I want, is a puff on your cigar. It smells delicious, but I don’t want a whole one because I just had a big one last night.” I handed over my cigar and she took a big puff, inhaling somewhat. Exhaling, she said, “That really is good.” After two more puffs, she gave me custody of my cigar again, and had a Virginia Slim. But she never ran out of cigarettes after that, and kept herself at a carton per week for several weeks – sometimes a little bit less.
Around this time, Susan and Linda went out for lunch while I was at work one day. Susan never told me what they ate, because – as she explained over dinner that night – Linda had spent most of the lunch giving her grief for smoking. “So, I light up a cigarette right after we order, like I always do. And because, maybe for the first time in years, she doesn’t light up right away, somehow this makes me into a huge sinner. She gave it right to me – the whole lecture. How can I smoke when we’re going to have kids, now is the time to quit before law school, when we buy a

house we shouldn’t smoke in it, she heard me coughing at the wedding and is worried, all of it. Both barrels.”
“Yikes,” I said, curious that Susan seemed so irritated when cutting down and quitting was already on her mind. Maybe it wasn’t what her mother was saying, but that it was her mother telling her what to do, as if she was still a little girl, that really bothered Susan. “When your mom starts on a subject, there’s almost no way to get her off it. How did you get her to talk about something else?”
“Oh, this was the best part. She kind of had to change topics, at least a little bit, because after lecturing me for a while, she gets out her own pack of cigarettes and pulls one out,” Susan said. “By the way, not the Kent III, though. I guess the miracle filter wasn’t enough. So guess what brand she pulls out?” Susan said, now displaying less irritation but smiling broadly.
“Oh, geez, I don’t know,” I said, remembering all the low-tar brands Linda had smoked – a relatively easy thing to do because she was always happy to tell me, and anyone who would listen, about her brand and where it was on her Switch- Down-And-Quit tables. “Merit? Carlton?” I offered, naming two I’d seen Linda smoke before.
“Oh, no, this one wasn’t a recycled brand she’s tried before. Guess what, Stan? You have a brand buddy. Linda is now smoking Benson & Hedges – but, as she explained to me, not the full strength kind you smoke, but something like Ultra Deluxe Lights. I don’t know, but she told me all about where they sit on her little chart. So my hunch is, you’ll get a lecture when we see them for brunch on Sunday,” Susan smiled.
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “She lectures you because you light a cigarette, then lights a cigarette and lectures you about how great she’s done switching and quitting for years?”
Susan started to laugh. “Exactly. It was like something out of a weird dream, right? Orwellian. And I basically say that to her. I say, ‘Mom, you’ve been smoking for years, and you just lit a cigarette, and you’re sitting there giving me a lecture?’ But guess what, Tom. Do you know why I’m different, and why I can’t just go and have a cigarette, but she can?”
“No,” I said. “But I do want to hear this.”

“Oh, you do, Stan,” Susan said, her irritation with her Mom’s judgment returning, pushing aside the humor we both found in the irony of the conversation. “Because guess what? I have ovaries, and we’ve told them we plan on having children, someday. So now I’m not a woman, but some sort of pod to carry her future grandchildren, down the road sometime. Of course because I’m not a woman, or her only daughter, but just a child machine, she now has the right to guilt-trip me and lecture me about something while she’s doing that very same thing right in front of me.” she said, her voice rising. “Even worse, she told me years ago how she smoked while she was pregnant with both me and my brother. So if my getting pregnant is the issue, she has absolutely no right to get on my case about smoking.”
Susan had cooled down by the time we met Tom and Linda for brunch on the terrace of their country club that Sunday. After we were seated, Susan brought her leather cigarette case out of her purse and retrieved a Virginia Slims 120. “I meant to tell you at our lunch, I think that leather case is lovely,” Linda said, as she pulled out a long cigarette of her own. “You also inspired me to try the long cigarettes again. But these, of course, are the low tar ones,” Linda added, holding up a pack of Virginia Slims Ultra Light 120s. Susan gave me an irritated look as I lit her cigarette – by smoking Susan’s brand in a lighter format, and not my Benson & Hedges, Linda’s focus would likely continue to be on Susan’s smoking.
Linda, indeed, pushed her switch-down-and-quit crusade forward. “Do you remember when I tried to get you to switch down to these long cigarettes when you were in high school? You hated them, and you thought they looked ridiculous. Just goes to show you your habits can change if you want them to,” she said, as she prepared to light her own cigarette. Susan, her irritation rising, glared at her mom and let the smoke from her first inhale waft slowly out of her lungs.
I took advantage of this brief pause to try to change the subject. “So, Linda, this cigarette case – we got it in a huge market near the resort. They had all sorts of crafts, at great prices, too,” I said. Tom, who disliked the women in his life arguing as much as I disliked seeing my wife and mother-in-law arguing, took the ball of the conversation and ran with it. “Yeah, so, tell us about this resort. It sounds like you both had a great time there,” he said.
The conversation shifted to our trip, and Linda stopped nagging Susan – at least for a while. As our brunch plates were cleared, I lit the cigarette Susan had pulled from her case. Tom drew a small leather case holding three cigars from his blazer pocket, and offered me one as I put down my lighter. “Stan, care to join me in

one? I think you liked the one you had at your reception, and this is the same kind,” he said, holding the case in the middle of the table.
“I think I’d like to have one, in fact. Thanks,” I said.
“Oh my God, we almost forgot,” said Susan through a talking exhale. “Mom, I gave you the hat we got you at our lunch. But Dad, we got you these, too,” she said, picking up the small box of cigars we had got Tom in the Dominican Republic from a bag by her leg. “They’re not Cubans, of course! But we hope you like them,” she said, handing the box to a pleasantly surprised Tom.
“Oh, you didn’t have to get me something on your own honeymoon,” Tom said. Opening the box, he inspected the cigars. “These smell wonderful. I don’t know the brand but I am always up for trying a new cigar. Thanks, you two,” he said, beaming.
“We smoked these down there,” said Susan. “They’re as strong as the Cubans, but we liked the taste of this kind better. They’re Nicaraguan tobacco, and the wrapper is Dominican,” she said.
Susan had apparently decided to just declare to her parents that she had smoked cigars. I sensed it was a form of an independence declaration from her mother – that she would smoke what she wanted, when she wanted, Linda’s views be damned.
“We?” asked Linda, surprised. Tom seemed puzzled by Susan’s “we” reference, and budding knowledge of cigars, as well.
Susan drove her point home with details. “Well, we met the cutest Spanish married couple at the resort. They both smoked cigars. So Stan had a cigar with them one night after dinner, and then I decided to have one. And we both really liked them. So we had a few more while we were there, and we brought some cigars back, and I brought back some of the smaller cigarillos which I really came to like,” Susan continued.
There was a pause as Tom and Linda absorbed the knowledge that their daughter had smoked more than one cigar. I don’t think it was too shocking – Susan was, after all, a grown and married woman, and they had long ago accepted (even if begrudgingly, in Linda’s case) that she smoked cigarettes. Still, though, watching their faces across the table, I could see the fact that their only daughter smoked cigars seemed to strike them from out of the blue.

“Well, uh, that’s great. You know, a lot of women smoke cigars these days,” said Tom, a flat tone trying to mask the surprise in his voice. “In fact, the club had a cigar night out here on the terrace, oh, when was that, Linda – a year ago? Remember that? And a lot of women were there,” he said, turning to Linda for support.
“That’s right, Tom, I remember that,” said Linda, also surprised and, I guessed, trying to figure out what to say. She couldn’t really chastise her adult daughter for smoking cigars.
Linda could, however, use this fact to her advantage in her quest to get Susan to smoke fewer and lighter cigarettes, which seemed to be her preoccupying issue now that grandchildren were somewhere in her future. “In fact, Tom, do you remember I smoked a cigar with Jeanine, the realtor from the west side of the neighborhood? I really loved it,” Susan said, starting to smile. I could almost see the wheels turning in Linda’s mind, as she figured out a way to use this information.
“The problem for me with cigars is, I’m too hooked on cigarettes to switch to them as easily as your father did,” Linda continued, ironically holding a smoldering Virginia Slims Ultra Light in her hand and looking right at Susan. “I’ve tried your father’s cigars a few times, in fact. But I always have to come back to cigarettes. Maybe you can follow your father’s example and switch to cigars, and then stop smoking anything, before you’re as hooked on cigarettes as me and have to try to switch to lower nicotine cigarettes. You’ll be a busy mom someday for sure, and you definitely don’t want to try to do it then,” she said.
And there it was. In a conversational equivalent of a black hole, Linda had taken Susan’s interesting but not earth-shattering disclosure – that as a grown woman, she had smoked a few cigars on her honeymoon – and twisted it back to suit her constant narrative. Worse than that, she had done it in a controlling and guilt- inducing way, invoking the notion that we planned to have children and ignoring the fact that her daughter had already been smoking for about fifteen years and was, in fact, an apparently confirmed nicotine user.
Susan would have none of this. “Yes, mom, switch down and quit — I got it, believe me, I understand. You’ve said it a thousand times. Remember, I smoke too, so I know all about being hooked,” she took a long puff and inhaled. Tom and I glanced at each other, bothered by this mother-daughter tension playing out next to us, but neither of us able to come up with a way to calm things down this time.

“So while we’re on the topic of your lecture about switch down and quit, Mom, remember,” Susan said through a talking exhale. “You’ve been switching-and- quitting for almost as long as I’ve been smoking. You have the switching part down pat, you change your brand every week. At some point, you know, you are going to have to get to the quitting part,” said Susan. She took a long puff and exhaled. Linda didn’t say anything, apparently caught off guard by her daughter’s vehement response to her nagging, and perhaps by being called out for her decade-plus of dramatic, but unsuccessful, effort to quit smoking.
Susan, her point made, crushed out her half-smoked Virginia Slim. In what I thought was a demonstration that she – and not her mother – would control whether she smoked and what she smoked, Susan turned to Tom and asked, “Dad, where’s your cigar lighter? I think I am going to have a cigarillo.”
Susan pulled out one of her thin cigarillos. I picked up Tom’s cigar lighter on the table and lit up the cigarillo as she dangled it toward me. Taking a big puff, she exhaled and looked at Tom and I – who had been cutting our cigars, but had paused to observe the brief argument and hadn’t yet lit them up. “Well, am I the only one having an after-brunch cigar, or what?” Susan asked us.
I used Tom’s cigar lighter to light my cigar, then passed the lighter back to him and he lit his own. Tom lit his cigar as Susan and Linda stared at each other. I could tell by Tom’s furrowed brow he was trying to think of a way to get the conversation away from the conflict that had just passed between his wife and his daughter. Tom hated conflict in his family and friends —he was a great litigator but didn’t like verbal combat in his home life – and really wanted to calm the troubled waters here.
So, unable to figure out how to deal with the main women in his family, Tom spoke to me first. “Stan, if you have a lot of cigars, you’ll have to have a humidor to store them. Maybe we can get lunch some day this week and I’ll take you by McCoy’s so you can get an idea of what you might want to buy?”
Tom’s efforts worked and lightened the conversation. He and I agreed to meet up for lunch that week, and then the four of us talked more about our honeymoon and shared some laughs about the wedding reception. Brunch ended peacefully.
Just after we got in the car, Susan lit a Virginia Slim while I drove the winding streets out of Tom and Linda’s suburban neighborhood back towards our urban one. “So, was I too hard on her?” Susan asked.

“Well, you fought fire with fire. She dropped a lot of guilt on you, so I think it was fair. And she went silent when you lit the cigarillo,” I said. “So, cigar smoking has at least one side benefit if it quiets your mom for a bit.”
“I just wish she would give me a break,” Susan said, holding in a big inhale. She exhaled gently, as was her pattern, and the breeze from the open window carried the smoke in a fast swirl around the front seat. “It’s like this is all she can talk about. But I agree she was shocked to see me smoking a cigarillo.”
“I’m going to ask Tom if he has any thoughts on this,” I said. “He gets that it bothers you and he hates to see you two argue. That was clear.”
Tom actually raised the subject first at our lunch later that week. We talked about a bunch of things – the stock market, housing prices, a little about my company – Tom was one of our outside lawyers and always liked to know what was going on with his client from an inside perspective – and a little about cigars. Before I had figured out when to raise the issue of Linda, he did. “So, your mother-in-law has an issue with your wife smoking cigarettes. I don’t know if you noticed,” he said with a smile.
“Really? I never would have known,” I joked. “Although seriously, Tom, it’s honestly really getting to Susan. She loves her mother, but she hates being nagged – especially when Linda is still smoking in front of her. It’s the hypocrisy more than anything else,” I said, feeling I had nothing to lose by being open with him.
“Linda has always had a controlling streak when it comes to Susan. In her mind, Susan is always her little girl, who shouldn’t be smoking, and should be preparing to give Linda a grandchild,” he said. “I think maybe you and I can broker a peace here. I’ll talk to Linda, and tell her to back off a bit, that the message has gotten through, and she needs to give Susan time to chart her own path with this. Susan will either quit or cutdown or whatever. You talk to Susan, and tell her to try to see it from her mom’s perspective, and to be patient. Maybe we can calm the waters,” Tom said.
I agreed. “Definitely, Tom. I’ll work at it on my end. Susan and I both noticed, also, that when Susan lit that little cigar, Linda went quiet. Maybe that’s another strategy for Susan to use if Linda starts again.”

Tom’s brow furrowed a bit. “Yeah, Linda and I were both a little surprised. Now, to be clear, Susan is a grown woman, and there are lot of women who smoke cigars. She can smoke a cigar if she wants to. But, I’ll admit, like with your mother-in-law, in some ways Susan will always be my little girl. So, it was just odd to see my little girl smoking a cigar. I’m not opposed to it, and it’s probably a bit better for her health than cigarettes. But it’ll take some time for me to grow into it. I’ll get there, though,” he said.
“Speaking of cigars, let’s get the check and head over to McCoy’s and see what they have for humidors,” he continued. “Picking a humidor can be tricky, but I have been buying cigars from those guys for years now and they have never steered me wrong, so they can walk you through the process.”
We walked into McCoy’s, a cigar store with a long history serving Houston’s movers and shakers. Tom was greeted warmly by the staff as a regular customer – with a fat wallet. He introduced me around and one of the salesmen showed me the humidor selection. In a five-minute lesson, the salesman explained the different types, why cedar was important, what hygrometers do, and ways to keep the box moist. I looked them over and, with some guidance from Tom, settled on a mid-priced burl wood glass-top humidor that would hold about 150 cigars.
I said I’d like to buy it. The salesman glanced at Tom. “Tom, I forgot to tell you and Stan. The ones we have here are for display only – we have to order them from our manufacturer. It could take a week or two. Is that alright?”
Tom looked at me. “Good things come to those who wait, Stan. It’s not a problem if McCoy’s gives you a call when it comes in, right? It’s humid enough in Houston in the summer that I think your cigars will be fine for a little while.”
“And I can give you a humidifier pouch to put your cigars in for now,” the salesman added. “That’ll hold you.”
“Sure, that’s fine,” I said, although as an accountant for a company that owned – among other things – a manufacturing and distributing business, the lack of available on-hand inventory struck me as a bit odd.
Chapter 8: If You Push Gently On It…
A couple of weeks later, Tom and Linda came into the city to celebrate my birthday. After treating Susan and me to a lovely dinner out, the four of us returned to our condo. On the way back, Tom and Linda retrieved two boxes for me from their car.

“Open this one up,” said Tom, pointing to one of the boxes with a sheepish grin. When I did, I saw the exact humidor I had picked out at McCoy’s a couple of weeks before. “There’s a reason McCoy’s hasn’t called you yet about your humidor. I called them before we went in, and told them your mother-in-law and I wanted you to pick one out and we were going to get it for you as a birthday gift. Those guys loved going along with the ruse. They even pre-seasoned it for you, and everything,” he said.
“I had it on my list to call them next week. I was starting to wonder if they had forgotten,” I said. “This is great.”
“And this one is from me, but I had Dad help me with it,” Susan said, handing me the other box. Inside was a selection of different cigars – some five-pack sets, a couple of boxes of ten cigars – along with a set of cutting tools and a cigar lighter.
“Aww, thanks, hon,” I said, giving her a hug.
“It’s really for both of us, in a way. I figure we can keep trying the different kinds together as a hobby,” Susan said.
“And maybe you’ll both smoke fewer cigarettes,” said Linda, holding some sort of ultra-light Merit in her hand.
“Linda,” Tom answered sternly, shooting her a glare.
“So,” said Tom, knowingly looking at me in an apparent reference to our lunchtime talk about peace between Linda and Susan. “Let’s talk about these,” he said, pulling the set of cigar tools out of the box. “Let me show you both what these all do.”
Tom demonstrated the different tools for Susan and me, and explained when to use each one. He had clearly mastered the cigar hobby. It struck me that when he switched from cigarettes to cigars over a decade ago, Tom may have taken learning all of the complexities of cigar smoking – the different types, lengths, strengths, wrapper colors, cutting tools, etiquette, all of it – as a challenge to be conquered. Very wise, I thought – if I was right, he’d taken what could have been a hurdle of the switching process – all the stuff to learn – and turned it into a fun part of the journey.
Tom helped me arrange the new cigars, and our remaining ones from the Dominican Republic, in the humidor. “Ah, these are fine, even if they haven’t been

in a humidor for a while. It’s all this humidity we’ve been having. See how you know?” he asked the three of us, holding up one of the cigars we’d bought on our honeymoon. He pushed gently on the middle of the cigar. “You want to smoke a properly humidified cigar. If it’s properly humidified, you can push gently on it, like this, and it will spring back. If it doesn’t give a bit when you push it, it’s a little dry and you have to let it rest. A moist humidor, kept in a dark place, is where you should rest cigars.”
“The smell of all of these is making me want a cigar,” Susan said.
“Doesn’t it smell great?” I said. “I’m up for a cigar. Let’s go out to the terrace.”
Susan, Tom and I picked out cigars and went to the terrace, joined by Linda. Linda and Tom had apparently recovered from any shock or surprise they had when they saw Susan smoke her cigarillo at brunch, because they made no comment on her smoking a cigar. We passed an enjoyable hour or two with them before they called it an early evening and headed back to the suburbs.
Susan proposed going to our neighborhood bar on the corner. “It’s your birthday, and since dinner and gifts are taken care of, you at least have to let me buy you a drink,” she said, as we headed out the door. The place wasn’t too crowded, even for a Saturday night, and we found seats at the bar. We ordered drinks and I lit Susan’s Virginia Slim, and then my own cigarette.
It became apparent pretty quickly that Susan was smoking with the intent of pleasing me. She immediately began taking huge drags and exhaling with purpose, in tight cones while staring into my eyes, instead of her usual practice of letting her exhaled smoke go any which way. In just a few minutes, she’d finished the entire long cigarette, down to the filter. She smiled demurely while exhaling a tight cone right in front of my face as she crushed out the butt in an ashtray.
She immediately pulled another Virginia Slim out of her leather case. “Stan, do you mind if I smoke another one of these?” she said, bringing the cigarette toward her mouth. “Some days, I just want to smoke, you know?” Susan winked at me. “Since it’s your birthday and all, I didn’t think you’d mind.”
I didn’t, and said so as I lit her cigarette. “You know what you’re doing to me, Susan,” I said, grinning.

“That’s the whole point, my dear Stanley,” she said, using my full name as Paola had on our honeymoon. “I think on your birthday, I should push your buttons a little bit. As a treat,” she said, while holding a big inhale in her lungs.
Susan exhaled a tight cone of smoke that half-covered my face. “Oh, I’m sorry – or did you like that?” she asked, half-seriously. “I read about that on the Internet. Yes, I have done some research,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m definitely a fan,” I replied, wondering exactly what she’d found about the smoking fetish – and afraid to ask.
“Good,” Susan said, after taking another huge puff. “Because I have some ideas. Some for when we go home. For now, let’s just have a beer.”
We talked about other things over the next hour and a half and a few beers each, but Susan never stopped the show. She smoked about ten cigarettes over that amount of time, a level of chain-smoking I don’t think I’d ever seen her reach before. And I don’t know what she’d read on the Internet, but she treated me to a whole bunch of smoking fetish triggers – French inhales, smoke rings, tight cone exhales, even a bit of dangling, although I knew she felt dangling was somewhat beneath her perceived class status. Her dangling show ended abruptly, though, when the cigarette slipped out of the corner of her mouth and onto the bar. Susan laughed, “I guess I’m not a hold-it-in-your-mouth kind of girl,” and crushed the cigarette out. Even if her research hadn’t given her the smoking fetish community’s lexicon, she had certainly picked up the main concepts.
I loved the show. I’ve forgotten what else we talked about, focusing on enjoying her smoking and how hard she was making me. I recall, though, she carefully didn’t talk about her smoking most of the night, focusing on other topics all the while that she was purposefully giving me a smoking show. It was as if, in this public, moderately crowded bar, she wanted to turn me on without anyone else knowing – and she knew full well she was doing so.
Susan enjoyed her public, yet somehow private, interchange between us. Finally, she put out a cigarette and held up a nearly-empty pack. “Will you look at that,” she said, with a wry smile. “I’m nearly out of cigarettes, I’ve smoked so much. I guess we should go home, because I have more there.” Susan leaned in to me and whispered in my ear as she put her hand on my thigh. “That is, if you’re able to walk.”

“Barely,” I whispered back. “You’re really amazing with the smoking tricks,” I said, unsure what else to say at just that moment.
“That’s one of the many reasons you married me, I guess,” Susan said. “Let’s go. It’s still your birthday.”
Back at our condo, Susan asked, “Why don’t you grab a cigar and sit on the terrace, and I’ll fix us one more drink?” I wasn’t sure what she had in mind, but given her hints at the bar, I quickly complied.
It quickly became clear Susan did, in fact, have more in mind. In just a few minutes, she came out to the terrace in a lace, nearly see-through black nightgown with a red silk robe over it, holding two beers, a bottle of water, and a fresh pack of Virginia Slims 120s. She looked not just beautiful – and she had, and still has, a natural beauty to her – but downright hot.
She sat close to me on the wicker sofa and drew a Virginia Slim out of her pack. “I don’t know how many more of my buttons you can push. You look amazing,” I said, lighting her cigarette.
“Maybe I can find one or two more,” she said in a sultry voice.
Susan returned to her tactic from the bar – smoking with deliberate style to turn me on while talking about something else. We talked over a few things, although I was distracted again by her show.
Eventually, Susan brought up her father’s interest in cigars, and how he appeared pleased to share his hobby with both of us. After another minute, she put out her cigarette and reached for another one. I lit it up and she took a puff.
“In fact, what was one of the things he said? You know the cigar is ready if you push on it gently and it springs back?” she said, through a talking exhale. She put her hand lightly on the bulge in my crotch. “My question is,” she said, before taking another big puff and inhaling, “if I push gently on this, right here, is it going to be ready and spring back gently,” squeezing my hard penis through my pants.
I exhaled cigar smoke and clumsily tried to play her game. “Well,” I said, “I think it would spring back if you touch it. So maybe we should put it in this moist, dark place to let it rest,” I said, gently touching her crotch with my hand.

“Oh, no, Stan, not that moist place,” Susan smiled. “Not yet, at least. First, it goes in the dark, moist place where smoke goes – in my mouth.” She took a puff and inhaled deep. Holding the smoke while she tightened her squeeze on my penis, she added, “This cock isn’t a cigar, of course, but it’s big and tasty like one.” She exhaled a tight stream of cigarette smoke in my face. “Unless you object. But on the Web, the smoking blow job is a pretty popular thing. Can I try?”
Susan was, in fact, pushing a major button on my smoking fetish control panel, as well as an adjacent button for one of my sexual likes in general. In the process a lover goes through to learn the likes and dislikes of a companion, sometimes you have to wait – maybe even a lifetime – to fully comprehend all of your partner’s likes and dislikes surrounding the very complicated set of practices we call intimacy. In my case, I didn’t have to wait long to learn that Susan wasn’t too interested in giving me oral sex. She liked receiving it a great deal, though, and with her communicating what she specifically liked and disliked about it – imagine a lot of “right there” and “do that again” groaned during our early intimacy sessions – I grew to enjoy pleasing her orally. But she’d confessed that giving me head on a regular basis just wasn’t her thing. I learned to accept this as part of the bargain every couple strikes over who gets what satisfaction in bed, though, even though I was a huge fan of receiving oral. But it was becoming clear my birthday was entitling me to this special treat.
And so not only was Susan pushing my “oral sex – receiving” button, but she was going to push the big red one labeled “smoking blow job.” This is one topic in the smoking fetish community that rarely prompts disagreement. There’s no need to even ask, ”Smoking Blow Job – Yes or No” as a poll question on the Smoking Fetish Kingdom – the answers would, I’d wager, be a unanimous “yes.” I’d be among the “yes” voters, although to that point in my life this fabulous treat was only a fantasy somewhere in the “likely never” section of my bucket list. And now that I was married to a woman who would only give oral on limited occasions, it likely would have stayed there.
Until tonight.
I’ve no idea what Susan ever read about the smoking blow job, but she had clearly studied up on it. With a cigarette dangling in her mouth, she slid off the couch in front of me and got down on her knees between my spread legs – while glancing furtively around to ensure no one else could see us. Our terrace had a three-foot wall running its length, though, and we were five floors above the street – and with no neighbors on the adjoining terraces, our privacy would essentially be assured.

I leaned forward to put my cigar in the ashtray before she started. “No, honey, just relax,” she said, exhaling. “Let me pull these shorts down and you just sit back, smoke that cigar, and enjoy.”
I sat up a little bit and unbuckled my belt and Susan pulled my shorts and underwear down to my ankles. She wasted no time trying out what she’d learned. With one hand and her gaze on my very stiff member, Susan took a long puff from the cigarette in her other hand, inhaled deeply, held the smoke, and then blew a huge exhale right on my cock as if she were trying to blow out a candle. My dick visibly stiffened more, and she felt it quake a bit. “Oh my God. This is amazing. Just a puff of smoke does that?” she asked, incredulous.
I exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke while my mind grappled around for a response. Eventually all I could muster was, “yeah, uh, pretty easy, isn’t it?”
Seeing that she had gotten me so flustered, so easily – just a puff of smoke blown across me – amused Susan, who smiled broadly and suppressed a laugh. “Well, I’ll have to keep going,” she said, with mock sternness. She repeated the process of deep, long inhales followed by exhaled cones across my member three more times before she put the tip in her mouth, resting her cigarette-holding hand on my knee. I leaned back, puffed my cigar, and enjoyed my birthday gift.
Susan slowly slid my member deeper into her mouth and wrapped her tongue around it, before sliding it back out again. She looked up at me and took another huge puff of her cigarette, now half-spent. “Enjoying this?” she asked with a grin while holding the smoke deep in her lungs. “Oh, baby, I’m about to cum,” was the only response I could muster. “I know,” Susan said, with a devilish grin and a talking exhale.
Susan straightened up a bit and took a huge, cheek-hollowing puff, all the while gripping my cock with her other hand and staring carefully at it, like a craftsman figuring out the next step in some complicated project. She continued her stare as she inhaled and let the smoke absorb into her lungs.
And then, Susan knew her next move. She leaned forward toward my member again, stopping when her mouth was about an inch from its tip. She opened her mouth and forcefully exhaled a huge column of smoke, which traveled down my member and billowed up into my face. Susan immediately placed her whole mouth around my throbbing, about-to-explode cock. She had only worked her

tongue around it for a few seconds when I came, letting out a groan and leaning back on the sofa.
Susan kept my member in her mouth for ten seconds or so more, as it quickly softened in the wake of a massive ejaculation. Releasing me from her mouth, she turned to the bottle of water on the table behind her and gulped down several sips.
Susan turned back to me, took one last drag of her now-short long cigarette, and looked at me as she exhaled. “Happy birthday,” she said.
“So, if I smoke another one of these things, would it help you, uh, recharge,” she asked, pulling out another long cigarette. I said it would as I lit her up. And it did. Her next three cigarettes helped me recharge even more. We soon went inside to continue things in the bedroom for an hour, until we both fell asleep, pleasantly spent.
While this wonderful evening was forever engraved on my mind, Susan didn’t easily forget it either. She reminded me of it in subtle ways over the next few weeks, occasionally exhaling a stream of Virginia Slim smoke across my face, followed by an, “Oh, Stan, I’m sorry, did that bother you?” And a mischievous grin.
The remaining summer days before she started law school were fun ones. Susan caught up with friends, read, or went for long walks around the city during the day. At night, we’d cook together, enjoy a cigar, go out for drinks – basically spend time together doing the little things that build a newly-married partnership.
Susan also looked into Paola’s theory – supported by Alejandro’s and Tom’s experiences – that cigar smoking was a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking. I came home one day to find her on the terrace, smoking a cigar and looking at her laptop. “Guess what? Here’s some breaking news,” she said, smiling. “Smoking is bad for you, and smoking cigarettes is the worst – thing – ever, at least according to Dr. Google.”
I had just lit a Benson & Hedges and decided to play along. “Really? Cigarettes are bad for you? They should tell you that on the package,” I remarked sarcastically.
“Don’t Google ‘smoking-cigar-cigarette.’ It’s all pictures of black lungs and oxygen tanks. This much we were both aware of,” she said, exhaling cigar smoke.

“But,” Susan continued, resting her cigar in the ashtray, “Paola and Alejandro were right about the health risks of cigars. There is actual science on this. Once I dug past the ‘don’t smoke anything at all, ever’ message, I found this.” Susan turned her laptop toward me and pointed at a page that appeared to be from some sort of government report. “This is an actual scientific study. It’s not somebody on a blog somewhere making this up,” she pointed to the page. “You can smoke five big cigars a day, and inhale them, and have the same health risk as someone who smokes a pack a day.”
I studied the page, not too surprised at the conclusions, frankly. Susan may have never thought about it in detail before, but if you are smoking fewer times a day and inhaling less – as cigar smokers do, even though those that switch from cigarettes inhale somewhat – it makes intuitive sense. “So sum this all up, counselor,” I asked her. “What do you think this means for us?”
“So, this is why I looked this up. We are both enjoying cigars, and we both want to cut down on cigarettes. I think we should smoke a cigar when we have time to, instead of cigarettes. Ultimately, someday, we can be mostly-cigar smokers, like Paola is, and we’ll be healthier and breathing better. And let’s face it Stan, we’re both hooked on nicotine. This lets us have our nicotine, smoke something tasty, and not be all wheezy like my mom and having to smoke cigarettes all the time,” she concluded.
I wasn’t pleased to learn that the notion of cutting down on cigarettes had come back to the fore, but I didn’t want to push back too hard on her idea of smoking cigars – as I continued to enjoy watching her smoke them, and was getting into being a cigar smoker myself. “If we have time. Even your little cigarillos take time to smoke,” I said.
“Absolutely. And there’s no way I am lighting up a cigar or cigarillo when I wake up – could you imagine the two of us, waking up in bed, trying to suck down these cigars to satisfy the morning nicotine itch?” I could, in fact, imagine Susan puffing away vigorously on a cigar in bed, and my brain filed the image away in a folder surely labeled, “Susan – Sexy – Smoking Cigars/Fantasy.”
“So you are saying we should just add cigars to our routine of smoking, for now, maybe instead of so many cigarettes,” I asked, trying to reaffirm what she wanted as the “action steps” from our discussion.

“Exactly,” Susan said. “This can help us cut down. And definitely, I am going to have to cut back for school. Maybe I’ll smoke cigarettes there, and cigars here.”
“Alright, I’m in. I think I’ll join you in a cigar now, in fact,” I said, putting out my spent cigarette and going inside to the humidor. I returned in a minute, and cut and lit a cigar.
“This is really good for us, I think, Stan,” Susan said. “An investment now for the long run, right?” she asked, referring to Alejandro’s analogy. “The research proves Alejandro and Paola were right. The only person who really paid a steep price for cigar use was your man Bill Clinton, and that was just disgusting,” Susan said, teasing me. We didn’t talk politics too much – she was a moderate Texas Republican from the conservative suburbs, and I was a moderate Democrat. But we respected each other’s views, so when we did talk politics, it was always good- natured.
“Wait a second,” I said, tapping some stray ash off my cigar. “So do you mean to tell me the Monica Lewinsky treatment is off the table?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.
Susan exhaled a plume of cigar smoke. Her smile let me know she understood I was only joking about the naughty conduct underlying the former President’s impeachment. “Off the table, buried, no, nada, never, not in million years. I would impeach you as my husband if you even think I would do that. Disgusting,” she said with a wide smile.
“But you have that amazing blue dress,” I said with a wink.
“Ugh, how could I have ever married you,” Susan laughed.
Over the remaining weeks before law school started, Susan and I followed through on the plan she had proposed. We both made a real attempt to smoke fewer cigarettes each day, and supplemented our tobacco vice with a cigar or cigarillo in the evenings and on weekends. We were settling into this pattern as summer drew to a close. I had trimmed my pack a day habit back to about fifteen cigarettes a day, and Susan started making her cartons of Virginia Slims 120s last a little longer than a week.
The first semester of law school that fall, however, hit Susan hard. It was a lot of work and pressure to keep up with her classes. She was bright, no doubt about it, and capable of doing the work – it was just that there was an awful lot of it.

Susan’s talk of cutting down on her cigarette smoking and switching to more cigars pretty much came to a stop in the law school environment – which itself, perversely, put a lid on how much time and opportunity she had to smoke. The law school didn’t have overly onerous restrictions on smoking, but in 2006, we were well past the days of smoking indoors. Susan’s gregarious nature allowed her to make many friends in the smoking area in the school courtyard, though, and she joked with me about how she spent as much time out there between classes as she did in the library. She smoked pretty heavily while studying at night too, and her cigarette smoking stayed at about a carton of Virginia Slims a week, with an occasional cigarillo or cigar thrown in.
Susan also discovered something I was discovering, and that most cigar smokers figure out pretty quickly: smoking a cigar for a half-hour or more, or even a fifteen minute cigarillo, is sort of “forced relaxation” for a period of time. The only things you can comfortably do while smoking a cigar are passive in nature: read a book, sit in a hot tub, stare at the sky, have a conversation. Around this time, Susan took to calling her every-other-night-or-so cigarillo a “sit for fifteen minutes, full stop break,” and she was right. She also enjoyed a full-size cigar a few times a week, too. While smoking her cigar, it wasn’t unusual for her to say something like, “Paola and Alejandro were right – cigars are nice. But they take a lot of time to smoke, which I don’t have, and they don’t help me through the day at school.”
Chapter 9: Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., 248 N.Y. 339 (N.Y. 1928)
The pattern Susan had set after our honeymoon – smoking a few cigars or cigarillos and about a carton a week of Virginia Slim 120s – ultimately broke, though, under the continuing pressure of the first semester of law school. The stresses had been building on her as the semester progressed and semester final exams – a critical first hurdle in the first year of law school – began to loom larger on the horizon. I’d noticed the toll it all was taking on her, but wasn’t expecting to see it the stress change her smoking habit as suddenly and abruptly as it did.
I witnessed the break one night in late October when she was studying in our spare bedroom. We’d made it her law school “office,” and like the rest of our condo, smoking cigarettes was allowed in it, although we’d agreed to keep cigar smoking outside on our terrace. Somewhere in the middle of the evening, I’d walked in to check on her and see if she needed anything. I noticed the room was unusually hazy, even for its place in a condo with two smokers. Susan was just finishing a puff, and I noticed her put a brown-filtered cigarette into the ashtray while she deeply inhaled the smoke – all the while still reading a casebook.

“Hi, hon, how is it going? Do you need anything?” I asked.
“Ugh,” Susan sighed, looking at me and exhaling. “I could use a glass of water,” she said, as little wisps of residual smoke underlined her words.
I returned soon with a glass of water, and set it down on her desk next to a pack of Marlboro 100s and a lighter.
Susan looked at me as she exhaled another puff, pushing her casebook aside. “Stan, I’m sorry, I broke down and bought these today,” she said, holding up her Marlboro 100. “I like the Virginia Slims, really, I do. But right now I don’t have time to smoke a long cigarette every time I want one. And I needed more of a kick, school is really kicking my ass.”
The stress of her first year was taking its toll, and she was on the verge of tears. I didn’t want her cigarette brand, which she had changed for me, to be one more weight on her shoulders. “Aww, don’t be sorry, hon,” I said, leaning down and opening my arms to hug her. She put her cigarette in the ashtray and turned to accept my embrace. Looking at her desk while we hugged, I noticed nine crushed Marlboro butts, and she’d only been studying in here for about two hours. All were smoked down to the filter, with thick tar stains on their ends. Some had teeth marks – and Susan didn’t clench her filters with her teeth unless she was really stressed out and craving nicotine. Combined with the thick smell of smoke in her hair and on her sweater – an almost overpowering amount, almost too much even for a fetisher – these signs meant that Susan was definitely surviving the stress only with copious amounts of nicotine. Now was not the time to make a fuss over her choice of brand.
“Hon, don’t be sorry,” I said, easing my embrace and pulling gently on her chin so we could look each other in the eye. “I married you, not a long cigarette. I love you, and I want you to get through this, any way you have to, and with me doing whatever you need me to do. You’ll get through first semester, and I’ll be right by your side. And, look, hon, we’re both smokers – I’ll never judge you for what you smoke, or how much, or any of that. You never need to apologize to me, because I understand.” I wasn’t sure how well that was going to play, but Susan gave me a big hug. “I love you so much,” she said, squeezing tighter. I held her for a few minutes until she began to cry a bit, and broke our embrace to get a Kleenex.
A moment later, she was a bit more composed and smiled at me. “Thank you,” she said. “You are so understanding.”

“I mean it,” I said. “I’ll get you a carton of Marlboro 100s next time I go to that tobacco store,” I offered.
“I actually got one,” Susan said, pointing to the dresser across the room. “But you should get me another one, because at this rate, I’m gonna need more,” she said, smiling meekly and pointing at the nearly-full ashtray.
“Okay, let’s do this,” I said, doing my best to lay out a plan to help get Susan and her emotions back in control, and – frankly – just be a caring spouse. “I’m going to empty this out,” I said, picking up the ashtray. “And bring it back with an apple cut up for you to snack on. You study for two more hours, and then we’ll stop for cigarillos on the terrace, and then bed for you. I think a little relaxing and fresh air, then a good night of sleep, will help you a lot.”
Susan squeezed my arm and looked me squarely in the eye. “You are the best,” she said.
“I aim to please,” I joked, and went to the kitchen to cut up an apple and dump out her pile of butts. It didn’t take me long, but when I returned Susan – apparently still jonesing hard for nicotine – had an unilt Marlboro 100 dangling from the corner of her mouth. She saw me enter the room and didn’t wait for me to reach her desk to light her up, but grabbed her lighter and brought the cigarette to life. She took a big puff and inhaled deeply, and while holding, said, “I didn’t want to light this before you brought back the ashtray.”
“No problem, my dear,” I said. “Eat this apple when you are done with that cigarette. It’ll help you get through to the end of your studying.”
“I’m feeling better already. Two hours should about do it, I think,” Susan replied.
“Okay. Let me know what you need. I’ll leave you to it,” I said, starting to close the door as I left the room.
“Hey, Stan?” Susan called out.
I stopped in the doorway. “Yes, hon?”
Susan exhaled a plume of grayish smoke she’d been holding in her lungs. Through residual bits of smoke, she spoke. “Do you think I could have a pedicure after our time on the terrace…even if we don’t have sex? I’m too tired for sex, but a little pedicure could help my stress for sure,” she said with a wink.

“I will give you a pedicure any time you want. Of course,” I said with a smile, and left her to her studies. I read for a while and then watched the late local news.
Halfway through the news – after the weather and before the sports – the door to the spare bedroom opened. Susan came out, and a thin haze of smoke followed her into the living room. She stretched and yawned. “Stick a fork in me, I’m done,” she said, clearly exhausted. “But I am caught up with all my classes, for tomorrow at least, so that is good.”
“Yay,” I said, getting up from the couch. “Bourbon?” I asked her. While not a big drinker on weeknights, Susan sometimes liked a bourbon or glass of red wine to wind down before bed. She nodded yes, and I poured her a glass and grabbed a beer for me from the refrigerator. When I returned, Susan had already retrieved the tin of cigarillos from the drawer of an end table near the terrace door, where we kept the cigarillos and various smoking supplies – matches, random lighters, that sort of thing.
“No big cigar tonight?” she asked, pointing at the humidor on top of the endtable.
“Not tonight. It’s getting late and I still want to provide a certain someone a pedicure. This weekend is definitely good for a cigar though,” I said, following her out to the terrace with our drinks. “The weather is supposed to be great.”
She agreed, and put one end of her cigarillo in her mouth for me to light it. She puffed and inhaled shallowly, still careful about inhaling too much cigar smoke. I lit a cigarillo as well. We talked about what she was learning in school, the news, a bunch of the minor topics married people talk about during the day which have little consequence individually, but when taken together, serve to keep open the precious lines of communication.
We finished our cigarillos at just about the same time, and she had finished her bourbon as well. Susan held out her glass. “Would you mind grabbing me a tiny splash more? I actually feel almost unwound. And my cigarettes from the office?” I quickly went back in to fulfill both requests, as it was comforting to me to see her relax a bit, and I wanted her comfort to continue.
As I picked up her pack of Marlboro 100s from her desk, I noticed it was almost full – but there were two empty packs in the wastebasket. Since she had told me she bought the carton that day – likely when she was coming home from her classes that morning – I quicky reasoned she’d smoked over two packs that day of the

Marlboros alone. The ashtray – full again, with about ten crushed-out, tar-stained butts with tooth marks – supported my reasoning. For now, at least, any thought Susan had of quitting had apparently been postponed indefinitely.
Susan smoked two Marlboro 100s back-to-back as she sipped the small bourbon I’d poured for her. She wound up asking for a raincheck on her pedicure – “I just feel so mellow right now, I can go right to sleep,” she’d said – but we found time for it that weekend when she took a break from her studies.
In November, she started preparing for her final exams with even more effort. The urgency of this work firmly pushed aside even further any interest Susan had in cutting down or quitting, as she spent long hours in her office preparing study outlines, highlighting case books, and pretty seriously chainsmoking. I started buying her two cartons of Marlboro 100s a week and she’d often pick up a pack or two when she was out, so she was easily lighting up over sixty cigarettes a day. Throw in a few cigarillos a week and a full-size cigar or two on the weekends, and Susan essentially had lit tobacco in her hand whenever she wasn’t in class or asleep.
Even sleep didn’t fully give her rest from the “demon weed.” I woke up one night when I heard her slide open the glass door from our bedroom to the terrace. I sat up, squinting into the city lights I could see through the patio door. Susan, outside in her bathrobe, quickly lit a Marlboro, and I watched her suck it down furiously, her chest expanding as she inhaled deep into her lungs. This was rare for either of us: we’d long gotten used to our shared habit of keeping an ashtray on either side of our bed, and having a cigarette or two before we went to sleep (or after we were intimate), and when we woke up before starting our day. But neither of us ever really needed to wake up in the middle of the night to smoke.
That night was one of many that fed my fetish in November and through her mid- December exams. It’s true she wasn’t smoking the 120s now – but the thick, omnipresent smell of Marlboros on her, seeing her more-frequent dangles and her big, deep inhales, and my own private “cigar sighting” about five times a week, made up for their loss. When we were home together in the evenings, her constant smoking led to me being in a near-constant state of arousal. I learned when, and how, to propose a “pedicure” and intimacy to give both of us some sexual release when her studies allowed the time: for her, a release from exam fears and studying; for me, a release from the bulge in my pants that her constant heavy smoking gave me.

Just as the stress led to Susan’s heavy smoking, though, that heavy smoking led to its own effects. No life-altering health consequences happened to her that Fall, but several months of smoking two packs a day followed by a jump to three packs a day of a stronger brand was straining her body a bit. While we’d both had mild morning coughs – more like dry throats that cleared up within a few minutes of waking – Susan’s became much thicker, and lasted well into her day. Even after the heavy coughs cleared up, she’d periodically have coughing fits during the day. And, more than once, it took her more time than usual to recover her breath after our intimate times.
Susan was clearly noticing these things, but didn’t have the interest or time to talk about them while she plowed ahead toward the end of her first semester. Her mother Linda, however, in her perpetual-quitting mode, saw no need to be silent. Even before we went to Tom and Linda’s house for Thanksgiving – a half-day break Susan allowed herself, just a week or two before her exams started – Susan knew from experience that her smoking would be an issue her mom commented on. After getting in the car to head over to her parents’ place that day, Susan pulled out a Marlboro 100 and I lit it, before lighting one of my own cigarettes. We had barely started driving toward the suburbs when Susan asked me, “What are the odds Linda comments on me smoking these Marlboros even before we have dinner?”
“I won’t take that bet,” I said, exhaling out the window. “She’ll be right on you about them, right after you light one.”
“I know,” Susan said, exhaling out the window on her side of the car and watching the urban landscape roll by outside.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long. Tom, Susan, and I helped Linda with some of the meal prep for a while and when the dishes were cooking or simmering and the work caught up, the four of us sat in Tom and Linda’s living room to wait while a few more dishes finished cooking. I asked after her older brother, who lived on the West Coast, and it turned out he was spending Thanksgiving with friends, but would be at Tom and Linda’s for Christmas. Susan pulled a Marlboro 100 out of her pack, glancing sideways at me and across the room at her mother, knowing what was coming.
And it did. “Marlboro 100s?” asked Linda, as she pulled out a Carlton 100. “What happened to those long light cigarettes? You know, we used to call those the Cowboy Killers,” Linda said, gratuitously piling the pressure on.

“Oh my God, Mom, please,” said an exasperated Susan. Usually she was a pretty patient woman, but not today. “This is more than a little rich coming from the woman who smoked Winstons while she carried me in her body.”
“Ladies, please,” Tom said, pausing his elaborate process of cutting a cigar. “It’s Thanksgiving. Susan’s got her exams coming up. Do we have to do this right now?” he asked, glaring at Linda.
Linda refused to back down. “Well, we didn’t know back then about smoking and pregnancy, it’s not like now,” Linda defended herself.
Susan put the unlit cigarette in the corner of her mouth as I fished around my pockets for my lighter. “Look, Mom, I’ll tell you something I know, right now,” Susan said firmly, unlit cigarette bouncing up and down as she spoke. “Right now, I am about thirteen days away from starting five big exams in my first semester classes. How I do on them will determine what jobs I get next summer, and the summer after that. And those jobs will define my entire career as a lawyer,” she said, cigarette still bouncing.
I’d found my lighter but didn’t want to interrupt her, as she seemed to have anticipated this moment and thought out beforehand what she wanted to say to her mother. “And here’s right now. Right now, I am smoking like an absolute fiend to help me through these exams. You want to lecture me about quitting, with your cigarette in your hand, let’s do it in a couple of months. The least you can do is give me some space right now. Stan, at least, is helping me get through my first semester of law school without nagging me about smoking, for God’s sake.”
To be clear: as a smoker myself and a smoking fetishist, I hadn’t, in fact, ever nagged Susan about her smoking.
Linda seemed a bit stunned by Susan’s vehement response to being poked about smoke. I sparked my lighter and leaned forward to give Susan a light. Tom, anxious to change the subject and clear the tension between his wife and daughter, saw this as a way to do just that. “Still with the lighting cigarettes, Stan?” he asked, grinning. “You’ve been married almost six months now. You’re really making all us other married guys look bad,” he said.
This mild attempt at humor made Susan laugh, and she had a brief, but noticeable, coughing fit as she exhaled her first puff. Linda seized on that to get the last word in. “That cough is a word to the wise – listen to it,” she said, an ironic statement

given her own very frequent coughing spells and near-constant light wheeze. “That’s all I’ll say. Now, Tom, will you follow your son-in-law’s example,” she said, putting her Carlton in her mouth and turning to her husband for a light.
The subject of Susan’s smoking was dropped for the rest of the day – even her smoking a cigar after the great meal didn’t elicit further comment from Linda. Susan and I rehashed the conversation as we smoked our cigarettes on the drive home. She was still a little steamed at her mother’s comments and glaringly hypocrisy.
But Susan also knew she couldn’t continue feverishly chain-smoking forever, and she seemed to want to set a point when she could rein her smoking back to “normal.” “Stan, when you go to that cigarette store next time, can you get me a carton of Virginia Slims 120s so I have it for when my finals are over? I want to go back to the lighter cigarettes, and I have to cut down. This cough is killing me. I’m waking up in the middle of the night with cravings. And the other day, Jeanine, in my study group at school, said she could smell me from a mile away.”
I squeezed her knee playfully. “You know you don’t have to ask me twice to buy you long cigarettes,” I said with a grin.
“I know that. And you know, too, someday I am going to be an occasional cigar smoker like my dad, or not smoke at all. So enjoy the view while you have it, buddy,” Susan said with a throaty laugh.
I realized my last comment had raised the subject of my fetish, and it had tinkered with the balance I had struck in my head between my fetish and my desire to see her feeling less addicted and healthy, even if that meant she would smoke less. The fulcrum of that balance, in part, was her smoking cigars – sexy to me, but comforting to her given her somewhat correct belief that cigars had fewer health consequences than cigarettes.
I moved to push the discussion away from my fetish and back to her concerns. “Susan, we’ve talked about you cutting down, and cigars – I stand by you in all of that. When you are ready, and someday you will be, I’m with you all the way. Smoking cigars can help you, and it’s something we do together,” I said.
Then, Susan asked me the direct question our earlier discussions about smoking had always sidestepped, and while I had always known it was coming, I wasn’t

fully prepared to answer. “What about you?” she asked. “When are Mr. Benson and Mr. Hedges going to hit the road?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure I am ready to fully quit. I’ll support you and maybe I’ll cut down, but I need to think about it.”
“I definitely understand,” Susan said. “We’re both smokers and we’re both really hooked on it. But we have time to think about it. But someday,” she said, putting out her cigarette in the car’s ashtray before exhaling out the window.
Susan continued to be true to her own description of smoking “like a fiend” through her finals. Perhaps it was the notion of knowing she’d set a date to get back to a lower, more normal consumption, or maybe it was that she was just too focused on getting through exams. Either way, she didn’t talk much about smoking, other than an occasional comment in passing about how much she was smoking – usually after a husky cough. I woke up a couple of nights to see her out on the terrace smoking in the middle of the night, but didn’t raise the issue of her midnight smoking. I mainly just tried to be supportive, taking on the cooking and household duties we had previously split between us, and giving her time and space to study.
As she finished each exam – they were spread out over about ten days – her mood lightened a bit more. She certainly saw the light at the end of the tunnel. On the afternoon she finished her last exam, she called me at work on her cell phone, positively ebullient. “I’m done! My first semester is over!” she practically screamed.
“Yay! Great job! Congratulations! Where are you, at home already? I can get out of work and we should go out,” I said excitedly.
“I’m in the smoking courtyard with the other nicotine exiles. I’m going home soon – let’s not go out tonight, I need to just unwind after this. But tomorrow night, I have made reservations for us to finally have a night out where we don’t need to talk about law school. It’s a surprise,” she said.
“All sounds great, my love. But you know I hate surprises. Although for you, I can wait,” I said, playfully.
Susan couldn’t wait to tell me though, perhaps pleased that for the first time in a few months, she had taken an action – calling for a reservation for dinner – that had the feel of normal, non-law-school life to it. “Okay, you beat it out of me. I’m really looking forward to it, so I’ll tell you. It’s called La Casa de Habana. It’s

supposed to be really nice, and they say it has great Cuban food and fish. And, get this, there’s a ‘cigar bar’ attached to the restaurant!”
Chapter 10: A Table For Two In Smoking, Please
The next morning, Susan finished her last pack of Marlboro 100s and opened the carton of Virginia Slims 120s I had left in her bedroom-turned-office. I came home that night a bit later than planned, due to some holiday traffic. I freshened up quickly as Susan called us a cab – La Casa de Habana was in another neighborhood a few miles away, and given we would surely be drinking, we didn’t want to drive.
Susan told me there was no reason to bring any of our cigars, as the restaurant’s cigar bar sold them. “And bring your cigarettes – the restaurant has a smoking section and I got us a table in there,” she said, putting her leather 120-length case in her purse.
Susan looked amazing, and I told her so as we went downstairs to meet our cab. She was smiling for the first time in weeks, and had applied her makeup and done her hair with more care than she had in over a month. Her blonde hair fell gently on the shoulders of a very pretty blue dress I hadn’t seen her wear since before she started law school.
In the cab, she started telling me about La Casa de Habana. “Online, it gets great reviews, and the paper’s review gave it three and a half stars. Did I tell you how I heard of this place? She asked. “No, I don’t think you did,” I answered.
“One afternoon, it must have been October, one of my classes was cancelled so I had this long stretch of time between classes – but not long enough to go home and come back,” she said. “So, I went to this little bistro place, a couple of blocks from school, that lets you smoke on the back patio. It was a nice day, so I figured I’d just study on their patio and have a late lunch. On the way there, I stopped in a convenience store to get a pack of cigarettes as I’d forgotten to bring a fresh pack and I was almost out,” Susan said.
“As I’m getting cigarettes, I see the store has a little humidor case with a tin of cigarillos in it. It wasn’t a brand I recognized, but I figured, what the heck, I may as well try them, I had plenty of time. So after lunch, I light up a cigarillo. There were only a couple of other people on the patio and it didn’t seem to bother them,” Susan said. “As I’m smoking it, this older guy, maybe fifty, well-dressed, tweed

sport coat and slacks, comes and sits down at the table next to me and orders a coffee. At first, I’m thinking, ugh, he’s going to hate the cigar smoke and make me put it out. But instead, he pulls out a cigar of his own and lights it – it wasn’t a super-big cigar, but a short fat cigar.”
“And no one said anything about all the cigar smoke from you two?” I asked.
“I know, right? Most of the other people on the patio were smoking cigarettes, so I don’t think anyone wanted to make a big deal out of it. And it must be allowed there, because after he’s lit his cigar, the guy looks at me and says, ‘so you’ve found my secret cigar spot,’” Susan recounted. “He introduces himself, and it turns out he’s a professor in the Philosophy Department in the main university. He tells me he comes to the café on nice afternoons to have a cigar and take a break and just think. And I said I thought the job of a philosophy professor was to think all the time. And he says he thinks better with a cigar, but he can’t smoke them in his office anymore.”
“So, anyway, we get to talking about cigars. He asked me how long I’d been smoking cigarillos, and I tell him about our honeymoon, and Alejandro and Paola. He said it’s great to be able to share them with someone like you – apparently his wife hates the smell and makes him smoke them in the backyard or their garage, and wash up and change his clothes after he’s done with his cigar. Can you believe it, Stan? He says he keeps shirts just to smoke in, so she doesn’t nag him about the smell on his clothes. That’s a bit ridiculous,” she said.
“And we keep talking. Now all the time that I’m smoking the cigarillo, he’s kind of eyeing me up like a leg of lamb, watching me puff and exhale. I almost thought he might be like…” she glanced at the cab driver before turning back to me. “You, in some sort of way, you know, with your, ah, proclivity for what you like,” she said, leaning in and whispering a bit in an attempt to keep the cabbie from hearing.
I was pleased she wanted to keep my fetish as a secret between us, but at the same time was irritated by the possibility another man was hitting on my wife. So, I aired my latter concern. “Wait – setting aside what he likes, was he hitting on you?”
“No, it wasn’t anything like that. Just kind of eyeballing me, and he didn’t look away the whole time I was smoking. It’s like he just couldn’t take his eyes off me. I mean, Stan, women can tell pretty easily by how a man looks at them if the guy is attracted to them or not. And I thought about, you know, your, ahh…interest, only

because when I was finished with my cigarillo, he seemed to stop looking at me that way, and glanced around the patio,” she explained.
So maybe the professor was another fetisher, and in that regard, I guess I could understand – Susan was, and is, a beautiful woman, and a sexy smoker. I calmed down, as it seemed this possible fellow member of our community of fans of smoking women hadn’t gone over a line, and may have just been enjoying the “sighting.”
“But anyway,” she continued. “While we’re talking, he asks if we’ve been to this cigar shop, or that cigar shop, whatever. And then he tells me about this place where we’re going tonight. He says it has great food and a cigar lounge with a jazz quintet most nights,” she said. “He tells me that I should take you there some night, because everyone in the lounge is smoking a cigar so we’d be comfortable – no one is an outcast there. He told me he’s seen a lot of women smoking cigars in there all the time, it’s not a big deal. And, he said the music isn’t so loud that you can’t talk.”
This helped calm my nerves about the Cigar Professor a bit more. From Susan’s description, I was now more convinced he was a fellow fan of the lady smoker, especially the “cigar subfetish” set. By telling Susan to bring me, he may have surmised I was in the same group – starting a cigar habit with my wife, as she told him we had, would definitely make that a possibility. As they say, “it takes one to know one.” And perhaps most significantly, the Professor had told her to bring me – he wasn’t proposing that they meet up there, or anything like that. Harmless.
“When I got back to the law school, I wrote the name of the place down in my day planner. I didn’t think much about it until Thanksgiving, when I wanted to come up with something we could do to together when my finals were done to celebrate them being over. And to thank you for being so, super, unbelievably, amazingly, supportive,” Susan said, taking hold of my hand and looking in my eyes as she continued, “I thought we could dress up, have a nice night out, listen to some music and have a cigar.”
Her words were so sweet and she looked so beautiful I leaned in and give her a kiss. Fortunately just about then, we arrived at La Casa de Habana – had we kissed any longer I would have had trouble getting out of the back of the cab, given that a tender moment and kiss with my lovely, de-stressed wife was giving me the start of an erection.

La Casa de Habana was an older rowhouse on a busy commercial street which its owners had renovated into a Cuban restaurant on its main floor, with a cigar bar on the second floor and more of a dive bar in the basement. Susan checked us in at the host stand at the restaurant, and we were led into the smoking section – a separate room in the middle of the building that looked, from the architecture, to have once been a large formal dining room. Most of the ten or so small tables in the room were filled. We were seated in one corner of the room.
After we’d ordered drinks, Susan set her leather cigarette case on the table after pulling one cigarette out. “I like being able to use this again,” she said, gesturing to the case after I lit her cigarette.
I lit my own before responding. “You should enjoy using it in restaurants while you can. The City Council is going to consider banning smoking in restaurants,” I said.
“That will be just wonderful,” Susan said, sarcastically. “Between my mother nagging me and the City of Houston, pretty soon you and I will be sneaking cigarettes in a broom closet before we quit.”
We talked about other things over dinner, mainly how she believed did on her finals and our next project – buying a house. My investments had done well and, supplemented by my frugal ways, we’d decided we would use some of the gains to buy a house in the suburbs where we could raise a family. With a decent down payment from the investments, I could carry the mortgage on my income without squeezing our lifestyle. Selling my condo after we moved and rolling the proceeds into a mortgage paydown, and then refinancing, would give us even more “liquidity margin,” and let us build equity and get settled in a good neighborhood for raising kids – all before Susan even started working, which would only strengthen our financial posture.
We were still talking through this plan and the next steps to buying a house when we finished eating. I lit up the Virginia Slim that Susan instinctually got from her case. After she took a few puffs, I noticed she was a bit detached from our conversation, and her gaze had shifted to something she could see over my shoulder.
“Stan,” she said, looking directly into my eyes. “Do not, I mean really, do not, turn your head. But there’s a guy at another table, behind you, and I think he’s staring at me,” she smirked a bit. “He’s here wife his wife, but he keeps looking over his

wife’s shoulder, and right at me. Like he’s leering at me. In a weird and focused way.”
It was a bit surprising to hear Susan say this. She was (and is) a very beautiful woman, with a great smile, lovely face, and firm breasts that were a solid “c” cup. I don’t write that to boast, reader – but only to point out that it was not unusual for men to pay close attention to Susan. I’d noticed it too, even when we were dating. I initially viewed other men looking at my then-girlfriend with suspicion, but as our relationship grew and deepened, I will admit I began to enjoy it – knowing, for some of these guys, I was the object of their envy.
But Susan almost never said anything about men’s eyeballs pointed in her direction. Coupled with her comment about the man’s gaze being “weird and focused,” I wondered if she was encountering yet another member of our fetish community.
I took a puff of my own cigarette while I thought about a response. “Do you think he’s got a thing for you smoking?” I asked Susan.
“You mean like your ‘thing’?” Susan answered. “I think he might, but I don’t know. There’s other women smoking in here. But he seems to be fixed on me,” she asked. She leaned in and asked, in a bit of a whisper, “Is there anything I can do to find out for sure if he has your, uh, interest?”
“Put your cigarette in the corner of your mouth, and just take a little puff on it. Watch his response,” I said. This was technically putting in front of Susan more about my fetish than I’d shared, or would necessary want to share, with her. But she seemed legitimately interested in trying to flesh out whether her interested fellow diner across the room had my fetish, so I decided to engage her interest – and use it as an opportunity to obliquely teach her a bit about my pet, sub-fetishes as well.
Susan put the filter of her Virginia Slim between her lips, about halfway from the center of her mouth to the right corner, closed her lips and put her hands on the table. “You mean like this,” she said, cigarette tip bouncing up and down as she spoke. “How the hell is this sexy? Isn’t this kind of trashy?” she asked. “And where am I supposed to put my hands?”
I didn’t want to answer, but wanted to learn how her friend across the room was responding. “Well, what does your friend across the room think?” I asked.

“Holy Christ, Stan,” Susan said, cigarette bouncing as she talked and smoke billowing out of her nose and mouth. “He’s now almost totally ignoring his wife, who is talking to him. He’s got his elbow on the table and his face is in his hand, and he’s just staring at me. It’s like his wife doesn’t exist,” she said, just before taking a huge hands-free puff.
“Susan, it could just be that you look amazing and you’re just a beautiful woman. It may not be your smoking at all,” I said, trying to walk the fine and infinite line between a beautiful woman and a beautiful woman who smokes.
“I don’t think so,” she said, tapping ashes off her cigarette and then returning it to its dangle between her lips. I’ve explained that Susan was not at all what I would call a natural dangler – you know the type, dear reader: the woman who looks like she was born with a perpetual cigarette implanted between her teeth or lips, so often in that spot she’d forget it if it didn’t spill ashes on her shirt from time to time. All the same, she looked beautiful doing it, and for me it was a rare and very nice sighting. “They were there when we were seated. I noticed him watching me when we were smoking before dinner, but he didn’t look at me again until I lit up after we ate. I think it’s my smoking that catches his eye, and he must like it because he’s entirely ignoring his wife.”
“Wait, let me try this and see how he responds,” she continued. Susan took a huge puff and then pulled the cigarette from her lips before undertaking a clumsy French inhale. As I watched a cloud of smoke drift from her mouth to her nose, I saw her looking in the direction of her admirer.
Here, dear reader, a note on the famous French inhale may be worthwhile. I promise it’ll be thin and pretty quick, just like the Frenchies themselves. If you’ve read this far, you may have concluded that I’m a fan of all of the small estuaries that branch off of the main smoking fetish – like dangling and cigars, two of my favorites.
The French inhale, though, has never been something I’m really interested in. I don’t know why. Maybe I see it as a bit unnatural – a woman has to really want to do it – and so it has a carnival sideshow quality that makes me consign it to the “eh, I can take it or leave it” list when it comes to my own set of smoking turn-ons. You, on the other hand, may very well be a huge fan of it. That, of course, is fine. Because with a few off-limits subjects, one thing I’ve observed about the smoking fetish community is that it allows for a wide diversity of different perspectives of what we fans of smoking women really want to see.

And I’ll admit seeing Susan try one – she had tried a few French inhales back on my birthday – was a nice treat. I wouldn’t want her to do it all the time. Maybe part of the thrill was she was trying a French inhale to measure its impact on another guy who was likely a fellow fetisher.
Her half-formed French inhale had an impact. “He hasn’t taken his eyes off me,” she said when the French inhale finished. “I think his wife is starting to notice, she just turned and looked at me to see what he’s been focused on.”
Susan took another puff. “And now his wife is lighting a cigarette,” she said, holding the smoke in. She exhaled in her relaxed style. “And now he’s looking back at her, and he’s listening to her,” Susan said with a note of surprise.
“Holy shit, Stan. This is fucking unbelievable,” Susan said laughing a bit. She didn’t curse often, but apparently this circumstance required it. “He was staring at me when I was smoking, and his wife wasn’t. Once she lit a cigarette, he turned – his whole posture, everything – back to her.”
“It’s amazing what can turn people on, don’t you think?” I said, trying to broaden the discussion into turn-ons generally.
“And that it’s so normal, that’s what gets me,” Susan said, ashing her cigarette. “I mean, look, this is just a cigarette. I smoke these dozens of times a day. Millions of women smoke them every day, too. Here and all around the world.”
Susan took a puff, inhaled, held her smoke, and then started to exhale before continuing. “That guy, and you, are turned on just by what I just did, what probably all of the women in this room do. Just puff a cigarette. There’s no leather, or whips or chains, or anyone peeing on somebody, or anything weird. This totally normal thing is what does it for you guys. I mean, that’s awesome that you get hot from something so common and normal. It’s totally fine, especially for me, since I was smoking long before we met. But that it’s something so everyday, makes it odd. Again, odd in a good way. But it would be like if you got turned on by me drinking coffee or reading a book – those are just normal things, so what could possibly be sexy about them?”
Susan was right, certainly. Reader, you, me and the whole community know this. But in trying to square how something so “normal” could also be sexy for us, she was trying to untie the Gordian knot. There is, of course, a ton of really good writing about why smoking isn’t like drinking coffee or reading a book when it

comes to sexuality – although there’s probably small numbers of people sexually turned on by those everyday activities, too.
The theories abound. There’s the elegance of a woman smoking. There’s a phallic element to it, for sure. There’s the fact that she’s willfully going against society’s wishes and scientific evidence and being a “bad girl” by doing something with understood negative possible consequences. On the flip side of that one, though, there’s the sexiness of addiction – she’s not “willfully” smoking, but ultimately compelled to do so, and she’s forced to give over some control of herself to some form of rolled-up dry leaves.
There’s a lot to it. And, ultimately, only the individual smoking fetish fan knows what lies at the foundation of his or her individual fascination with smoking. Or rather could know – for some of us, for certain, our fetish comes to us through places, people or events in our past in such a way that we’ll never know the “why” for sure. But even if we can’t find the answer, the fact is it’s somewhere inside each of us – no one else can ever really tell us, for certain. why we’re enamored by a woman’s smoking.
I did not want to take Susan on a deep dive into my psyche that night. Not that I didn’t trust her to know what such a voyage would show her – I did, and do. But I’m never certain I know the answer to this question for myself, so I wasn’t sure what to tell her if she asked about why I found her smoking sexy. And I knew that a general discussion would eventually get to that specific question. So I turned the subject around a bit.
“It is weird, isn’t it,” I said. “You’re right, it’s just something you do every day. Maybe it’s the elegance of it. I’ll never know. It’s like your feet and your interest in ‘pedicures’ – your feet are just there, just two parts of you, and you stand and walk on them. That’s it, very ordinary. They touch your pantyhose or socks or shoes all day. But when I touch them a certain way, it gives you an entirely different response. And you’ll never know why, I bet. But it’s something perfectly normal – like you said, there’s no one being peed on, or chained up, or whipped. Just touching your feet a certain way sets you off, sexually.”
Susan seemed to accept that our respective fetishes were, to some degree, “normal” – and although she was right to wonder why such “normal” things can have sexual connotations, she didn’t want to dive deeper into the issue. I was relieved that she moved the conversation to other topics, and eventually proposed that we pay our bill and go upstairs to the cigar bar.

We started to hear the music of the jazz quintet as we climbed the staircase. A hostess at the door found our name on a reservation list, and offered us either two seats at a small table up near the quintet, or at the bar on the opposite end of the room from the band. “We’ll take the bar, please,” Susan said, and I nodded in agreement. “This way, we can talk,” she noted to the hostess.
Susan made the right call. The music wasn’t that loud back at the bar. And, when we sat down, we were greeted warmly by a friendly bartender. He introduced himself as Brad, and when we told him this was our first visit, he turned on the charm. He was happy to be our “cigartender,” he said, as well as make us drinks.
Brad quizzed us on our experience with different cigars. Our experience in the wide world of cigars was growing, but was still was limited, frankly, so Susan and I were both curious to learn more. Brad guided each of us towards different medium-bodied, full-sized Churchill cigars, advising us that we could each try the other’s cigar: “My guess is, from the rings, you’re married so you’d have no hygiene concerns with that. Maybe not married to each other, but still…” he said with a smile.
We laughed and Susan told him we were, in fact, married to each other, and we were celebrating the end of her first semester of law school. Brad, already exuberant, livened up even more. “Well, alright! Nobody parties in a cigar bar like young lawyers,” with a sarcastic laugh. “But you guys dined with us downstairs, right? If so, the first drink is on me to help you celebrate.”
Brad cut our cigars and left us a large, coffee table-sized lighter as he got our drinks ready. I toasted the end of Susan’s cigar and passed it to her, and then finished lighting the end as she puffed away. She looked around the bar as I lit my own cigar.
“This is a nice place,” she said, confirming her choice. The cigar bar was definitely masculine – dark wood paneling, chandeliers with sconces, a deer head on the wall, that sort of thing – but somehow in a more refined way than a hunting lodge. It had the feel of a gentleman’s club.
It did, in fact, have a lot of gentlemen. Susan quickly noted that of about thirty other customers, “There are only five other women here. It’s mostly men.”

“I think cigars are still seen as mostly a male thing. You remember what Paola said about that, and your dad too. Does that bother you?” I asked, wanting to ensure her gender wasn’t causing her any discomfort with our new cigar hobby.
“Me?” laughed Susan. She paused to exhale a small amount of cigar smoke. “You know me. I’ll do what I want. Plus, it’s almost 2007. If Paola could start smoking cigars years ago, I have no problem smoking them today.”
Susan put her cigar in an ashtray and sipped her drink. She picked her cigar back up and took a puff and continued to look around the bar. Her gaze, toward the front of the room and the band, eventually caught something just to the left of my shoulder. “Well, I know my cigar smoking doesn’t bother you. And for the second time tonight, Stan, I think there’s a small group of guys, like three of them, over there watching me smoke,” she said, smirking a bit. She looked at me, puffed her cigar and exhaled in the general direction of the new set of “admirers.”
“They are pretty fixated on me,” she said, turning her head back to face me but keeping her gaze on the watchers across the room. “What the hell is it with you guys, anyway? The philosophy professor at the café, that guy downstairs, and now these three jokers up here. Do all guys get turned on by a woman smoking?” she asked, chuckling before taking another puff and looking over at her new fans.
“Not all guys, but believe it or not it’s pretty common,” I said, answering her question but hoping to head off more discussion of the smoking fetish. “You’ve probably never really noticed it before. But you’re a beautiful woman, Susan, and guys look at you all the time. I’ve noticed that. They look at you when you’re smoking or not smoking.”
My attempt to make her “admirers” about her good looks, and not her smoking, failed – Susan was now definitely interested in the fetish again. She pointed her questions right at me.
“So, what about you?” she asked, smiling.
“Well, you know I think it’s hot when you smoke,” I said.
“Yeah, I know that, Stan, about the long cigarettes. But what about the cigar?” she said, taking a short puff before continuing. “Do you think it’s hot when I smoke a cigar?”

I took a puff from my own cigar before answering. There was no getting around this subject now that she was on it. “Yes. Yes, it’s hot when you smoke a cigar. There’s something powerful about it – a cigar is a symbol of power, and you smoking it is you doing a powerful thing,” I said, feeling I needed to explain a bit – but just a bit – of the “why” behind this part of my smoking fetish.
“Okay. And look, Stan, I get you may not know why you think what you think about the cigar or long cigarettes, or anything else. Maybe it’s power, or whatever, or maybe it’s not. But,” she said, before pausing for another small puff, “for me, right now, it’s not so much the ‘why’ about it, it’s the ‘what.’ I mean, honestly, I like to turn you on. In a way, it turns me on, knowing I can do something like smoking that will get your juices flowing. I want to know, though, about the ‘what’ of my smoking that really does it for you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing full well what she meant, but wanting to collect my thoughts.
“So, let me put it this way,” said Susan. “I’m sitting at this bar, and I’m dressed like this, and I look damn good, if I say so myself. And I light a long Virginia Slims and smoke it. And then I light a cigar, and I smoke that. Both of those turn you on, right? But which one turns you on more. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
I puffed my cigar to collect my thoughts. These were great questions, and asked in a non-judgmental way. I wanted, still, to be careful to separate my love for, and sexual attraction to, Susan from my sexual attractiveness to her smoking behavior.
Before my thoughts were collected, Susan headed off that line of argument. “And don’t say you think I’m attractive all the time. I know you do. I know you think I’m attractive when I’m not smoking, just like I think you’re a handsome, hot guy even when you’re not giving me a pedicure. I get that, and we’re all agreed on that. But it’s the smoking I really want to figure out here,” she said.
I smiled wanly. She was cutting the issue right down to its essence. I decided to answer, and though she’d said the “why” didn’t matter, I felt compelled to add the “why” in – almost to provide myself a justification or reason for my fetish.
“I see now. Okay, let me put it this way,” I started. “You smoking a long cigarette – very elegant – that is hotter than a cigar. But a cigar – the power thing, again – frankly, it’s almost as hot. It’s maybe a smidge less hot,” I said, holding my index

finger and thumb up and close together. As if an illustration would really help, or was needed here.
“I get it, I think,” Susan said, exhaling a puff of cigar smoke. “This is good. So now I know the long cigarettes and the cigar are top of the list, or very close, right? In terms of – and again, not how you generally feel about me, or how attracted you are to me – but in terms of, maybe, ‘smoking behavior that turns you on,’ they’re both way up there?” Susan said, applying her ability to focus on individual parts of an issue and put them together again that would make her an excellent lawyer. I felt comforted that she was taking this seriously, and there was nothing in her tone that suggested she was judging me for my answers. She was really interested in understanding.
“Yeah, I think that’s right,” I said.
“And what about – what about the other cigarettes, like the 100s I used to smoke, or the regular size short ones? Further down the list?” she asked.
“Further down the list. Maybe size has something to do with it too. 100s would be below 120s and cigars, and short cigarettes further down,” I said.
Susan smiled and exhaled a puff of smoke. She patted my thigh, close to my crotch. “Size always matters, my dear Stanley,” she said, still grinning. “I think I get it now. Size does play a part in this. Long cigarettes and big cigars on top of your list. Wait, what about the short cigarillos?” she asked.
“I think of them like cigars. Pretty hot, honestly,” I said, now accepting that I was confessing a lot more about my smoking likes and dislikes than I had ever planned.
“Good,” Susan said, still processing all of this. “So…uh….long cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos, then 100s, then the short ones. What do you think about other smoking? At my bachelorette, we all shared a hookah pipe in a bar. Is that thumbs up or…”
“Hookah doesn’t do anything for me,” I said, answering honestly.
“Okay, good, I didn’t like it either. The flavors were all yick,” Susan said, before taking a big puff of her cigar, inhaling, and exhaling toward the ceiling. “Ooh, that was too much smoke,” she said, coughing a bit. “But see, this is what I wanted to know – how all this works with the smoking, for you. I don’t care about ‘why,’ but I

do care about turning you on. Because,” she said, putting her cigar down and grabbing my hand. “You’ve been so amazing, Stan, with everything this semester. It totally confirmed to me that you are the best guy. You took care of the dishes, and the house, and cooked, and cleaned, and just propped me up when I needed to be propped up. It all made me love you even more, that you were just there for me.”
“And not that we’ve had a lot of sexy time lately, with first semester and all, but don’t think I don’t know how, I don’t know – appreciative or attentive, maybe? – you are in bed. With the pedicures and giving me oral.”
We’d been keeping our voices low and no one was seated on either side of us at the bar, and given the quintet playing in the background, we felt confident no one had overheard our low voices. Just as Susan was telling me about how well I tended to her wants in bed, though, bartender Brad appeared in front of us, reaching for a bottle under the bar.
“Ahh, I didn’t hear that. Honest,” he said with a laugh, taking the bottle and walking away behind the bar.
Susan grabbed her cigar and took a puff. We grimaced at each other, caught in an embarrassing moment.
“Well, that was weird. We’ll have to tip him well,” she said, exhaling. “But, look, it comes down to this, Stan. You treat me like a queen in bed, and stand by me the rest of the time. You’re my life partner and my lover. And it’s good for me to know what you like so I can do it more, both to treat you well and because it turns me on to be able to turn you on,” she said, gazing into my eyes.
“Thank you, Susan,” was all I could say in response. “Thank you for asking, and for listening to me, and not finding all of this weird. And thank you just for being you.” That was about the best I could muster under the circumstances – overwhelmed by expressing some of my own deepest sexual “interests,” as she would call them, and by hearing her deepest feelings of happiness, love and contentment.
“Thank you,” I said again. “So long as we both understand one thing. You smoking cigarettes or cigars just pours extra gasoline on the fire I always have for you. Whether or not you’re smoking, I always find you sexy and amazing, in so many ways.” My last try to separate my smoking-fetish-inspired desire for her from

my more natural desire for her as a beautiful woman was falling flat. But I felt compelled to keep trying to draw that line, if only to avoid cheapening our intimacy – driven by real love – into being all about satisfying my fetish.
Susan, quick-witted as always, saved the day and put my point better than I could. She took a puff on her cigar and, then, smiling, said, “So…smoking or not, you think I’m smoking hot.” We both burst out laughing at her bit of poetry, which summed up my feelings better than I could.
She leaned in and lowered her voice. “Don’t worry, Stan. I can see by your face you’re uncomfortable talking too much about it. So let’s just enjoy the night. I’ve learned a lot by you opening up to me about this and I appreciate that. And for my part, I can think of you, and think of you as a great guy and feel all warm. Or I can imagine you sucking my toes or giving me oral, and get all hot when I think that. I think they are two different pictures of you. And even if you didn’t give me pedicures or oral, I would still love you and be attracted to you.”
I smiled, relaxing a bit. I think we were on each other’s wavelength – and, frankly, she now knew much more about what specifically about smoking turned me on, and how.
“Exactly. That’s it exactly,” I said.
Chapter 11: Christmas
In the week that followed – between her exams and Christmas – Susan spent some time catching up with friends and doing some leisure reading, and finishing the shopping for family Christmas gifts that I had started earlier in the month. She also met with our realtor and got some listings for houses on the market we could check out in the week after Christmas, when I’d be able to take sometime off. We’d agreed that over her break – which extended into mid-January – we’d both be involved looking for houses, with the goal of getting one under contract before she started her second semester. I’d then take over the process of getting to closing, and coordinate the move as I’d have a bit more ability to focus than she would. Between Susan’s logical mind and my financially-trained one, we were, frankly, pretty good at planning out complicated tasks.
On Christmas Eve, we headed over to Tom and Linda’s to celebrate with them. Under their family tradition, we’d have a big dinner on Christmas Eve, stay overnight at Tom and Linda’s, open gifts Christmas morning, have a Christmas

lunch at their country club, and then head back to our house. As we packed our overnight bags and the gifts, Susan asked, “So, twenty-four hours with Linda. How many times do you think she gives me grief for still smoking?”
“Well,” I said, doing some quick math to play along. “Take out about eight hours for sleeping, showering, and time away from her, and that’s sixteen hours. She’s on your case at least once an hour. So I say the over-under here is probably eighteen or so.”
Susan laughed. “Maybe so, Mr. Math Whiz. I say she’ll stop when I’ve had it and call her out again for her Great Perpetual Quit. And the X factor here is Jason,” she said.
Jason was two years older than Susan, and had a tendency to openly speak his mind – to put it bluntly. He was smart, for sure — and apparently very good at software design, as he’d moved up rapidly in his career. He had an acerbic nature built on a sense of self-superiority and overconfidence, however, which made him tough to be around for long periods. I could stand him in small doses, as he came along with the woman I married. He and Susan loved each other, but they weren’t what you might call close siblings.
“Jason’s always hated my mom smoking and he lost his mind the first time he saw me smoking. He’s never smoked and can’t stand it. He’s even on dad’s case about his cigars. He may very well just blast away at all of us,” Susan said, before turning to me with a sarcastic smile. “Fun Christmas at Tom and Linda’s!”
We didn’t have to wait long for Jason to start verbally swinging. About forty-five minutes after we got to Tom and Linda’s, in fact. That’s about how long it took me to bring our bags up to Susan’s old bedroom where we’d be staying and catch up with Jason on his job in software development in Silicon Valley and life in the Bay Area, and for Susan and I to update him on our married lives and her law school. General chatting at the kitchen table, and picking away at a couple of platters of snacks Linda had set out for all of us.
And about forty-five minutes into our visit, Linda sat down at the table with a pack of Eve Ultra Lights 120s and an ashtray. Jason couldn’t resist. “Really, Mom? Didn’t you just smoke before they got here?” he asked, gesturing to Susan and me.

“Jason, please,” said Linda. “Your father can open the patio doors. But this isn’t California, people smoke in Houston, and I am one of them,” Linda said, lighting her long cigarette. “But you should all know that as of January 1st, there will be no smoking allowed in this house, except in your father’s study.”
Susan and I looked at each other – this was a significant step for Linda to take towards quitting. I doubted it would last, however.
Jason thought this idea was hysterical. “Great, so you’ll just put all the smoke in one room. It’ll be like walking through a cloud in there,” he said, skeptically.
His comment came – ironically enough – just as Susan was putting her long leather cigarette case on the table and proffering me the tobacco end of a Virginia Slim 120 for me to light. As I did so, Linda took note that Susan had switched from Marlboro 100s back to Virginia Slims 120s. “Oh, so you went back to the long cigarettes again,” she said.
Unfortunately, this just gave Jason more fuel to turn into fire at the kitchen table. “Well, gosh, I think that’s wonderful too, Sis,” he said in a sarcastic tone. “If you’re smoking extra-long cigarettes, do you get cancer extra quickly? How exactly does that work? And they still make you smell like a dung heap.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Jason, you know they both smoke. Can you be a little respectful of that, at least? I mean, it’s Christmas,” said Tom, getting a little irritated as his hope of a peaceful, idyllic holiday was being quickly shattered.
“No problem, Dad, I wouldn’t want to ruin Christmas with any concern for my family’s health,” Jason said. Man, he was on a tear. “If I can’t talk about what it’s doing to their health, can I at least point out that the only people who smoke those really long cigarettes in California are very old women and prostitutes?”
Tom just glared at Jason and the table fell silent. I’d rarely seen Tom get red in the face, and I’m not sure Jason realized he was really starting to piss off his father. I wondered where this was going to go.
Susan came to Jason’s rescue, even if he didn’t realize he was being rescued or even that he needed it. Exhaling a huge cloud of smoke toward the ceiling, she said, ”Well, Brother, welcome back to the Lone Star State. Women here don’t fit into your Hollywood stereotypes. In Texas, women are still free to smoke, and to smoke whatever they want. By the way, tell us more about how you have learned

so much about what cigarettes old ladies and prostitutes smoke on the Sunset Strip.”
Well done, Susan, I thought. She turned Jason’s comment right back at him, turning down Tom’s heat. She also threw in a geographic reference that would surely get Jason to respond.
“Oh my God, Susan. The Sunset Strip is in Los Angeles. I live in San Francisco. That’s six hours away,” he said, not realizing he’d taken Susan’s bait. Susan knew full well where the Sunset Strip was and where her brother lived, and that they were nowhere near each other. But Jason fell for the distraction, and Susan pushed him even further away from getting back on his anti-smoking harangue. “Well, good to know. Tell us about the San Francisco prostitutes then,” she said.
Tom had calmed down enough to change the subject competently. “Alright, alright, you two. Let’s all talk like adults here. So…Susan, do you know when you expect to get your grades?”
After a bit of relatively peaceful conversation – during which Jason made no comments about smoking, as Linda, Susan and I all had cigarettes – we all retreated into the kitchen to help Linda prepare the Christmas dinner. It was an elaborate feast – far more than five people needed to eat – and Linda was a great cook, but a lot of hands were needed just to get it all ready for final cooking.
When the work was winding down, Linda announced, “Okay, I think this is underway. There’s only work for a couple of us. Susan, can you help me with the last few things?”
“Stan, so you know – longstanding tradition in this house is that after the men mess up a few things in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, Mom gets frustrated with us and sends us to go watch football or something – anything as long as we’re out of her way. Welcome to the club!” Jason said, actually being pleasant with a joke for a change. Susan and Linda responded with a few jokes about men not knowing how to cook while Tom, Jason and I headed to the living room.
About half an hour later, I excused myself to get refills on our drinks – and, I’d hoped, sneak a cigarette in the kitchen without being under Jason’s antagonistic eye. I had no problem with smoking or being a smoker, but as it was only my third Christmas with Susan’s family, I didn’t want to provoke more of my brother-in-law’s stream of smoking comments.

Susan and Linda were sitting at the kitchen table. Susan, holding a Virginia Slim in one hand, shot me a look that suggested frustration mixed with irritation. I saw why when I saw the book in Linda’s hands – her well-thumbed, post-it-note-tabbed paperback copy of “Switch Down and Quit.”
“Oh, hi, Stan,” Susan said with the fakest smile I’d seen her make, and in a very sarcastic tone. “You’ll never guess what Mom is teaching me here. Do you remember my Aunt Mindy? She has emphysema, and Mom found out this week that she now needs oxygen full-time. Mom is explaining to me how these cigarettes” – she held out her Virginia Slim – “have the same amount of tar and carbon monoxide as the brand Aunt Mindy smokes. So I guess you should get me an oxygen tank for my next birthday, since Mom is apparently trying to tell me I’ll wind up just like Mindy.”
“Even though, of course, Mom – you always conveniently ignore the cigarette in your hand while you lecture me about mine,” Susan continued, with a flatter tone, and gesturing to the Eve Ultra Light 120 Linda held in her hand. “You do see the irony in this, right?”
“Oh, Susan, for Pete’s sake. I just thought that, as you want to cut down on cigarettes, Mindy’s experience could give you some food for thought,” Linda said calmly, knowing full well the guilt trip she was placing on her daughter. And bringing Mindy’s emphysema into it was a low blow, even from Linda who had dealt a lot of them in her years-long, endless nag of her daughter for sharing in Linda’s own smoking vice.
“Okay, fine then, I’ve learned my lesson. Speaking of food, I think I’ve finished everything you needed me to do,” Susan said, stubbing out her half-smoked cigarette, grabbing her cigarette case, and standing up and turning toward me. “Stan, what did you actually come in here for? To catch the end of the lecture?” She was irritated.
“Uh, I actually came in to see if I could help, and get Jason and I another drink,” I said, my words lost in the tension in the air.
“I’ll help you get them from the bar in Dad’s study,” she said, leading me out of the kitchen. In her father’s study, Susan closed the door and turned to me. “Do you believe that?” Susan asked me rhetorically, her voice dripping with anger but in a modest volume to keep from attracting attention.

“That was insane, and cruel,” I said, retrieving a Benson & Hedges from my pack. “But you called her out directly on it, while she was smoking. That was the best thing you could say,” I said before lighting my cigarette. At the same time, Susan opened the top of her leather cigarette case and withdrew another long Virginia Slim. She put the filter between her lips and, done with my own light, I lit her cigarette.
Susan took a huge puff, raised her shoulders to inhale the smoke deeply, held for about four seconds, exhaled a bit, and then started to talk, turning the rest of her exhale into quick, tiny bursts that complemented her quick, irritated words. “Does she know that the only thing that happens when she bitches at me about smoking is I get annoyed and want to smoke more? And forget about the hypocrisy, I’ve said that before and she just lets it go by. She really, actually, just turned the fact that my aunt is dying into a stick to poke at me,” Susan said, before immediately taking another huge puff.
After inhaling deeply again, she began to exhale. “And God damn Jason. We’re barely here and he just has to rip both me and Mom a new one. I mean, really? Dad is right that it’s Christmas.” She let the rest of her exhale finish leaving her mouth. “So the over/under? We’re going to come in way over, I think.”
Having made a betting joke out of what we knew was likely to happen may have prepared both of us for the comments Linda and Jason made. Remembering the joke seemed to help Susan calm down, along with some significant hits of nicotine. We soon finished our cigarettes, made the drinks, and went to join Tom and Jason in the living room.
After we finished Linda’s great dinner, Tom reminded Jason and me of another Christmas Eve tradition in their family: after dinner, the guys clean up while the women relax. Susan and Linda smoked and talked at the dinner table, while the three of us cleaned up in pretty short order, given the number of dishes to be scraped or washed and leftover food to be put away. Tom dismissed Jason and me from our work with one last request: “Why don’t you guys bring out the coffee, and I’ll be in there in a minute?”
Jason and I brought coffee and cups out to the dining room. “God, it’s so smoky in here already from you two,” Jason said, waving his hand in the air as if that would clear the smoke from Linda and Susan’s cigarettes.

Tom came in to the dining room a few minutes later wearing a Santa hat. “Ho, ho, ho, and all that,” he said. “Just one early gift for Stan and Susan. I was going to put these in your stockings, but I thought you might want to join me in one after that great dinner,” placing a five-cigar “sampler pack” in front of Susan and one in front of me. He sat down and pulled a cigar of his own from his sport coat chest pocket. “These samplers are a great way for you to try different blends and styles. The guys at McCoy’s are really big into them.”
“Wow, what a great, thoughtful Christmas gift, Dad. You’re giving your daughter and son-in-law big, fat rolls of addictive, poisonous, smelly weeds. What will you do for Easter, give them a basket with shredded asbestos instead of that green plastic grass?” said Jason in his mocking tone, clearly unable to refrain from irritating his family. “I mean, this is like The Breakfast Club, where Bender gets a carton of cigarettes for Christmas.”
The Breakfast Club – one of our all-time favorite movies! Susan and I knew the lines by heart. Almost at the exact same time, she and I said, “Hey! Smoke up Johnny!” in our best impersonation of Judd Nelson impersonating his characters’ father.
Tom and Linda likely didn’t know the movie, but joined Susan, Jason and me laughing. I thought the joke would let Jason calm down and change the subject, but he was not deterred. He focused on Susan unwrapping and cutting one of the new cigars Tom had put out for us.
“Really, Susan?” Jason said, astonished. He’d never seen his sister smoke a cigar. “For sure? Are you serious? You’re going to smoke a cigar?”
Susan cut the end off of her cigar with a cutter Tom had put on the dining room table. “Why not, Brother? Do you have a problem with women smoking cigars? Or are women not allowed to do that in California?” she asked, flatly. Jason then watched, with astonishment, as Susan toasted the foot of the cigar, put it in her mouth, gave me the lighter, and puffed away to bring the cigar to life as I lit the toasted end.
“No, Susan, it’s not about women smoking cigars. It’s about people smoking them, everyone. They’re just bad for you, and everyone knows it. And it’s already starting to smell like an outhouse in here, and you just lit that thing,” Jason answered, waiving his arms in the air in front of his face. “No one in California

smokes cigars. Not since before the tech bubble burst, and everyone realized it was a dumb, stinky, expensive habit that made them look like fools,” he said.
“Jason, please. I’ll open the doors to the patio if that helps. But really, just a little bit of peace with this would go a long way, okay?” Tom said, getting irritated again and exhaling a cloud of cigar smoke.
I thought I’d try to prevent Tom and Jason from getting into a further exchange with each other. “Jason, make it three. I’m going to have a cigar too. Do you want a scuba mask to protect yourself?” I joked as I toasted my cigar.
“Oh, Stan, no. Cigarettes, and that thing too?” Jason exclaimed. “What the hell is going on here? You’re a smart guy, Stan. Why are you lighting that thing? It looks like you’re setting a dog turd on fire.”
Tom’s renewed irritation was growing. “Hey!” he growled. “I’m a smart guy too, and I’m smoking a cigar. And I’m still your father, so some respect here would be nice. And it just so happens I bought those cigars – they’re expensive, first-rate cigars. They’re not turds,” he said, becoming exasperated with his son.
“Dad, if you can’t see that Stan – and your daughter, and you – look like fools trying to light a turd on fire, then you’re just a hopeless case,” Jason said. “Or maybe you’ve just never looked at yourself in a mirror smoking one of those things. Maybe it’s because at the golf course you stand around with all the other suburban white collar dads with stinky, burning turds in your mouths. But just because you haven’t noticed it doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Tom’s face was getting red, and I could see this conversation was on a track to get more heated. So, I tried to steer Jason away from attacks on his father’s hobby – figuring I could, at least, lower the temperature in the room somewhat.
“So, Jason, you said no one in California smokes cigars. I thought your Governor Schwarzenegger smokes them? Isn’t that so?” I asked, knowing full well that Jason would know that his state’s governor was an avid cigar aficionado. “I read in the paper he even had a tent set up outside the state capitol so he could smoke cigars while he was working.”
“Schwarzenegger is a total dick and everyone know it. No one likes him,” Jason flatly responded.

“Jason, really. That’s just not appropriate. Didn’t we teach you better than to talk that way?” Linda asked.
I answered Jason’s characterization of his state’s governor. “Jason, he may be that in some ways, and I’m not a fan of his policies or ideology. But whatever he is, it’s not true no one likes him out there – didn’t he just win reelection over the other guy by more than a million votes?” I asked.
Susan looked at me with a smirk as she took a puff on her cigar. She was happy to have me jump in to her verbal wrestling match with her brother.
Linda, tired of it all or perhaps bothered that she was not driving the conversation, changed the subject before Jason could respond. She asked Susan and me, “So, where are you going to smoke in your new house? Or are you going to smoke outside away from the children?”
Jason, misunderstanding his mother’s reference to “the children,” nearly lost his mind. “Wait, Sis, you’re pregnant already? And you haven’t told me? And you’re smoking a cigar while you’re pregnant?”
The four of us laughed. “They’re not pregnant, yet, but they’re planning to finally give me some grandchildren,” Linda clarified, taking a thinly-veiled shot at Jason’s bachelorhood.
“They’re not pregnant?” Jason asked, mocking his mother’s collective pronoun. “How about you, Stan? Are you going to carry a baby for nine months?”
“Well, no, but, ahh, I do my part,” I said, grinning.
Susan was partly irritated with her brother’s combativeness, but her irritation was outweighed by her pleasure in teasing him and winding him up. She decided to wind him up some more. In a move I’d never seen her do before – but which was delightfully sexy – Susan clenched the cigar between her teeth in the center of her mouth. She took a puff, paused, and said, “Well, actually, Jason, you never know when I’ll get pregnant. Maybe I already have a bun in the oven right now, and here I am, puffing away. On a big cigar. It drives you nuts, doesn’t it? That you can’t dictate to me how I live my life, right? And that I’m an adult woman, with the right to do what I like. Including do something you hate. Maybe even carrying your niece or nephew. You just can’t stand it, can you?”

As she spoke – cigar still clenched between her teeth – smoke escaped through the gap in her teeth around the cigar and followed each word, traveling out alongside the cigar in small clouds until, when the clouds reached the burning end, they began to float slowly upward. It was an awesome display for a guy with a cigar fetish like me.
Her words, too, suggested that Susan felt defiance when pushed on her smoking habit. They reinforced how she responded when Linda nagged her – if Susan was going to quit cigarettes, it was going to be her decision, and not anyone else’s. Surely, I knew she wouldn’t smoke when she was pregnant – our discussions on quitting and cutting down had made that clear. But she liked putting the concept in front of her brother to raise his blood pressure.
“Anyway,” Susan continued, after taking the cigar out of her mouth, “You do know that Mom smoked while she was carrying both of us.”
“That’s not an argument in favor of you smoking, Ms. Law Student,” Jason said. “What if Mom had snorted coke back then, too? It was the late 70’s and early 80’s. People did cocaine a lot back then. Is cocaine something you’re going to do, too? Maybe shoot some heroin? Drugs are just as bad for pregnant women.”
Tom made an exasperated gasp. In a stern tone, Linda snapped, “Jason! That’s enough! You know your father and I didn’t use cocaine back then, or ever. How could you even think that?”
“Besides, Jason, cocaine is illegal. Smoking tobacco, on the other hand, is legal, at least here in Texas, where we believe in more freedoms than y’all do in California,” said Susan, deliberately emphasizing her Texas accent.
“Legality is not the point, Sis. It’s whether or not tobacco or cocaine or any drugs are healthy for you, and none of them are,” Jason said. “Just because Texas gives you the ‘freedom’ to fill your lungs and house with toxic smoke doesn’t mean you should.”
Tom, still irritated, tried to settle the matter with a fatherly ruling. “Jason, you just have to accept this. Your sister is a grown adult, who has a cigar sometimes. She’s a ‘sister of the leaf,’ and whether you like it or not doesn’t matter.”
“My sister is a ‘sister of the leaf!’ That’s a good one, Dad. ‘Sister of the leaf’! Wow!” Jason said in a mocking tone, much to Tom’s irritation.

Jason continued his harangue, defying his father’s grimace. “So let’s just summarize where we are. My sister – ‘of the leaf’ – is getting pregnant, and she’s puffing a huge stinky cigar. Her husband actually lit it for her, and he’s smoking away on one too. In fact, everyone here is smoking like a chimney, except me. There’s so much smoke in here I feel like I am trapped in a four alarm housefire. I haven’t come back to Houston, I’ve gone back to 1950.”
There was a lull in the conversation. I think the four of us were tired of the verbal parrying over tobacco, and Susan had grown bored wrangling with Jason. She sighed loudly and puffed her cigar. “So, anyways, Mom, on the house. We haven’t figured that all out yet as we’ve barely started looking, but we’re looking at more houses this week,” she said, before turning to Jason. “And, California Clueless, Mom was talking about our future children – someday, but not today, we’ll have them. So, to be clear, I am not pregnant yet.”
Jason accepted that the subject was changing, but he continued to be a wiseass. “Not yet? Oh, okay, I see. Well, maybe the two of you, nestled upstairs tonight in that small bed in your romantic, pink bedroom with posters of 90s grunge bands still on the walls, can change that,” he said.
“Oh, Jason, again, do you have to talk that way?” Linda sighed, and the conversation moved on.
The next morning, I woke up early, put on sweatpants and a t-shirt, and went downstairs to start coffee. Without any young kids in the house, Christmas morning wouldn’t be a pre-dawn affair. But Linda was already up, getting the coffee ready.
She exhaled a thick plume of cigarette smoke when she saw me. “Merry Christmas to my favorite son-in-law,” she said, smiling and offering me our “inside” joke. “Your only son-in-law,” I laughed, giving her the well-trod answer.
If Linda wasn’t my mother-in-law, and wasn’t excessively nagging Susan in ways that were making her life unpleasant, I might have found her attractive. She was in good shape for 52, with her daughter’s great looks and nice body, and her years of smoking hadn’t done anything to hurt her looks other than some light wrinkle lines around her mouth and crow’s feet around her eyes. She had a sexy, not-quite- Lauren-Bacall voice earned through years of drawing a lot of smoke over her vocal cords and a smoking style that suggested she was somewhat conscious of how her cigarette could fit in her overall package as a woman. In other words, she was

a good-looking, suburban, post-motherhood smoker. If not for chasing Susan all the time about her smoking, and if she wasn’t my mother-in-law, I’d be especially attracted to her this morning in the kitchen, wearing a bathrobe over a silky nightgown and puffing away on a 120.
Any remaining attraction I felt for her quickly dissipated, however, soon after I realized the coffee would take some time, and lit up a Benson & Hedges to ease the nagging tug of the morning craving. I’d brought my cigarettes downstairs hoping to have one without the smoke waking up Susan, but given that Linda had never given me the grief about smoking that she gave Susan, I felt comfortable lighting up around her. With this light up on Christmas morning in the kitchen, however, Linda began to take aim at my smoking habit as well. And being nagged is one sure way to cut off any attraction I feel toward the person doing the nagging.
At first I thought she was just making idle conversation. “So you need a cigarette when you wake up, too,” she said with a smile, as I exhaled my first puff. “Definitely,” I said thinking this was going to be just an easy, early-morning chat between two smokers.
“How about Susan,” Linda asked, holding the smoke from a big draw in her lungs. Through a talking exhale, she continued. “Susan started smoking early in the mornings when she was home on break from college. I’d smell it coming from her room.”
“Yeah, we both smoke when we wake up, definitely before breakfast,” I said, still thinking this was just small talk.
But Linda had not lost sight of her goal of nagging Susan into quitting, and she now used this information to make a run toward the goal. “The earlier you smoke after you wake up, the more hooked on nicotine you are,” she said authoritatively, ashing her Eve. “I always thought Susan was the more hooked of the two of you, but maybe you’re both going to have to really work at it to quit,” she said.
I saw now where Linda was going, and now I fully understood how Susan felt – to be lectured about smoking by a longtime smoker with a burning cigarette in her hand. I summoned all the patience I could. “Linda, you know how hard it is to quit – I mean, really, you’ve been doing it for years. You have to give Susan some time. She wants to quit, but she needs to do it her own way, and in her own time. She understands your message, but you really don’t need to push her so hard on quitting. You know Susan – the more you push her, the more she’ll dig in,” I said.

Linda exhaled a huge cloud before she spoke. “Stan, you’re right. I’ll try to be more gentle. And I know you’re on my side on this too, getting her to smoke cigars and all – that will help her get off cigarettes. You are so much like Tom, he just eased into cigars and off of cigarettes like it was nothing. I know you’re doing that, and that you’re trying to get Susan to come along too,” she said, ashing again and getting out some coffee cups. “And cigars will help her, but she’ll need more support from both of us. Because you’ll see how much harder it is for women to quit cigarettes than men. You are right I’ve struggled to switch down and quit for years, and I still do. It is unbelievably tough,” she said, before ironically taking a deep puff off the nearly-finished Eve 120. She drew the smoke deep into her lungs and then exhaled vigorously. I was wondering how Linda got the impression I got Susan into cigars as a means to get her to quit – Susan had figured out that path all by herself.
Linda let the cigarette rest in an ashtray as she poured out four cups of coffee. “You and Tom, you guys can just go puff your cigars and you are fine. Tom hasn’t had a craving for a cigarette in years, and once you smoke only cigars you’ll be fine too. It’s just a guy thing,” she said. “But for Susan and me, it’s a real struggle. Susan really does not want to be quitting with a toddler or two, or even when she gets pregnant. She needs to do it now. Because I’ve been a mom trying to quit, and I know how impossible it is. I’m proof,” she said.
“Do you take your coffee black like Susan does?” Linda asked, setting two of the cups in front of me.
“Yes,” I said, putting out my Benson & Hedges and becoming anxious to escape this conversation with my mother-in-law.
“Stan,” Linda said, before picking up the last few millimeters of her burning Eve and taking a big puff before inhaling while she crushed out the butt. Linda looked at the ceiling while exhaling a huge forceful blast before turning to me. “My biggest mistake, in my whole life, was letting Susan smoke. I caught her when she was about twelve. I wasn’t strong enough to stop her, because I smoked too. And I guess it made me the ‘cool mom’ to her, for a while at least, and sometimes she’d tell me things over cigarettes she probably wouldn’t have otherwise told me.”
“But now I see she’s a full-time, serious smoker, and she’s hooked like me, and it hurts me because I could have stopped it,” Linda said, with a pained look on her face.

I had, now, some amount of empathy for her nagging – Linda blamed herself, in part at least, for Susan’s cigarette habit.
“That’s my mistake to try to fix now. I know you want her to quit cigarettes too,” Linda continued, incorrectly surmising my posture on the entire matter of smoking in the Andrews household. “You guys are going to have kids soon, hopefully, and there’s no doctor on Earth that is going to let her smoke while she’s pregnant. You need to help me fix my mistake, Stan,” Linda said.
“And beyond kids, she needs to quit just for her. And you too. My older sister Mindy is on oxygen full time because she smoked. God only knows what will happen to me, but you’ve heard my cough and I’ve smoked almost as long as my sister,” Linda said. “The more you smoke, the higher your risk. Everyone knows that. Maybe it’s too late for me to avoid cancer or emphysema. But I’m going to keep trying for me, because I don’t want to put Tom through me getting a terminal illness from my own smoking. And Susan, I need to fix my mistake while she is still young and there’s time. Stan, I need you to try to get her to quit so you’re not taking her to cancer treatments. And you need to quit, too, so she’s not taking you to them,” Linda said.
I think Linda realized from the look on my face this was a much heavier conversation than I was ready for before my morning coffee. “Okay,” she said. “We’ll get her to quit. Together. Now bring her that coffee in bed like the sweet husband you are,” she said, smiling despite the heavy topics she’d just laid out between the two of us.
I took the chance to get out of there. “Number one son-in-law,” I said, echoing her change in subject, grabbing two coffee cups, and scurrying back upstairs.
I came back into Susan’s old bedroom to find her just waking up. I set the coffee on her nightstand as she reached for her Virginia Slims 120s, and then I lit her up. Once I had crawled back onto my side of her small bed – the one she’d had as a teenager, as her room had not changed since she moved out for college – I lit up my own cigarette.
I let Susan take a few good, deep inhales before I told her about my conversation with Linda. I figured, frankly, she should know. Without giving Susan a line-by-line recap, I explained that her mother wanted me as her “ally” to get her to quit, that she wanted me to quit too, but thought it would be easier because I was a man. I explained to Susan that her mom blamed herself for Susan starting to smoke years

ago. I said I’d tried to convince Linda to back off a bit, but I don’t think that Linda really heard my message – so Linda’s campaign would continue, for sure.
By now, we had finished our cigarettes. Susan – clearly annoyed again with her mother—grabbed a second one from her pack, and I gave her a light. “Between Jason and my mom, this is just getting to be too much,” she said. “I hate to say this, but I honestly can’t wait until we can get out of here and go home after lunch.”
We talked about Linda and Jason’s comments a bit more. Finally, Susan said, “Enough with them. We have to go downstairs for gifts in a little bit, and there’s something else I’d like to do first. A Christmas gift for both of us,” she said, before turning toward me, taking a huge drag on her Virginia Slim, and exhaling in my face. Susan smiled as the cloud of smoke washed over me. “If you, um, literally catch my drift.”
Susan put out her cigarette in the ashtray and turned back toward me. Putting her face close to mine, she said, “Unless you think I smell like a dung heap.”
“No. Jason is wrong, you don’t smell like a dung heap. Of course, he’d say I can’t tell because I smell like a dung heap too,” I said. “But, maybe he’s right about this bed, and these bright pink walls, and making a baby,” I said, sticking my hand under her nightgown and gently starting to caress one of her breasts.
“What Jason doesn’t know is that I’m not ovulating, so that part is out. But we can always practice,” Susan said. And we did practice. And she didn’t smell like a dung heap to me, but gave off that fantastic aroma of a woman’s sweat and fresh cigarette smoke.
Not too long after that, we were downstairs, in sweatpants and T-shirts, opening gifts after a quick breakfast – Tom and Linda wanted us to get through the Christmas gift exchange while still having time to get ready to go to their country club for the Christmas Day luncheon.
I got some great gifts from Tom and Linda, and even some surprisingly interesting books from Jason. Perhaps Jason had listened to me when he and I spent some time talking at the wedding, discovering we had some overlapping reading interests. But I was never sure how much Jason had actually paid attention in our conversation.

Then, Tom handed Susan and me a large wrapped box, about the size of a sheet of letter paper on top and a few inches deep. “This is something from Linda and me, really for the both of you to share,” he said.
Susan and I took the wrapping paper off to find a fifty-count box of a top brand of cigar. We’d seen these cigars in the Dominican Republic, but thought they were too pricey for us to buy while we were still figuring out what we liked in a cigar – it would have been the cigar equivalent of exploring wines by having your first glass be Silver Oak or Opus One. It wouldn’t have made sense six months ago.
Now, after trying a decent number of cigars, it was a thoughtful and generous gift. We thanked Linda and Tom, and Tom told us a bit about why he picked exactly those cigars for us – perhaps demonstrating (correctly) that he still knew far more than we did about cigars.
And then Jason – who had been watching this with his jaw almost on the floor – made clear that he did not think this was a thoughtful gift at all. In fact, he seemed horrified.
“Cigars? A full box? That’s, what, fifty cigars? Jesus. This is absolutely unbelievable. Have you lost your minds, Mom and Dad? This is a Christmas gift? Seriously, this isn’t some sort of joke – you got them a big box of cigars?” Jason said, exasperated. Tom began getting red in the face again. It was already going to be a long morning with Jason.
“Well, now I know what to get you two for next Christmas,” Jason said, turning to Susan and me. “I’ll just get you a revolver with two bullets in the cylinder. You two can play Russian roulette. It’s probably about the same odds of dying as smoking those things, and much quicker. And you won’t smell nearly as nasty.”
“Jason, can you be a little understanding, please? Susan and Stan are following in your father’s footsteps and changing from cigarettes to cigars, and then they will either smoke cigars rarely or not at all,” Linda explained, confidently announcing the “plan” she thought Susan and I were actively on, even if we hadn’t discussed any “plan” since Thanksgiving.
Jason laughed hysterically. He fell back in his chair and his eyes were watering. Not knowing anything of substance about cigars, cigarettes, or smoking at all, to his mind this might have been the funniest thing he’d ever heard. After a while, he caught his breath and leaned forward towards Linda.

“Hang on a second, Mom,” Jason said, still giggling a bit. “So…the ‘plan’ for Susan and Stan is, they’re going to quit smoking tobacco, by going from tobacco rolled up in paper, to tobacco rolled up in tobacco?” He chuckled again a few times, and had to work to contain his laughter so he could get words out of his mouth.
“And let me get this straight, because my friends in San Francisco will die when they hear this. The plan is to quit smoking tobacco by switching to a bigger amount of tobacco, even bigger than your and Susan’s absurdly long cigarettes. Maybe that cigar is ten times bigger than those cigarettes, maybe even more. And your cigarettes have filters on them, at least. But Stan and Susan are going to quit smoking tobacco by smoking a massive, bigger, unfiltered serving of…tobacco.” Jason broke out laughing again, laughing so hard, I thought he’d fall over on to the floor.
The rest of us just looked at each other. Jason clearly didn’t get it, and I think we were all wondering if we could explain the idea to him in a way that would make sense. Because when you put it the way he had, and with what little he knew about smoking, he was right – it sounded ridiculous.
Finally, he caught his breath – only to continue to crack himself up again. “That’s the biggest load of crap I have ever heard. Who consulted on this plan for you guys, Philip Morris?”
Linda tried to talk sense to him. “Jason, seriously, there’s good reasons for them doing this…”
Hearing this, Jason cut her off and roared in another fit of laughter. “Good reasons? This is hysterical. I mean, there were better reasons for the war in Vietnam than there are for this. You’re really telling me that you honestly think that more tobacco, way more tobacco, rolled up in tobacco without a filter, and then smoked, is the way to quit smoking tobacco?”
“Jason, it makes sense, if you’d actually stop and think about it,” Tom offered, foolishly trying to reason with his son. “After I started smoking only cigars, I found I coughed a lot less and didn’t lose my wind as quickly when I ride my bike or play golf. You don’t inhale nearly as much as with cigarettes, and you smoke a lot fewer of them – cigarettes you can smoke all day, it’s just not that way with cigars.”
“Gosh, Dad, that sounds terrific, then,” Jason said sarcastically. “It sounds great. You just breathe toxic smoke into your mouth and nose, and stink up a whole

room. And you’ll smell like dung heaps for hours afterwards. What a game- winning plan to quit smoking!“
“Okay, Jason, enough,” Susan said, tired of her brother again. “Don’t make me light up one of these right here and blow it in your face.”
Jason laughed again. “Wait, maybe that’s another way to quit smoking,” he said. “Take cigarette smokers, and lock them up in small, smoky rooms, and blow nasty cigar smoke in their faces. They’ll quit for sure! It’s foolproof! We’ve got to get this patented,” he said, breaking into uncontrollable laughter again.
“Ugh, I am so done with you,” Susan said. She and I went upstairs to get ready. Jason, Susan and I had to share the jack-and-jill bathroom between Jason’s and Susan’s bedrooms, but it was agreed I’d get ready first followed by Susan, then Jason. After getting showered up, I sat in Susan’s room and read for a bit while she cleaned up and put on her makeup at the vanity. Susan came out of the bathroom, yelled to Jason that the bathroom was his, and closed the door leading from her bedroom into the bathroom.
Susan turned to me with a wide grin as we heard Jason go into the bathroom. “Wait for it,” she said.
We were quiet for a few seconds. “Wait for it, any second now,” Susan said.
Indeed, in about five more seconds, Jason yelled through the bathroom door. “Jesus Christ, Susan, you had to smoke even in here? And there’s a cigarette butt floating in the toilet? This is like the bathroom in a nasty brothel!”
Susan choked back a laugh. “He’s been pissing me off so much. I just had to smoke in there to get back at him. I put the butt out in the toilet on purpose because I knew he’d lose it,” she whispered to me, still barely able to contain her laughter.
“He deserves it the way he’s been acting. You should have smoked a cigar in there,” I said. “And anyway, what’s with your brother and prostitutes and brothels? He seems to know a lot about both.”
“He probably does, honestly, because as you can see from his perky personality, he can never seem to keep a girlfriend,” Susan said.

Jason seemed to have exhausted his supply of comments about smoking by the time we were seated for lunch at the club, although he took a shot at me for lighting Susan’s cigarette after she’d ordered. “Who are you trying to be, Stan? Humphrey Bogart or something?” I let the comment go by, and when Susan offered a weak Bogart impersonation and said, “Light it again, Stan,” our small group laughed and moved on to other topics.
Susan and I spent the week between Christmas and New Years touring houses with our realtor. We came across a couple of houses we really liked, and our agent said given that we were looking during the “slow” time of the house-selling year, we could think about them a bit. Otherwise, the week included a lot of valuable down time for us both.
And we went out to dinner with Jason one night. He had a calendar full of catching up with old friends, but we found time to get together at a grill in an up-and-coming neighborhood downtown.
Shortly after we got a table and ordered drinks, Susan pulled out her cigarette case. “Jason, guess what? Just so you know, I’m going to have a cigarette. Stan will have one too. We’ll probably have more tonight. And you’ll see there’s a lot of people smoking in here. So if you have something you want to say about it, just say it now so we can all move on.”
“Actually, I do have something to say,” Jason said in a serious tone. “Look, I don’t like that either of you smoke cigarettes or those ridiculous cigars. Or that Mom and Dad still smoke. But I thought about it and I was, perhaps, a bit strident in my objections over it at Christmas. I should have just said I didn’t like it, and left it. I think I was just surprised by how smoky it got in that house. I’m really not used to that. Or Mom’s constant hacking up a lung.”
Jason seemed legitimately contrite and somewhat chastened. “So, I’m sorry for being a jerk, and I’m not going to nag you anymore,” he continued. “Mom gave me the whole thing about switching to light cigarettes, or whatever, and she said she’s on your back about it – she called it ‘trying to help you to quit,’ or some nonsense like that. Knowing her, she’s probably on you about this every time you see her, and doesn’t shut up about it. Like white on rice. You have to deal with that since you live here, and I don’t, so I’m not going to add to that.”
“I did tell Mom the ‘quitting’ thing for her has taken, maybe, over ten years, and I called her out on that. I said she has no place lecturing anybody if she hasn’t quit

herself, that’s pretty hypocritical. But she didn’t really listen to me – you know she just tunes out criticism from either of us,” Jason said.
“So, look, you’re both adults, and it’s almost 2007. You’re both smart, and you know smoking is bad for you, and you’ll probably quit pretty soon, I bet,” Jason continued. “Having kids will probably make you do that. By the way, I hope you have a lot of kids, and I hope they are wonderful. I didn’t tell you that at Christmas, but I’m really excited for you guys, and I know you’ll be great parents,” Jason said, having stripped off his veneer of peevishness in favor of heartfelt honesty.
“The only thing I’ll say,” Jason added, smiling a bit, “is if you don’t quit smoking, I’m going to tell my nieces and nephews to tell you that you smell like dung heaps.”
Susan accepted the apology in the genuine spirit with which it was offered. “Jason, that’s probably the nicest thing you have ever said. I really appreciate it, thanks. Except the dung heap part,” she said with a smile. Sibling harmony restored, Susan offered to help her brother with Linda. “Mom is always telling me how she doesn’t understand why you ‘haven’t given her grandchildren’ yet, like you can just order them from a store,” she said. “Since you tried to get her off my back on smoking, and I appreciate that, I’ll try to run some interference for you next time she brings that up about you.”
“Ugh, Linda and her belief that I’m only on this planet to give her grandchildren. It’s all she talks to me about. She just doesn’t understand the women out there…” Jason said. He allowed Susan and I to smoke the rest of the night in peace.
A few days later it was New Years’ Eve. We went to a party at a local bar with some of our friends, most of whom had quit smoking. While we were puffing away on cigarettes at the bar, one of those former smokers asked us if this was the year Susan and I would resolve to quit smoking.
Susan answered before I could. “I don’t believe in resolutions,” she said. “Someday we’ll quit. Stan and I have talked a lot about it. But to me, New Years’ Day is just another day – there’s nothing special for us about quitting smoking tomorrow or some other day.”
After ringing in the New Year, we walked back home. Susan proposed that we have cigars on the terrace to celebrate. “Our first cigars of the year,” she said after I lit her cigar. “It’s been quite a year for both of us. We didn’t start the year

smoking cigars, and we didn’t start the year married, and I wasn’t in law school this time last year.”
I agreed. “It’s been a wild year, if you think about it that way. And it’s been great, though,” I said, squeezing her hand gently.
“It has been. And now in 2007, we can get on a road away from cigarettes. It’s just time now to do that,” Susan said, exhaling a small cloud of cigar smoke. “But first, we have to buy a house.”
Chapter 12: Should A Gentleman Offer A Tiparillo To…?
We put in an offer on the house right after New Years’ Day. After a bit of haggling,
it was accepted.
The house was perfect for us and, frankly, at a great price for what it offered. It was on a half-acre lot within walking distance of one of the neighborhood pools – not that we’d need one, though, because this house was built around its own beautiful pool. L-shaped, most of the house (four bedrooms, three bathrooms, nice kitchen and a “bonus room”) were on a two-story section that formed the long part of the L. With the garage linking the two sections together, the shorter part of the L ran perpendicularly into the backyard, forming a partial courtyard around the pool.
This one-story, smaller section had a small office, a nice den, and a game room with its own bathroom. Each of these rooms had French doors that opened on to the pool deck. Our realtor told us the prior owner had built this part to allow for entertaining and a combination of work and play – you could go from a desk in the office into the pool in a small number of steps.
“Perfect for your studying, Susan, or if you ever get to work from home, Stan,” the realtor said, as we toured this pool wing. It was a lot of house, and while it was in our budget and we planned to grow into it with kids, it seemed like more than we needed.
But then the realtor pointed out a feature that kept the house on the list of possible ones we were working through over a few days of endless house tours. “And this,” the realtor said, pointing to a gray box mounted high on the wall of the den, “is, believe it or not, a built-in ventilator for cigar smoke. The seller installed it as he’s one of those cigar aficionados. It seems to work as I don’t smell smoke in here at all, do you? I think it’s a unique feature that will have some resale value for the

right buyer if, down the road, you decided to sell this house and move on,” the realtor said, implying she couldn’t imagine either of us smoking cigars. Like Susan and I, the realtor smoked cigarettes – we’d talked over houses on her list over cigarette-and-coffee breaks a couple of times during our house hunting – but she apparently couldn’t see us as cigar smokers.
Susan corrected her misimpression. “Actually, Stan and I like cigars. This could be a good place to smoke them when it’s cold, and it’s away from the main house,” Susan said.
Skilled realtors – like all good salespeople – play any ball their customers throw at them in order to get a deal done. Our realtor was skilled, and played Susan’s comment without missing a beat or displaying any hint of surprise that a woman in her mid-20s would be a cigar smoker. “This could be an unexpected, good win for you two then,” she said. “And I don’t know much about how it works, but again, it’s not smoky in this room, so it must work.”
After finishing what seemed like an endless parade of suburban houses, Susan and I took some time over the New Years holiday to go through the pros and cons of the three or four left after we’d toured and eliminated the rest of the houses on the realtor’s list. We kept coming back to that L-shaped one. We liked the pool and the neighborhood, and while it was in Tom and Linda’s general neighborhood, it was far enough away – maybe a mile or so – that we’d be close to them but they wouldn’t be dropping by all the time. It was at the top of our budget, which went against my natural inclination against spending money without care. But Susan reminded me we had been careful in our budgeting for a reason, and between a significant down payment and applying the proceeds from selling my condo in the city, the house was really rather affordable. “And don’t forget Stan, that’s on your income alone, and it won’t really be a squeeze on our lifestyle. Once I’m working too, we’ll have plenty of money. But even before then, we can still afford cigars for that cigar room,” she said.
“You’re right, we can afford it,” I said, accepting her reassurance as well as my own analysis of our budget and resources. “And calling it a cigar room kind of sells me on it, I think. Okay, let’s think on it until New Years’ Day, and if we’re both still sold on it, we can call the realtor and make an offer.”
Sure enough, we remained sold on the idea of it, and we bought it. When Susan started back to school later in January, I took over dealing with all the closing

paperwork and getting movers lined up. On weekends, we shopped for furniture and got packed up. At the end of February, we were moving in.
Moving day was, as all such days are, filled with work. The movers arrived on time and unloaded their truck rather quickly, as we didn’t have much furniture we were bringing from my condo. In a pleasant coincidence, our first furniture delivery arrived the same day. After dealing with the move, unpacking boxes, and general excitement, we were exhausted by nightfall. We ordered a pizza and opened our first bottle of wine in our new house.
“Let’s have pizza in the cigar room and have a cigar and watch a movie,”’ Susan said after the pizza delivery man left. The furniture for that room hadn’t come in yet, but the cable service to a decent-sized wall TV left by the sellers had already been turned on a few days before. And so, sitting on lawn chairs we found in the game room, we ate pizza and watched TV. After eating, Susan brought out our humidor. “First cigars in our own house! This is so exciting,” she said.
Tom and Linda were excited for us, too. We had to hold them off from visiting for a few days – until the first weekend we were in the new house – to give us time to get settled, despite their entreaties that they were “just across the neighborhood now, and can be right over.” But when they came over, they did not come empty- handed: Tom’s SUV was packed with stuff for us.
I helped Tom unload while Susan gave Linda a tour. Tom and Linda had brought us an antique wall clock, a set of dishes on our wedding registry that no one had gotten us as gifts, and a beautiful painting of West Texas by an artist they knew Susan admired. They were very generous housewarming gifts.
Then we got to the fun stuff. I helped Tom unload a large, heavy cardboard box. “So, this is for what Susan described as your cigar room. I got this even though I’m kind of envious of you, Stan, from everything I am hearing about this pool house with its own cigar room,” Tom said, smiling. I helped him carry the box through the main house and out into the cigar room – now complete with a couch, coffee table, small desk, and armchair from a delivery the day before.
By then, Linda and Susan were out on the pool deck. “Oh my God, Dad, what is that thing?” exclaimed Susan, as we carried the huge box past them and into the cigar room. “Something no cigar lounge can be without,” Tom said. We set the box down in the middle of the room and Susan and I opened it. Inside was a beautiful, burlwood, cedar-lined humidor cabinet. “This is just like the one I have at

home. It can hold 500 cigars, and I thought you might eventually outgrow the smaller one,” Tom said. “But what I need is one of those,” he said, pointing to the air purifier mounted near the ceiling. “Now, though, you guys can have me over for cigars and football and it won’t get all smoky in here. Maybe even Jason could come by,” he added with a laugh.
“This is beautiful, Mom and Dad. You shouldn’t have. It’ll take us forever to fill it,” Susan said. I agreed, but added filling it shouldn’t be a problem because we’d heard of some other small cigar shops around Houston that we wanted to check out. “And with the deal you got on this place, you can afford to shop a little, Stan,” Tom said with a chuckle.
“Wait, Tom, did you bring everything in?” Linda asked. “Where are the, ahh…”
“Oh, Linda, you’re right. I’ll go get those,” Tom said, heading back out to their car.
Tom returned with two flat rectangular objects, about two feet by four feet each, wrapped in brown paper. Susan and I opened them to find two framed posters of old cigar advertisements for Tiparillo cigars. Each featured a blonde, scantily clad woman staring at two packets of the tipped cigars being held out towards her. In one, the ad asked readers, “Should a gentleman offer a Tiparillo to a violinist?” The other posed the same question to a female marine biologist.
Susan and I studied them for a moment, unsure of what to think. “Your mother saw these at McCoy’s cigar shop and thought they would fit perfectly in here,” Tom said, perhaps distancing himself from the idea for the gift in case we didn’t like them. “I thought the women might be a bit scantily clad, but you know, these were actual magazine ads – just blown up and made into posters.”
“I like them,” Susan responded. “They do fit in here.”
I agreed. Of course, though, I didn’t volunteer that sexy magazine ads like these had helped feed my smoking fetish when I was a boy, and I was happy to have blown-up versions hanging in my house.
“But what’s with these cigars? Were they actually menthol? I never even knew they had menthol cigars,” Susan noted, pointing to one of the two types of Tiparilllo that appeared, in fact, to be menthol flavored. “A menthol cigar sounds pretty gross, honestly, but neither Stan nor me are menthol people.”

“I don’t even think they make those anymore,” Tom said. “I think they sound disgusting, too. You wouldn’t even be able to taste the tobacco, just the menthol. But people used to smoke these tipped cigars when I was growing up, quite a lot, in fact. Now I think these cheap tipped cigars are used to hide the smell of pot,” said Tom, opining on something he would know nothing about from personal experience.
“Speaking of smoking, can I light one in here? A non-menthol, non-pot cigarette, I mean,” Linda asked, withdrawing a pack of Vantage Ultra Light 100s from her purse.
“Of course,” I said, moving an ashtray along the coffee table toward her. “We’re going to try to limit smoking in the house to really just this room, so that’s fine,” I added. “Really just” was a bit of an understatement, though Susan and I were making an effort to keep our house – freshly painted before the sale – from getting too smoky. We’d agreed to smoke only in the cigar room, Susan’s adjoining office, our bedroom, and the kitchen/dining room area, which had French doors we could open to the patio to get some fresh air in and let smoke out.
We had those French doors open quite a bit to air out the parts of the house we could smoke in. That night after Tom and Linda’s visit, Susan retreated to her office by the pool to study for a couple of hours. I watched a bit of television and read for a while before deciding to head out to the cigar room. As I came out to the pool deck, I saw the French doors to Susan’s office open. She was at her desk, studying away, and puffing on a Virginia Slim 120. Looking at her from some distance, this became one of those moments when I was struck by just how lucky I was. In front of me was my beautiful, funny wife, smart enough to get into a good law school, and diligent enough to put in the time and effort needed to do well at her studies. Best of all, she was smoking a sexy extra-long cigarette. And she looked stellar smoking it: I paused to just take in her long, forceful puffs that would force the tip of the cigarette up in the air while her jaw dropped down and her cheeks plunged in. Her long inhales with lips slightly parted and the pause as she held the smoke in her lungs. And then her casual exhales as she let the smoke go on to wherever it was going to float to, pushed out of her lungs by the tiniest amount of pressure from her gently collapsing diaphragm.
After my pause to reflect on how lucky I was, I walked into her office through the open French doors. “When you’re done with Civil Procedure, it might be civil if you joined me next door in the cigar lounge, where I’ll be having a cigar and a nip of bourbon,” I said.

Susan smiled as she exhaled a puff of cigarette smoke. “It’s Constitutional Law, actually. Substantive due process versus procedural due process, in fact. But a cigar and a bourbon sounds nice, I’ve studied about as much as I can tonight,” she said. “And since when it is at lounge? I thought it was a cigar room,” she asked with a smile.
“Cigar lounge probably adds to the resale value of the house,” I said, using the realtor-speak we’d been immersed in during our hunt for a house. “And, we have that huge humidor cabinet in there and the Tiparillo women on the walls. It’s definitely more than a mere room for cigars. If you didn’t use it too, it would be a full-on cigar ‘man cave.’ So ‘lounge’ seems to fit and I think your dad called it that,” I said.
Susan joined me in the cigar lounge a few minutes later. After she’d picked out a cigar, cut it, and toasted the foot, I lit her up and then poured her a glass of bourbon. We sat on the couch for a few minutes, just enjoying a break and our cigars, as a light chill from a cool late-winter Houston night came in on the breeze through the French doors.
After this break, Susan spoke. “Those posters my mom got us – I guess they are growing on me. When we opened them, I honestly had no idea what she was thinking,” she said. “But now, I see it, and I understand why you’d advertise little cigars that way. Looking at them now, I can kind of see why men would think a woman smoking a cigar would be sexy, like those guys at La Casa de Habana and the philosophy professor.”
“Menthol cigars, though, they just sound gross. Menthol generally. I had a roommate in my sorority house who smoked Salems, and I smoked one of those once when I was out of my cigarettes. It was like inhaling off a pine tree,” Susan continued. “I’m glad you’re not a menthol cigarette smoker, because the smell would repulse me.”
Susan puffed her cigar. “And menthol cigars. Again, just, wow. I’m glad you don’t have a ‘thing’ for women who smoke tipped menthol cigars. That would be a no-go for me.”
I’ve actually never cared whether a smoking woman smoked menthol or regular cigarettes or cigars, frankly. I’m satisfied with sexy women smoking cigarettes or cigars at all.

And over the next couple of months, circumstances let Susan continue to indulge in both cigars and cigarettes, while smoking fewer cigarettes overall. She started off the second semester with more confidence and a better handle on the still- significant amount of studying, having come through her exams with a good deal of comfort in her abilities.
This reduction in stress let her slowly, almost imperceptibly, cut back her cigarette habit to a pack a day and find time to indulge in cigars. She slowly started to switch from cigarettes to cigars. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t keeping a chart or anything that meticulous – just being conscious, it seemed, of her habit and trying to dial her consumption back as she had said she would. She’d have a couple of cigarillos a day, too, and a big cigar with me most nights. So, she was, in fact, keeping to the plan of smoking more cigars and fewer cigarettes.
Indeed, one night in late March when we were watching the late local news and finishing our cigars in the cigar lounge, she asked me to hold off buying her another carton of Virginia Slims 120s in the coming week. “I’m pretty much down to a pack a day now, so I’m not going through a carton a week – actually I just opened the carton you got me last week, so we can skip this week,” she said.
I squeezed her hand. “You know, I’m proud of you for being able to cut down,” I said. “I know how tough that can be. Even when I cut from a carton a week to a pack a day after the honeymoon, it was rough for me for a while. And I know this is something you’ve planned for some time, so I’m proud you’re doing it.”
I wasn’t just saying that – I was really proud of her and happy too, odd as that may sound. It’s true that as a person with a smoking fetish, I love seeing a beautiful woman smoke – especially if it’s my wife. But there’s no denying that in the long term, the tobacco habit poses a real chance of catching up with the smoker in a seriously gruesome way. The “darkside” corners of our fetish have never been places I dwell very long, although I’m a fan of the adjoining place: mature women hooked on cigarettes. Still, there’s a fine line between fetishizing the addictive features of smoking, which increase the risk of health consequences – and fetishizing those consequences themselves. Of course, dear reader, as far as I am concerned, you are perfectly free to enjoy or reject whatever components of our fetish as you wish. My hope here is that you read this story on the “smoking” side of that line, and not the “darkside” side.
In our cigar lounge, Susan exhaled a loose cone of cigar smoke. “Thanks, hon. That means a lot to me. I haven’t said this, but being able to smoke cigars with

you has made cutting back on cigarettes easier. Getting to enjoy a cigar with you, and try different types, is something we can do together that keeps me from smoking as many cigarettes,” she said.
And indeed, Susan was going deeper into the complicated world of cigars. We both were, I guess, but I was often following her lead. I think she enjoyed the complexity of the cigar vice. Unlike a rack of cigarette brands in a store – where a smoker could choose from, at that time in 2007, maybe 100 different individual products (considering different lengths and strengths and all that) – cigars came in nearly endless varieties. Thousands, certainly, if you count different brands, blends and sizes. Alejandro was right that cigar smoking was more like trying fine wines, and also right that the choosing and trying different types was really half the fun.
Susan thrived on this complexity, and enjoyed learning as much as she could about cigars. Not long after we moved in to our house, we started getting cigar magazines with her name on the address label. And, at one point during this time, it turned out she was reading at least one internet site about cigars: she proposed that we go to a cigar event to be held in Houston that she’d read about on the old ‘Net.
I was up for that – it sounded like fun and was a chance for us to go out and do something different before she’d have to start studying hard for finals again. In the time between moving in and when she’d have to really crack open the books, we tried to pack in as many fun things as we could, knowing her free time would soon be greatly curtailed. One night in this period, we even introduced Tom and Linda to La Casa de Habana: Tom was excited to try it after we’d told him about it, and we had a reason to celebrate when Susan learned she had earned excellent grades in her first semester. The place was a hit with Susan’s parents, especially Tom. We had a fun night with them, and Linda – now smoking Winston Ultra Lights – only made a couple of snarky comments about Susan’s pre- and post- dinner cigarettes.
Soon after that night, Susan and I went to a hotel ballroom downtown for the big cigar event. The room was filled with booths set up by cigar stores, manufacturers, and distributors representing every brand of cigar you could think of. Smoking cigars was, of course, allowed, and there was a cash bar where you could get a drink to enjoy with one of the many free cigars given out in return for the hefty admission price.

However, the cloud of cigar smoke rising to the high ceilings of the room wasn’t the only cloud over this event: Houston was beginning to debate an indoor smoking ban for restaurants and bars which would put future events like this one in jeopardy. At almost every booth, we overheard conversations about the possible ban and its impact on cigar shops and bars.
Susan, having read about the ban and no wallflower when it came to having and expressing an opinion, joined in on some of them. She even signed a petition against the smoking ban and agreed to send a form letter opposing it to our city councilor – a rare step for other of us, because while we voted regularly, we weren’t politically active otherwise.
But the possible ban got Susan very fired up, even as she acknowledged the tension between smoking cigars and cigarettes and wanting to cut down from at least cigarettes. “I’m cutting down because I don’t want to smell like an ashtray all the time, and I entirely get that cigarettes could kill me. But I just don’t like being told what I can and can’t do. I also don’t like being made to feel like some sort of criminal if I want to have a cigar in a cigar bar. Aren’t there bigger things for the City of Houston to be worried about?”
The free cigars, along with some we purchased at the event, helped fill the huge humidor cabinet Tom and Linda had given us. This made it easier for Susan to stay on her path of a pack a day and some cigarillos and cigars. And enjoyable for us both: we were still very much in the learning-what-cigars-we-liked phase of cigar exploration.
Not long after the event, though, Susan’s progress at quitting was undone when she had to start studying for her finals in earnest. Her finals were in mid-May, and she really turned her attention to them – as well as finishing a semester paper – in the first week of April. That first week of April, she stuck with her pack-a-day Virginia Slims habit.
But during the second week, though, the Marlboro Man rode back into Susan’s life, just as he had when Susan started studying for finals last November. I learned this one night that week after dinner. As was our custom on nice spring nights in our new house, we opened the patio doors and proceeded to light up at our dinner table. After a quick clearing of the dishes – I was in the habit of doing a full kitchen cleanup after Susan went off to study not long after our post-dinner cigarette – Susan brought out our ashtray and a pack of Marlboro 100s.

She pulled one out and put the filter between her lips for me to give her a light. “Yes, I’m smoking these again – what did my mom call them, Cowboy Killers?” Susan said through an unlit dangle. I lit her cigarette and after the first puff she continued, “But it’s just through finals. I just always need the extra kick from these.”
“Maybe you just remember smoking them when you studied for exams in college. Who knows? Either way, honey, it’s fine,” I reassured her. “You’re under a lot of stress, and you have to do what you can to get through it.”
“I know, but going back to these twice a year just makes me feel like such an addict,” Susan said through a talking exhale. “I mean, yes, of course I’m hooked on nicotine. I get that, and we’re both absolutely, firmly hooked. It’s just I wish I could control it a little better, and that the Virginia Slims were enough for me when I’m really under pressure. They are lighter tasting and I think I was living fine on the lower nicotine. But it’s frustrating that a little stress and I just crave these uncontrollably.”
I assured her again it was alright and we talked about other things. A few hours later that night – when I went out to her office to check on her and try to get her to unwind with a cigar before bed – I saw for sure that last November’s high-nicotine cravings were back with a vengeance, and any hope she had of keeping her habit at a pack a day had been set aside for the time being. Susan had a near-full ashtray on her desk, with little flecks of ash in a circle around it from where she’d ashed her Marlboros a bit too quickly. Even with the French doors open, the room had a thick layer of smoke floating at about my eye level.
“Hey hon, is it time for a cigar break and then bed? You’ve put in a lot of time tonight,” I said.
“You’re right. Stick a fork in me, I’m done,” Susan said, putting out her nearly- spent cigarette in the ashtray and then stretching her arms. “Cigar time. I need a breather, if you can call it that, from all these cigarettes. Look at it in here,” she said, noticing the cloudy layer in the room.
We enjoyed a cigar together and caught up a bit. As we were finishing our cigars, Susan went and got her pack of Marlboro 100s to bring up to the bedroom for her pre-lights-out and wake up cigarettes – no post-sex cigarettes that night, for sure, as I could already tell she was pretty stressed and our intimacy frequency went way down during finals, I’d learned. “One of the many things I don’t like about the

Marlboros is I cough a lot more in the mornings. I can’t wait for finals to be over and I’m going back to the Virginia-Slims-and-cigar routine I was in, and then cutting down even more on cigarettes. The Slims, at least, are a lot lighter on my lungs. If I stay on these Marlboros I’d sound like my mom in no time flat.”
Susan may have been right about the lighter Virginia Slims, but I believed the main reason her morning cough got worse – and stayed with her well into the day, and would come back when she laughed or got winded – during finals was simply that she essentially doubled her consumption. At least that’s what she had done during her first semester ones, and if the full ashtray and two cartons at the ready were signs of things to come, I was pretty sure she’d find time every day to smoke at least two packs of Marlboros 100s for at least the next month or so.
The next month and a half – to the end of Susan’s finals and through the completion of her paper – proved me right. At the rate she went through cartons of Marlboros, I’d have sworn that at one point she smoked two and a half packs a day. Throw in a cigar or cigarillo most weeknight evenings, and a cigar or two during weekend breaks, and Susan was probably tying her own record for tobacco consumption she’d set during her first semester finals.
Her nicotine cravings apparently became quite intense. To allow her more time to study and relieve pressure on her to get things done around the house, I’d again picked up her share of the household tasks we’d otherwise carefully divided between us. In the course of picking up the house, I noticed that the ashtray we kept on our bedroom terrace for an occasional post-sex cigarette under the moon was now often filled with Marlboro butts – a sure sign that she was waking up to smoke in the middle of the night. And whenever I leaned in to give her a hug or kiss, even my smoker’s nose noticed a powerful odor of stale cigarette smoke.
As a husband with a smoking fetish, none of these things were bad – some, in fact, were very arousing. Like her big puffs and deep inhales, the knowledge she was having cravings, and her smoky aroma.
Not such a turn on, though, was her morning cough, which as Susan feared, returned with a vengeance. It continued much of the day, in fact. Now you may be a coughing fan, dear reader – and I am too, under the right circumstances (in a video, for instance, or seeing a mature smoker in real life cough for a bit). But when it was my own wife, and I knew that if she couldn’t cut back down after her finals, she’d be hacking away like this, or worse, forever – well, my fetish lost out to my interest in keeping her healthy.

Finally, Susan finished her last final. She was excited to learn that I’d planed another night at La Casa de Habana to celebrate, and had gone the extra step of reserving us a hotel room nearby so we could stay out late and not have to worry about getting home in the middle of the night.
Susan had already switched back to her Virginia Slims 120s, having picked up a fresh carton on her way home from her last exam. She told me that night she was going to cut right back down to a pack a day and cigars to get back into her pre- finals routine, and she quickly did. That night at La Casa de Habana right after her finals, however, she still practically chain-smoked her 120s through dinner, and took some very deep inhales off her cigars at the upstairs cigar bar that night.
I was very glad I had reserved us a smoking hotel room for that night, and the next morning before late check-out, too.
Chapter 13: Rather Fight Than Switch?
The summer after Susan’s first year of law school was our first chance in a long time to really spend time together. She had a job as a law intern with a civil rights group – justice for the underserved being one of her long held passions. The work was mainly 9-to-5, so we were able to spend a bit more time together at night and on weekends than we had during her first year of law school.
Susan’s smoking habits remained steady, at about a pack of Virginia Slims 120s a day, with a cigarillo after breakfast and a full-size cigar after dinner. She didn’t smoke too much at work, although she joined a small cadre of fellow nicotine users who snuck out for a quick cigarette a few times a day. Most of her cigarette smoking was in the evenings, when we’d both cloud up our poolside “cigar lounge” while watching TV, reading, or playing an occasional card game.
Through this quiet time, though, our smoking habits started to come under pressure – societal and physical. On the social side, the rising tide of smoking restrictions kept rising. Houston’s City Council approved a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars in May, and while it didn’t go into effect until September, many restaurants began to clean out their “smoking section” and prepare to do business smoke-free. This bothered both of us, accustomed as we were to lighting up after we ate. It also triggered Susan’s moderate-Republican, government-stay- out-of-business sensibilities, and more than once she’d react to a news story about the ban by wondering aloud why businesses that allowed smoking shouldn’t be

allowed to just compete against those that didn’t, with the marketplace deciding the issue.
And at her work, there were only a few other smokers. She became close friends with them, chatting around a small ashtray in an alley outside a fire exit. But she was worried about what being known as “one of the smokers” could do to her boss’s impressions of her and her work. And she became more conscious of the smell of smoke on her clothes, telling me she’d often wash her hands and spray on a touch of perfume after sneaking out for a cigarette break.
All of this bothered Susan, and while she was more and more defensive of her habit as the world around her seemed to close in against it, she also seemed to accept that there wasn’t much she could do to stem the tide.
Physically, our smoking habits were having some mild but noticeable effects. I caught a nasty cold right after her final exams, made worse by the summer heat and my tobacco vice. And one Saturday, we went for a long hike outside the city and while the terrain was flat – Houston pretty much is – Susan got redfaced and winded after only a few miles of our walk. “It’s either the cigarettes or the humidity, or both,” she said after a pause to catch her breath.
Her morning cough hadn’t abated, either. While we both coughed somewhat in the mornings, Susan’s morning cough got noticeably worse when she was smoking heavily, like during her finals or in the months leading up to our wedding. Previously, her coughing had always lessened in duration and intensity when she trimmed her smoking back. This time, though, going back from two-plus packs a day of Marlboro 100s to a pack a day of Virginia Slims didn’t seem to make much difference. Susan didn’t say anything about this to me, but I am sure it did not escape her notice.
It was in this context that Susan decided to try what she called her “cigar experiment.” She announced this to me one Thursday night after we’d had a leisurely dinner and cleaned up the dishes. As had become our tradition, we headed across the courtyard to the cigar lounge, and smoked our after-dinner cigarettes. Susan turned on the TV – we weren’t, and aren’t, huge TV watchers, but Susan’s legal-mind-in-training had come to enjoy “CSI,” which was on later that night.
Susan pulled a large cigar out of the humidor for each of us. She cut hers, toasted the foot, put the cut end in her mouth, and handed the lighter to me to give her a

light. She puffed, gingerly at first and then with more vigor, and the cigar sprang to life. Just after I finished going through this process with my own cigar, Susan spoke.
“Do you know what happens Monday, Stan,” she asked, holding her cigar out and turning it so its long side faced me. “Uhh…we have another cigar?” I asked, legitimately a little confused.
“Well, we’ll do that, in a way,” Susan said. “Because starting Monday, I am only going to smoke cigars or cigarillos. I think it’s just time for me to try to get off from cigarettes using these. We’ve talked about this for a long time. This is a good time, since my summer job isn’t too stressful, and I want to try to do this before school starts again in the fall.”
“Well, let’s talk this through, so we don’t wind up like Scott and Kristen,” I said. “How do you think you are going to handle the morning craving when you wake up? We both wake up needing to scratch that itch,” I asked, knowing Susan had been pretty adamant about keeping the bedroom as a smoking-allowed room when we bought the house. And, while we were both smokers and both woke up to cravings, hers were pretty intense – she’d reach for a cigarette before her eyes were even opened, it seemed. And while her long, deep puffs were always a fine image to start my day, I’d learned that if she didn’t get a cigarette lit within a few minutes of getting up, she would get cranky and irritable very fast.
While I asked these questions, my brain found the filed-away fantasy picture, created during a similar discussion the prior summer, of Susan pulling hard on a cigarillo to satisfy a morning craving. This sexy fantasy picture reminded me that whether she was smoking cigarettes or cigars, she’d still be indulging my fetish.
“That will be the hard part,” she said. “I can get through the day with a cigarillo here and there, and Nicorette gum. But the morning will be tough for me,” she said. She puffed on her cigar and thought for a few seconds as she slowly exhaled. “This is where you come in, Stan,” she said.
“What do you need me to do?” I asked, fearful she’d ask me to quit cigarettes – something I simply wasn’t ready to do.
“Look, I get that you aren’t ready to quit cigarettes and go full-on with cigars, and I’m not going to make you. But here’s the thing. If I wake up and see you light a cigarette next to me, there’s no way I’ll be able to not light up a cigarette too,” she

said. “I’d like you to do this with me. When we wake up, let’s take our coffee down here to the cigar lounge, and have cigarillos instead of cigarettes. After that, for the rest of the day, you can smoke cigarettes all you want, and I’ll be fine. It’s just that first start of the day where I am really going to need your help.”
I thought this through as I took a puff on my cigar, initially torn between giving up my first cigarette of the day and supporting Susan’s worthwhile goal. But the image of her sucking down the smoke from a cigarillo to satisfy her morning craving ultimately pushed me to agree. “Okay,” I said. “I love you and I want you to be successful with this and healthy, and if this is what you need me to do, of course I’ll do it,” I said.
“Thanks, Stan. I knew I could count on you for this,” said Susan, before turning into the meticulous planner she could become when faced with a new challenge. “So I think we should do this. We can keep the coffeemaker set to go off at the same time. We’ll get up. We’ll put on robes, or shorts, or whatever. We go to the kitchen, we get coffee, we come right out here. We each smoke a cigarillo. After we feed our addiction to nicotine – since the whole world seems to think we’re drug fiends now or something – we go about our day like normal people.”
“Drug fiends? We’re smokers, Susan, and yes, we’re hooked on nicotine, but no one says we’re junkies,” I said with a laugh, wondering what was causing Susan to wrap herself in some sort of victimhood.
Susan exhaled a plume of cigar smoke. “Don’t you ever feel singled out for smoking, though?” she asked. “I was watching this thing on Fox News the other day, it was a whole story about how there is an entire anti-tobacco industry that makes money only if they keep bringing out more smoking bans, and how the bans are forcing restaurants and bars to close if their customers are mainly smokers. There are even some liberals who want to have a ‘war on drugs’ approach to tobacco.”
“Well, yeah, we are singled out a bit as smokers, that’s true. But there are some good reasons for bans, from a public health standpoint, right? The waitress in a restaurant probably shouldn’t be breathing in everyone’s smoke for hours at a time. I’m not sure I agree with the bans, but they’re not unreasonable,” I said, pausing to let some ash drop off of my cigar into the ashtray. “And anyway, Susan, we’re Exhibit A for why we shouldn’t worry – look at us, we’re smoking in the comfort of our own home. No one can take that away. And you know I don’t care what they say on Fox News, that’s for sure.”

Susan laughed. “Okay, maybe they’re not going to bust in here and send us off to rehab quite yet.” She took a long puff on her cigar, inhaled a bit, and let a plume of smoke slowly escape in her casual exhale style. “So…I’m excited to try giving up cigarettes but nervous too. They say nicotine is as addictive as heroin, although it’s not the nicotine that kills you, it’s the tar in the cigarette smoke. I’ve been smoking cigarettes over fifteen years already, you even longer. We’re both really addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. I want to get the nicotine without the tar and everything else in the cigarette,” she said.
“But I’m going to miss the whole act of smoking a cigarette – the putting it in my mouth. Lighting it or having you give me a light. The taste and the feeling you get when you inhale, especially the first cigarette of the day. That will be the worst,” she said.
“What about after we make love?” I asked, wondering what her plan was to replace our after-sex cigarettes. “Do we come down here to smoke after sex, or will you light a cigar in the bedroom? I’m fine with an exemption to the no-cigars-in-the- bedroom rule for after-sex, if you are. But I know how you hate the smell of stale cigar smoke in the curtains and the sheets.”
Susan puffed on her cigar. “You now, I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” she said. “I’d been so focused on the waking-up cigarettes. I honestly don’t know, but I love a cigarette after sex. What do you think we should do?”
“I see three possibilities. One, we could make love and then come down here so you can have a cigar and I can have a cigarette – but this kind of spoils the whole point of just calming down after it and smoking together,” I said. “Or, two, you could allow yourself to smoke one of my cigarettes in bed afterwards. It wouldn’t be your brand, so it wouldn’t really tempt you. And unless we start going absolutely crazy with sex, it’s not like you’ll be smoking a pack a day or anything.”
Susan laughed. “We do have a lot of sex, but you’re right, it wouldn’t be a ton of cigarettes if I had one, and only one, after each time. What’s choice three?”
“We say to hell with the curtains and the sheets, and live with any cigar smell that gets on them if we smoke cigarillos after we’re all done. Get them cleaned if we have too,” I said.
“Interesting. I don’t know. I have a couple of days to think about it. And,” she looked directly at me as she exhaled a puff of cigar smoke. “For this weekend, at

least, after sex cigarettes won’t yet be an issue. Just a word to the wise. Do with that what you will,” she smiled.
“But speaking of sex. Let me ask you straight out – if I give up cigarettes and go totally to cigars, you’ll still find me sexy, right? I know we’ve talked about this, but I want to make sure,” she said, suddenly very serious and looking straight into my eyes.
“Oh, hon, of course,” I said, putting my cigar in the ashtray and giving her a hug. “I still feel the same. You know you turn me on even when you’re not smoking. Remember that time on our honeymoon, when I came and joined you while you were taking a shower? And that night just a couple of weeks ago, when we were in the spa – you looked so hot in your bathing suit, I just had to pull you out and we made love on the patio couch. You weren’t smoking either of those times, but you just being you turned my dial way up,” I said.
“You almost gave me wicker burns,” Susan said, laughing. “Okay, you’ve convinced me, or reminded me. But I’ll be smoking a lot of cigarettes this weekend to kind of say goodbye to them and get all of my cigarettes out of the house so I’m less tempted. Monday I become a cigar and cigarillo smoker full time.”
“A sister of the leaf, for good,” I said. “I’ll support you any way I can, certainly with the morning smoking, and I’ll try to keep my cigarettes out of your way to not tempt you.”
Before Susan could become a sister of the cigar leaf on Monday, she had a lot of cigarette tobacco leaves to burn up over the weekend first. I swear she smoked three packs each day, consciously going through her remaining Virginia Slims 120s as well as some Marlboro 100s she found in her office. Watching her indulge her cigarette habit so frequently and intently was a major turn on for me, and we were intimate a lot over those two days. While I was a little sad to see her try to switch away from her 120s, I took comfort in the knowledge she’d still be smoking cigars and cigarillos – my second favorite type of tobacco product for a sexy woman to smoke next to a ultra-long cigarette. Plus, I had a lot of great images stored in my head already of Susan smoking cigarettes, and the weekend gave me even more. I also knew she was making a change that would improve her overall health, reduce future risks, and maybe let her heavy cough start to abate.
Sunday night we were both in our cigar lounge watching TV. I was enjoying a cigar while Susan smoked through her last pack of Virginia Slims 120s. As the late local

news approached, she held up an almost-empty pack for me to see. “My last cigarette,” she said. “Can you give me a light?”
“Of course, my dear,” I said as I lit up her cigarette. “And you know I’m still a gentleman and your husband. I’ll just light your cigars and cigarillos from now on.”
Susan smoked the Virginia Slim ferociously. But she also appeared pensive, often looking at the cigarette in her hand or watching the stream of smoke float upward from the burning tip. “Part of me is going to miss cigarettes. I’ve smoked them for almost sixteen years. They were a constant companion,” she said, and I took note of her use of the past tense. “But it’s just time to let them go. The coughing and being short of breath is too much. And I hate being such an outcast at school and work for smoking them,” she said, a bit wistful.
Susan took one last puff from the cigarette, now down to its filter, and crushed the brown-stained, heavily-tarred butt in the ashtray on the coffee table. She inhaled deeply, held the smoke in her lungs for what seemed like an eternity, and let loose a huge cloud of gray smoke toward the ceiling.
She turned to me. “Cigars and cigarillos taste so much better than cigarettes though, don’t you think? I mean, it’s a rich, full taste, and every cigar is so different. Every cigarette always tasted the same,” she said, trying to convince herself of the wisdom of her choice as much as speaking to me.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Cigars are just bolder, and like you said, there’s so many different tastes in them. The sugary ones, the spicy ones, the woody ones. I think you’ll be fine smoking cigars and I’m happy to smoke them with you,” I said, before taking a puff of my own cigar.
“Talking about them makes me want that taste. I’m going to have a cigarillo and then we can go to bed after the local news,” Susan said.
The next morning, Susan started her new life as a cigar-tobacco-only woman in earnest. I’d purposely left my cigarettes in the cigar lounge so I wouldn’t just light up when the alarm went off – but when the alarm did, it took me a few seconds to recall why they weren’t where I’d always left them on the nightstand.
Susan sat up groggily in response to the alarm. She looked at the nightstand on her side of the bed, too, before remembering she didn’t have any cigarettes – there or anywhere. She sighed. “Okay, Stan, it’s cigarillo time. Let’s get some coffee

and go out to the cigar lounge,” Susan said, before smiling wanly. “It’ll be a new and different day, for me at least.”
“Me too. I’ve never started my day with a cigarillo before,” I said, swinging my legs on to the floor. “But I’m behind you one hundred percent, so let’s get the six a.m. cigar party started.”
We each poured a cup of coffee and headed out to our cigar lounge. Susan picked up the tin of cigarillos we’d left on the coffee table – Hoyo de Monterrey Excaliburs, a brand she had become fond of. She offered me one and put one between her lips. The cigarillos weren’t filtered, but one end was tapered slightly inward, suggesting which end was the inhaling end.
I lit Susan’s cigarillo before mine. She inhaled quickly and with vigor, essentially treating it as if it were a bigger-than-average-size unfiltered cigarette. She held the smoke in her lungs and exhaled a wide cloud. “Not bad. I think I can get used to this,” she said.
I did about the same with my cigarillo. It took a few big puffs, but the cigar smoke eventually calmed my morning nicotine craving. Susan’s cigarillo was getting nicotine into her body too, and in a couple of minutes I could tell she was over nicotine’s morning siren call.
We talked for a few minutes while we puffed away. Susan’s morning cough was pretty intense after a weekend of chainsmoking, but she kept on smoking her cigarillo between coughs. When the cigarillo had burned to the point that the hot coal was close to her fingers, she snubbed it out in the ashtray. “Whew! I think I smoked that kind of hard and fast, I’m a little bit dizzy,” she said. “I was thinking about having a second one, but I think one when I wake up is going to be plenty.”
“We forget how much nicotine is in these. But you nailed it, hon – for the first morning in years, you woke up and you didn’t have a cigarette. I’m proud of you,” I said.
Susan smiled. “I couldn’t have made it over my morning nicotine itch without you going along, Stan. Thank you for supporting me. I think I am going to make it,” she said. She broke into a short coughing fit, but a sip of coffee seemed to help. Composed, she stood up.
“Okay, Stan, you’ve done your part. I’m going inside to shower and get ready. If you need to have an early morning meeting with Mr. Benson and Mr. Hedges, feel

free to – you did what I needed you to do, so you’ve earned it,” Susan said. I waited until she had gone back into the main house to light my cigarette, as smoking a cigarillo first thing in the morning was not something I took to naturally.
Susan had one more cigarillo before going into her summer job. When she got home that night, she still seemed very gung-ho about her cigar and cigarillo project. She was proud she hadn’t smoked any cigarillos on the way to work, for fear of getting into the office reeking like a cigar. She smoked two at work – one in the late morning and one after lunch – with her cigarette smoking colleagues, all of whom were very supportive of her goal of breaking free of cigarettes. In fact, only one of her coworkers said she smelled like a cigar – and Susan said the commenter, a non-smoker, made similar comments about cigarette smoke, so Susan just considered this woman overly sensitive. She smoked a cigarillo on the drive home.
That night, we watched TV in the cigar lounge after dinner. Susan didn’t mind that I smoked a few cigarettes and had a big cigar, as she smoked two full-size cigars and had a cigarillo before bed. All told, she had smoked a lot of tobacco that day – six cigarillos and two cigars.
Susan essentially repeated her new smoking pattern the next day, with the addition of what she called a mid-afternoon “quick cigarillo.” While she remained committed to her goal, she told me that she missed being able to smoke as often, given that cigars and cigarillos can take a while to smoke. So, as she put it, she had to deal with some cravings, but not nearly as bad as she thought a full-on withdrawal from cigarettes would be.
After the late news Susan put out her cigarillo and said she was going to bed. I told her I was going to have a cigarette and then I’d see her in the bedroom.
Susan smiled at me. “Stan, remember we said we could have cigarettes after sex? I think you should bring your pack to the bedroom, if you know what I mean,” she said with a wink. While we both enjoyed making love that night, I think Susan may have enjoyed her post-coital cigarette more – she smoked it with double-pumps and jaw-dropping puffs, and barely took a non-smoking breath until she snuffed it out, smoked down to the filter, while I was barely halfway through mine.
Wednesday saw Susan still on her cigarillos and cigars, and she seemed comfortable and without any cigarette withdrawal challenges – although

admittedly, I only saw her in the mornings and evenings when she could easily have either a cigarillo or a cigar.
The worm turned on Thursday, though. Susan called me at work to tell me she was in the middle of a work project and would be home a little late, so I made dinner for us both. I was just about done preparing it when she came home and gave me a kiss before changing into casual clothes – and I was pretty sure I smelled cigarette smoke when she kissed me. I decided not to say anything.
After dinner, Susan and I cleaned up the kitchen a bit before I grabbed my cigarettes and went out to the patio – I was trying to avoid smoking in the house, even in areas where we’d agreed we could smoke, to avoid tempting her. I had barely lit up a Benson & Hedges when Susan was by my side, Virginia Slim 120 dangling from her lips and a mostly-full pack in her hand.
“Just light me up and I’ll explain,” Susan said. I did as she asked, and the tip of the ultra long glowed red as she puffed deeply. She inhaled deeply and then let the smoke leisurely escape her mouth.
“So, I didn’t say anything at dinner about this, but I messed something up at work,” she said before taking another puff. “No one was mad at me or yelled at me or anything, but it’s something I should have caught on my part of the brief a bunch of us are working on. I fixed it when it was pointed out to me, and it wasn’t something that was the end of the world, but a basic research error that I know how to avoid. I felt foolish. I hate making simple mistakes that other people can catch. And I got upset,” she said through a talking exhale.
“I left work tonight and all I wanted was a cigarette. That’s all I could focus on, all I could think about. I went to a park near work and I had a cigarillo, thinking it would help. But it didn’t. I still wanted a cigarette, like, desperately,” she said before taking another long puff. “I tried to listen to music in the way home, and even had another cigarillo in the car, to try to get back under control. But it didn’t work, and I just got more desperate. I was thinking of which exit had a gas station I could get into quickly to buy some when I remembered that discount tobacco store just off the highway that you always go to.”
“I made a beeline to get there, Stan, even getting on the frontage road when the highway backed up and I was still an exit away,” Susan said, tapping a long ash off her cigarette. “I practically ran into the store when I got there. I bought a whole

carton, got back in the car, and smoked four cigarettes in a row right there in the parking lot.”
Susan began to cry as she took another puff. “And then when I got home I thought, okay, maybe that was just one slip up, you know? I thought I could have a cigarillo after dinner and get back on course. I didn’t want to talk about it after dinner, but all I was thinking about was having another cigarette after we ate.” Susan started crying more. “I’m such a loser.”
I put my cigarette in the ashtray and gave her a big hug, inadvertently catching part of her exhaled cloud of sweet Virginia Slim smoke. “Oh, Susan, it’s okay, baby. You quit cigarettes all at once. That’s hard to do. Everyone who smokes is very sensitive to stress when they try to quit. You can try it again, or maybe cut down on cigarettes more first before switching fully to cigars. Maybe it has to be more gradual,” I said.
Susan nodded and I could tell she was feeling a little better – perhaps just talking it through was helping. I tried humor to lighten her mood a little more. “Do you know what Mark Twain said? He said quitting smoking is easy, and he knows because he’s done it a thousand times.”
Susan chuckled a bit and her crying stopped. “Maybe you’re right, Stan. Maybe I have to cut down more before I can get off cigarettes entirely,” she said. Now that she was figuring out a way to attack her problem, her mood improved. “Maybe I need to say I’ll smoke fifteen cigarettes a day instead of a pack a day, like I was.”
“Or maybe say a half a carton a week, which is about the same number. Or a carton every two weeks,” I offered. “This way you have some control over how much you smoke on a given day, without having to count every cigarette. If you feel like smoking ten cigarettes a day, great. Or if you need twenty, that’s fine. Just keep it to that outer limit of a carton every two weeks.”
“You know, that makes sense. I can see how much I’ve smoked as I go through the week, and pace myself,” she said, perking up now that she was landing on a solution. “And I’ll be smoking less. And then when I am ready, I can cut down more. So, numbers guy, what’s the next step after a carton every two weeks?” Susan asked.

“Uhh, let’s see, a carton every three weeks is a little less than ten cigarettes a day,” I said, demonstrating some quick math skills. “So you get to that level, and you’re almost a light smoker, less than half a pack a day.”
“I like it. I can do this. Although right now, I need another cigarette,” she said, pulling out a fresh Virginia Slim from her pack. I gave her a light, and she puffed and inhaled.
Through a talking exhale, she asked, “So, are you ashamed of me? I set out to do this and, what, four days later it was a massive failure.”
“Oh, no, hon, not at all. It’s hard to quit. We’re both smokers and we’ve talked about nicotine addiction. I’m definitely hooked too,” I said.
“I know. Okay. As long as you’re alright with this. I have a feeling it’ll be easier for you to quit when your day comes – I saw a study that said it’s much harder for women to quit than men,” Susan said.
I let that go, as I didn’t want to think about quitting or cutting down on my own cigarette habit. Susan kept to her new arrangement, however, settling in pretty quickly at about a carton every two weeks. She still enjoyed cigarillos and a big cigar at night, but she was comfortable with the progress she was making against her cigarette addiction.
Chapter 14: Mindy
One Monday evening later that summer, Susan and I were in our cigar room. There was a heavy thunderstorm and tropical-level rains passing by overhead, but we had the French doors open to the pool deck to let in the rain-cooled air. And let the thick smoke from our La Gloria Cubanas blow out.
Susan’s cell phone rang. She looked at it quizzically and asked, “Why is my mom calling me at nine o’clock at night?” Susan answered.
“Hey Mom, how are you?” Susan asked. After a pause, Susan said, “Oh my God, that’s terrible. I mean, we all knew this was coming, but not this soon.” They talked for a while more, and from what I heard of Susan’s end of the conversation, Susan’s Aunt Mindy had passed away. She’d had emphysema for some time, and Linda had often invoked her older sister’s illness in her arguments to get Susan to quit smoking. The funeral would be that coming Friday in the small town where

Linda grew up, about three hours or so north of Houston. Tom was in New York all week for an arbitration hearing, and apparently couldn’t get out of it.
“Of course I want to go,” Susan told her mother at one point “She was always really good to me. I’ll see if Stan can go too, and will let you know. Even if he can’t, you and I should drive up on Thursday night and come back on Sunday so we can spend some time with the family,” Susan said. Susan wrapped up the call with her mom by telling her how sorry she was at the news of Mindy’s death.
Susan and I talked over the plans. I was pretty sure I could take Thursday and Friday off from work, and Susan’s summer job was nearly wrapping up so she was able to take those days off as well. We decided to pick up Linda and start our drive on Thursday around noon, to avoid rush hour and try to spend some more time with Linda’s family.
After we finished our cigars, I lit Susan’s long Virginia Slim. She took a puff and held the cigarette out between her fingers. “And I’m going to have to talk with my mom about these things,” she said, exhaling. “I am not going to put up with a constant lecture for four days about smoking. I’m just going to have to ask her for a truce. Yes, Mindy had emphysema, and yes, smoking caused it, and yes, it killed her. I know that. I just don’t want to hear about it non-stop, especially since the woman who will be lecturing me will have a cigarette in her hand.”
Thursday arrived. We loaded up my SUV and got to Linda’s house around noon. I loaded Linda’s bags in the back of the car, she got in, and we were on our way.
We were barely out of Linda’s driveway when Susan asked for a truce about her smoking. From her passenger seat next to me, Susan turned around to face her mom. “Mom, can we talk about smoking for a minute? I just want to be honest with you. I know Mindy died of emphysema and she got it from smoking, and I know about your charts and about quitting. But you and Stan and I all smoke, at least for now. I really don’t want you on my case about smoking this whole trip. Can we just agree, up front, that no one in this car is going to nag anyone else about smoking at all? Because I am about to light up and I just wanted to put this out there to see if I can do that without you getting on my back about it,” Susan said, trying hard to stay calm.
Linda sighed. “You know, Susan, yes, in fact we can. I’ve been smoking like a fiend all week since my sisters called to tell me Mindy had died. And don’t think it’s not lost on me that I am trying to get you to quit while I’m still smoking. I

understand irony, or maybe it’s hypocrisy. So for this weekend, we can just smoke in peace and not judge each other,” Linda said. Either she was exhausted from grief or just didn’t have the strength to battle her daughter all weekend – whatever it was, there was finally going to be mother-daughter peace about Susan’s smoking, at least for four days. I was relieved.
“I especially can’t lecture you when we’re going to Mindy’s funeral and I’m smoking these. This was her brand,” Linda said. In the rearview mirror, I saw that Linda was holding up a pack of Saratoga 120s. “Do you remember these, Susan? I smoked them for a while when you were in high school. Mindy introduced me to them, and I loved them and wanted you and me to switch from Winstons to these so we could start to quit. But you didn’t think it was cool to smoke a long cigarette, so you switched to Marlboro Lights.”
I caught a quick glimpse of Susan grinning as I drove down the road. She was, I was sure, trying to hide her annoyance with her mother. Susan hated to be reminded of things she knew very well – she never “suffered fools lightly” – and she definitely remembered the start of her mother’s switch-down-and-quit efforts when Susan was a high school sophomore. She also remembered very well telling her mother that there was no way she was going to smoke Saratogas with her high school friends.
All the same, her mother had agreed to back off on her smoking for the weekend, and Susan didn’t want to give up that victory, so she played along. “I remember something about that, Mom. I remember you really liked the taste of them, and they had less tar and nicotine than your Winstons,” Susan said.
“Well, they’re still pretty strong. About as much tar and nicotine as your Virginia Slims, according to my book – but enough about that for this trip. I saw these in the store this week and I was thinking about Mindy, and how much we both liked them. So I treated myself to a carton for old time’s sake,” Linda said. She held the pack toward Susan. “So, do you want one? Maybe now that you’re not a high school girl but a married, professional woman getting a law degree, you won’t think it’s not cool to smoke one of your mother’s long cigarettes, especially since you’re now a fan of the longer ones yourself.”
From a quick glance at the pleasantly surprised look on Susan’s face, I think Susan saw the proffered pack of Saratogas in the spirit I think Linda intended it – something of a peace offering, maybe even a sign they could come to terms about their own smoking habits for longer than just this trip. Even if it wasn’t that much,

Linda was making a gesture of respect to her daughter by acknowledging that she was a grown, married woman starting on a professional career.
“I’d love to try one, Mom. Thanks,” Susan said, and pulled a Saratoga out of the pack. Linda leaned forward with her lighter to light her daughter’s cigarette and then her own. Susan nestled back in her passenger seat and opened the window a little bit as Linda opened her backseat window a little as well. For about a minute, mother and daughter sat quietly and puffed on their Saratogas. I aimed the car toward the highway that would take us north into the Texas rural prairies, wondering what these women were thinking.
Susan broke the silence. “I really like these,” she said, exhaling somewhat toward the window. “They have kind of a full, rich taste. It’s heard to define, I guess. But it’s closer to the complexity of taste you get from a cigar. Not nearly that complex, or spicy. But there is some flavor in these.”
“I know, right? You can really taste it,” Linda responded. “Like I said, I got a full carton, so if you want a pack, I’ll give you one.”
By now, the car was getting smoky despite the windows being cracked, as I had joined the cloud with my own Benson & Hedges smoke. “Wait, do I believe what I am hearing? Susan and her mom are not arguing about smoking?” I laughed.
Susan rolled her eyes as Linda laughed, which led to a small and short fit of coughing. She lowered her window a bit more.
“Just for this weekend, my favorite son-in-law. Just for this weekend. Then we’ll all have to quit,” Linda said when she recovered from her cough. She took a puff on her Saratoga. “For now, we can smoke,” she said pensively through a talking exhale. “And think about Mindy. She was such a great sister. But smoking, boy, could she smoke. She started when she was about ten – let’s see, she was three years older than me, and I was born in 1955, so that must have been 1962. Everybody smoked then and nobody said it was bad for you or anything. And our parents smoked at least two packs a day each, so they weren’t really setting any other examples for us, I guess,” Linda said, pausing to take a long puff on her cigarette.
“Wait, Grandpa Bob smoked?” Susan said. “I didn’t know that. I remember Grandma Dorothy smoking like a chimney, but not Grandpa Bob.”

“Oh yeah, he was a Lucky Strikes man for sure,” Linda said. “Something he picked up when he was in the service during the Korean War. Your grandmother had started when she was a teenager, but your grandfather didn’t start until he was in the Army. Now, Susan, you were too young to remember this but when you were about three – and your grandfather was, I think, somewhere in his early fifties – he had a massive heart attack. He almost died, they said. They had to bring him to a hospital in Dallas, which was a big deal in those days from where they lived. And they told him if he ever smoked again he’d be a dead man. So he gave them up, right then and there, and never smoked a cigarette again. And he lived twenty more years, at least; he died in his seventies.”
“Now, your Grandma Dorothy, she was a hardcore smoker. She must have smoked three packs a day of Pall Malls on some days. Those were unfiltered. And she was one of those people who just didn’t believe smoking could be bad for you. Even after my father’s heart attack, she blamed it on the stress he was under running his machine shop business. She kept smoking even after they told her she had lung cancer that had spread to her bones,” Linda said, blowing smoke towards the window opening.
“I remember that,” Susan said. “I remember going to her funeral, I must have been about fourteen. I had been smoking a couple of years by then, and I remember you giving me the health lecture about how smoking had killed Grandma Dorothy. But I also remember thinking that she was so, so old, or seemed so old to me. And absolutely everyone in your family was smoking after the funeral, so I remember thinking, c’mon, if no one is afraid of something that might kill you when you’re in your sixties, then why should I be?” Susan took a puff on her Saratoga, now nearly finished.
“Ha! That’s true. My family doesn’t learn. You’ll probably see my two other sisters, and their husbands, and almost all your cousins puffing away on cigarettes. Although your Uncle Jim, Aunt Mary’s husband, has kicked cigarettes by getting really into cigars, so you two will have something to talk about with him,” Linda said, crushing out her Saratoga in the back seat ashtray. “Here, Susan, if you like Saratogas, take these,” Linda said, pulling two packs from her purse and handing them to Susan. “I still have several packs of these to smoke or give to you if you want them. But I brought a lower-tar and nicotine brand to smoke too, because I don’t want to get pulled too far off my quit path.”
A “quit path” with no apparent end in sight, I thought. More like a quit odyssey. All the same, I was surprised at how well the two women in the car with me were

getting along when they were talking about the controversial topic of their smoking habits.
Susan, also a little surprised, thanked her mother and put the two packs of Saratogas in her purse on the floor at her feet. “I do remember all my cousins smoking at our wedding. Amber especially, she and I each finished a pack of Virginia Slims at the reception alone. I remember hanging out with her after Grandma Dorothy’s funeral and thinking she was my age, fourteen or fifteen, and she was easily a pack a day smoker even back then,” Susan said.
“Well, Amber might be the non-smoking exception among your cousins, actually. She’s chewing nicotine gum now. According to your Aunt Mary, she has some big news she’s excited to share with you,” Linda said with a smile.
“She’s pregnant? Really? That’s great – I remember she told me at our wedding that she and Kevin had bought a house and were going to start a family. I guess they are. I don’t know why else Amber would ever quit smoking,” Susan said.
The three of us continued our journey north past the outlying suburbs and into farm-and-ranch, rural Texas. Over the next hour or so, we essentially chainsmoked and chatted amiably – me with my Benson & Hedges, Susan switching between her Virginia Slims and the Saratogas her mom had given her, and Linda in the back seat smoking Saratogas and occasionally pulling an all-white 120 from her purse that I couldn’t identify.
After a short stop to get gas and use the restrooms, we got back in the car for the remaining hour-and-half drive. “Mom, do you mind if Stan and I smoke cigars in here? If it’s too strong, just say so, and we’ll put them out,” Susan asked her mother.
“Oh no, honey, of course not,” Linda answered. “You know I never mind that smell. And your father is so happy he has a hobby he can share with you two. He’s really into his cigars. I’m happy too, since I know you’ll use them to cut down on cigarettes.”
“Thanks, Mom. We both really enjoy them,” Susan said. “It’s something we can do together,” she said, preparing to carefully cut two La Gloria Cubana cigars she’d retrieved from a small travel humidor we had picked up at the cigar show we went to some months back. She cut the end off one cigar, toasted the foot, lit it, puffed on it to get it burning, and handed it to me.

“Wow, she lit your cigar for you, Stan,” Linda said. “I think that means she’s a keeper!” Linda said with a laugh.
Susan finished lighting her own cigar. “Oh, I’m a keeper, alright. How many wives encourage their husbands to buy expensive cigars?” she laughed.
“Or, better yet, just go and buy the expensive cigars for themselves and their husbands?” I interjected.
Susan and I had finished our cigars not too long before we pulled into the little town where Linda grew up. There’s a lot of places like this in Texas and around the country: fewer than 10,000 residents, so everyone knows each other; farming, light industry, and government provide most of the jobs; high school football is a big deal; and a quasi-preserved downtown block or two memorialize for all time the days when the town had a bright future. This is not a commentary on the people who live in these towns or their values or their way of life. Just an observation that for many of these places, the future is not extremely bright. That’s not to say the present – a quieter pace of life with less traffic and none of the annoyances of city life – is necessarily a bad thing.
Linda commented on the few things that had changed, and the many that hadn’t, since she had married Tom and moved away to Houston. She’d been back here to visit family many times over the years, of course. But something about coming back to her hometown for her sister’s funeral was bringing her on a trip down memory lane.
We drove around the town – which wasn’t a long drive at all – because Susan and I liked hearing her stories before we headed to our motel, a mid-priced chain one near a minor highway. Linda was tired from the drive, or perhaps a little emotionally overwrought from her sister’s death. Either way, she went to her room to lay down, and after Susan and I unloaded our bags into our room, we walked into the nearby little historic downtown to kill a couple of hours before we were to meet up with Susan’s extended family for dinner.
We browsed in a couple of little stores before going into a small corner bar, empty in the hot mid-afternoon except for the bartender. As she sat at the bar, Susan pointed to the large, black plastic ashtray on the bar in front of her. We’d gotten used to its clones disappearing from Houston bars in the wake of the city’s anti- smoking law, whose imminent effect was causing most Houston restaurants to

already go smoke-free. “We can smoke in here,” Susan said, a note of excitement in her voice.
“You sure can,” said the bartender, a tall, amiable fellow who was probably about fifty years old. “I take it you’re not from around here, but welcome to you, all the same,” the bartender said with a smile. “Are you just passing through? And what would you like?” he asked.
“Actually, my mom grew up here. We came up for my aunt’s funeral tomorrow and thought we’d do some day drinking before it,” Susan said, laughing as she pulled a pack of Saratogas from her purse.
“Wait, you must be Mindy Johnson’s niece, then?” the bartender asked. I remembered then we were in a small town, where everyone knew, or knew of, everyone else, and individual births and deaths were still big events. “I thought her funeral was this weekend, but I didn’t know it was tomorrow.”
“You knew my Aunt Mindy?” Susan asked, dangling her long Saratoga in my direction to have its tip meet the lighter I held out for her.
“Oh, sure I did. I’ve known her all my life. She was a few years ahead of me in school, but we have small schools here so everyone knows everyone. I’m Pete Elliott, by the way,” he said, shaking our hands. “This is Elliott’s Bar and Grill, which was my dad’s place, and now it’s mine. Someday it’ll be my son’s, he works here part-time when he’s not working in the distribution center up the highway. Welcome again! So, if Mindy was your aunt, and you’re not one of Mary’s or Debra’s daughters, you must be…Linda’s daughter? Linda who went to Houston, became a nurse, and married a lawyer?”
Susan exhaled a huge cloud of smoke and continued the conversation as I lit my own cigarette. “That’s me! I’m Susan Andrews, Linda’s daughter. And this is my husband, Stan. He’s not from around here,” Susan said.
“Well, Stan, if you’re good enough for Linda Foster –what is her name now, Linda Miller? – and her daughter, then you’re welcome around here. How about a beer?” Pete asked.
“Sure, Pete, a beer would be great. What do you have on tap?” I asked.

“On tap, only Lone Star, Bud and Bud Light. But let me guess, you’re up from Houston, you’re looking for something heavier, right? I’ve got Shiner Bock in the bottle. How will that do?”
“Shiner Bock is fine,” I said.
“Make that two,” Susan said.
“Coming right up,” Pete answered. We chatted with Pete for a while, and he shared some funny stories about growing up with Linda and her three sisters. Apparently, the four girls had done more drinking and partying in their high school days than Linda had ever let on.
“I knew my mom had a wild past. She just never talks about it,” Susan eventually said.
“Susan, almost everybody here had a wild time growing up, carrying on out on the creek, or up in somebody’s woods. But when we get older, we never talk about those things,” Pete said. “Except, of course, to the kids like you who come to visit.” Pete laughed as he walked toward the room at the end of the bar. “I’m going to grab some more bottles from back here. Just yell if anyone comes in.”
I lit Susan’s next cigarette. “Who would have thought we’d wander into a bar and meet a guy who knows all your aunts and your mom?” I said.
Susan took a puff and exhaled. “Stan, this is a tiny town. Everyone knows my aunts and mom. So there’s nothing weird about that,” she said. “What’s weird is these,” Susan said, holding up her pack of Saratogas. “My mom giving me cigarettes, and not nagging me about smoking? What did you think of that? For the whole drive? When she was talking about Grandma Dorothy’s lung cancer, I thought for sure there would be a lecture. But there was nothing at all. It was great.”
“I think she just has too much going on in her head with Mindy dying to focus on you for now,” I said. “We should just enjoy it while it lasts. You know she’ll get on your back again. But if we don’t have to worry about it for a while, let’s not.”
“Cheers to that,” said Susan, clanking the neck of her Shiner bottle against mine. “And let’s enjoy the rare treat of smoking in a bar that isn’t the La Casa de Habana. I still don’t know how they got grandfathered in to keep allowing smoking,” Susan said.

“I don’t know either. But cheers to them and to being allowed to smoke here,” I said.
We each had a couple more beers before heading back to the motel, freshening up, and then meeting Linda to go to dinner. The dinner was at a restaurant Susan and I had passed on our walk – only a couple of blocks from the motel – so the three of us decided to walk there. It was a restaurant Linda remembered from her childhood, the sort of place that becomes an institution in a small town like this more for its hospitality than for haute cuisine. “You’ll love this place, Stan. Everything is homemade. They’ve been making the same menu since before World War Two,” Linda said.
The restaurant probably had the same décor since then, too. Paneled walls, formica tables, and well-worn floors and chairs greeted us when we walked in. Linda’s family had reserved a big room in the back of the restaurant for the three sisters, their husbands, their kids, Mindy’s ex-husband and her two kids, and Susan and me. We walked in to find most of them already there, and were greeted warmly with hugs all around.
We were greeted smokily, too, by the thick cloud of gray cigarette smoke hanging in the air. The packs on the table proved what Linda had said: pretty much everyone in her family was a smoker. Mindy’s ex-husband Dan was smoking a Camel, her daughter Missy was smoking a Doral, and her other daughter Becky was puffing away on a Newport 100. Susan’s Aunt Mary had a pack of Saratoga Menthol 120s by her place, and Linda’s other sister – Susan’s Aunt Debra – had a pack of Marlboro Lights 100s by hers. Debra’s kids – Susan’s cousins Ashley and Brandon – were a little younger than Susan, but old enough to be smoking Misty 120s and Marlboro Reds, respectively. Debra’s husband Joe was a Winston man.
Aunt Mary’s family line had the only non-smokers in the group: while Susan’s cousin Brittany smoked Salem 100s, her other cousin Amber chewed vigorously on a piece of Nicorette gum for the reason we’d heard about in the car. And Mary’s husband – Susan’s Uncle Jim – wasn’t smoking cigarettes, so perhaps he had quit cigarettes with cigars as Linda had said.
Susan brought this point up with Uncle Jim after they’d exchanged hugs and Susan had regaled him with our tales of her life in law school and buying a house. “My mom says you’re into cigars now? So are Stan and I. We started smoking them in the Dominican Republic on our honeymoon,” she said.

“That’s great to hear! Yes, in fact, I’ve quit cigarettes for five years now, and I’m down to one cigar a day on weeknights and more on weekends. Are you following in your father’s footsteps and giving up cigarettes for cigars instead? Or do you just smoke an occasional cigar just because you like it?” Jim asked.
“I haven’t quit yet, I’m still hooked on these,” Susan said, pulling out her leather cigarette case and setting it by our places at the table. “Stan is too. But we’re definitely starting to use cigars to help us quit cigarettes, like you and my dad both did,” she said, clearly omitting any reference to her recent failed attempt to do just that.
“Just don’t drag it out. Set a date you can switch to cigars and just make the leap. You’ll smoke a bunch a day at first, but soon you’ll wean your way off of them. And then it just becomes a fun hobby,” Jim said with a smile. “That’s my advice. Some people just take years to quit cigarettes and they’re miserable about it all the time. Like, uhh, you-know-who over there,” Jim said, subtly pointing to Linda, sitting a few seats from us, having just lit up a More Light 120. Now I could identify the all- white Linda had been smoking in the car on the drive up from the pack on the table in front of her. Yet another brand to be ticked off Linda’s chart in her quest for low- tar, low-nicotine satisfaction.
“So, anyway, enough about that. What’s your favorite cigar right now?” Jim asked.
“On the drive up, we each had a La Gloria Cubana. I think that’s our current favorite,” I said. “But we like to try different brands.”
“That’s the best way to learn them, is to try them,” Jim said. “So, everyone is coming over to our house for a barbecue after the funeral service and I’m happy to pull some sticks out of the humidor for you two to try, if you’d like. I’ve had the La Glorias and may have a recommendation or two for you if you liked them,” Jim offered.
“Uncle Jim, that sounds great!” Susan said. Susan and I sat down and Jim returned to his seat. Susan’s cousin, Amber, was seated on the side of Susan opposite me. Susan was ecstatic to see Amber, not only for the news of her pregnancy that Linda had leaked to us, but because the two cousins were the closest in age and had been good friends growing up.
Susan and Amber spent a lot of time catching up, and Amber confirmed that she was, in fact, pregnant. Her husband had a late shift at a nearby factory and

couldn’t make the dinner, but was hoping to see the two of us sometime this weekend. Amber and Kevin seemed like a happy couple, excited for the birth of their first child. We talked about our common recent experiences – getting married, buying a house – and Amber passed on bits of knowledge she was learning about the fine art of being pregnant with one’s first child.
“Giving up smoking has been the worst part of the whole thing,” Amber said. “Kevin and I were each smoking over two packs a day. The doctors told us both to quit. So I chew this damn gum, which sucks, and doesn’t ever really get you over a craving. Kevin smokes these tipped cigars, which I used to smoke with him every now and then, but they don’t really tempt me. And he chews mint flavored Copenhagen, so kissing him is like kissing a spitting pine tree,” Amber said. “And worse than that, I’m pretty sure he smokes cigarettes with the guys at the plant. I always smell it on his work clothes and in his truck.”
“And then you come here, and people like me are smoking right in front of you,” Susan said, exhaling a cloud of Virginia Slim smoke. “I’m going to put this out, it’s rude.”
“No, please don’t,” Amber said. “I miss it and you should enjoy it while you can, because your day to be pregnant will come soon, I am sure. So smoke away. Honestly. Plus, it’s so cute that Stan still lights your cigarettes.”
“Well, still, I’m going to hold this over here,” Susan said, shifting the cigarette to her hand closest to me. “We’re both trying to cut down and switch to cigars before I get pregnant, which may not be until after I finish school so that’s a couple of years away. But it’s tough. You know that first hand.”
“Painfully, I do. I went from two packs a day to zero the next day. You are so doing the right thing by cutting down now. Maybe the gum won’t be such a pain in the ass for you two when you’re pregnant. But trust me, I miss it. If I weren’t pregnant, Susan, I’d be smoking one of those Virginia Slims right now,” Amber said. “Actually, I could probably smoke like two at a time right now! That’s been my brand since college,” she laughed. “Honestly, I want a healthy baby and this is the right thing to do. But when I come home from the hospital, I’ve already told Kevin to have a carton of Virginia Slims and a lighter ready for me, and an ashtray on the porch.”
The food came soon and we continued to chat over dinner. Linda was right – the meal was excellent. I had chicken fried steak, the sort of heavy food I would

generally avoid, but all of Susan’s family had urged it on me as the best meal in the county. And they were right.
After dinner, I lit Susan’s cigarette and then lit one of my own. Around the table, everyone was enjoying a post-dinner cigarette – except Amber, who popped another piece of nicotine gum, and Uncle Jim, who seemed smugly contented that he had already gotten off of the cigarette train and could wait to have his nightly cigar at home.
Susan had almost finished her cigarette when Amber leaned in to whisper something to her. They talked quietly for half a minute or so, and Susan put out her cigarette. She picked her leather cigarette case up off of the table and told me, “We’re going to the ladies’ room. Could you order me a cup of coffee, hon?”, before getting up and heading towards the restrooms with Amber.
They returned about ten minutes later and sat down. Susan put her cigarette case back in her purse and pulled out her pack of Saratogas, and enjoyed one with her coffee. Soon after that the dinner broke up. Susan and I walked a tipsy Linda – who had enjoyed some drinks along with her conversation with her sisters and family – back to our motel.
“Okay, so how big of a sinner am I?” Susan asked, when we got back into our motel room. “Amber is four months pregnant and she hasn’t had a cigarette in two months. She practically begged me to go outside with her and let her smoke a Virginia Slim behind the restaurant. And I did. I even lit it for her. In fact, I gave her the rest of my pack, maybe six cigarettes,” Susan said. “I’d entirely forgotten that she was a Virginia Slims smoker when I sat next to her at dinner. She said seeing me smoke them just pushed her over the edge. So instead of moving, or smoking Saratogas, or God forbid, maybe not smoking right next to my pregnant cousin, I went out behind the restaurant with her, lit her a cigarette, and then gave her six more. So just how horrible of a nicotine pusher am I?”
“Well, it’s not totally horrible, I think,” I said. “Yes, women who are pregnant shouldn’t smoke. But a cigarette here and there isn’t the end of the world. And she was chewing that nicotine gum all night, that can’t be the best thing for a baby. Look, women who are pregnant shouldn’t drink either, but there’s a world of difference, I’m sure, between a glass of wine once a week and drinking a twelve- pack of beer every day.”

And that’s how I felt. When Susan and Amber had left the table to go to the bathroom, I remember thinking it was odd that Susan picked up her cigarette case off the table, and wondered if she was going to let Amber sneak a cigarette.
Pregnant women smoking is an interesting, and from what you read in forum posts, divisive, issue in our fetish community. I’m not clearly on one side of the issue or the other, frankly. There’s no denying smoking is harmful for both mother and child. On the other hand, a pregnant woman smoking on rare occasions strikes me as supernaturally sexy: she’s bearing a new life for this world, and yet feels compelled to give in to addiction and pleasure – even if just a tiny bit. You may disagree.
But as Susan and I talked more and more about having children, I wanted to keep open the idea that she could smoke a little bit, if only to keep her sanity. And not force me to quit cigarettes entirely.
So, I was somewhat relieved when Susan seemed to accept my comfort that she was not a horrible person for letting Amber have a cigarette. “I guess you’re right. It’s how many cigarettes you smoke that matters, we both know that. So a cigarette here or there isn’t the end of the world,” she said.
Chapter 15: Amber and Kevin
We had breakfast with Linda the next morning. Susan’s cough – which had been getting better as she had cut down on cigarettes the past several weeks – was very present in force. She even commented on it to Linda, perhaps buoyed by the truce they had been enjoying. “I don’t know if it’s the Saratogas or that I smoked more than two packs yesterday, but I am totally coughing and phlegmy today,” she said. Linda, her mind really on her late sister or perhaps on a mild hangover from one too many drinks the night before, only noted that it could be allergies because we were far out in the rural part of the state where there was lots of pollen and dust in the air.
Each of us smoked a cigarette before getting into the car to go to Mindy’s church for the funeral. After we got in the car, Linda handed Susan and me two nicotine lozenges each. “Keep these in your pocket for when you need them. Pastor Smith can get long-winded and this could be a long service,” she said.
It was, indeed, a long service. Pastor Smith was long-winded, but the church was filled with Mindy’s family and friends, many of whom took to the pulpit to share

favorite stories about Aunt Mindy. The nicotine lozenges Linda had given us helped, however.
After the service, Susan and I went to wait by our car for the procession to the cemetery to be arranged. Susan pulled out a Virginia Slim and I gave her a light before lighting my own cigarette. As she exhaled her first deep puff, she said, “It feels weird to be smoking right after the funeral for someone who died from smoking But look around, Stan, absolutely everyone in front of the church is smoking.” Susan smiled widely at the absurdity. “This is proof of the power of nicotine addiction!”
Before I could reply, Amber had joined us. “Susan, I want to thank you so much,” she said, giving Susan a quick hug. “Our little walk last night let me have the first real night of sleep I have had in weeks since I quit smoking.”
“Well, Stan convinced me I wasn’t horrible for giving a pregnant woman a cigarette. We both think you quitting is the right thing for the baby. But that an occasional cigarette isn’t the end of the world. Remember though, I’m in law school and he’s in finance, so we’re not doctors or anything,” Susan said with a smile. “Wait. Do you need a quick puff? You can follow me to the other side of the car where no one will be able to see us.”
Amber nodded. “Yes, but just one quick one.”
I put on my imaginary “fetish sighting” cap and watched Susan and Amber quickly go to the other side of our car, where Susan gave Amber her Virginia Slim 120. As if she were smoking a joint, Amber held the cigarette between her thumb and forefinger, took a big, short drag which caused the coal at the end of the cigarette to fire bright red, inhaled, and held the smoke as she passed the cigarette back to Susan. She turned to look away from the car so I couldn’t see her exhale directly, but after what seemed like several seconds of holding, a huge plume of smoke caught on the breeze and blew away from the direction of her mouth.
“You two are the best,” Amber said when she came back to my side of the car with Susan. “Now back to this damn gum. Wait, you guys are coming over to our house after the cemetery, right? Change into something comfortable and come over. My dad has been smoking barbecue since yesterday. It’s going to be great and everyone will want to see you!”

“Oh, yeah,” Susan said. “Your dad is going to set us up with cigars. We’ll change and be over once we are done with the cemetery.”
“Dad and his cigars. Well, Brandon is going to set you all up with something else to smoke, so be warned. It will be fun though! See you there,” she said, as she walked away to join her family for the trip to the cemetery.
“What did she mean by that?” I asked.
“Pot. Brandon’s always been a big pothead. Would you want to smoke some – I know we’re not big pot people, but if we make my mom drive the car back, we can indulge a little bit. What do you think?”
“I’m fine with that,” I said, truthfully. Susan was right: neither of us were big pot smokers. We’d smoked some with friends a couple of times before we were married at parties, and that was it. Its effects on each of us were mild on those occasions: I got kind of mellow and contemplative, while Susan got a bit more chatty and sociable than her normal sociable self. I had noticed that each time we’d smoked it, though, she developed almost an overwhelming craving for nicotine and chainsmoked for several hours after smoking marijuana. As she was a pretty heavy smoker back in those days, though, I never saw a need to add regular pot smoking – with its attendant legal risks in conservative Texas – to our tobacco habits in order to see her smoke a lot of cigarettes.
After the burial, Linda, Susan and I changed out of our funeral attire and into more casual clothes and headed over to Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim’s house. They had a rather big, rambling house on ten acres of land not far outside the small town. Behind the house was Jim’s “workshop” – something of a catch-all term that described a large metal building in which he had smokers for smoking meat, kept the family cars, had a small “man cave” where he could smoke cigars and watch TV, and – in fact – had a small area with some power tools and a jig saw that made the building true to its appellation.
It was in front of this workshop that Jim and Mary spread the results of several hours of laboring in the kitchen and tending a meat smoker. Barbecue in Texas refers mainly to smoked meats, but also means an abundant feast coupled with a rollicking party. Both qualities were on hand to celebrate Mindy’s passing in style. Between ample, great food, a table filled with whiskey bottles and pitchers of margaritas, and what seemed to be several kegs of beer, the forty or some family

members and close friends would have several hours of fun eating, drinking, and socializing.
Susan and I ate plenty of barbecue and sides, and were sitting at a table smoking cigarettes with some of her cousins when her Uncle Jim came by. “Susan! Stan! Come by my workshop to get some cigars. I have some I think y’all should try.”
We finished our cigarettes and headed into Uncle Jim’s big workshop. Way at the back, facing a set of weathered but comfortable looking chairs and a big-screen projection TV, was a wall-sized cabinet humidor. The thing was huge – it must have held a thousand cigars – and was nearly full. Jim was showing it off to Susan’s other uncles when we approached and joined the group.
“Stan! Did you see this thing? I got this last year, at an auction of stuff from a cigar store a few towns over that was going under. It’s a monster!” Uncle Jim said, proud of his purchase.
“See it, Jim? I don’t know if there’s a way you can miss it. It’s great!” I said.
“My God, Uncle Jim, this is awesome. Tell us if you hear about another auction like that so we can get one for our cigar lounge!” Susan said – and I was kind of agreeing; we could probably fit a big cabinet like that in our cigar lounge, but I wasn’t sure we’d ever need to keep a thousand cigars on hand.
“Cigar lounge?” asked Susan’s uncle Joe, puffing on his Winston. “Stan, you’ve got a cigar lounge down there in Houston? Good on you, man. That sounds nice!”
“We call it a cigar lounge, Uncle Joe. But it’s really just a room out by the pool where we smoke cigars,” Susan said, emphasizing the “we.” “Stan and I have been smoking cigars for a year now, and we like them.”
“Susan, c’mon. You’re not telling me you smoke cigars, miss Houston Lawyer,” Joe said. “I don’t believe it. You almost never see a woman smoking a cigar anyway, they’re just too strong.”
“Joe, I don’t know, I don’t think you want to tempt this one,” Jim said, pointing at Susan. “Remember, this is Linda’s daughter we’re talking about. You know what kind of will Linda has when she puts her mind to something. If Susan wants to smoke cigars, she’s going to smoke cigars,” Jim said.

“Well, Linda doesn’t have much will when it comes to tobacco, does she?” asked Joe, in a clear reference to Linda’s multi-year “quit” of her cigarette habit.
“Look, Susan, I’m not trying to give you grief or anything. You do what you want to. It’s just hard for me to imagine my niece, who I remember playing on the backyard swings with her cousins Ashley and Brandon, like it was yesterday. I just can’t see you grown up, smoking a cigar. That’s all,” said Joe.
“Uncle Joe, Ashley and Brandon both smoke,” Susan said, giving back to Joe as good as she was getting. “So what’s wrong with me smoking?”
“Cigarettes, Susan. They smoke cigarettes,” said Joe. “That’s different. Cigars are all, you know, manly, er, masculine. I could see Brandon smoking one someday while he and I watch a football game. But not Ashley. I just can’t see it,” Joe said.
I wasn’t sure if Joe really thought it was unusual women would smoke cigars, or if he was just pulling Susan’s chain. Maybe he was a good actor and was just stirring things up a little bit. Maybe he was a fetisher and wanted to bait his pretty niece into smoking a cigar. I just didn’t know how to read Joe all that well.
Whatever Joe was trying to do, Susan was going to prove to him that she could smoke a cigar. She turned from her Uncle Joe to her Uncle Jim with a quick motion and assumed almost a courtroom-formality-level bearing. “Uncle Jim, Stan and I had La Gloria Cubanas yesterday, and you said you had something that you were going to recommend to us. What’s your recommendation and can we try it?”
“Uhh, sure, Susan,” Jim said, realizing he was now essentially going to set off a contest. “What I had thought was, since you liked the La Glorias, you and Stan may also like one of my recent favorites – the Joya de Nicaragua Antano. It’s got a similar flavor profile – spicy, rich, and complex. It’s got a real nicotine kick to it, but if you two handled the La Glorias, you can handle these. Just be careful between the drinks, sun, and strong cigars, that can be a bad combo out here on a hot day like today. But you two smoke ‘em, and I believe you, so I’m not that worried about y’all,” he said, giving his brother-in-law Joe a look that suggested he wouldn’t bet against Susan’s ability to smoke this cigar.
Uncle Jim opened his wall humidor cabinet, reached in, and pulled out two fat, five- inch-long Robustos. While Susan and I had tried a lot of cigars over the past year, I didn’t recognize the label.

Susan recognized the brand, though. “Wow, Uncle Jim. Thanks! You know, we’ve seen these boxes in our cigar stores in Houston, but the boxes are always empty, they seem to sell out of this brand quickly.”
“They do sell out. They’re popular. I buy them online and have them shipped here. I get an email when these come in, and have to move quick,” Jim said. “I like them, and I think you guys will too.”
Susan grabbed a cutter from a nearby table. Looking directly at Joe to demonstrate she knew her way around a cigar, Susan said, “You know, I think a straight cut is needed here given the size of this bad boy. Sometimes I like a V-cut on my smaller cigars.” Uncle Jim laughed knowingly at this reference to different ways to snip off the end of a cigar. Joe seemed unimpressed.
Susan cut the cigar, picked up a large lighter, and began “toasting” the foot of the cigar by swirling the flame gently around the edge of the wrapper. “Joe, so you know: usually Stan lights my cigar after I toast the foot. But to prove to you that a woman, and a woman who is your niece, can light a cigar, I’ll do this myself.”
Susan put the cut end of the cigar in her mouth and lit the other end, puffing vigorously to bring the cigar to life. She’d occasionally glance at Uncle Joe to see if he was watching, and indeed we all – me, Joe, Jim, and a few other various uncles and cousins – were watching Susan light this huge cigar. Susan finished the light, took a huge puff, and exhaled across the lit end as she inspected the burning end of the cigar to ensure an even light.
Susan took an even bigger puff, inhaled somewhat, and exhaled in Uncle Joe’s general direction. “Oooh, this is good, Uncle Jim. Very strong, masculine taste, Uncle Joe,” Susan said with a smile. “Stan, light yours, you’re going to love it.” I did, and quickly agreed with Susan’s assessment of the fine taste of the Joya de Nicaragua.
Uncle Joe shook his head and walked toward the backyard. “I need another beer. I never thought I’d live to see the day that any niece of mine would be smoking a fat cigar.”
Uncle Jim smiled at Susan, given Joe’s acknowledgement that he’d been wrong. “Well, with that, Susan, I think you and Stan should go mingle and enjoy those cigars. Let me know if you want anymore, as you see, I like to hoard them a little bit, so help yourselves.”

“Uncle Jim, a thousand-cigar cabinet is more than hoarding ‘a little bit,’ so we appreciate the ability to reduce your hoard a little today,” Susan said, emphasizing her Texas drawl as we headed to the backyard.
We spent a great afternoon, eating even more barbecue, smoking the Joya de Nicaraguas and then another one of Uncle Jim’s recommendations, drinking beer, and talking with Susan’s cousins, family and their friends. At one point while we were puffing on cigars, Linda pulled us over to meet one of her old friends, and introduced us as her “cigar-smoking daughter and her husband.”
Between cigars, though, Susan demonstrated that any limit on her cigarette smoking had gone out the window for at least this weekend. I was constantly lighting either a Saratoga or a Virginia Slim for her. At one point she threw an empty pack out of her leather case and retrieved a fresh pack from her purse. “Good thing this purse is big so I was able to bring enough cigarettes,” she commented.
At one point in the hot afternoon, Susan was smoking a Saratoga – I’d noticed that when we were talking to Amber, she wouldn’t smoke the Virginia Slims, presumably to avoid tempting her cousin into smoking again – when Mindy’s daughter Becky came over and sat down with us.
“Susan, I didn’t know you smoked my mom’s brand,” Becky said, pointing to Susan’s pack on the table. I wasn’t sure if this was the start of an anti-smoking lecture, because Becky was smoking a Newport 100. But I wasn’t sure where she was going with this.
“I remember smoking those in the bathroom. That’s how I started before I switched to these,” Becky said, acknowledging the cigarette in her hand. “But I am quitting. Starting on Monday. Taking care of my mom the past year was just too gruesome. Have you ever seen anyone die of emphysema? It was like she was drowning,” Becky said, ashing her cigarette. “Her cigarettes buried her, and I’m going to bury my smoking with her.”
“Sorry,” Susan said, crushing out her Saratoga and putting the pack back in her purse.
“No, um, I’m sorry,” Becky said. “It’s not about you, Susan. I’m a smoker too,” Becky said. “It was just seeing her brand – Mom’s maybe the only person I know who smokes – smoked – regular Saratogas, and so I saw them, and I thought of

her. And then I thought of emphysema, and watching her die. And that all just came out. But it wasn’t directed at you. Just at those cigarettes.”
Becky broke into tears, the grief still too raw. We spent a few minutes consoling her and then she went in the house, likely to freshen up and try to dry her tears.
“I shouldn’t have been smoking Saratogas in front of her,” said Susan, picking up her purse to get another cigarette – but watching Becky get well along on her walk to the house before she did so. When her hand came back out of her purse, she had a Virginia Slim – apparently she was going to risk tempting Amber instead of risking more reactions from the friends and relatives of a woman who died of disease after a lifetime of smoking Saratogas.
“Sorry to tempt you with a Virginia Slim, but I probably shouldn’t be smoking Saratogas right here,” Susan said to Amber as I lit her cigarette.
“Oh, don’t be silly, I’m fine,” Amber said, although she was staring a bit at Susan’s long cigarette. “And about what Becky said, she’s right, it’s not you, it’s just that brand. And Becky, she’s frustrated that she can’t quit. She’s been trying since her mom started to really go downhill last year.”
“But I helped Becky take care of Aunt Mindy as much as I could this past year,” Amber said, between chomps on her nicotine gum. “And I have to say, the last few months of Mindy’s life were pretty bad. She could barely breathe by the end. It’s got me thinking about trying to stay quit after the baby’s born, or maybe just smoke a little bit. Plus, after the baby, I want to go back to college and get my bachelor’s degree in nursing. There is plenty of work for me with an associate’s degree, but I can make a lot more money if I finish my bachelor’s. But so many hospitals these days won’t let nurses smoke on their breaks, and some say they won’t even hire people who smoke. So going to finish my degree and get a better job may kind of work with staying quit, I think. I don’t know. I have some time to figure it out.”
Susan exhaled a plume of Virginia Slim smoke from her lungs. “I don’t know, Amber. Going back to school hasn’t helped me quit. When I am studying for my finals, I smoke over two packs a day. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. Ask Stan, he’s the one who empties my ashtrays and keeps our house together while I am cramming for finals.”

“Amber, keeping Susan sane during her finals so she can get through them is important – for her mental health and my own,” I said with a laugh. “So if I have to empty her ashtrays so there’s more room for Marlboro butts, I’ll do it.”
“That’s how stressed I get during finals, Amber. I go back to my Marlboros. I’m a Virginia Slims woman most of the time, but during exams, I just need the Marlboros,” Susan said. “Do you remember we used to sneak your dad’s Marlboros behind his workshop? Right over there? That summer when I spent a few weeks with you all when we were, what, like eleven or twelve?”
“Oh, I remember,” Amber said. “Speaking of sneaking behind the workshop, do you guys want to sneak back there with me now? I really need a cigarette.”
Susan and I agreed, but surely for different reasons. Susan was trying to help a close cousin sneak a cigarette. I was trying to enjoy a nice fetish sighting with Amber – an above-average looking blonde. And if her huge puff from outside the funeral service that morning was any indication, she really knew how to inhale.
The three of us casually walked behind Jim’s workshop, attracting no notice among the partygoers. Once back there – amid some wood and brush piles and a couple of rusting oil drums – Susan pulled out a Virginia Slim for Amber and one for herself. I lit them up and lit up another Benson & Hedges.
Amber greedily double-pumped her Slim. “So, Stan. Back here is where it all really started for the two of us. We were maybe twelve. I’d been smoking a little bit, here and there, just to try it, for about a year. Sneaking my mom’s Saratoga Menthols and my dad’s Marlboros,” she said, exhaling a thin stream of smoke. “But then Susan and Jason come to visit us for a month that summer. I think your parents thought it would be like a country summer camp for you two, Susan. But there was nothing to do and we were bored out of our minds half the time. And all Jason wanted to do was read computer books and play video games and be left alone.”
Amber double-pumped again, and inhaled the smoke deeply into her lungs. “Anyway, one day the two of us are just playing, walking around here, doing nothing. And Susan asks me if I’d ever smoked. And I tell her, yeah, I can sneak my parents’ cigarettes and smoke behind the workshop. Trying to sound like the cool cousin, I guess,” she said, through a talking exhale. “So I got us a couple of Marlboros from an open pack my dad had left in the workshop, and a lighter, and we came back behind here.”

“I’d been really curious about cigarettes for a while. Both my parents smoked and I knew a couple of girls at school who smoked,” Susan said. “So, Stan, my first cigarette was smoked right here, in about this spot, if I remember right.”
And this, dear reader, was a key confession from my wife. As someone with a smoking fetish, I’ve often wondered about a smoking woman’s “origin story”: what was her first cigarette like? How did she get cigarettes, and where did she smoke them? What brand did she smoke? This fascinating discussion was answering all those questions for me, and I didn’t have to pry to get the answers.
Except, of course, for one key question. I went ahead and asked it. “So, Susan, did you inhale that first time you two smoked back here?”
Amber answered for her. “Oh my God, Stan, I taught her to inhale and she coughed so bad, it was hysterical!” she said. The two women started to laugh at the memory.
“I thought I was going to keel over from coughing!” Susan continued. “But by the second cigarette, I’d gotten the hang of it. I think when I went home at the end of that month I was already kind of hooked. I started sneaking Winstons from my mom and smoking after school for months, until she caught me almost at the end of the school year.”
“I got caught too, but I got caught in September, right after school started,” Amber said. “My mom was really cool about it, though. She said everyone in the family smoked and as long as I didn’t get in trouble at school, she didn’t think she could make me quit. She even asked if I just wanted to smoke those Saratoga Menthols that she smoked, because she’d just buy more of them for both of us. But I didn’t really like menthol, so she started buying Marlboro Lights for me.”
“And who wants to smoke Saratoga 120s when they’re in high school?” Susan added. “My mom was okay with me smoking her Winstons for a couple of years – she could kind of keep track of how much I was smoking, too. Like, if it was more than two packs a week, she’d make a comment. But then she wanted us both to switch to Aunt Mindy’s Saratogas as part of her switch-to-low-tar-brands thing. There was no way I was going to be smoking old lady cigarettes as a high school kid. So I threw a fit and my mom let me switch to Marlboro Lights, too.”
“And now look at us, we both smoke Virginia Slims 120s,” Amber said. “Not high school girls anymore! When did you switch to those?”

Susan gave me a sly look as she exhaled. “A little while before we got married,” she said. “I was looking for a different taste and now I like the length. It’s a little distinctive, a really long cigarette, but not in a way I wanted to be different in high school.” I greatly appreciated Susan leaving my fetish out of her reasons for switching.
“I get that entirely,” Amber said. “I changed to 120s when I was getting my associate’s degree. I just felt I could be a little more independent, a little different, in a way I couldn’t be in high school. And I like them better than Marlboro Lights,” she said. As if to prove her point, she took a big puff off her Virginia Slim.
“And,” Amber continued through a talking exhale, “Don’t tell him I told you this, but Kevin likes that I smoke the long cigarettes. He says it’s elegant and classy. It’s kind of cool, though. I’ve learned if I dangle a long cigarette” – here Amber put the cigarette in the corner of her mouth and dangled, a wonderfully sexy demonstration – “I can just drive him totally wild.”
“Really?” asked Susan, trying to add surprise to her voice and looking at me.
“Way too much information, right?” Amber laughed. “Kevin couldn’t get off work today but he’ll be here when his shift is over. He’s all on board with me quitting for the baby, but trust me, he’s not going to mind if I smell a little smoky when he gets here.”
I didn’t know Kevin very well, but he had always struck me as a nice guy. We came from different backgrounds and had different jobs; he lived in a small town and I lived in a huge city. But I’d enjoyed hanging out with him some at family events and talking with him a bit at our wedding. I now knew for certain, though, that he and I were both members of the smoking fetish community. We would probably never talk about this subject between ourselves, and he would likely never know that I shared his attraction for women that smoke long cigarettes. But we were two peas in the smoking fetish pod, for sure.
Amber took a long, cheek-hollowing drag off her Virginia Slim. Just then, her mother – Susan’s Aunt Mary – came around the corner of the workshop, burning Saratoga Menthol in her hand. “You two back where you used to smoke, huh? Back to the scene of the crime?” Mary said, laughing.
“I’m sorry Mom, I just needed one,” Amber said.

“Don’t worry, sweetie. I know how good you have been, not smoking for months now. It’s so hard to quit, too,” Mary said, taking a puff from her menthol. “I smoked with you and your sister and you’re both fine. I’m not saying it’s good to smoke when you’re pregnant, and no one made pregnant women quit back then. But if you have a cigarette every so often to keep your act together and keep your head on straight while you’re pregnant – especially since this is your first child – I think it’s going to be alright. There’s a lot worse things you could do to your body while you’re pregnant, that’s for sure.”
Later that day as the sun began to set, Jim and Mary put out even more great barbecue and sides. I have no idea how they were able to make so much food. In any event, everyone ate again and kept drinking. Brandon came over to where Susan and I were sitting as we were lighting our after-dinner cigarettes. “I have no idea if you two partake of anything stronger than cigarettes,” Brandon said, making an “OK” sign and holding it to his mouth in the well-known symbol for marijuana smoking. “But if you do, come by the far barn over there,” he said pointing to an old barn in a field behind the backyard. “I’m setting everybody up tonight,” he continued, smiling as he walked away to spread the news to other selected guests.
After a little while, we saw several of the other guests in our age group – 20s or 30s – head out to the old barn at the edge of the field. Susan and I refreshed our drinks and started heading that way too, joined along the way by Amber and her sister Brittany.
Brittany took a long puff off her Salem 100 before speaking. “So, Amber, if you have a puff out here tonight, I’m not going to tell mom on you.” She exhaled into the night sky. “I don’t know how Susan and Stan feel about it, but as long as you don’t get totally stoned, I for one am not going to get on you about it.”
“Thanks, Sis,” Amber said. “I don’t know. Maybe a puff. Kevin and I used to smoke a good amount of pot before I got pregnant, but I probably have no tolerance by now. Maybe one puff would be good.”
“I think Brittany is right. Not a problem for us. We’ll make sure you don’t smoke too much,” Susan said, as the four of us sat down on rickety old chairs around a very weathered, old table behind the barn. Other guests were crowded around a nearby campfire and, from the pungent smell in the air, were already passing a joint around.

Brandon came to our little foursome. “I guess the three of you will be smoking for four?” he joked. “Or maybe three and a third? A few puffs, Amber?”
Amber laughed and smelled the joint that Brandon put in her hand. “Oh, I miss this, Brandon. This is tempting. If any, it’ll be a puff or two. Is this still that great weed you have been finding yourself with for a year or two? This is good stuff.”
“Same stuff. Brittany, you know this too. For our Houston guests, Susan and Stan, welcome to backcountry Texas pot. Be careful with this. It packs a punch,” he said. “And for you, Susan, there’s no warranty on this, express or implied, and all that other good lawyer stuff.”
“And no rebroadcasting of any accounts of this game without the express permission of Jim and Mary,” Brittany said, paraphrasing Major League Baseball’s TV warning. She lit the joint and took a deep puff. “Holy cow, this is good. Here,” she said, handing the joint to me as I was sitting next to her.
As I mentioned, I’ve smoked pot on occasion, and Susan and I have smoked it together on a handful of occasions. So perhaps I have no tolerance for marijuana. Or perhaps I’m just getting older, or I inhaled too long. Either way, within about a minute of taking a huge hit, inhaling deep, holding the smoke, and passing the joint to Susan, I was beginning to feel some of the intoxicating effects of what really was, from my limited experience, some very strong pot.
Susan, Brittany and I passed the joint between us. Essentially true to her word, Amber only took three small puffs. I couldn’t really tell if the weed was having any effect on Susan yet, but my head was definitely reeling by the time Brittany put the tiny remainder on the ground and crushed it deep into the soil with her foot.
“I’m sorry to do this, Amber,” Susan said, dangling an unlit Virginia Slim and leaning toward me for a light. “But two things happen to me when I get high. I get super talkative, like now” – Susan paused for me to light her cigarette – “and I also get a super huge nicotine craving.”
“Thank you, my dear,” Susan said as I lit her cigarette. She winked slyly at me and, still dangling, took a super huge puff that made the cigarette jump toward the sky as it angled upward in response to her puffing power. Either she was being talkative and nice or she had taken note of how Amber described Kevin responding when Amber dangled her cigarette and wanted to tease me a bit. Either way, I filed the image away along with many other instant classics from that day.

Susan turned toward Amber, but put her cigarette in her hand farthest away from her cousin. “So, again, just a warning in case it tempts you, I’m going to be chainsmoking and talking. Basically, frankly, what I’ve done all day, just morer and higher.”
“Morer?” I asked. We all laughed. “Jesus, Susan. You’re high,” I said.
“In fact, Stan, yes, I am. That shit is getting me super high. And you are high too,” she said, correctly. “I can tell by your eyes. They get really wide. Still handsome, your eyes. But very big,” she said. She dangled her cigarette from the corner of her mouth and put her hand suggestively on my thigh. “Big eyes and all, you’re a sexy guy.” I knew she was high – that’s not the sort of thing she’d normally say to me, at all, in a group of people. But I also knew she was teasing me, and I liked that very much.
“Wow, Stan, you have to get Susan high more,” Amber laughed. “But Susan, really, don’t worry about it, smoke as many cigarettes as you want.”
“Amber, you’re very cool,” Susan exhaled into the twilight sky. “But actually I know I am going to want a cigar after this cigarette, a big cigar from your dad’s humidor, and just puff, puff, puff away on it out here where it’s so quiet and peaceful, and look at the stars as they come out.”
Susan took another huge puff on her cigarette, inhaled deeply, stared up at the stars beginning to come out of the growing darkness, and exhaled. “Okay, Stan, you and I are going to make our way down to the workshop to get some cigars from Uncle Jim’s humidor, grab some more beer, and come back here. Brittany, you keep Amber company?”
“Sure will, we’ll hold the fort,” Brittany said.
Susan and I made what seemed, in our altered states, to be a tremendously long walk back to Mary and Jim’s backyard. The other party guests – mostly those over 40 – were clustered up on Jim and Mary’s back deck far from the workshop, so we were able to go into the workshop without having to talk to anyone. That was a good thing in Susan’s loquacious state.
We walked to the wall-size humidor in the back. “Okay, so what cigars in here haven’t we tried, that we want to try?” Susan asked me. “Wait, you don’t think we’re being greedy, do you? Uncle Jim said we could smoke what we wanted, and he’s got hundreds of cigars in here. Right?”

“He did say smoke what we wanted. And your Uncle Jim is clearly a generous host,” I said. “Plus, honestly, Susan, I need a cigar myself. I am way high, and just want to puff on a cigar and sit with you and stare up at the stars. And we didn’t bring any, so now is not the time to get a conscious about it.”
“Conscious? It’s conscience. What did you just say to me out there? ‘Jesus, Susan is high’? Well, it takes one to know one,” she giggled. “Okay, let’s get some cigars and beers and go. Before anyone sees us. How about La Aroma de Cuba,” Susan asked, opening the case, picking up a cigar, and taking a light whiff. “Oh, smell that, Stan. That smells goooood.”
A bit paranoid, perhaps, about raiding her uncle’s humidor – even though he had, in fact given us permission – we talked over our selections quickly but carefully and quietly, like burglars in a jewelry store who only wanted to steal certain select jewels. Ultimately, we each picked out two cigars – a La Aroma de Cuba and a My Father – grabbed some more beer, and headed back out behind the barn.
After a short walk that again seemed interminable to us, we took our seats at the old table. Brittany had gone over to the bigger group of people by the campfire, so it was just Amber, Susan, and me. Susan and I lit our cigars and chatted with Amber – well, mainly, Susan talked with Amber and I listened, looking up at the stars and enjoying a nice, mellow high on a warm night.
I paid particular attention, though, when Susan offered Amber a puff of her cigar. “Stan and I are switching to cigars, like your dad did and my dad did, to help us get off cigarettes,” Susan told Amber. “No one is watching if you want to take a puff,” she said, holding the cigar toward her cousin.
I watched intently as Amber took the cigar with her own hand. “I’ve smoked a few of Kevin’s and I’m not a huge fan, but this cigar smells really, really good,” Amber said, before taking a small puff. She only inhaled a tiny bit of the smoke and slowly exhaled in a thin stream. “Ohh, man, that is tasty. I have to get Kevin to start smoking these instead of those tipped ones,” she said, passing the cigar back to Susan.
Susan kept puffing away on her cigar until it was a nub. And serious smoking too: her nicotine cravings, inspired by her high, were leading her to inhale much more cigar smoke than she normally did. When the cigar had burned down to the point it was about to burn her fingers, she extinguished it on the ground. Although we

had both lit the same size cigar at the same time, I was only about two-thirds done with mine.
Susan had barely exhaled the last cigar smoke from her lungs when she put the filter of a Virginia Slim 120 in her mouth and leaned toward me for a light. As she exhaled the first puff, she said, “I am so going to be coughing up a lung tomorrow. I cannot believe how much I have smoked today.”
“I don’t miss the morning cough. I was a two pack a day girl, I know what that’s like,” Amber said. “But I do miss the cigarettes. Can I have one more of these?” she asked, picking up Susan’s leather cigarette case from the table and opening it up. “Everyone out here is so stoned that I don’t think we need to creep behind the workshop. No one will care.”
“Sure,” Susan said, as I held out a light for Amber. “But will Kevin notice if you smell too smoky? I know you said he was alright with you smoking a little bit last night, but you know…there’s a little smoky, and then there’s really, stinky smoky. You know what I mean,” Susan said.
“Kevin kind of likes smoky,” Amber said while holding in her first big puff. She exhaled slowly. “Remember how I said he likes it when I smoke? Last night, he smelled smoke on me. He asked me if it was just from being at the restaurant with everybody smoking. I knew I could have said yes and he would have dropped it.”
Amber took another puff, inhaled, and continued through a talking exhale. “But I wanted to be honest with him, so I said yes, I’d had a cigarette. And he gets this twinkle in his eye, and he tells me he thinks it’s okay if I smoke a little bit, but not too much for the baby, all of that. Now, I could see he was getting turned on just by the thought of me smoking,” she said.
“Which, by the way, is way cool. I like that he tells me what turns him on,” Amber continued.
“But anyway, and here’s the thing. Stan, close your ears, this is too much for a guy to know,” Amber said. I put my hands over my ears, but loosely – I definitely wanted to hear this.
Amber looked at Susan. “So, the thing is, Kevin is one of those guys who doesn’t want to have sex with a pregnant woman. Some guys just don’t like it, they think it’s weird. And Kevin is one of those guys.” Amber took a puff and continued. “But I will tell you Susan, once I got pregnant, I got super horny. I think it’s the

hormones. And sometimes, honestly, I want to get laid so I don’t think about my nicotine cravings, and everything else we have to do to get ready for this baby.”
Amber took another puff before continuing. “So, last night, I see he’s really turned on by the thought of me smoking, and I figure, maybe I can get him so turned on he’ll get over this no-pregnant-sex thing he has. So I tell him that I have some more cigarettes. Don’t worry, I didn’t say I got them from you. But I said someone gave me a few,” Amber said. “So, I told Kevin it was good that he didn’t mind, because I’d like to have one right now. So we both go out on the patio, and I have a cigarette and he has one of his tipped cigars. And I dangle the cigarette a little bit, and blow smoke at him, all these little things I have learned that just make him super horny. And when the cigarette is out, I take his cigar and take a puff of that, which I think he kind of likes too. Then I grab his crotch, and he is absolutely like a rock. I mean, he hasn’t seen me smoke for months, so he was really getting into watching me smoke.”
“So, I just take him into the bedroom, take his pants off, and fuck him. And it was awesome. He didn’t say anything about me being pregnant. It was just great,” Amber said. “Just because I smoked a cigarette. So Kevin isn’t going to have any problem if he comes here and I smell smoky, that’s for sure.”
“Well played, girl! You got two things you wanted. To have a cigarette and get laid,” Susan said. “It’s actually not that uncommon. The smoking thing. A lot of guys think girls smoking is sexy. Hey, Stan, take your hands off your ears,” she said, tapping me on the shoulder.
Having heard the entire conversation, and knowing how high Susan was, I was afraid she was about to disclose my smoking fetish to Amber. But she didn’t.
“You can listen to this part now, Stan. Amber was talking about how Kevin likes to watch her smoke. Do you know guys who like that? I’ve heard of that kind of thing, but maybe you know about it from a guy’s perspective,” Susan asked me, taking a puff and winking quickly at me.
Susan was playing with me, but not cruelly. “Yeah, I’ve heard of guys who like that. Everyone has their own thing,” I said.
Fortunately, the girls changed topics to things less close to my fetish. Eventually, with the high wearing off a little bit, we made our way back down to Jim and Mary’s backyard and started mingling with the larger group.

Amber had gone off to go to the bathroom when Kevin arrived and came into the backyard. He poured himself a beer from the keg and lit a Tiparillo while talking with some of the family and friends.
Amber, coming back from the bathroom, crept up behind him and snatched the tipped cigar from his hand. Stunned, Kevin turned around – only to see his cute young wife taking a puff from his cigar. She inhaled quickly, exhaled, and handed the cigar back to him. Smiling, Kevin gave her a big hug – during which, I could tell, he was sniffing her hair a little bit for the aroma of tobacco smoke. Kevin was, I was becoming convinced, a fellow smoking fetishist.
Kevin and Amber mingled for a short time before saying their goodbyes and heading out to their car. Susan and I walked part of the way with them and then watched them go down the crowded driveway. Kevin opened the passenger side door for Amber and made sure she was comfortably seated before getting into the driver’s seat. “Kevin is quite a gentleman,” I noted.
Susan looked at me and took a big puff off her cigarette. She winked and leaned toward me to whisper in my ear. “Well, if he’s a gentleman, will he light her Virginia Slim after he gets her home and fucks her?” Clearly, Susan loved teasing me with my own fetish.
I decided to tease back, and leaned close to her so I could whisper. “Maybe he will. Maybe he should give her a ‘pedicure’ first. You know, I’ve heard some women just love to have their toes sucked on and their feet massaged. Do you know anything about that, from a woman’s perspective?”
“Ohh,” Susan said, smiling. “Now you’re playing my game.” She grabbed my hand and we went back into Jim and Mary’s backyard, where Susan and I each had another cigar. And Susan chatted everyone’s ears off. And, several times, she playfully dangled her cigar and exhaled smoke in my direction, and gave me a little wink.
Linda – who had been drinking very little alcohol that day because she’d woken up with a bit of hangover from the dinner before – drove us back to the motel at around eleven that night. “Stan, did you and Susan smoke pot with Brandon?” she asked, as Susan got in the front passenger seat and I got in the back seat. “You both seem a little high and I can smell it on you. And Susan, you are talking non- stop. I’m not judging, you’re both responsible adults. Just curious.”

Susan answered before I could in my mellowed state. “We did, in fact, partake, Mom,” she said. “We don’t do it often at all. We haven’t smoked pot in a couple of years. But it was good.”
Susan put the filter of a Virginia Slim in her mouth and struggled to light it, before I pulled together the ability to reach forward and light her cigarette with my lighter.
Linda found this very amusing. “Even a little stoned, your husband will light your cigarettes for you. He’s a real gentleman under all circumstances,” she laughed, as she drove the car down Jim and Mary’s long driveway.
“He is a gentleman. He’s a wonderful gentleman. And he lights my cigarettes, and I love that he does that,” Linda said, before exhaling a huge puff of smoke. “And here’s something else you and I both love, Mom. Our cigarettes. You and I are both totally, completely hooked on these. But we both could have quit if it was just about being addicted. Lozenges or hypnosis or whatever. But you and I both love to smoke cigarettes. Someday, yes, we will both finally quit. Stan too. But you and I, Mom, and Stan too – we all just love to smoke,” Susan said, before taking a huge puff. “You know it, I know it, the American people know it,” Susan concluded, somehow borrowing a phrase from former Senator Bob Dole in her very intoxicated state.
“I hate to admit this, but you’re right, Susan,” Linda said. “I love smoking cigarettes. I have always loved smoking cigarettes, from when I was starting to smoke back in these woods around here. I love them, but I know they make me cough and stink and wheeze, and they killed my sister. And they killed my mother. They might kill me. But I’ll be damned if they’ll kill my daughter. That’s why I am always after you to quit. But that’s a discussion for another day.”
There was a pause as we let Linda’s words sink in. “But for now, could you grab me a More from my purse, please? We’ll talk about our smoking later.”
With some difficulty, Susan got out one of her mother’s long white Mores, and I leaned forward from the back seat to give her a light. “Thank you, Stan. My favorite son-in-law,” Linda said, with a chuckle.
Back at the motel, Linda quickly went off to bed. I was worn out from the long day, but Susan was wide awake and very chatty – still, it seemed, a bit high, even thought it had been a few hours since we smoked pot. “It’s such a nice night out here. It’s not humid at all,” she said. “And, I want another cigar. Can we sit out

there, in those chairs, past the pool, and just have cigars?” she asked. “Plus, look here,” she said as she opened her purse, which held about four cans of beer. “Everyone was drinking from the keg and no one noticed that someone had brought a case of Shiner Bock and put it in a cooler under the drink table. I know you hate those lighter beers so I grabbed these for us.” Susan began to laugh hysterically. “And you always wonder why I carry such a big purse.”
We quickly picked up two more cigars from our travel humidor and went out to what seemed to be a firepit beyond the motel’s pool. It was a somewhat secluded spot where we could have our cigars and not bother anyone else. The night was still perfectly clear, with stars abundant in the rural Texas sky.
Susan chatted away as we smoked our cigars, but eventually began to get quiet as the high receded or tiredness set in. Either way, for a few minutes we just sat quietly together and looked at the stars.
Finally, she broke the silence. “So, again you’re not alone in liking women who smoke. Kevin too, huh?”
“I think that’s pretty clear.” I said. “Thanks for not talking about mine, though. I like to think things like that are best between a man and wife. I was a little surprised Amber was talking about what Kevin’s turn-ons are.”
“Me too,” she said. After a pause, she asked, “So, with your turn-on. What’s sexier, the Saratogas or the Virginia Slims? You know I’m always kind of curious about how this works with you.”
“It’s a fair question and I appreciate you asking. Actually, both are about equally sexy for me. The length of the long cigarette is the big deal for me, to be honest.”
“Fair enough, I guess. It’s your thing,” Susan said. “Because I might smoke the Saratogas for a while. I kind of like them. It’s weird, but they have sort of this nutty taste.”
“If you’re happy with them, I’m happy,” I said.
“So, you’d love it if I smoked either brand?” Susan asked.
I was starting to wonder where this line of questioning was going. “Yes, I would,” I said, before adding, “but remember, my love for you is for you, not you with any kind of cigarette.”

Susan took a puff off her cigar. “Would you have fallen in love with me if I wasn’t a smoker when we met?” she asked.
“Yes, I would have,” I answered, promptly and, I think, truthfully. “The smoking is just a sexual attraction thing, not what drives my love for you or why I married you.”
Clearly something was on Susan’s mind, but I didn’t want to dive deeper into this topic with her. Because I couldn’t see where she was going with this, but she appeared to be questioning the role my fetish played in the very foundation of our relationship. I was glad that the conversation stopped for a few minutes and we returned to puffing our cigars and looking up at the sky. Susan puffed away with vigor and inhaled deeply, the same way she had all night.
Eventually, Susan spoke. “After the cigarillo debacle it’s become clear to me I am going to have a really hard time quitting cigarettes,” she said. “It makes me wish my mom had made me quit when I was 14 or 15 at Grandma Dorothy’s funeral. If she had told me back then how hard it would be to quit, and told me about what poor Amber would go through, and now I’ll have to go through that when we get pregnant, I would have quit then and it would have been so much easier. And I’d be so much healthier.”
Susan took a short puff off her cigar before continuing. “And now I get why mom can’t quit after all these years of trying, Stan. I get it, because it’s happening to me now. I’m really getting scared to death that I won’t be able to quit for our baby someday, someday soon. I always thought it would be easy. And now I am just like my mom. I can’t quit.”
Susan put out her cigar on the ground and pulled out a Saratoga. She leaned toward me for a light, which I gave her. She exhaled her first puff. “And get this, too, Stan. This is how bad it is. These cigarettes” – she held out her Saratoga – “these cigarettes killed my aunt, and today we buried her. And I am so hooked that I’m smoking the exact same brand of cigarettes and thinking to myself ‘wow, these taste good.’ At the funeral of the woman these same cigarettes killed.”
Susan took another puff, surely smart enough to appreciate the irony of her conduct next to her words. But neither of us said anything. Given that my smoking fetish had been on her mind just a few minutes before she began to so openly rue her smoking habits, silence was my best course of action here.

“And let’s face it. My mom is not ever going to quit. And at the rate I am going, I may not ever be able to either. So, Stan, I might be smoking at my mom’s funeral when cigarettes put her in the ground. Just like she smoked at her mom’s funeral, and her sister’s funeral.”
Susan exhaled into the sky and turned to me. “Stan, I don’t want to be smoking at my mom’s funeral. We have to do something. I don’t know what it is. But we have to figure it out,” she said.
Susan looked pensively at the burning Saratoga in her hand. “I’ve been smoking for fifteen years, Stan,” she eventually said. “How many years since you started smoking?”
“I’m 34 and I started at 12, so 22 years for me,” I said, pretty sure this conversation was not going in a pro-smoking direction.
“Jesus, Stan,” Susan said. “Forget my mom’s funeral, I don’t want to be smoking at your funeral.”
I think Susan realized her last comment was a bit strong. As she put the Saratoga in her mouth and took a puff, she clasped her free hand around mine. She looked directly at me and through a talking exhale she said, “It’s both of us, Stan. Not just you. We’re both cigarette smokers and we both have to quit.”
After a pause Susan released my hand and set her free hand on my thigh right next to my crotch. Still looking into my eyes, she put the Saratoga in her mouth, took a deep puff, inhaled deeply, and slowly inhaled in my face. “Someday we have to quit,” she said, each word punctuated by bits of leftover exhale.
Susan grinned. “Someday. But tonight, this woman who is still, right now, a serious smoker is wondering exactly what she has to do to get a ‘pedicure’ in this town?”
Chapter 16: “Anything But Cigarettes”
After our trip to Mindy’s funeral, Susan didn’t talk much more about an urgent need for us to quit cigarettes. But she quickly cut her own tobacco consumption back down to her routine of smoking a carton of cigarettes every two weeks, with cigars and cigarillos mixed in when she had the time. And pretty soon she wouldn’t have too much free time: her second year of law school started a few weeks after we were back from the trip.

While she smoked Saratogas for the first couple of weeks of school, Susan soon went back to Virginia Slims 120s. Whether this change was a result of Susan putting her “brand image” over taste – she clearly liked the Saratogas a lot – I don’t know.
But I bet image, in some sense, had something to do with it. I noticed throughout that semester that Susan was becoming conscious of other people’s perceptions of her as a smoker in ways she hadn’t expressed before. She cleaned her car out more often, for example, saying she hated that her friends might get in it if “it’s all smoky and ashy in here.” She kept the doors open to our cigar lounge more often to “try and keep it aired out,” and she said we should both “smoke out in the cigar room more than in the main house.” Susan also commented on her favorite coat as she got it ready for the mild Houston winter: “I really need this dry cleaned. Do you smell how stinky it is? It reeks of cigarettes.”
This is not to say that Susan had not been image conscious before, and we were both well aware that as smokers, we were coming to be viewed as social pariahs in many settings. It’s just I had never heard her verbalize a concern about other people’s perceptions of her because she smoked cigarettes. Susan was really becoming anxious about what people might think of her if – from her car, our house, or her coat – they detected that she was a smoker.
Some of this anxiety stemmed, I believed, from the acceptability of smoking essentially ending with Houston’s law banning it in restaurants, most bars, and almost every other indoor public place. Other than the sanctity of our house – where even there, we didn’t smoke in most of the main house by mutual agreement – it was nearly impossible for Susan to find a place indoors that she could smoke. We went to La Casa de Habana a few times that Fall, as it had become a favorite spot and somehow was protected from the anti-smoking ordinance’s effect (perhaps because it sold cigars and was considered a “cigar store,” but we were never sure). But it quickly became clear to us that we were not the sort of people who enjoyed huddling outside the door of a bar or restaurant to smoke a quick cigarette if we didn’t have to, so we found ourselves staying home more than we otherwise would have.
It was, in fact, one night at home, over cigars, that I told Susan about a neat development in my career. That nice change that Fall led Susan and I to start something she came to call the “pipe experiment.” A colleague of mine was retiring and moving out of the area, and recommended me to take over an adjunct teaching position he had held for several years at a local community college. I’d

always taken an interest in my colleague’s teaching, thinking it looked like fun. The class was called Applied Accounting, and was meant to illustrate how business accounting principles worked in actual practice inside a business. It seemed interesting and would be a nice change; moreover, my bosses loved community participation in activities like this, as it polished the company’s resume as a community supporter. Susan and I didn’t need the money, but the position would pay about five thousand dollars for one night of teaching each week in the Spring semester, which I viewed as nice pocket money for doing something that seemed enjoyable.
“Wow. Do I have to address you as Professor?” Susan asked over our after dinner cigars when I told her about this side gig.
“Of course,” I said, exhaling cigar smoke. “And I’ll need to start wearing those tweed sport coats with the elbow patches,” I said.
“And a pipe?” Susan asked. “Are you going to start wandering the neighborhood, puffing on a pipe and extolling the benefits of an accurate general ledger to anyone who will listen?”
“A pipe? I don’t know about a pipe. Cigarettes and cigars are plenty for me. A pipe always seems like a ton of work. I had a roommate in college who tried one because he thought it was a hip thing to do, but he was always having to push down the tobacco, again and again, and work at it to keep it lit, and he’d have to clean it all the time. I’ve never tried one, though. Pipes and chewing tobacco always seemed a step too far. I tried chewing tobacco once and I hated the spitting part,” I said.
“Ugh, I know. I dated a guy in high school, briefly, who chewed tobacco. And one of the reasons it was brief was because of the chewing and spitting. It was disgusting. But the pipe, though, you might look kind of studly in an intellectual way if you tried one,” she said, with a thin smile. “I’d like to try it too, frankly. I’ve always been curious about them. Just to see what it’s like. Maybe next time we are at McCoy’s or one of those other cigar stores we can ask? I bet they have some kind of beginner’s kit with a cheap pipe and some tobacco we can try.”
I was game for giving it a try, and told Susan so. And on this point, I come to another issue in our fetish community: women who smoke pipes. Yes, there’s certainly some of us who enjoy seeing women and pipes – if the subforums and Tumblr postings of women puffing on a big Meerschaum are any indication. For

me, though, a woman smoking a pipe doesn’t push any triggers, and I can take it or leave it.
Except the famous Alexxya, though. Alexxya smoking her tobacco pipes is absolutely amazing. Then again, Alexxya could smoke almost anything – a corn stalk, an old stick – and I’d watch the entire video. So maybe it’s the woman doing the smoking, and not the tobacco instrument, that matters.
Either way, I was happy to indulge Susan’s interest in smoking a pipe, and willing to try it myself.
That Saturday we were out running errands. I’d thought Susan had forgotten about the pipe, but she proposed we stop by McCoy’s cigar store to see if they had any pipes fit for beginners. It was a little out of our way, but given that she was intrigued by the idea, we went to McCoy’s.
Of course, the knowledgeable people at McCoy’s – who had helped us find a lot of different cigars we never would have picked out – had an answer. They pretty quickly set us up with an inexpensive pipe and some tobaccos to try – one with some sort of aromatic smell and the other that was supposed to taste closer to cigars. One salesperson even demonstrated all the work involved in putting the tobacco in – several times, just the right way, followed by pushing it down – and the complex process of lighting it right. I was following the demonstration, but knew that Susan’s quick mind for processes was getting it all better than I was. Even more helpful was a Xeroxed sheet of paper the guys gave us with all the steps and little illustrations, sort of a “Pipes for Dummies.”
That night, before settling down in the cigar room to watch a movie, Susan said we should try the pipe out. She volunteered to go first, although we both carefully followed the instructions on how to sift the tobacco and tamp it down.
“Are you sure it’s ready?” I asked when we had completed the steps.
Susan already had the lighter ready to fire up the tobacco in the bowl, but she stopped to giggle at my question. “For Christ’s sake, Stan, it’s a pipe, not a rocket!” she said. “People light these things millions of times a day all over the world. We can figure it out. Okay, so here I go.”
Susan lit the pipe and puffed gently, bringing the coal to a gentle flame. “Alright, so the guy said to let this light go out and then we tamp it gently and light it again,” she said. “But what I could taste of it isn’t bad.”

A half-minute later, we tamped down the tobacco and she lit the pipe again. This time she puffed a bit harder and the tobacco in the bowl began to turn fiery red. Susan took a big puff, inhaled, and coughed. “Whew! That tastes good, but it is strong,” she said, handing the pipe to me.
I puffed on the pipe, gently at first but harder as I figured out its draw. It did taste good – but my instinctual inhale made me cough too. We smoked the rest of the bowl of tobacco that night, puffing gently and passing the pipe back and forth. By the end, we were each able to inhale a little bit.
Overall, smoking the pipe wasn’t a bad experience, but it confirmed my belief that it was a lot of work for the reward. And the satisfaction wasn’t immediate as it was with cigarettes, or even cigarillos or cigars.
Susan agreed. “I like it, but it can be kind of a pain. It’s sort of a special occasion thing,” she said.
We’d both try the pipe a handful of times over the next month or so, usually at Susan’s insistence. “Anything but cigarettes, Stan. I’ll smoke cigars, cigarillos, even this thing if it will help me get off cigarettes. And frankly the taste, even the aromatic one, is pretty good.”
The “pipe experiment” came to a sudden end, though, at the end of October – when Susan had to start studying for her finals in earnest. As if on cue, longer nights of studying brought her back to chainsmoking Marlboro Red 100s. But, just as quickly as they appeared when the stress of her finals loomed, the Marlboros – and the morning cough that she got from smoking two packs a day of them – rode off into the sunset as soon as exams were over. Susan had mastered the ability to cut back to her normal level of smoking, it seemed: for a few days after getting off of her Marlboros and back onto Virginia Slims, she’d puff pretty furiously on the Slims and inhale more than usual on her cigars and cigarillos. After that handful of days, though, her body seemed to readjust to need less nicotine.
That winter after Susan’s exams, the pipe made a return. I’d left it on a side table in our cigar room once Susan’s time got consumed by exams, assuming we had both lost interest. But one night in January, she pointed to it and asked when I was going to smoke it again.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “It’s kind of a pain. But do you want to smoke it?”

“Sure, let’s light it up. It’s not something I would do all the time, but to be honest you smoking it is an attractive look,” Susan said. “Not that it’s a kink thing or anything. It’s just like when you wear that really nice pinstripe suit. I just kind of go, ‘wow, he looks good.’ So, I definitely have no objection to you smoking it.”
Susan had retrieved the pipe by now, along with a little jar of tobacco and the tamper. “And, I don’t know, if it helps you get off of cigarettes, all the better, I think.”
Those were good enough reasons for me to put up with the pipe, at least some of the time, I thought. We shared the pipe that night and we’d occasionally smoke it over the next several years.
But mostly, beyond our cigarettes, our tobacco habit continued to grow around cigars. We both enjoyed trying different brands and ultimately kept our humidor full of both old favorites and new ones to try. We became semi-regulars at La Casa de Habana – even though it was quite a distance from our new place in the suburbs, we’d taxi down to it once a month or so for dinner and cigars in its cigar lounge.
Indeed, we were there one night after Susan’s spring exams were over when she announced she wouldn’t be allowing herself to use Marlboros to get her through her exams in her upcoming third, and final, year of law school. “I’ve had it with them, Stan,” she explained, as we puffed our cigars in the cigar lounge. “Those things just kill me anymore. My chest feels tight and I cough all day,” Susan said. “And my third year will be so much easier than my first two years. I really think I have figured out the law school exam game now. It was good to have them as a comfort, sort of a crutch, while I crammed for exams. But I don’t need the crutch anymore. And every time I chain smoke during exams, it’s such a pain to cut back down. So yesterday was it. My last Marlboro Red.”
“Well, that’s great, Susan. You have the grades to prove you don’t need the crutch anymore,” I said, as her grades were putting her on a path to graduate in the top ten or twenty percent of her class. “And you have the summer job that might become full-time after you graduate. So third year, you really just have to show up and keep things going in the right direction.”
“Exactly,” Susan affirmed. She’d lined up a summer job with the Houston office of a national law firm that had lawyers working in Susan’s rather specialized field of practice. A good word from Tom – who knew that firm well – may have helped her land it, but wasn’t necessary. Her grades, excellent law review note, and even

undergraduate courses had made her a perfect fit. If she did well at the summer job, longstanding practice in the law business meant the firm would likely make her an offer to join it as an associate after she graduated.
“I mean, really, if I get through this summer job and they make me an offer in the fall, then it’s just a matter of waiting out my third year until I get my diploma and take the bar exam,” she said. “I’m so excited. The partners I’m working for already send me articles in the field they think I’ll like.” Susan smiled. “I just have to try to not smell all smoky to put people there off. It won’t be like the civil rights clinic where I can just step into the back alley with other smokers. I bet most of them don’t smoke. I picked up some nicotine gum to see if that helps me get through the day.”
Susan soon learned there was at least one other smoker in the office. She told me this after her first day at work about a week after our night at La Casa de Habana. We’d had dinner and were enjoying cigars in the cigar lounge, and Susan was positively ebullient about life in a big law firm, telling me about her exciting first day in a non-stop fashion. She told me about the interesting work and the projects she’d already been assigned, as well as the magnificent firm library, her own office with a view of downtown Houston from the twentieth floor, how the staff insisted on calling her “Mrs. Andrews,” and the fountain in the lobby to impress clients.
“Oh, and get this,” Susan said, exhaling cigar smoke. “The main partner I am working for, her name is Laura. She’s an expert in this field. She gives lectures and writes papers all the time, and has so much more work than she can handle. And she’s only, like, forty years old, and she’s got to be making close to a million dollars a year. It’s insane. But the best part is – and this was a total surprise – she’s a cigarette smoker!”
“Wow. How do you know that?” I asked.
“We were working on a brief in her office,” Susan explained. “She’d asked me to do some quick research on one point for this brief she and her other associates have been working on for a couple of weeks. I think it was just a quick task to sort of test me out. It wasn’t really complex or anything, I think she just wanted to see if I know what I’m doing. Anyway, I found the research and brought it to her in her office, and we were editing the brief to fit in the research and talking about the case overall. And she goes, ‘This is weird and you can say no, but I’m one of the last smokers here and sometimes a cigarette just makes the writing go a bit better.

I’m going to the courtyard where I can smoke – do you want to come with me and we can keep talking? Or we can talk later?’”
Susan puffed her cigar and continued. “So, of course, I’m thinking, do I want to be known as a smoker here? Or do I want to have something in common with one of the main people I’ll be working for? So I sort of split the difference: I said I wouldn’t mind going out to the courtyard with her because I was a light smoker anyway. So we got coffee and went down to this courtyard behind the building.”
“And we talked about all sorts of stuff. She told me about how she got into this field and gave me advice on working with her clients. She’s divorced and doesn’t have kids, but she says it’s important to keep work and life balanced, that kind of thing,” Susan pointed out, pausing to puff her cigar. “But get this, Stan. She smokes 120s too – More 120s, you know, the brown ones?”
As someone with a smoking fetish, I am very familiar with More 120s, of course.
“I told her I smoked Virginia Slims, so she offered me a More, and I smoked it,” Susan continued. “It was pretty good, in fact. Remember I tried those before we got married and I thought they looked like a cigar? Maybe now I liked it because I like cigars, and I’m comfortable with that look. Who knows. Either way, it was great. Totally a bonding moment with a new boss, really. I got the sense not a lot of her associates or other partners smoke.”
“So now you have a smoking buddy at work?” I asked, somewhat intrigued.
“Not quite. It’s not like you can go out there all the time. And most of the people who work there don’t smoke, so I don’t want to be talking with people all smoke- smelly,” Susan chortled. “I told her how I want to quit after school, and how you and I are taking up cigars to get us off cigarettes. She laughed and told me she always planned to quit after law school, too, but now here she is fifteen years later. She liked the cigar idea though, but she joked that she’d have to be out in the courtyard all day smoking cigars if she was to try it.”
Laura continued to mentor Susan over the summer, and the two of them became close colleagues probably through shared outings in the smoking courtyard. More than once over the summer, Susan would smoke a pack of Mores in place of her regular Virginia Slims, explaining that the taste was growing on her.
Susan had a great summer working for the firm, and they apparently liked her. Not long after she returned to law school for her third and final year, she received an

offer to join the firm full time after her graduation as an associate lawyer with a six- figure starting salary. She’d liked the work and her colleagues, and it was easy for her to accept.
After she heard that Susan had accepted the firm’s offer, Laura reached out to her. Susan was delighted by the attention from her mentor. “Laura wants to take us to dinner to celebrate! She really wants to meet you because I talk about you all the time. I told her about La Casa de Habana and she wants to take us there,” Susan told me excitedly one night at dinner.
At dinner at La Casa de Habana, Laura couldn’t say enough good things about Susan. Smoking a More 120 after dinner, she said, “You know, Stan, your wife has all the makings of a real star. She’s very talented and bright. We’re so lucky she’s decided to join the firm.”
I beamed proudly, even though the compliment resulted from Susan’s talents and hard work. “I know. Even before she started law school, I was a lucky guy.”
We continued our conversation upstairs at the cigar bar, where Laura’s willingness to try a cigar was met with our recommendation that she try a mild-bodied, Connecticut-wrapped Macanudo. After a few puffs – during which Susan and I lit our own cigars and eagerly awaited her future boss’s review of her first foray into cigar smoking – Laura smiled.
“This is really pretty nice,” Laura said. “It’s very tasty. A real full flavor,” she explained, watching the smoke billowing up from the tip of her cigar. “It’s hard for me to believe sometimes, but I’ve been a smoker since high school, and I’ve made it all the way into my forties, and I’ve just never tried a cigar.”
Laura continued. “I was curious about them, I guess, but was always a cigarette woman. I started on Camels in high school, and I smoked them all the way through my divorce about eight years ago,” she said, before taking a small puff, tasting the smoke, and continuing as she exhaled. “Then, I was in a relationship with another woman for a few years” – she paused and looked into our eyes, likely to gauge our reactions to her homosexuality. Susan had suspected Laura was a lesbian, but even in the days before homosexual marriage was fully legalized, neither Susan nor I – having had homosexual friends before – were bothered by this fact about Laura.

Our eyes apparently demonstrated to Laura that learning her sexuality wouldn’t surprise or bother us, because she continued. “And my girlfriend smoked More 120s. I tried them one day and really liked them, so for a couple of years we shared the same brand.”
Laura took a small puff off her cigar. “But at some point I kept the brand of cigarettes and got rid of the girlfriend,” she said, laughing.
Laura seemed like a lot of fun, and was very smart and dedicated to her law practice. She was also genuinely interested in helping Susan start her career on the right foot. They kept in touch over Susan’s third year, with Laura occasionally emailing Susan articles and new judicial opinions about their field.
Over that third and final year of law school, Susan continued to keep her smoking habit at the same level as the year before – about a carton of Virginia Slims 120s every two weeks, with a cigarillo or two a day and a big cigar most evenings.
Susan’s exam periods her third and final year of law school only changed that habit modestly, compared with prior years. She kept her vow not to switch back to her Marlboro 100s during the fall and spring exam periods. She boasted occasionally to me about her ability to keep her habit from climbing in the face of the stress of exams, proudly telling me that she hated the way the Marlboros made her cough and wheeze in the mornings and was happy to avoid that – and that her smoking habit didn’t jump over two packs a day of them as it had before, but that she was able to keep it to a pack a day of Virginia Slims and her cigars and cigarillos.
As proud as she was at keeping her cigarette habit within the boundaries she’d set for it, Susan was justifiably more proud when she graduated law school in the top ten percent of her class. Tom, Linda, and I were also beaming with pride as we watched her walk across the stage and receive her law degree. Once she passed the bar exam that summer, she’d have reached her goal of becoming a lawyer – a goal she’d had since she started college.
After the ceremony, the four of us went to La Casa de Habana for dinner followed by some time in the cigar lounge. A great souvenir of that night – framed and hanging on the wall in our house, in fact – is a picture Tom took of Susan and me, leaning in toward each other to face the camera, and dangling big cigars. It’s a favorite of mine to this day. If it didn’t contain my own pretty wife, I would have

uploaded that picture as one of the “grads” examples in “Cigar Smoking – All Mixed Up.”
If that picture was one highlight of a great day of celebration with many great moments, a comment Linda made was the low point. After we’d been seated for dinner, Linda lit up a Carlton 120s and Susan opened her leather cigarette case and pulled out a Virginia Slim. As I lit Susan’s cigarette, Linda pointed to Susan’s leather case. “You know, Susan, these really have to go,” Linda said through a talking exhale. “Starting today, school is behind you and you’re in the motherhood phase of your life. It’s really time for you to quit cigarettes for good, don’t you think?”
Susan glared at her mother as she exhaled her first puff. “Mom, really. I just graduated law school and I’m about to become a lawyer. That’s what today is about. That’s what we’re celebrating,” she said, icily. “And all you see in me is a vessel for your grandchildren.”
Tom and I, realizing this conversation could get very hot, very fast, quickly and successfully steered the conversation to other topics. Susan was right – this was a day to celebrate her successes, not nag her.
Tom and Linda didn’t stay too late in the evening before heading back to the suburbs. Susan and I had reserved a room in a nearby hotel – for a change of pace, as well as the ability to walk around the city a bit in the morning before heading back to our own suburban pad – and so we decided to stay in the cigar bar a bit longer.
I lit up another cigar after Tom and Linda left, and I assumed Susan would join me. She did not, however, and withdrew a Virginia Slim from her leather cigarette case. As I gave her a light, I could tell from the look on her face she was bothered by something.
Unsurprisingly, Susan was irritated with Linda’s comment on the phase of her life. As she exhaled her light-up puff, Susan exclaimed, “Is she kidding me? I spend three years in law school, graduating today, and starting a career with a big firm in a couple of months. And all she can say is this is the ‘motherhood phase of my life?’ Really? Then why did I bother with a career, we could have just had babies and I could be a stay at home mom.”

Susan took a long puff of her cigarette, inhaled deeply, and exhaled. “And the worst thing is, every time she gets on my case about quitting smoking, all I want to do is light up a cigarette.”
Chapter 17: The Glide Path
Linda’s comment may have made Susan want to light up a cigarette that night. But just a few days after her graduation, she started another process that pretty quickly would give her an overwhelming urge to smoke: studying for the state bar exam.
The course of study for the two-day, pass-or-fail exam was pretty intense. Six days a week for about two months, Susan would go to a five-hour bar review class. It was expected she’d spend another eight hours a day studying. The exam is fairly comprehensive of all the main areas of law, Susan had explained, from the U.S. Constitution to divorce, wills, and criminal matters. She’d have to know general, non-Texas-specific legal principles for a full day of multiple-choice questions, and then spend the next day writing essay answers to questions under Texas law. Even as a non-lawyer, I gained an appreciation for what a challenging task this was from glancing at the thick stack of review books over the two-month period.
For the first week or so of studying, Susan stuck to the pack-a-day Virginia Slims habit she’d acquired during her last finals period, plus a big cigar with me to wind down before bed and a couple of cigarillos during each day. She didn’t say so, but I got the sense she was trying hard again to not fall into the trap of chainsmoking Marlboros like she had during the stressful finals in her first two years of law school.
But the force of such intense concentration for several long days eventually pushed Susan into the trap. I realized this one night when I came home from work and went out to her poolside office where I knew she’d be studying. I intended to ask her what she wanted for dinner – as with her previous exam periods, I’d learned to shift gears and take over household tasks so she could study with less on her mind.
Even with the patio doors opened, the thick blue-gray haze in Susan’s study office reminded me of her first-year final exam periods. Reinforcing that memory was the pile of brown Marlboro filters in the ashtray on her desk, and the carton of Marlboro 100s sitting on her credenza. Indeed, a Marlboro 100, almost burned to the filter

and with a very long ash, smoldered in her left hand as she focused her attention on a review book and made notes in it with a pen in her right hand.
Her concentration was so intense that it took Susan several seconds to realize I was in the office, and I didn’t want to interrupt her. Finally she looked up, smiled, took a quick puff of the beleaguered Marlboro, and let it smolder out in the pile of its fellows who had been burned up just that afternoon. We talked for a few minutes about what I could make her for dinner – a salad, with vinaigrette dressing, and some fruit – and I turned to go back into the main house and start on it for her.
“Oh, Stan?” Susan called after me. I turned and saw she was placing a fresh Marlboro 100 between her lips, and by instinct I reached for my lighter.
I was flicking the lighter to bring it to life when Susan spoke through an unlit dangle. “In case you didn’t notice by the pile of brown butts here, the Marlboro Cowboy is back from the range. He rode in on a wave of pressure and fear over the bar exam,” Susan said, smiling wanly before lighting her cigarette from my proffered lighter.
Susan took a big puff, inhaled deeply, and continued through a talking exhale. “He’s back big time. I got an overwhelming urge for Marlboros today when I was driving home from review class. I drove to the cigarette store by the highway like I was on autopilot. And I am just smoking them like a fiend. And I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Susan,” I said, putting an arm around her shoulders. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You’re under intense pressure right now, honey. This is just a way to help you through it, that’s all,” repeating a familiar refrain from her prior exam periods.
“But I feel so weak,” Susan whimpered, wiping away a tear. “There’s about forty people in my review class, and only four of us go out to smoke on breaks. So that’s thirty six other people, in my class alone, who are under the same pressure and don’t need to smoke to cope with it.”
Susan took a long puff and continued. “But for me, instead of asking myself, hey, why can’t I be like those thirty six people and deal with this without smoking, I go out and buy stronger cigarettes and become an instant chainsmoker. After I promised myself, at the end of second year, that I’d never do this again.”

I lifted her up out of her chair to give her a hug. Marlboro still burning in her left hand, she threw her arms around me and we held each other close for ten seconds or so.
I looked into her eyes and spoke. “Susan, everyone has a crutch. Some of these other students might drink heavily. Maybe some are on cocaine, like your brother thinks your mother was when she was pregnant with you two,” I said, trying to make her laugh.
Susan did chuckle a bit, recognizing I was trying to cheer her up. “Okay. Maybe you’re right, Stan,” she said, her tears stopping. “But when this is over, the Marlboro Man rides off for the last time. I mean it.” She sat back down, clearly calmed a bit.
“Do you lasso him? Is that how this works? You know about all this Texas life-on- the-range stuff,” I asked, still trying to make her laugh more before she returned to her studies.
Susan laughed before taking a long puff and inhaling. Holding the smoke in, she said, “You have to pull his nicotine hooks out of your body first. And they are deep,” she said, exhaling a thin stream. “And you have to replace them with the gentle buzz of a good cigar. Speaking of which, is it going to be cigar time later tonight? Can you get me and tell me to stop studying when the local late news comes on?”
Susan certainly didn’t pull out any nicotine hooks for the next two months. Given that she could smoke for long uninterrupted periods while she was studying, she was pretty quickly exceeding two packs a day of Marlboros. And while she’d smoke a big cigar most evenings with me, she also added several more cigarillos to her daily smoking diet – puffing through five or six a day instead of the one or two she’d smoke before starting to study for the exam. I noticed she was inhaling on her cigarillos as deeply as she had when she tried to switch to them from cigarettes two summers before.
Either Susan’s inhaled cigar smoke or all the Marlboros, or both, brought on a nasty morning cough within a few days. She’d have a barking cough all morning before she left for her review class, but by the evenings when I’d come home from work, it would have subsided significantly into a lot of throat-clearing and a rare cough.

One thing that didn’t diminish were the huge clouds of smoke in her study office. As the summer heat built in Houston, Susan had to keep the door to the office closed, and the air conditioner she’d turned on instead couldn’t keep up with all of the smoke. In case I had any doubt, the source of the constant haze was pretty evident: her desk ashtray, usually overflowing with cigarillo and Marlboro butts. I took to emptying it frequently as part of keeping the house together so she could study.
While I left her mostly alone at night so she could study, I was occasionally treated to some great smoking fetish “sightings.” One night, for example, I was bringing her some cut fruit and a glass of water as an evening snack, but was stopped short of opening the door by what I saw through the window: the enchanting sight of Susan, dangling a Churchill cigar as she highlighted one of her bar review books. For thirty seconds I watched, engrossed, as she casually and occasionally puffed away on the dangled cigar, letting her exhaled smoke gently drift out of her mouth and nose as if the cigar was simply a part of her, an appendage of burning tobacco fastened to the corner of her mouth.
My reverie was interrupted when she put down the highlighter, took a big puff from her cigar, inhaled, and rolled the ash around in the last available space in her ashtray. I went into the room and she looked up at me as she exhaled a huge cloud of smoke.
“Oh, thanks, Stan. You are so sweet,” Susan said, tufts of smoke underlining her words as they still poured out of her lungs.
“Of course, hon,” I said, setting down the small plate of fruit and glass of water, and picking up the ashtray to empty it out elsewhere. “Just think of me as your bar exam butler, here to serve,” I laughed.
“I wish you could butler away the thick blue haze in here. But I think that is my problem,” she laughed. “It’s just too hot and humid out there to keep the patio doors open.” Susan took a puff off her cigar. “Anyway, I think I smoked too many Marlboros tonight, even for me. So I decided to try one of these Partagas we got at McCoy’s a few weeks ago. Just to try something different. But this is a great cigar, it has a real cocoa taste. You’ll love it. Try a puff,” she offered, holding the cigar out to me.
Even though Susan’s dangling had made the end of the cigar very soft and tooth- marked, I took a good puff on the Partagas. Exhaling, I said, “You’re right. This is

a great cigar. I think I’ll have one when the late local news comes on. Will you be up for joining me then?” I asked, handing her back the cigar.
Susan took a puff off the cigar. “Of course,” she said through an exhale. “How can I turn down the local news with a sexy man who brings me fruit plates and keeps the house clean? Especially if he’s smoking a cigar,” she winked. Her last line was a rare acknowledgement of what she’d told me on our honeymoon about cigars and later about the pipe too: while me smoking them wasn’t a huge turn-on for her in the nature of a full-fledged smoking fetish, it was a mild turn-on. I was always happy to hear these acknowledgements, and of course happy to indulge if it sparked her sexual flame.
The day after the bar exam was finally over, we went off to the same Dominican Republic resort where we’d gone on our honeymoon three years before. The resort hadn’t changed much, and we had a lot of fun. We emailed pictures to Paola and Alejandro, with whom we’d kept in touch.
A few times during the trip, Susan commented on how hard it was for her to switch off Marlboros and back to Virginia Slims this time. She mostly did so, though – with the help of a lot of cigars.
There was a brief time Marlboro came back into her life despite her pledge otherwise. One early afternoon, we were lounging on the beach when Susan went to use the bathroom and brought us drinks on the way back. After she set the drinks down next to our beach chairs, she pulled a pack of Marlboro Red 100s from the top of her bathing suit near her cleavage.
“With the drinks, I didn’t have enough hands,” she explained. “And yes, Marlboros. I saw them at the bar and they were just calling my name. ‘Susan, Susan, you need us. We’re all alone up here at the bar. Smoke us, Susan!’” she joked.
“Well, I know you said you were done with those after the bar exam, but in my view that doesn’t count outside the United States,” I laughed, fishing for my lighter as she unwrapped the pack. Despite the breeze, I was able to light her Marlboro and then a cigarette of my own.
Susan took a big puff, inhaled deeply, and lazily let her exhaled smoke drift up the beach. “Actually, it does, Stan,” she said, before taking another puff. “These are what I switched to when I started college. That’s when I became a real, addicted, committed, more-than-pack-a-day smoker. Before that, I only smoked five or six

Marlboro Lights a day. I wasn’t really hooked and I probably could have quit pretty easily. So now, every time I fall back onto these things, I realize I can’t control my cigarette smoking anymore. And that’s what’s been bothering me.”
Susan ashed her cigarette onto the beach. “And what else bothers me, or actually scares me, is the cough,” she said. “Every time I smoke these, my morning cough is the worst. I hack up a lung for hours. You heard that during the bar exam. Part of that, for sure, is that when I smoke these, I smoke a lot of them. Like two packs a day, or more. They’re like an open bag of potato chips, I can’t help myself. But they make me cough as bad as my mom. And that really scares me.”
Susan contemplated the cigarette in her hand. “At least with the Virginia Slims, I feel I can control my habit a little better. I don’t know if it’s less nicotine, or that they take longer to smoke, or whatever. But I feel I can keep a lid on how many I smoke every day. I guess I feel more in charge of my smoking.”
Susan took a puff off her Marlboro, inhaled, and turned directly to me. “And speaking of charge: I do know it gives you a little sexual charge when I smoke them. And I like that I make you happy when I smoke them. So those long cigarettes have a whole bunch of good things going for them – much more than these,” she said, through a talking exhale and holding up the Marlboro.
After our trip, Susan had a few more weeks of summer to enjoy before she started her job at the law firm in early September. In addition to getting her smoking habit back to about a carton of Virginia Slims 120s every two weeks along with some cigarillos and full-size cigars, she caught up with friends, did some reading, and spent a lot of time just relaxing by the pool.
Along the way, we were invited to an event that reflected my new status in the company: an annual end-of-summer party that Art, my company’s Chief Financial Officer, threw for key members of his team. For the first time, I was in that group.
You see, by this time – the summer of 2009 – the world was beginning to come out of the initial financial crisis that had gripped it the prior year. My company had made it through relatively unscathed, in part due to a lot of work done by its financial department. Art, following the directive of our company’s CEO to “aggressively cut costs without cutting people,” had been very open to ideas his finance team offered about ways to do just that. I happened to have a lot of good ideas – or really just observations that had come to me over the past several years with the company. Art was impressed, and over the past several months I’d been

given more and more responsibility and ultimately a promotion to overseeing a larger team within the financial department. Between more money, status in the company, and recognition for my hard work, I was proud to be invited to his “white night” backyard dinner party where guests were encouraged to wear white linen – stylish but also comfortable on the hot, humid Houston evening when he held the party.
Susan looked absolutely amazing in her white cocktail dress, and I enjoyed introducing my beautiful, smart wife to my colleagues and their spouses. Her natural charm and ability to carry on a witty conversation was a joy to watch, and probably helped me earn even more goodwill with my colleagues – especially as I can be more shy in social events than she is.
Few of my colleagues openly smoked cigarettes, though, and Susan and I had both become conscious of the negative associations that non-smokers can form of people who smoke cigarettes. So while we had cigarettes on us that night, neither of us lit up.
That is, until Susan met Ann. Ann was Art’s very outgoing wife. Still beautiful at fifty, Ann was gifted with those qualities that can make some Texas women have power far beyond their beauty – charm, humor, and wit, but strategic and smart at the same time – all adding up to make them natural leaders in business, politics, and social circles. Think Lady Bird Johnson or Ann Richards, but in Ann’s case, she was the “power behind the throne” of the very powerful Chief Financial Officer of my company.
I’d never met Ann before, but she had heard of me. “So, finally, Stan, I get to meet you. Art has told me so much about the projects you took on that saved Gorman Industries millions,” she smiled, making very clear she was no housewife, but was intimately involved in her husband’s work. “And this must be your wife, who just passed the bar exam. You both must be so proud,” she said, shaking Susan’s hand.
“Actually, I don’t know if I passed yet, but I’m hopeful. Thanks for your confidence, though,” Susan grinned.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to boast on Susan’s accomplishments, of which I was very proud. “Well, Ann, she finished in the top ten percent of her law school class. So I have no doubt she passed the exam.”

“Top ten percent! In front of all those men! Oh, honey, I don’t even know you, but you make me so proud,” Ann beamed. With that, the two of them were off to a great conversation, hitting it off as if they were two longtime friends, just newly reacquainted. We – well, mostly Susan and Ann – talked for a long time, as I enjoyed knowing that a budding acquaintanceship between the two of them could only help my rise up the company ladder.
Eventually, Ann pointed to a gazebo out at the corner off the big backyard, where Art and a few of my colleagues were gathering. “Stan, honey, here’s a tip for you as the up-and-comer of the year. It looks like Art is about to ‘hold court’ out there, like he always does. I swear that every time we have one of these things, more business gets done in an hour at that gazebo than you people do in a month. I suggest you meander out there and show yourself.”
“And Susan,” Ann said. “Come with me and I’m going to introduce you around a bit, after I go have a cigarette on the patio over here. You don’t mind, do you, honey? Art doesn’t nag me about my cigarettes and I don’t nag him about his cigars, so it all balances out, we figure. But I only smoke on one end of the patio to keep it out of people’s way, you know? Plus,” Ann winked, “that’s where the good white wine is.”
Susan laughed. “I love that idea! I need some more wine anyway. Stan, you head out to the gazebo and I’ll catch up with you later.”
“I won’t let her get lost, Stan, don’t worry,” Ann chuckled as I started across the backyard. As Ann had predicted, Art was holding a mini-seminar covering a lot of things about the company, the department, and our competitors. A couple of Bourbons had loosened his tongue and was letting the ideas, thoughts, and plans flow. I joined about seven other colleagues in a small circle around him, taking a position on the edge of the elaborate gazebo with an outdoor kitchen, television, and even a small bar.
The small group was in a lively discussion about some of Art’s musings when I glanced over to the patio and saw Ann and Susan both smoking cigarettes. Probably a good bonding experience, I thought, and if Susan was feeling any social anxiety in a crowd of people she didn’t know, the nicotine would take any edge off.

Just then, Art went to the bar of the gazebo and opened his humidor. “If no one objects, I’d like to enjoy a cigar while we continue this conversation. Feel free to help yourselves and join me if you’d like.”
Of course, Art was the boss and it was his party at his house, so unsurprisingly, there were no objections. Two of the guys – and the group, reflecting corporate America’s leadership at the time, was mostly male and white – looked over Art’s humidor and picked out cigars. Feeling comfortable that others had accepted his invitation, I did as well.
Watching me cut and light my cigar, Art put the group’s focus on me. “Stan, you seem to know your way around a cigar. Are you a regular cigar guy, or just every so often?”
A loaded question, for sure. While some of my colleagues knew I smoked cigarettes – and I knew far more of them smoked cigarettes than would ever admit they did – I was torn on my answer here. On the one hand, I knew Art smoked cigars, so admitting I did might be making a connection with my boss. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be publicly branded as a “smoker.”
So, I chose a middle path that suggested I smoked cigars, but solely as a hobby. “I’m, I guess, a semi-regular. I keep a humidor, and some nights it’s nice to relax with one – you know, when I can find the time. It’s a treat I look forward to when I can fit one in.”
Art beamed. The middle path had been the right one. “That’s just like me. I keep the humidor full, and some nights I come out here and watch the ball game or CNBC, have a couple of drinks, and a cigar. Like you said, it’s a nice treat to relax a bit when you can. So, what’s your favorite cigar?”
Ahh, a tough question. I had to sound like I knew cigars. But I had found one I liked. “I switch around a lot, but lately I’ve been smoking My Father cigars. Have you tried them?”
“Tried them? I love them. But they are mighty strong, I’ll tell you that,” Art said. Satisfied that he had seemed to build another connection with one of his team members, the conversation moved on to other things and Art ultimately returned to expounding on his big plans for how the company could take advantage of weaker competitors who had not come through the financial crisis as well as our company had.

Pretty soon, all of the party guests were congregating in and around the gazebo, drawn in by Art like moths to a flame. Ann and Susan walked over and – true to her position as hostess of the party – Ann walked into the center of the gazebo where Art was holding forth on one thing or another. Art gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek as the group – perhaps a bit worn from focusing its attention on Art for so long – momentarily broke into smaller conversations. Fortunately, I was close to Art so I could witness what came next.
“Is there too much cigar smoke out here for you, honey? A few of the guys decided to join in with me and have one,” Art asked his wife.
“No, but I do wonder why it’s only guys out here who are smoking cigars. I know some of the women here smoke them, too,” Ann answered.
“I’m an equal-opportunity cigar provider. I’ve offered cigars to everyone. It just so happens cigars are mostly a guy thing, in my experience, that is,” Art said with a smile.
“Mostly but not always, my dear husband. Stan’s wife, Susan, told me she smokes cigars with him,” Ann said, gesturing to Susan who was standing by my side.
“The new lawyer! I’m not surprised, probably every lawyer I know smokes cigars,” Art laughed. “Including your father, Susan. As you know, of course. I remember talking about cigars with him at one of his firm’s parties I went to a couple of years back. He and his firm do great work for us and have helped us out a lot. His rates are high, though.”
“I’m sure he’s worth every penny,” Susan grinned.
“Spoken like another one of you legal sharks! So, did your dad get you into cigars, or did Stan here?” Art asked.
“Actually, we kind of discovered them together, on our honeymoon, and we’ve been enjoying them when we have time ever since,” Susan said, unknowingly supporting the cigars-as-hobby theme I had started earlier.
“It’s quality bonding time together. Aren’t they cute?” Ann interjected.
“I’ll leave that to you, Ann. I’m not going to call one of my main guys ‘cute,’” Art laughed. “But, Susan, feel free to help yourself to the humidor. Stan says you

both like to smoke the My Father cigars, which I think I am out of. But there are some good ones.”
“There certainly are, Art. This is quite a collection,” Susan said, opening the humidor and eyeing its contents like the budding cigar expert she was. “I think I’ll try this Davidoff – we’ve tried some of this brand and like them,” she continued, picking up a mid-sized cigar.
Susan cut the cigar as I picked up a large lighter from the table, and then gave her a light. A beautiful woman smoking a cigar at Art’s party attracted the notice of the group, which refocused its attention on Art, Ann, Susan, and me in the center of the gazebo.
Susan took a puff of the cigar and exhaled. “This is a great cigar, Art. Thank you – and thanks again to you and Ann for having us over to such a nice party.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Art said. “I like to bring the team together every so often so we all get to know each other. And you may be the first spouse to join in on the cigars in the gazebo.”
“But you shouldn’t be the last. I think it’s a powerful symbol for a woman to be smoking a cigar. It shows how far we have come next to you all who run everything – us girls can do whatever you do,” Ann said, winking at her husband.
“You’ve always known, honey, you can do whatever you want to do as far as I am concerned,” Art responded with a smile.
“Then don’t be surprised if I take up smoking cigars with you,” Ann offered.
“Ha! Nothing you ever do, Ann, could possibly surprise me anymore,” Art said, before changing the topic back to his business plans now that the group was reassembled. The work discussion continued – interesting to those of us who worked for Gorman Industries but surely boring the spouses – for some time. Susan and I enjoyed our great cigars, eventually moving over to the side of the gazebo to allow some of the smoke to escape the partially enclosed space a bit more easily.
After another couple of hours, the party broke up. Ann walked Susan and me to the driveway, surprising me when she told Susan she would be sure to give her a call.

“What was that about? Why is Ann going to call you?” I asked Susan as we started to drive home.
“We really hit it off. She’s a lot of fun. And we got to talking about cigars, and she said she’s always wanted to try one, but isn’t comfortable just asking Art for one without knowing how to smoke it first. I don’t know, it’s some sort of power dynamic in their marriage. So I told her to call me and I would meet up with her and walk her through it,” Susan said. “Don’t worry, honey, I won’t say anything that hurts your position with Art. I’ve watched my mom play this business-spouse thing for too many years and I understand it well.”
Another reason I loved Susan: she was savvy and smart. We both realized if she and Ann got better acquainted, it would likely only help my career and perhaps our joint financial position if I was more likely to get a raise or promotion out of it.
Pretty soon, though, Susan had her own career to focus on when she started her job as an associate at the law firm she’d worked for the previous summer. A full plate of work helped her keep her cigarette habit at about the same level – fifteen or so cigarettes a day, usually Virginia Slims 120s, but sometimes Mores or Saratogas. She’d occasionally smoke cigarettes with her boss, Laura, at work, but otherwise only on her commute in and out from work and at home. We came to make a late-evening cigar a nightly occurrence to wind down before bed, and I noticed she’d started carrying nicotine gum to fight off cravings at work when she couldn’t go outside to smoke.
Also that Fall, Susan and I decided to get serious about having a baby. With her beyond law school and settling into her career, me doing well with my career, financial security, and a suburban house in a good school district, it was time to move forward. So, shortly after Christmas, we went to meet with a doctor in a medical practice that included obstetrics and gynecology, fertility support, and pediatric medicine for young kids – kind of a one-stop-shop for pre-parenthood and the first few years after.
The doctor, a forty-something woman, explained the package approach. “We think having a healthy child starts even before the child is conceived, so we like our parents-to-be to adopt healthy habits early in the process. This makes the conception, pregnancy, and birth even smoother, and if we manage it all together from one practice, it’s easier still for you,” she explained. “We call this the glide path to a successful, wonderful birth.”

The doctor reviewed long dossiers Susan and I had completed before the appointment, answering all sorts of questions about our backgrounds and lifestyles. “So, I see a lot of good habits here, especially on eating and general health practices. That’s good.” She stopped and carefully reviewed a page where someone had placed a small post-it flag on the edge. “Hmm. Let’s talk about tobacco and alcohol use. It says here you both smoke cigarettes? And, umm, you both smoke cigars? You too, Susan?”
I think Susan and I both knew what was coming. “Ahh, yeah, I have a cigar every often,” Susan said. “And I smoke cigarettes too, which I know is bad for me.”
“Okay, let’s take the cigars first,” the doctor said. “My husband smokes them every so often, maybe once a week. And I’ll admit I sometimes have a puff or two. It can be kind of fun,” she smiled. “But we really have to minimize that for your overall health, especially through the pregnancy, and especially for you, Susan. But you, too, Stan, you obviously play a role in this.”
The doctor paused for a second or two before continuing. “Can you two maybe get to the point that Stan has one cigar a week, and Susan, perhaps you have a puff or two? Getting down to that small amount will really do wonders for you to improve your health from a risk perspective. And if it’s something you allow yourselves to do to help relax during all this, it might help your mental health, too,” she smiled. “But I mean like minimal, very occasional, rare cigar use. Especially for you, Susan. Can you do that?”
Susan and I said we could.
The doctor continued looking over the dossier. “So, let’s talk about alcohol. It doesn’t look like you two report drinking very much, which is a good starting point. I’d like you to cut back even more while you’re trying to conceive – it will definitely help move things along in that department. And then when you’re pregnant, Susan, I’m going to encourage you to cut alcohol out entirely if at all possible. If you have a rare, and I mean rare, sip of wine, though, I’m not going to yell at you,” she said with a wink.
The doctor sighed. “But the cigarettes, though – we need to work on this. You each checked that you smoke about ten cigarettes a day” – we had both underestimated our consumption, apparently – “and we need to get this to zero if at all possible, especially when you become pregnant. What I’d suggest is that you use this time while you’re trying to get pregnant to cut down to no cigarettes at

all. We have some fantastic resources that can help, and I’ve had a lot of success with patients using nicotine replacement therapy.”
Looking directly at us, the doctor continued. “I’ve never been a regular cigarette smoker, but everyone in the medical community gets how hard it is to quit. But we also understand how important it is for a mom to quit cigarettes entirely. Or, if she absolutely can’t quit and has to smoke, she smokes very few cigarettes. So I’m very willing to work with you on this whether you choose to just stop entirely, or wean yourselves off of them over the next few months. The goal is to be cigarette- free by the time you are expecting. Can we do this?”
“I’m sure we can,” Susan said. “Stan and I have both been cutting down on how many cigarettes we smoke for some time, and we’ve talked a lot about getting to where we don’t smoke them, but have an occasional cigar, just for the taste of it, really. So I know we can do this.”
I agreed – though in my head, I was not at all as sure as Susan was.
“I think that’s great,” the doctor said. “If you’ve already been working towards this and talking it through together, all you have to do is keep going down to zero. And like I said, we have resources that can help – nicotine gum and the patch, all sorts of things. If you get to the point that Stan occasionally has a cigar, and Susan has a couple of puffs and a sip of wine, that’s a perfect place for you both to be.”
For me, the doctor’s comments drew into sharp relief the balancing point everyone in the smoking fetish community feels when weighing the well-known risks of tobacco use with the gratification needed to fuel our unique interest. Every one in this community places that balancing point in a different place, especially when it comes to the “real” smokers in our lives like our wives and girlfriends. On one end of the spectrum are those who are unconcerned about any health consequences for their significant others that could result from smoking, tipping the scales in favor of gratifying their fetish. On the other end are those who prefer to keep their fetish abstract and choose not to date or marry smokers, or actively encourage those women to quit, tipping their balance in favor of avoiding any health consequences.
I took then, and still hold, a middle position – one echoed by others whenever this comes up on the Smoking Fetish Kingdom. I didn’t want Susan to be a heavy smoker her whole life, or even when we were starting our parenthood days: the consequences – long-term for the mother-smoker, and possibly immediate for the child – are too high for me to want to bear, and outweigh my fetish. But I was

comfortable with Susan smoking a few cigarettes a day and an occasional cigar. My view was that this allowed me to fuel my fetish on occasion with realistically low levels of actual risk.
For her part, Susan took this doctor’s comments in two ways. First, she saw them as an affirmation allowing her to smoke some amount of tobacco – something of a misinterpretation of what the doctor said. But second, and closer to the truth of the guidance we’d been given, Susan understood she needed to cut down. She’d known this for some time, of course, and the doctor’s advice just confirmed this view.
But Susan acted on her interpretation of the doctor’s guidance. Pretty quickly, she switched to Virginia Slims Ultra Lights 120s, and despite some mild cravings and withdrawal symptoms, she cut down to five cigarettes a day – allowing herself an additional one after were intimate. She switched some of her nicotine intake to cigarillos, smoking two of those each day. And she trimmed back the frequency of her evening full-size cigar from a nightly occurrence to a few nights a week. So, all told, Susan cut her weekly smoking habit down to two packs of lighter cigarettes, fourteen or fifteen cigarillos, and a few big cigars.
I didn’t think this was really the low level of smoking the doctor wanted Susan to get to, but I was in no position to complain. I cut down on my cigarette smoking at home to not tempt Susan and support her, but I still smoked about fifteen cigarettes a day – many driving to or from work, or after she went to bed.
Susan also started tracking her ovulation cycles to figure out when she was most likely to get pregnant, as I learned one night after dinner. As was our pattern then, I’d opened the patio doors next to the dinner table to allow our post-dinner cigarette smoke to escape and not smell up the house. Rather than pull out a Virginia Slim Ultra Light, however, Susan excused herself from the table, asking me to “Stay right there, Stan. I’ll be right back.”
I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I sat at the table and puffed my Benson & Hedges in silence for a few minutes. Susan returned wearing nothing but a short red silk robe with black lace trim that barely covered her breasts and stopped above her knees. She had a Virginia Slim dangling from the corner of her mouth and she stopped next to me and bent down so we were face to face. She looked into my eyes and sultrily asked, “Got a light?”

Of course I gave her a light. Susan pulled her chair closer to me and sat down. Still dangling, she took a huge puff, inhaled deeply, and took the Virginia Slim from the corner of her mouth. After holding the smoke for several seconds, she exhaled gently in my direction. “I’m ovulating,” she announced, before taking another puff. Staring into my eyes as she exhaled, she asked, “Are you ready, Stan?”
I squeezed her hand as I exhaled my own cigarette some before I spoke. “I’m always ready for you, Susan,” I quietly assured her. “But you know that sexy robe and the long cigarette are getting me, ahh, extra ready,” I explained.
“I thought it might,” Susan whispered, grinning slyly with her cigarette dangling again from the corner of her mouth. “Just sit back and watch me enjoy this cigarette. And then maybe you’ll be ready for some dessert.” As she spoke, her grin grew wider and her cigarette bounced up and down to punctuate her words. She wrapped her hand around the fast-growing bulge in my crotch and puffed on her dangling Slim. “I love that I can turn you on so fast.”
Susan continued her smoking performance without saying much more, just taking deep puffs off her dangling cigarette and removing it from her mouth only to tap off the ashes. When she finished her cigarette, we quickly retired to the bedroom.
After we were intimate, I lit Susan’s cigarette. She puffed deeply and laughed as she exhaled. “You know, if I become pregnant after this, we will have to name the baby Virginia if it’s a girl.”
Chapter 18: And Baby Makes Three
For the next several months, Susan and I continued the process of making a baby in earnest. The baby making process is, it seems, often harder to complete when a woman is trying to get pregnant than when she is trying not to get pregnant. Analogously, it struck me like lying in bed trying to fall asleep, but being unable to do so.
All this is to say that there’s more to this pregnancy business than it appears, at least from this man’s point of view. I initially thought that, because we were both in good health and our reproductive parts were all in working order, we’d just figure out when Susan was ovulating, make love, and then start painting the nursery. Simple and straightforward, like ordering something from Amazon (with sex).
I was wrong. Susan getting pregnant was not a one-and-done kind of thing. There’s much more random chance involved in the careful dance between millions

of my sperm and her egg. Indeed, our doctor pointed out there’s only about a twenty percent chance Susan would get pregnant in any given month, even assuming we made sure to have sex when she was ovulating. So every month, we’d have to take another spin of the fertility wheel and place another bet that we’d wind up with a pregnant Susan.
And Susan and I made placing the bet and spinning the wheel fun. We were intimate regularly while she wasn’t ovulating, but neither of us wanted the stress of thinking too much about actual baby-making when we made love while she was ovulating. So, we started making these special intimacy times a bit more special as a way to distract us from the “business at hand.” One night, for example, we sat in the hot tub on our patio before intimacy to really relax and get in the mood. Another time, we went to a hotel room after a night at La Casa de Habana to take our one-in-five shot in a different setting. And Susan kept pouring jet fuel on my fetish with a lot of dangling Virginia Slims 120s to ensure I was always well-primed to perform my brief opening act in the pregnancy show. I reciprocated by giving her plenty of “pedicures” and oral stimulation.
There are, frankly, worse processes to go through.
Then, in the fall of 2010, Susan broke the news to me over dinner one night: she’d confirmed she was pregnant! We were both excited that a new phase of our lives was about to start. After dinner, Susan picked up her leather cigarette case. “I know I’m pregnant and I have to quit. But do you want to go have a cigarette with me now?”
“Sure,” I said. I had mixed feelings about Susan smoking while pregnant, and hoped she’d cut down even further or even quit entirely while she was pregnant – and I thought this even despite my smoking fetish. It’s beyond dispute that a woman smoking cigarettes creates greater, unnecessary risk for the yet-to-be-born child. And unlike an adult smoker who can make conscious choices about risk, addiction, and reward, the child is entirely innocent to all of those things, and only bears the burden of the added risk.
That said, a woman smoking while she’s pregnant is decidedly sexy, at least for this member of our community. As we walked out to the cigar lounge, I wondered if – knowing now for a fact that Susan was pregnant – I’d find her smoking a 120 still sexy in light of that fact.

I did. Whether it was knowing her addiction was forcing itself above her knowledge of the possible effects, or something else, I don’t know. It was sexy to watch her puff away on her after-dinner cigarette. But balancing against that, I still wanted her to cut down or quit for the health of our child.
And Susan did cut down, pretty quickly. Within a week, she went from smoking about five cigarettes a day to three – one in the morning, one after dinner, and one before bed. Occasionally she’d trade the before-bed one for a cigarillo or a full- sized cigar. In keeping with my decision to place the health of our baby over my fetish, I encouraged this with positive comments and began keeping more of my cigarette habit on my commutes to and from work and out of the house so she would be less tempted.
Susan struggled mightily to break the grip of even these three cigarettes. On her doctor’s advice, and after getting some grief from Kristen about still smoking any cigarettes at all while she was pregnant, she tried chewing nicotine gum. Susan was even cautious with this, however, pretty quickly switching from a four-milligram nicotine strength gum to a two-milligram dose.
But she still wasn’t able to give up the three cigarettes a day. On a few days, she’d try to chew nicotine gum and have a cigarillo before bed, but each time she went back to these three cigarettes the next day each time. I was both encouraging and comforting, telling her she was making great progress and trying to minimize, from my limited knowledge of pregnancy, the risk of three cigarettes a day.
Susan clearly felt shame at still smoking even this modest number of cigarettes, and perhaps frustration that she couldn’t quit. One or both of these led her to start lying about her cigarette smoking status. At brunch one Sunday with Linda and Tom, Susan responded to Linda lighting a Merit by announcing that both she and I had quit cigarettes, and that I was only an occasional cigar smoker. None of that was true, or complete. Just an hour before, we’d each had a cigarette in our cigar lounge. And the night before, we’d each smoked a full-sized cigar while watching a movie in the same room.
I understood why she was lying, but still wasn’t comfortable with it. When Tom offered me a cigar after brunch, I took him up on his offer. Susan gave me something of a glare, but I was playing along with the substance of her lie: she’d told her parents I still smoked cigars, and so I would.

Susan confirmed she understood this on our drive home from brunch. “I was sooo tempted when you lit that cigar,” she said. “But I think the temptation was my punishment for lying to them about my smoking. It was karma, or something like that. But there was no way I was going to smoke a cigarette, or even a cigar, in front of Mom. You know how she would have freaked out. So, yes, I lied, but in the interest of keeping her from totally hitting the roof. I hated to lie to her, because it makes me feel like a teenager again.”
All this put a fine point on the nature of Susan’s cigarette addiction, and my own. For me, a woman’s addiction to smoking is one facet of my smoking fetish. Maybe it’s the loss of control to a substance that will force her to light stick after stick of dried weeds rolled up in paper. Maybe it’s something else. But the fact was that her addiction was compelling Susan to keep smoking even a moderate three cigarettes a day, and driving her to lie to her own parents in the most bald-faced manner.
It was an interesting conundrum. And delightfully sexy.
But it foretold problems for me and my cigarette addiction, too. Because my wife had, in fact, gone from being a two pack a day smoker to a three cigarette a day one. And I knew she’d ultimately find some method to get her over the hurdle of those last few cigarettes – more nicotine gum, hypnosis, something. She was legitimately beating back the nicotine demon. At the same time, I was finding it much harder to quit cigarettes than I had ever thought it would be for me. When I couldn’t smoke on my commutes or after she went to bed, I was irritable.
So my smoking fetish now served two purposes. First, for a long time, my smoking fetish had prompted me to keep open the door for Susan to keep smoking cigarettes: telling her she can quit for good at some unknown point in the future, making sure she had cigarettes on hand, happily lighting her up, behaviors like that. I did these things to gratify my fetish.
But now, my fetish would prompt me to make it easier for Susan to still smoke cigarettes not just for its own cause, but to keep her from quitting entirely and then forcing me to do so. Because I knew once she had finally quit for good, Susan would put me under constant pressure to quit too. And I just wasn’t ready or willing to do that.
It was an odd position to be in, certainly. But I didn’t have to dwell on it too much over the next several months of Susan’s pregnancy. She kept at her pattern of

three cigarettes a day and an occasional cigar. Plus, beyond our smoking habits, we had a lot to do: painting the nursery, baby showers, assembling a crib, stocking up on diapers (after soliciting advice on cloth or regular, and on a million other things we’d need to learn about being parents).
Susan’s pregnancy proceeded normally and all indications – all the sonograms and monitoring – showed that we’d have a healthy baby girl. A week after her due date had passed, though, her doctor recommended we consider inducing her labor. We agreed, and when the baby hadn’t arrived a few days later, the doctor told us to come to the hospital the next afternoon.
We both awoke the next day extremely excited. I consciously didn’t go out to have a cigarette in the morning, thinking for sure that Susan would not want to smoke that day.
I was proven wrong. After I poured her a small cup of coffee and she had a sip, Susan looked at me thoughtfully. “Stan, this is so horrible to say,” she said. “But I really need one last cigarette before we go to the hospital later. And you know how I love a cigarette with coffee. I know you want one too. Why don’t we make one last trip to the cigar lounge as ‘double-income, no kids’ people?”
Of course I didn’t object. A few minutes later, I lit her Virginia Slim Ultra Light 120 in our cigar lounge, as she sat on the couch with her bathrobe barely covering her enlarged belly carrying our child. She inhaled her first puff greedily, as she’d clearly been thinking about this cigarette since she’d woken up. After a few seconds the morning sunlight streaming into the room illuminated her exhale.
Susan’s next words suggested she felt some guilt or shame for smoking in front of me. “I know I shouldn’t be smoking today, Stan. I mean, I might be in labor by the end of the day. And every time I light up I remember how I so wanted to quit while I was pregnant, and I couldn’t get there,” Susan said, before taking a puff, inhaling, holding, and exhaling. “I am kind of proud I was able to cut down to three cigarettes a day, and there’s been no problem with the baby – from smoking or anything else. But it’s like two or three cigarettes a day is a rock-bottom, and I can’t just quit entirely. It’s weird. We both used to smoke so much more every day, and now, for me at least, I’ve given up almost all my cigarettes except for just two or three, and I can’t give up that small number next to what I used to smoke and have already given up. It’s like I can’t go a day without just a few cigarettes. And I know I won’t be able to smoke at all for the next few days while I am in the hospital, so I feel like I really, really need one now.”

“I understand, Susan. I think you’ve done really great with cutting down so much. You barely smoke cigarettes at all now. And you’re right, the baby is fine, so cutting down was the right thing to do,” I said. “With your plan for quitting entirely, you can focus on that after Emily is here and the time is right.”
Susan continued our conversation after taking another puff. “The time for quitting these last few cigarettes will be soon, for sure. I know for now I’ll have to smoke after she is born,” Susan said, pointing to her belly before ashing her cigarette. “I mean have to, not want to. Like I said, the last few cigarettes are really just impossible for me to put down. But I will figure out how to do it.”
But Susan wouldn’t have time to figure out how to quit smoking that day, or for the next several days, at least. We went into the hospital and – after several hours of labor – Susan gave birth to a perfectly healthy, wonderful, amazing baby girl we named Emily. After a few days in the hospital, I brought them both home, prouder and happier than I thought I could be.
We got Emily settled and Susan breastfed her before putting her down for a nap. As we closed the door to Emily’s nursery, Susan smiled at me. “Remember we checked to make sure the baby monitor works in the cigar lounge? It’s been four days for me, Stan. I really, really need a cigarette. Let’s go before I start climbing the walls.”
We went out to the cigar lounge where we could, in fact, hear Emily stirring and making small noises in her sleep over the baby monitor. I lit Susan’s Virginia Slim Ultra Light and she did a rare triple-pump, hunched her shoulders high in the air to inhale deeply, and then exhaled after a pause to hold the smoke in. “You can’t believe how much I needed this, Stan,” she said, watching the exhaled cloud of smoke billow around the room. “I had a dream one night when I was in the hospital that I was smoking a cigarette with you, I think we were on a beach somewhere. And then I woke up craving one. And of course I didn’t have any cigarettes, and no place to smoke them anyway as you can’t smoke anywhere at that hospital.”
Susan smoked her long cigarette in about three minutes as we talked over what was coming next in our lives and figured out how to be parents (which would be a lifelong discussion), all the while listening for Emily’s cry over the monitor. Ultimately, she put the finished butt out in the ashtray and picked up a small pink box on the coffee table. “What are these?” she asked, picking up the box.

“Those are ‘it’s a girl’ cigars, from one of my buddies at work. I don’t know if they’re any good, but I figured we could try them when you are ready,” I answered.
Susan laughed. “Oh, Stan, I am ready. Smoking a cigar was another dream I had in the hospital. Trust me, I want a cigar. The only way to know if these are good or not is to smoke them,” she said, opening the box.
We each cut one of the cigars, toasted their feet, and I gave Susan a light. She puffed greedily and deeply. But after we each had a few puffs on our cigars, Susan rendered the verdict. “Damn, this tastes horrible. What do you think?” she asked me.
“Yick,” I answered. “I think these are just supposed to be given as gifts, but not actually smoked by anybody. Or smoked by people who don’t normally smoke cigars and won’t know the difference between this and a good cigar.”
Susan put her cigar in the ashtray to let it burn out. “Well, it’s the thought that counts, I guess,” she said with a grin. “But can we have real cigars? I think Miss Emily is going to be sacked out for a while.”
We each smoked one of the “real cigars” from our humidor. Indeed, over the next several weeks, Susan would smoke a lot of cigars and cigarillos – more than she had been smoking before. She also asked me to get her a carton of Virginia Slims Gold 120s. The stronger cigarettes, she said, were because she was feeling a bit of the “baby blues” – some sleeplessness and anxiety – and while she didn’t like it, smoking helped ease her anxiety. The cigars and cigarillos were, Susan explained, because she wanted to be used to them for when she’d try again to go from cigarettes to just cigars once she got past these “baby blues.” Without demanding I quit cigarettes entirely, she flatly said that, “It would help tremendously if you can come along on this with me, Stan.”
After a few weeks, Susan’s anxiety at being a new mother eased, and fortunately she didn’t have full-on post partum depression. She settled into a steady routine at home – mostly not working as she was technically on leave, but spending a lot of bonding time with Emily. I was at home a lot too, taking advantage of my company’s generous paternity leave policy.
Feeling more on an even keel, Susan tried switching to Eve Ultra Light 120s before settling back on the Virginia Slims Ultra Lights 120s. After smoking ten cigarettes

along with a couple of cigarillos or cigars a day, she eventually cut the cigarette portion back to about six cigarettes a day.
About four months after Emily was born and we were getting the hang of being new parents – as much as we could, at least – Susan started smoking king-size Marlboro Ultra Lights. She didn’t say anything to me about the change in brand, but I suspected my smoking fetish – which had driven her to smoke 120s in the first place – was on her mind.
I suspected this because Susan started to blame my continuing cigarette habit for her own. One night when I came home from work, she gave me a kiss but then wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Jesus, Stan, how much did you smoke on your drive home today?” she asked.
I was caught a bit off guard, but answered honestly. “Well, Susan, I am trying not to smoke cigarettes around you so much. I know you are trying to cut down on them.”
Susan pushed the point that night, after Emily was in bed and we were in our cigar lounge off of the patio. “You know, Stan, I have to say this to you. I think one of the reasons I can’t get all the way to quitting is because you’re still smoking cigarettes. And a lot of them, from how you smelled tonight when you came home. But we’ve talked about this. We both have to quit, and I don’t know if you’re really trying. You’re still smoking a lot of cigarettes.”
“Susan, yes, I am still smoking,” I said, my voice rising in frustration. “But I am trying to smoke on my drives to and from work, and after you go to bed. I am trying to keep it out of your sight as much as I can. I’m not ready to quit for good yet, so I am cutting down.” I said, before taking a puff of my cigarette. “But I don’t think your smoking is linked to mine. Because while we’re both smokers, each of our habits is our own. If you smoke a cigarette in the late morning when Emily is taking a nap and I’m at work, how can you blame me for you lighting that one up? And after we put her to bed and go outside to have a cigarette, you’re always the first of us to come out here with your cigarettes. How is that my fault? I just don’t think it’s fair for you to blame everything about your smoking on me.”
Susan was quiet for a few seconds. “You’re right, Stan.”

“Maybe we are just in different places with quitting cigarettes,” Susan continued. “Or at least our wills to quit are at different levels right now. But someday soon, you will have to get moving away from cigarettes. I know I am at least trying to.”
Chapter 19: And Again
Susan didn’t raise the idea of quitting cigarettes for some time, as we both had our hands full with being new parents. She kept smoking the short Marlboro Ultra Lights, and her consumption gradually crept up to almost half a pack a day. With her slowly increasing habit, Susan stopped commenting on my cigarette smoking, and we still enjoyed cigars together in the evenings as often as we could.
Susan not smoking long cigarettes didn’t diminish my passion for her. And any frustration she felt at my lackluster efforts at quitting smoking didn’t weaken her feelings for me, either. We were intimate again as soon as she felt comfortable doing so, and our intimate times often became valuable stress release sessions and a break from our parenting duties.
Ultimately, about two years after Susan got pregnant with Emily, she was pregnant again. We were overjoyed to learn we’d be having a second child, and pretty soon we learned it would be another girl. As far as her smoking was concerned, Susan repeated minimizing her habit as she had when she was pregnant with Emily, cutting to three cigarettes a day and an evening cigar, and chewing nicotine gum.
Susan’s second pregnancy was as smooth as her first one, and we were more prepared this time to be expectant parents. While Emily was happy to be spoiled for a few days by her Grandpa Tom and Grandma Linda, I was able to be in the hospital to help Susan with labor and delivery. After a few days, I brought my wife and second daughter – a happy and healthy girl we named Charlotte – home.
After coming home with Charlotte, Susan tried to keep her nicotine habit at a few short Marlboro Ultra Lights, an evening cigar, and a lot of nicotine gum.
This lasted for only a couple of weeks. One night after dinner, bathing the girls, and getting them to bed, we headed out to our patioside cigar lounge. Instead of getting out a Marlboro Ultra Light, Susan surprised me by pulling a Virginia Slim Gold 120 out of her leather cigarette case. She turned to me and waited for me to light her long cigarette. I happily gave her a light and enjoyed the sight of my wife smoking an ultra long cigarette – which I hadn’t seen in about two years.

Susan took a puff, inhaled, and exhaled before holding up her long cigarette. “So, Stan, I’ve made some decisions with these,” she said, referring to her cigarette.
“I’ve decided to accept that, for right now, at this time in my life – but not forever – I’m a cigarette smoker,” Susan said. “Again not forever, and not even for long, hopefully. But for right now, I can’t get below maybe three cigarettes a day. And even three cigarettes a day isn’t enough, unfortunately.”
Susan took another puff before continuing. “Now here’s the nasty tradeoff of these things. Since trying to cut back on my smoking, even before Emily was born, I’ve gained weight and its been impossible for me to lose it. I’m up at least one size in my clothes, sometimes two. You’ve noticed this, I am sure.”
I took a puff before answering her question. Susan had never had a weight problem, and I wasn’t sure she did now. She’d always been at a healthy, average weight – not excessively skinny or overweight – and while I’d noticed she had gained a few pounds since Emily was born, I attributed it to pregnancy weight, and a few pounds didn’t make her less attractive to me at all. I decided to be honest but cautious in my answer.
I made a modest show of looking at her body carefully, as if I hadn’t noticed any changes in her weight. “I don’t know, Susan. What, have you gained, maybe, three or four pounds? I really don’t notice a change in your weight.”
“Oh, honey, you are sweet. Or oblivious. Or just trying to prop me up. Any of those is fine,” Susan smiled. “The fact is, I weigh fourteen more pounds than I did before I got pregnant with Emily. And we both eat pretty healthy and don’t snack much, and get a decent amount of exercise. The only thing different is I am smoking less, and everyone knows if you smoke less, your metabolism slows and so it’s harder for me to lose the baby weight.”
Susan puffed her cigarette again. Looking down at the cigarette in her hand, she continued through a talking exhale. “So, this is like a deal with the devil. Either I smoke a few more of these things, and put up with the smell, and the evil looks from people, not to mention the cough and cancer and everything. But I’m able to shed some of these pounds and feel comfortable in my clothes again. Or, I quit them, be a miserable bitch quitting them, and eat everything in sight and give up any hope of getting the weight off. For now, I’m choosing to smoke them. Neither choice is a good one, though.”

“Oh, Susan,” I said. “I didn’t know your weight mattered to you. I don’t think you’re heavy at all. We can both be better about eating and getting exercise and if you want, we can go on a full on diet and join a gym.”
“Stan, I like the support. Really, I do,” Susan said. “But tipping the scales – pardon the pun – in favor of me smoking for a little while more is that, let’s face it, I’m addicted. Hard-core addicted, to nicotine. We both are.”
Susan ashed her cigarette. “You know how hard I have tried to quit, and how hard it is to get under a few cigarettes a day. What would most likely happen if I tried to quit now, while figuring out how to be a lawyer and a mom to two young kids, is I’d gain weight and then at some point go back to smoking cigarettes. So I would wind up a heavier – weight-wise – smoker. It would be the worst of both worlds.”
“So I hate to say this, but for right now, I am sort of like my mom, smoking but unhappy about it,” Susan continued. “The difference between Mom and me is, I accept that I’m a smoker. I know it’s not permanent, and I’m going to keep a lid on my smoking – two packs a week – and smoke a cigarette I have come to like, these long Virginia Slim Golds. And a cigarette you like to see me smoke, too,” Susan said, before taking a puff and staring into my eyes as if to emphasize her last point.
Susan exhaled. “Because the one good thing about me smoking cigarettes is that it turns you on. That’s its only redeeming quality for me. Otherwise, I am just an addict smoking them to not gain more weight. You should know, though, that this alone isn’t enough to make me want to keep smoking forever. And you need to accept that at some point, soon, these cigarettes are going away, because once I figure out how, I am going to quit them for good. But until then, as long as I am smoking, I may as well smoke a cigarette I like that turns you on a little. That’s at least some good out of this, if I am going to be a smoker for now.”
She puffed her cigarette again. “So, this is the deal. I am going to accept that I am a cigarette smoker, for now. I’m not going to smoke forever, and I’m going to quit sometime. When I do, you’ll need to quit with me – I can’t quit while you’re still smoking cigarettes. But for now, I accept it.”
“Susan, so long as you’re not smoking just for me, I am fine with this,” I said. “Look, I love you whether you smoke or not, and I love you even if you weigh more than you want to. I want you to be happy and at peace with yourself. It makes sense to me that you’re not going to be as unhappy about smoking as your mom

is, and it makes sense you want to keep your weight down. And I fully get that someday, we’re both going to quit. But if accepting this gives you some peace of mind for now, I am totally fine with this.”
Of course I was fine with my wife smoking Virginia Slims 120s. I have a smoking fetish. I don’t think there was anything else I was going to say. I certainly wasn’t going to push Susan into the misery of quitting for good. In addition to her misery and likely weight gain – which would make her more miserable – that would jeopardize my cigarette habit, too.
Over the next few weeks, Susan settled into her new course of accepting life as a modest cigarette smoker. True to her word, she only smoked about five or six cigarettes a day, and we enjoyed cigars together in the evenings when parenting duties allowed. We were lucky to have two young girls who slept pretty soundly, however, and relatively soon, it was rare that we’d hear one or the other crying over the monitor in the cigar lounge. She remained very conscious of the smell of cigarettes, though, and would only really smoke at home. Her transition to working from home a few days a week helped enable her to do that.
Susan also started becoming more conscious of what she was eating, and soon her weight came down. She mentioned this to me once, and I told her I’d noticed her weight loss, too. I don’t know if she lost weight because she was smoking a few more cigarettes a day and may have had a faster metabolism, or if she was replacing some daily snacks with cigarettes. Either way, she was happier. With talk of quitting shelved at least temporarily, and my wife smoking 120s again and still smoking cigars, I was happy, too.
After a few months, Susan replaced the Virginia Slims Gold 120s with Virginia Slims Ultra Lights 120s. She didn’t mention the brand change to me, but I suspect quitting “someday” was still somewhere on her to-do list. She still smoked about two packs a week, though, and was still enjoying cigars and cigarillos whenever she could. We continued to enjoy trying different cigars together as a hobby.
About a year after Charlotte was born, Susan joined her boss, Laura, at a three- day conference on the West Coast. With tremendous gratitude for the great day care center we had, I survived being the sole parent of two young girls. Susan’s return flight got in late, and by the time she got home and came to greet me in the cigar lounge, the kids were long asleep.

After giving me a hug and a kiss, she got a pack of Virginia Slims Ultra Light 120s from her office and sat down on the couch next to me. Pulling one out, she spoke. “Three days, Stan. Do you believe it? I haven’t had a cigarette for three days.” She put the filter in her mouth and leaned toward me for a light, and while I was a little confused, I lit her cigarette.
Susan double-pumped the long cigarette, inhaled deeply, and exhaled toward the ceiling after a long hold. “So I think I deserve this,” she smiled.
“Wow, congratulations!” I said, surprised. We had talked daily during her trip, but she never mentioned this to me. So far as I could recall, outside of being in the hospital to give birth, Susan had never gone a day without smoking at least one cigarette –even with a bad cold, she’d smoke a small number of cigarettes. “What happened? Was it a totally non-smoking hotel where they had the conference?”
“That was part of it,” Susan said after another long puff. “Out there, it’s like there’s no place you’re allowed to smoke. But really, it was Laura. She told me on the flight out that she had just quit for her forty-fifth birthday, as a present to herself. We started talking about smoking and quitting, and I told her I would support her quit by not smoking at the conference. I’m not sure why I offered to do that, it was just a spur of the moment thing. But she said she’d like the support, so we both just chewed a ton of nicotine gum,” Susan chuckled.
“Not to say I wasn’t tempted. Late one night, I couldn’t sleep, I was craving a cigarette so badly. I even got dressed and went down to the hotel gift shop to see if they had cigarettes, but it was closed. There weren’t any stores near this hotel, but I swear if I had a rental car, I would have driven out to find a 7-11 in the middle of the night. It was so bad,” she laughed.
“And Laura was feeling it too. One morning, she was getting ready to host this big panel discussion with some other lawyers. A lot of our clients were going to be in the audience. So, we’re going over her notes to get ready, and she’s super nervous. Usually she’s not anxious before these things, but Laura’s never done one of these panels without smoking, right? She is barely able to focus on the presentation. Eventually she just stops, looks at me, and says, ‘Susan, convince me not to get in a cab and go get a pack of Mores,’” Susan chuckled.
“What did you say? I assume it worked,” I said, exhaling cigar smoke.

“It did,” Susan said, exhaling. “I told her she knew this material cold, whether she was a smoker or not. That whether she smoked or not, she was a great lawyer and she could host an awesome panel, and how she was doing something really good for herself and her health. And that I was with her 100%, and I hadn’t smoked either, so we were both in the same boat and we’d make it together. Then I started to joke a bit to, you know, lighten her mood. I said there’s no way to return a gift to yourself because she didn’t have the receipt. And, I promised her a margarita at the hotel bar after the panel.”
“And it worked,” Susan said, after another double-pump of the fast-burning cigarette. “Laura went out to the panel and was her usual, stellar, in-charge, no- nonsense self. And I didn’t even have to buy her a margarita. Our clients wanted to have drinks with us and learn more about what she had talked about, and that turned into dinner, which is all marketing expense on the firm, frankly. Because the firm is going to wind up getting more business from those clients out of this conference and the panel. It was great.”
“I’m proud of you both. And especially you – three days without cigarettes at all! You really have your smoking under control,” I said. “You smoke so little now, you’re essentially a non-smoker. You only smoke, what, like two packs a week?” I was hoping if Susan became comfortable with her modest smoking habit, she’d stop pressuring herself – and me – to cut back further or quit entirely. Susan had drawn another conclusion from her experience, however.
“I know. It’s given me some confidence that maybe I can finally get off cigarettes altogether and just smoke cigars,” Susan said, putting out the suffering Virginia Slim butt and picking up my cigar from where it had been resting in the ashtray. After taking a puff of the cigar, she continued. “I mean, if Laura can do it, why can’t I? I mean, I think I’m ready. You are right I’m almost a non-smoker. It’s just the last five or six cigarettes a day I have to give up, really.”
Susan handed the cigar to me. “Stan, aren’t you turning forty-one this year?”
I nodded, pretty sure I new what was coming.
“Laura quit for her forty-fifth birthday. And you and I have talked about quitting a lot, and for a long time. Look, all I’ll say is I hope we have both quit cigarettes, entirely and for good, long before your forty-fifth birthday.”

Chapter 20: “Busy Moms Don’t Smoke”
Susan took a long puff off her Virginia Slims Ultra Light and inhaled deeply. It was one of only about five cigarettes she’d smoke that Friday before the July 4th holiday weekend in 2016. While she was still smoking much less than she had smoked for many years – about five cigarettes, a cigar, and a cigarillo or two every day for some three years now – she still made every puff count when it came to nicotine delivery. I’d cut down too – to about ten or fifteen cigarettes a day or so, and a nightly cigar – but we were both undeniably still smokers, and nicotine addicts. We rarely talked about cutting down more or quitting altogether though, having settled into a nice routine with our careers and raising the girls.
The sunlight illuminated her exhale, aimed loosely towards the open doors of our cigar room. “We’ll have to keep these doors open all day to try to air this room out,” Susan explained, before exhaling a second plume of smoke. “And can we run the air purifier all night tonight?”
“Sure,” I agreed. We had a lot to remember to do. We were hosting a pool party the next day. A bunch of our friends and neighbors would be coming over, so there was a long list of things to get done.
Our social circle then consisted nearly entirely of other couples with young kids – our girls were five and three – and most lived in the neighborhood. Scott and Kristen would be bringing their kids, and as early-teenagers, they’d be the oldest kids in attendance. Seven or eight other families with kids ranging in age somewhere in between our girls and Scott and Kristen’s kids would be coming, too.
So, if an afternoon of pool noodles, hamburgers cut “just so,” juice boxes, sparklers, floaties, a lot of he-took-my-toy whining, and exhausted kids getting too much sun and having too much fun sounds good, our house was going to be the place to be for a spectacular Independence Day celebration. Don’t get me wrong: as a proud father, I was happy to be hosting it. But it was the sort of event you put on because it’s a good thing for the kids, and because it’s expected of you in those loose neighborhood groups that form around those kids.
And the party would have one redeeming quality in the form of two of the guys attending: Greg and Jeremy, neighborhood dads who were also part-time cigar smokers. While their wives didn’t appreciate their indulgence, it was generally acceptable if Greg, Jeremy, and I snuck off to have cigars at these gatherings. As long as no children were in sight, of course. And Greg and Jeremy would both

have to wash their hands and rinse with mouthwash before going home with their wives. Despite these conditions, the three of us would always enjoy some good conversation, a drink, and a cigar when the opportunity arose at one of these parties. My “cigar lounge” made for a perfect place to do so, if and when the time was right at the party.
We’d be having some new neighbors over too, and Susan and I looked forward to getting to know them better. Jennifer and Nick were a couple of years younger than Susan – so they were about ten years younger than me –and they seemed like a fun couple. They had a very gregarious four-year-old boy who was becoming fast friends with Emily and Charlotte. I had no idea if they smoked or if they would be okay with me hosting Greg and Jeremy for cigars out in the cigar lounge, but as noted, everyone else seemed fine with it as long as the kids weren’t around, so I guessed that they would be as well.
One person who wouldn’t be smoking at the party was Susan. Since we had our girls, she’d gone to great lengths to keep even her modest cigarette-and-cigar smoking habit out of public view. Our girls hadn’t really picked up on their parents’ smoking habits yet, and we tried to keep it that way – both to set positive examples, as well as to minimize second hand smoke exposure and all such putatively horrible things.
But Susan seemed most concerned about the negative image associated with her smoking, especially her cigarette habit. By 2016, we had almost no friends who still smoked cigarettes – her mom, Linda, being the most notable exception, along with her cousin Amber and Amber’s husband Kevin. But when I walked the dog at night in our quiet, upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood, I was more likely to smell marijuana (smoked by a kid or, frankly, an adult) wafting out of backyards than cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoking in our neighborhood just wasn’t something people did anymore.
Except Susan and me, and Susan especially did so very furtively. She’d spray her car with Febreze on the few occasions she’d smoke in it – even after holding her cigarette well out the window most of the time. Mouthwash and hand sanitizer was a must if she smoked within an hour before picking up the kids at day care or going to a neighbor’s house. And she almost never carried cigarettes with her when she was out and about – she’d only smoke at home or on the rare occasions we’d get a babysitter or leave the girls with Tom and Linda and venture down to La Casa de Habana.

I admit I had become more conscious of being a “pariah” because of my cigarette smoking too, but I wasn’t going to the extreme lengths Susan was about it. And, perhaps because it’s somewhat more socially acceptable for a man to smoke cigars than cigarettes, I was comfortable smoking them in more public circles – as I planned to do that night with Greg and Jeremy if the opportunity arose.
The pool party came, and it was great. Kids and adults alike had a fun afternoon swimming and hanging out. Around dinner time, we put the kids in front of a movie and dinner in our living room, while the adults had dinner and drinks outside on the patio. The general plan was to give the kids time to rest a bit after a long day of fun, and then shoot off some mild fireworks and bring out sparklers when it got dark before wrapping up the party.
This left plenty of time for Jeremy, Greg and I to take our drinks over to the cigar lounge after dinner, after excusing ourselves to joking comments from Greg and Jeremy’s wives about making sure to rinse their mouths out and wash their hands before the end of the party. For her part, Susan didn’t make a comment – but gave me a look that suggested jealousy. She was beginning to get a bit frazzled from lack of nicotine for sure, because by then she’d gone essentially the while day without smoking any tobacco or even chewing nicotine gum.
Not long after the three of us had gotten settled in the cigar lounge and lit our cigars, Susan appeared at the room’s open patio doors with Nick and his wife, Jennifer. “Apparently, Stan, there’s another cigar aficionado in the neighborhood. Nick, it turns out, likes cigars – I thought I would bring him out here to see if there is one more seat for him in your fancy cigar lounge,” Susan said with a wink at me – unwilling to disclose that she smoked cigars in “my” cigar lounge about as often as I did.
“I never knew you were a cigar smoker too, Stan,” Nick said, walking in with Jennifer and Susan. “But I never thought to ask you if you were, so I’m glad to know it now. I’m a pretty regular cigar smoker, actually.”
“Well, welcome to the club,” I said. “Help yourself to whatever looks good in the humidor. I guess cigar smoking just isn’t something people talk about much anymore.”
“I know, right? Smoking is like some sort of secret club in this neighborhood,” Nick said. “Jennifer and I thought we were total outcasts.”

“Totally,” Jennifer agreed, pulling a blue pack of Native American Spirit cigarettes from her purse. “I barely even bring my cigarettes out of the house anymore. But today, I put them in my purse just in case. Susan, Stan, do you mind if I smoke a cigarette in here, or should I go back out on the patio? I mean, is this room just for cigars?” she asked.
“Jennifer, feel free to smoke a cigarette in here,” I said, hiding my pleasure at having another smoking woman on the premises.
“Thanks. I haven’t smoked all day and was kind of really wanting one. I know you all aren’t cigarette smokers and Nick has taught me it’s not the same with cigars, but trust me, after a long day wrangling a four year old, I can really use a cigarette,” she laughed.
As Jennifer lit a cigarette and Nick made a selection from the humidor, Susan walked over to the credenza where she kept her Virginia Slims Ultra Lights. Getting the pack from the drawer, she held them up to Jennifer with a smile. “Trust me, Jennifer. I have two kids about the same age. I know the feeling of needing a cigarette.”
Perhaps Susan felt more comfortable smoking a cigarette now that Jennifer had broken the ice. Or maybe it was just a long day of being a busy mom and a hostess all at once that had overwhelmed any last defense Susan was going to mount against her craving. But either way, she quickly approached me with a cigarette and I promptly gave her a light.
“You too, Susan? I never knew!” smiled Jennifer. “But selfishly, now I don’t feel like such a pariah anymore,” she laughed.
Susan exhaled a huge puff and smiled. “Well, there are only a few of us in the neighborhood who smoke cigarettes, so you’ll have to get used to being sort of a smoking refugee. But you can always smoke out here when you’re over. I’d keep my smoking out of the view of most people around here, though, if I were you. Because you’re right, it’s not very popular. ”
Susan’s words were about to be proven correct. Just then, the other party guests – probably wondering why everyone else seemed to be gravitating toward a little room on the outskirts of the patio – were at the door, looking into the cigar lounge. The surprised, judgmental comments from the crowd began immediately, and nearly in unison.

“Susan, are you really smoking a cigarette?” asked one neighborhood mom.
“You know, I don’t admit this often, but I had to vape to quit before we got pregnant with our first, so I kind of get how hard it is to not be able to quit,” offered another.
“You don’t smoke in the car, do you, Susan? Yuck,” a third declared.
“Wow, Susan, I never thought you were a smoker,” announced a neighborhood dad.
“I didn’t know anybody smoked cigarettes anymore,” another chimed in.
“I don’t know how any mom with a full-time job finds the time to smoke anymore,” a mom submitted for consideration. “I mean, busy moms don’t smoke. They just don’t have the time.”
None of these comments were directed at Jennifer – likely because she and Nick were newer to the group and no one had any settled expectations of them. Susan, though, was a known neighborhood quantity: savvy professional balancing a career with two kids, always appearing to have her act together and make the right decisions in her life. The sight of her smoking, to the unknowing, was a total surprise.
Of course, there were no comments on four men smoking cigars.
There were, however, comments directed at Susan from Jennifer and Nick. This “friendly fire” surprised me, because a moment ago they were happy to be able to indulge their tobacco habits with us. But apparently they felt the need to differentiate themselves from Susan’s cigarette habit, in light of the negative comments from many of our other guests.
“Something to think about, Susan,” offered Nick. “If you want to quit smoking cigarettes, you can switch to cigars instead, and then give smoking up entirely.” Susan shot me a peeved look.
Then it was Jennifer’s turn. “Another thing is, if you have to smoke cigarettes, you should at least smoke these Native American Spirits because they don’t have any additives.” No one in the group – smokers and non-smokers alike – knew what to do with Jennifer’s comment or how to even respond to it.

Susan was, uniquely for her, at a loss for words. I felt compelled to come to her defense. “Wait, everybody. Yes, Susan smokes cigarettes. But she’s really cut down on how many she smokes and is working to quit. Many of you don’t know this first hand, but it is really hard to do. But she knows how bad it is, and she’s taking on the challenge. So sometimes, rarely, she will have a cigarette out here. Away from our kids or anybody’s kids.”
Kristen joined in my pathetic efforts. “Stan is right. Scott and I both smoked before I got pregnant, and quitting was the hardest thing I have ever done. I know Susan can do it when she is ready. And honestly, I don’t think having one cigarette at the end of a party is really the end of the world.”
Kristen’s words seemed to calm the surprise among the guests, who eventually turned to other topics. It was something of a buzzkill for my little cigar clique, though, and we all let our cigars extinguish pretty soon after. The party wrapped up as planned when it got dark enough for some fireworks, and soon after everyone went home.
After we got the kids to bed and cleaned up, Susan really needed a cigarette. “Can I smoke a cigarette now in peace, without causing a neighborhood riot?” she asked, preparing to receive a light from my outstretched hand. “God, Stan, I’m so embarrassed. I guess I thought with Jennifer smoking a cigarette, and everyone else over at the patio dinner table, I could have a quick cigarette too. Boy, was I wrong.”
Susan inhaled deeply and spoke through a talking exhale. “Did you see the looks on everyone’s faces? It was like I had confessed to being a serial killer or something. And what was with Jennifer’s comment about additives?”
“I have no idea. I think it’s something about that odd brand cigarettes she smokes,” I answered. “But everyone’s response was just way out of line. It was one cigarette, way out here in a room by the edge of the yard. It’s not like you’re a three pack a day smoker blowing smoke in kid’s faces or something.”
“Still, I hate being judged so negatively for it,” Susan said through a talking exhale. “The worst thing is, they’re all looking down on me for something I should be able to control. But if I could really control it, I’d just quit cigarettes and smoke an occasional cigar. I can’t get there, though. But all the neighbors look at me like I’m choosing to smoke cigarettes, when anymore I’m really not. Neither are you. We’re both stuck with them, and can’t just stop smoking them.”

Susan took another long puff. “And on top of that, I was getting advice from people who either never smoked in their lives or were able to quit easily. At least Kristen told them how hard quitting cigarettes is. By the way, I noticed you didn’t admit to the gang that you smoke cigarettes,” she said with a smile. “I wasn’t happy about that right then, but I thought about it and I understand. Trust me, you did not want to have a dozen people shocked to learn you’re a smoker and losing their damn minds about it in front of you, all at once.”
Susan took an aggressive step to get her cigarette habit “under control” later that week, though. One night after dinner and getting the kids in bed, we went out to the cigar lounge where I thought she’d join me in our usual after-dinner cigarette. To my surprise, the coffee table in the room had little plastic bottles of colored liquid and two cylindrical objects that looked like the large pens you used to see at souvenir stores. Each one had some sort of see-through chamber on one end, with brown liquid in one of the chambers.
Susan broke into a grin as she responded to the startled look on my face. “It’s vaping, Stan. It’s nicotine with out any smoke. You’ve heard about this, right?”
“Of course, Susan. Those little vape shops are popping up all over the place,” I said, hiding my unhappiness. “So, you’ve apparently joined all the hip folks with their vapes now?”
“Don’t be snarky with me, Stan. I’m really trying to quit cigarettes, and you know you have to, too. So I got one of these vape things for each of us, and some different flavors of this juice you put in them,” Susan said, picking up one of the pens, putting one end in her mouth, pushing a button, and inhaling.
Susan’s face almost disappeared into a thick cloud of something that smelled like a mixture of mint, peanut butter and cheap whiskey. It smelled gross. And it was not very sexy.
Maybe it’s simply because I am not a modern man, dear reader, but vaping is not one of the corners of our fetish that turn me on very much. It may be the smell, or the oddly mechanical processes – batteries, little parts and all – associated with it. Or maybe it’s the huge, fake-looking clouds of syrupy steam. Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.
“I don’t know, Susan. I’m not sure this is really my thing,” I said.

“You have to try it. We have to get off cigarettes. Both of us. You know that,” Susan said, pouring a little bit of juice into the clear cylinder on the other – presumably my – vape pen. She looked like a mad scientist, carefully squeezing drops of some unknown chemical into a little beaker. “Maybe it doesn’t work for you. Maybe it won’t work for me, although I like it so far. But anything is better than cigarettes, and if this helps, why not?”
Susan handed me the vape pen with a brief explanation. “Okay, so, the flavors I have put in yours are Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cuban Cigar. You love cookies and cigars, so now you can have them together! It’s easy to use, the guy at the store had me vaping in about ten seconds. Just put the mouthpiece in your mouth, push the button until you see the blue light come on, draw in slowly – very slowly – and then inhale.”
I had never thought of “chocolate chip cookie” and “cigar” as being flavors that go together, and the thought of those two flavors blended into a liquid frankly terrified me. But I did as instructed. Immediately, my taste buds were overwhelmed with unnatural tastes they’d never had before. And did not like. Somehow, it was like trying to smoke a cookie. I tried to inhale whatever this mixture was, and my body immediately went into a coughing fit.
“Oh my God, Susan, this is horrible,” I said. “How can anyone smoke this?”
“It’s not smoking, it’s vaping. Maybe you should try mine – this is Captain Crunch flavor,” she said, holding out her vape pen.
I was willing to give this a “college try,” if only to attempt to demonstrate good faith in response to Susan’s apparent interest in these contraptions. A puff of the “Captain Crunch” flavor almost turned my stomach, however. I exhaled and handed the device back to Susan. “Susan, I’m sorry. This one is worse than the other one. It’s nasty beyond words.”
“It takes some getting used to, that is for sure,” Susan said. “I appreciate you trying it. But I need you to go further. You know I am really trying to get off cigarettes and on to these things and cigars, and you know you have to do that, too. Can you try vaping for a week, to really give it a shot? I don’t expect you to drop cigarettes completely right away, but if you can vape or smoke cigars, especially in the mornings around me, when you know I am the most tempted by cigarettes, it will really help me a lot.”

I considered the demand, which was not patently unreasonable. Susan was not insisting I quit cigarettes, which I did not want to do. She was only, it seemed, asking me not to smoke them around her first thing in the morning (which she’d asked me to try a year before). And keep trying this chemically-tasting vape. While I was not a fan of vaping, by this time I was mostly keeping my cigarette smoking out of her view anyway – on my commute to and from work, and a couple cigarettes at night after she went to bed. We only had a few cigarettes together most days. So other than the vaping and coming up with some sort of change in my smoking habit in the mornings, if I agreed to this, I’d be giving Susan “the sleeves out of my vest,” as the old saying goes.
“I can do that, my love,” I said, making my agreement sound like a sacrifice even though, on balance, it wasn’t. “For you, I can do this. We’ve both always smoked not long after we wake up, so that will be tough for me to change. But I know how much you want to quit cigarettes and how much that means to you. So I’ll get used to taking my morning coffee out here with a cigarillo instead of a cigarette,” I said, in the most magnanimous way I could.
Susan saw the part of her proposal I was leaving out. “Or a vape,” she said. “You could try vaping in the morning. These things really put down a craving.”
“Or a vape,” I said. “That will be tough, but I will keep trying it. I promise I will.”
“Thanks, Stan. It means a lot to me that we are both going to be quitting together,” she said, wildly overstating what I thought I had just agreed to.
I let her comment pass without correcting her, and she continued. “I’m also going to be trying yoga and meditation in the mornings. I downloaded apps for both on my phone. Not that I am becoming all new-age or anything, but everything you read about quitting smoking says meditation and yoga help with cravings. You can join me if you want, but they may not be your thing. I’m going to do yoga and meditate over there” – she pointed to the other side of our patio, on the opposite end from where we were in the cigar lounge – “to try to change my morning pattern. Another thing I have read about quitting is you are supposed to try to break the patterns that lead you to smoke cigarettes, and you know one of mine – ours – is coming out here to smoke in the mornings. So I am going to go over there instead, to change my morning routine a little.”
“Kind of a change of scenery,” I said.

“Exactly,” Susan agreed.
For the next few days, we each kept our bargain. While the kids were eating breakfast and getting ready for school, Susan would vape, do ten minutes of yoga, and a short meditation at one end of the patio, and I’d smoke a cigarillo, drink coffee, and catch up on the news in the cigar lounge. At night, she’d vape, but we’d mostly smoke cigars or cigarillos.
Starting my day with a cigarillo instead of a Benson & Hedges was proving tougher than I had thought, though, and I’d still be craving a cigarette when I left for work an hour later. And one thing about addiction – to nicotine, alcohol, or anything else – is that the addiction will always bend the mind in favor of an opportunity to be satisfied. My own nicotine addiction is no exception. By the fourth morning, it dawned on me that perhaps Susan was conducting her new morning routine far enough away from the cigar lounge that she wouldn’t smell cigarette smoke. So that morning, instead of a cigarillo, I had a cigarette.
Susan didn’t say anything that day, so I concluded my addiction-led hunch was right. The next morning, I had a cigarette again in the cigar lounge while admiring Susan – sexy even without smoking – doing a downward dog pose across the patio.
And then I learned that my hunch was, in fact, wrong. As we were all leaving the house – Susan to drop the girls at day care and me to go to work – Susan gave me a quick kiss before whispering in my ear. “I smelled the cigarette smoke during my meditation, Stan. It was driving me crazy. You have to really work at this, honey. You promised.” And she went out the door.
I promptly went back to smoking a cigarillo in the morning, and Susan didn’t say anything further. For a short time.
About a week later, Susan and I put the kids to bed after dinner and we went out to our cigar lounge. When Susan joined me, I assumed she’d pull out her vape. Instead, she picked up a pack of Virginia Slims Ultra Lights 120s from a credenza drawer and pulled one out.
She dangled the unlit cigarette between her lips, sat next to me, and leaned in for a light. “Stan, meditation and vaping totally suck as a way to quit smoking. That’s all I have to say. I’m back on these for at least a little while I figure something else out.”

I lit her cigarette without any comment. Susan took a deep puff, inhaled, and continued after a long exhale. “The yoga I like, but it doesn’t help me quit. I’m going to keep doing it anyway. But those vapes just aren’t enough.”
Susan puffed her cigarette again. “And, as you know, being married to another cigarette smoker isn’t helping me quit at all. In fact, Stan, you smoking cigarettes just makes it harder on me. You were right when you said we each own our own cigarette habit, but we’re intertwined.”
“Susan, I know. I get that my smoking cigarettes isn’t helping you quit. But I’m trying, I swear,” I offered.
“Stan, you’re going to have to keep trying, and try harder. Because I am quitting cigarettes one way or the other. Somehow. I hate having to hide the smell and always sneak around. And I’m not going to get off your back about this until you quit cigarettes, too,” Susan said.
Chapter 21: Linda
It was an average day in early summer 2017 that had turned into an average evening. The weather was nice for that time of year in Houston – not yet unbearably hot and humid. Work had been productive. I came home and hugged Susan and the kids, played with the kids some, and helped Susan make dinner.
While we were working together in the kitchen, I noticed Susan seemed a bit distracted. “Is something wrong, hon?” I casually asked.
Susan pursed her lips a bit. “Nothing that can’t wait for us to talk about until after the girls are in bed.”
After the girls’ bedtime, Susan and I went out to the cigar lounge by the pool. I lit a Benson Hedges, and Susan, instead of her usual Virginia Slims Ultra Light, let me light her a cigarillo.
“So, Stan,” Susan said, exhaling cigarillo smoke. “It’s probably ironic, or something, that I am telling you this while you’re smoking a cigarette. But you’re definitely the heavier smoker among the two of us now, and most of the time when I talk to you after work you’re either smoking or you smell like you just smoked a cigarette. And when we’re out somewhere with the girls, I can tell when you start to get fidgety and you’re about to sneak off somewhere to smoke.”

“And don’t get me wrong – me smoking this is ironic, too,” she said, holding up her burning cigarillo. “This has tar like our big cigars, and even if it’s heathier for us than cigarettes, it’s still bad for our health.”
“So what’s going on, Susan,” I asked, now a bit confused.
Susan took a short puff off her cigarillo and exhaled quickly. She stared at it for a few seconds and set it down in the ashtray.
“My mom went in for her annual physical the other day. And the doctor tells her that while she’s in really good shape for sixty-two – somehow – they want to look at her lungs because she’s been smoking for so long. She started when she was eleven, so she’s been puffing away over fifty years.”
Susan took another short puff off her cigarillo and again exhaled quickly before putting it back in the ashtray. “So, they take this X-ray kind of picture of her lungs. Only it’s not exactly an X-ray. I don’t know, my mom tried to explain it to me. But it’s like an X-ray.”
“Anyway,” Susan continued, “My mom has these little lumps, called nodules, on her lungs. The lumps themselves are usually not cancer, they’re just something smokers get, especially the more they smoke and the older they are. Like you could have them, as you’re older than me and you smoke a lot more cigarettes,” Susan said, conveniently forgetting that she was a two pack a day smoker when we met, and had several periods during our marriage when she’d easily smoke that much for months at a time. And ignoring the fact that even though she’d cut down on the number of cigarettes she was smoking, she still inhaled each one deeply – along with cigars and cigarillos.
“So, Mom has these lumps, and they’re not a problem except for one of them, which the doctors said looked odd. I don’t know what’s odd about it. But the odd- looking ones are the ones that can be lung cancer.” Susan crushed out the barely- smoked cigarillo in the ashtray.
Susan looked at the ceiling and her eyes began to water with tears. “She needs a lung biopsy, Stan. They are going to poke a needle into her lungs to test this lump and see if she has lung cancer,” Susan whispered. “My mom may have lung cancer,” she said after a pause. “She has the biopsy on Monday and should know a few days after that.”

I let my cigarette burn itself out in the ashtray and we hugged, holding each other for a few minutes. Eventually she released herself from my embrace and picked up a cigarette and the lighter from the coffee table. She lit up a cigarette and, still dangling it, held the pack out to me. “We may as well smoke now because you and I are both definitely, positively, for-sure quitting cigarettes for good, real soon.”
Susan took a deep puff as I lit a cigarette for myself. Through a talking exhale, she said, “But God knows I need this right now.”
Susan and I were both nervous over the next week, as we waited for Linda to go through the needle biopsy and then a few more days to hear the results. Both of us smoked during this time, but whether intentionally or not, we smoked fewer cigarettes and more cigars and cigarillos.
As we waited for the results, many of our discussions revolved around how to handle worst-case scenarios. “What do we tell the kids if she has lung cancer?” Susan asked late one night when we were smoking cigars. “Emily is probably old enough to have figured out from TV commercials that smoking causes cancer. What if she thinks we’re both going to die right away? Is she going to be scared?”
There were no good answers to that question, or any of the others we posed to each other during that time. So when Linda called Susan that Friday afternoon with the news that the biopsy was negative for cancer, we were tremendously relieved. The news did not, however, reduce the pressure on us to quit smoking – from society, from ourselves, and especially from Linda.
This was made clear one weekday about a week later, after Linda had fully recuperated from her outpatient biopsy. Linda and Susan met for lunch at the country club, as Susan recounted that night. Susan told me about the lunch while we were sitting in the cigar room after the kids were in bed.
Susan was vaping some sort of small disposable vape pen that made the air smell like cotton candy. She hadn’t vaped since her failed attempt to switch over to it from cigarettes a year before, but I suspected her lunch with her mom had something to do with the sudden change in nicotine delivery systems. For my part, I – guessing that after her lunch with her mom, smoking a cigarette would only get me chastised – was puffing on a cigarillo.
“This was the first time my mom and I have had lunch inside the club when we could sit outside, Stan. And we’ve been going to lunch there once every few

weeks since I started working mostly from home. So, when the hostess pointed me to her table and she was inside on a beautiful day, I knew this was something serious,” Susan said, exhaling a sugary stream of vapor.
“And Mom doesn’t comment on us being inside, just gives me a big hug and launches in to tell me about this biopsy procedure she had,” Susan continued. “She tells me about how long it took, and the pain she had for a few days after it. The anesthesiologist and the nurses. How they took care of the incision. She goes on and on with this for a long time.”
Susan puffed the vape pen again and went on. “And then, just as they are serving us lunch, she gets really dark. She gets into the guilt she would have felt if she had lung cancer and made Dad take care of her and left him to become a widower. How she’s only sixty two and she wants to see Emily and Charlotte graduate college and get married and she would have missed that. How she didn’t want to be dead even before Jason gets married next summer. And how all of that would have happened just because she smoked and couldn’t quit.”
Susan put down the vape pen, apparently satisfied for the time being. “So, as we’re eating, she keeps going with this really morbid stuff. And I’m just listening, because, you know, she was just tested for cancer. And what am I going to say, anyway?”
Susan picked the vape pen up again, perhaps feeling some difficulty with what her mother said at lunch and needing a bit of nicotine relief. She puffed deeply before going on. “Mom eventually gets to all this guilt she feels about me smoking. How she was a bad example and how a good mother would have made me quit; Grandma Dorothy died of lung cancer and she should have used that example more to convince me to stop when I was a kid; all of it. Stan, get this: she even acknowledged that the ‘Switch Down and Quit’ thing led to her setting a bad example for me because she couldn’t ever quit, and so she thought I saw that as meaning it was too hard to quit, so I shouldn’t bother.”
Susan puffed the vape again. “The whole time she’s telling me this, though, I’m realizing something’s weird. I figure out it’s not really that we’re eating inside – we’ve done that sometimes when it’s rainy or chilly, or just way too hot. But it’s that my mother has talked to me non-stop, for a half-hour, without a cigarette. You know her, Stan. She can’t have a conversation without a cigarette. Even when we’ve had lunch inside, she’d sneak out to the patio at least once during lunch, and she’d always smoke one really fast before she came into the club. And so as

we’re eating, I’m starting to think to myself, damn, my mom may have actually quit cigarettes.”
“Sure enough, Stan, my mom has quit smoking, after fifty-one years of puffing away,” Susan said, again filling our cigar lounge with vapor. “After we eat, she gets out a piece of Nicorette, and starts gnawing away on it. She gives me one too. But what was odd was she doesn’t make a big announcement that she’s quit. She just goes into these changes she’s had to make, as if I already know she’s quit smoking. She just starts saying how she likes to have one cigar at night with my dad, now that she’s stopped cigarettes, how she likes the Nicorette, how her cough is better, all of that, as if I already knew she’d stopped. It’s like she didn’t want to discuss the actual quitting of the cigarettes, just the things she’s doing after she’s quit. Like she was just skipping over the main thing, which is she’s quit cigarettes after literally half a century. That, to me, was the big news. Not how chewing a ton of Nicorette gum makes her jaw ache.”
“And then she gives me this,” Susan added, holding out her small, yellow vape pen. “It’s a disposable vape. Mom tells me all about how many flavors there are, and how these things are so much easier than the juice bottles, there’s no battery to charge, and how the doctor would rather she not have any nicotine, but didn’t flatly say she couldn’t have it, and pretty much told her it was better than cigarettes. And how they keep her sane because these things have a lot of nicotine.”
“She pushes this one over to me, and dramatically tells me it may be her greatest gift to me,” Susan said, before hitting the small pen hard as if to illuminate her mother’s point. “Then she basically pleads with me to stop smoking cigarettes. The guilt trip was a classic, even by her standards. How I don’t want to put Emily and Charlotte through me having to get a biopsy or worse. How she doesn’t want you going to my funeral, and how she thinks the best thing for me to do is stop cigarettes and get more into cigars with you – for some reason, she’s convinced you’ve still quit. If she only knew it’s the reverse and I’m the one always trying to quit cigarettes,” Susan smirked, pointing to my pack of cigarettes on the coffee table.
“Wait, what are these?” Susan asked, picking up my pack of Parliament 100s.
“Those are Parliament 100s,” I said, having prepared an explanation in advance that might help me defend against the order I feared Susan would give me to quit cigarettes for good. “They have less tar and nicotine than my old brand. I verified

that on line. So, today, I am starting my switch to a lower tar and nicotine cigarette, and will smoke fewer of them, too.”
I had hoped my evidence-backed argument – even if Parliaments were only slightly “lighter” than my Benson & Hedges – would convince Susan that I was serious about quitting smoking without her imposing an immediate or imminent deadline for me to do so. I made my points in an even tone and with excitement. I was confident.
Boy, was I wrong.
“Ha!” Susan laughed loudly. “Are you kidding me, Stan? After getting over twenty years of ‘switch down and quit’ nonsense from my mom, you really think that’s going to work on me? That I would buy that load? That’s rich!” Susan laughed and then hit her vape pen. “I almost fell for that, Stan. Ten years ago I switched to the Ultra Lights, thinking, ‘oh, yeah, this is an easy way off cigarettes.’ I totally ignored that my mom thinking the same way had already failed her, even though I mocked her for fooling herself. But then I fooled myself, too.”
Susan paused for a second, then just said through a grin. “That ship has sailed, honey. If my mom can quit after over five decades of being a heavy smoker, then you and I can quit cigarettes, and we can do it right now. We don’t need ‘light’ cigarettes or any cigarettes.”
She puffed her vape pen and gave me a small bag she had brought with her out to the cigar lounge. “Here you go. I basically raided a vape shop on my way home. There’s maybe a dozen different flavors of disposable vapes in here, and about $300 worth of them. So you and I can try them all until we each find flavors that will work.”
I looked into the little bag only to see dozens of small boxes and foil wraps, understanding – but certainly not liking or accepting – that I was being ordered to stop smoking cigarettes.
“And for the time being, you and I can smoke all the cigars and cigarillos we want. We’ll work on that later. Soon, I promise you. But you and I both know that while it’s hard to find the time and place to smoke a cigarette, it’s even rarer we have time to smoke a cigar or cigarillo or a place to smoke it. We can only really smoke cigars out here or at that cigar bar we used to go to, and so we’ll naturally be smoking less.”

“In fact, I going to have a cigar now,” she announced, walking over to the humidor. “I was thinking about smoking one of those Parliaments, but I don’t want that to be my last cigarette. I never understood the charcoal filter thing, anyway.”
Susan stopped and looked at me. “Stan, you can finish that pack. And then help yourself to the vapes and all the cigars. You can get out the pipe, even. That’s still a good look on you, by the way,” she winked.
Despite her comment about the pipe and the wink, I knew the ultimatum was coming because she kept staring right into my eyes. “You can chew nicotine gum or those nicotine tablets if you want too. But after that pack, no more cigarettes. My mom’s experience convinced me to quit like it convinced her to quit. Like Aunt Mindy’s emphysema should have convinced all of us to quit.”
Susan paused. “I don’t want you and I to grow old waiting on each other’s biopsy results. Or worse.”
Susan had laid down the law. For a while, after that night, she followed it. She started vaping like a fiend, and our cigar room constantly smelled like tropical drinks and weird desserts. That is, she’d vape when she wasn’t chewing nicotine gum (when she was around the kids) or puff away on cigars or cigarillos (during frequent breaks during the days when she worked from home, and at night after the kids were in bed).
The new law was more difficult for me to follow, however. I’d found myself in recent years more hooked on cigarettes than I’d ever thought, and I chafed at the restrictions. The vapes all tasted gross to me, like I was being dipped in a bad margarita or my mouth was turning into a huge Cinnabon. I’ll admit I was also a little irritated that Susan – a heavier cigarette smoker than me for a long time – was having an easier time of quitting cigarettes than I was.
So, I started smoking more on my commute to and from work, and sneaking a few cigarettes at night after Susan went up to bed. I hated sneaking around – having to be conscious of taking her car for family outings on weekends, for example, so she wouldn’t smell the smoke in mine and see the full ashtray, and having to hide my pack of cigarettes in the garden shed – but I didn’t want to quit, and I hated being ordered to do it.
Susan knew I was smoking, though. Her nose, regaining its sensitivity despite the obnoxious and almost-omnipresent vapor, smelled it on me at least a couple of

times when she gave me a hug after work. She was subtle and lenient about enforcement of her law those times, though: she’d kind of sniff the air a bit, raise an eyebrow, and give me a knowing look. I speculated that as long as she didn’t see me smoking at the house, and if I kept my cigarette habit to myself and away from her and the kids, she might give me some latitude.
Susan, it turned out, followed the no-cigarette prohibition for about a month.
At first, the signs didn’t clearly indicate she was back to smoking cigarettes. I noticed she seemed to be sucking on breath mints more often, and the big bottle of mouthwash on the vanity in our bathroom suggested she was using that more often, too. She started keeping a small bottle of Febreze on the desk in her office. But none of these signs conclusively pointed to her smoking cigarettes again, and she continued to avidly vape, chew nicotine gum, and smoke a lot of cigars and cigarillos.
Eventually, though, the evidence added up. A few too many whiffs of cigarette smoke on her when I’d give her a hug, and cigarette smoke in her car that smelled too “fresh” for someone who allegedly quit cigarettes over a month before, were pretty convincing. I decided not to confront her about it, though. I figured that if she was going to be lenient with me about cigarettes as long as she didn’t see me smoking them, it was in my interest to treat her cigarette smoking the same way. Sneaking cigarettes behind each other’s backs was by no means an ideal situation for a husband and wife, but I decided it was better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Soon, though, I inadvertently “caught” her smoking a cigarette. I’d gone to the airport to fly home from a business trip, and the gate agent told me I could get on a flight to Houston that would get me home an hour earlier if I went straight to the boarding gate. I boarded the earlier plane as the door was being closed, so I had no time to text or call Susan and let her know I’d be home earlier than planned.
When I got home, the girls were already in bed and Susan was not in the main house. I guessed she was outside in the cigar lounge, vaping or having a cigar. And as I went out to the pool patio, I could see the lights were on, so my hunch seemed correct.
What I saw as I crossed the patio toward our cigar room, though, confirmed Susan was smoking cigarettes again. Susan didn’t hear me cross the patio, and from the chair she was sitting in, she couldn’t see me directly – I was walking towards her

from over her shoulder. And while she didn’t see me, I saw her light up a short, white cigarette and exhale a huge light-up drag.
I walked into the cigar lounge and she was clearly startled I was home much earlier than she’d thought I would be. She set the cigarette in the ashtray and gave me a big hug. We sat down and after I gave her the (few) highlights of a short and uneventful business trip, she updated me on the kids and goings-on at the house. All the while, her cigarette burned in the ashtray next to a half-empty pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights. The cigarette and its smoke trail were obvious to both of us, but I didn’t raise the issue, figuring she’d eventually explain.
And she did. “So, the cigarettes,” Susan said, picking up the Marlboro Ultra Light and relighting it before I could find a lighter. “I know we’re both trying to quit, or at least, I am. I’ve been smelling smoke on you. I don’t know how hard you are trying, if at all. But between smelling smoke on you and knowing you’re still smoking, and just really, really missing cigarettes myself, I broke down. I’ve been smoking, maybe, three cigarettes a day to help me get to just vapes and cigars.”
“So I gave in, but not all the way,” Susan said before taking a deep puff of the relit cigarette. “Yes, these are super lights, they’re just like inhaling air. And I know what I said about switch-down-and-quit, and I know these are still cigarettes and I have to get off them for good.”
“But they’re short ones, and not the super long 120s. And this is where you come in, Stan,” she continued, exhaling gently. “We both have to quit, but I don’t think you are really trying. And I think it’s for two reasons. One, it’s because you’re hooked on cigarettes, like I am. And the vaping and the cigars and the pipe don’t really replace that nicotine feeling you get from a cigarette in the same way. We both know that.”
“But I think it’s also because of your thing for me when I smoke. I don’t think you’re intentionally doing this, but I don’t think you really, deep down inside, want me to quit cigarettes because you find it sexy when I smoke them,” she said, crushing out her cigarette in the ashtray.
“Susan, that’s not true,” I interjected. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told you this. I love you, not you smoking a long cigarette, or a cigar, or anything else. That’s the truth,” I said, becoming more than a bit defensive.

“Okay, Stan. I accept that,” Susan said, quietly. “But just so you know: now my cigarette smoking is just for me, not for you. There was a time when I smoked cigarettes because I needed to and wanted to – man, I loved smoking cigarettes. But also because I knew the long cigarettes turned you on, and it made me happy to be able to smoke and know you enjoyed watching me.”
“I don’t want to do that anymore, Stan,” Susan continued. “I now smoke cigarettes just to get me through until I can figure out how to quit them. I don’t like smoking cigarettes now. At all. In fact, for a while I’ve hated how I smell, and how I cough and get out of breath, and what people think of me for my cigarettes. And I hate how when I’m not smoking a cigarette, I’m thinking about when and where I can smoke my next one. Now, my mom, pleading with me to quit, and almost having lung cancer, has just totally turned me off to cigarettes. And I don’t want to turn you on with them.”
The serious tenor of the conversation, coupled with Susan’s allegation that my fetish was keeping her from quitting cigarettes, was – ironically but not unsurprisingly – giving me a nicotine craving. I took out a cigarillo from the tin on the coffee table and lit one up. To my surprise, Susan retrieved a cigarillo from the tin too, and I gave her a light.
“The cigars and vapes and gum and these cigarillos are just somehow not quite enough for me right now,” Susan said, exhaling her first puff. “They help with cravings, but they don’t fully satisfy me. I just need more. Just a few cigarettes a day, and only for a little while longer. And I hope that if I’m not smoking the long cigarettes, you can focus more on quitting, too.”
Susan’s “few cigarettes a day” did stay at a handful for the next few years, but crept closer to five or six Marlboro Ultra Lights a day, along with a cigarillo during the day and a big cigar most nights. Susan continued to hide her cigarette smoking from neighbors and her parents and friends, and Febreze and breath mints became constant residents in her purse.
Our intimacy sessions remained pretty frequent – somewhat consciously on my part, as if to prove to her that she was more to me than a fulfiller of my smoking fetish fantasies. But we also made love often just because she was still a very sexy woman and a great lover, who I loved, and she sparked my sexual interest even when she wasn’t smoking a long cigarette.

Plus, Susan was still smoking a few, albeit king-size, cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos. So my smoking fetish was still fed on occasion.
The disposable vapes, with their assortment of odd flavors, gradually fell into disuse as Susan settled into her moderate cigarette habit.
As for my own cigarette habit, I continued to try to minimize my smoking at home in order to keep from stoking Susan’s ire on the subject. I smoked cigarettes mostly outside of the house, and ultimately my habit crept back up to about fifteen cigarettes a day – where it had been for several years.
Chapter 22: Lockdown
Everyone reading this work within decades after it is written will likely recall the
second week of March, 2020.
After several days of anxiety-producing news reports, COVID-19 was in the United States, and it was spreading rapidly. As talk of shutdowns and lockdowns rattled a confused public, my team at work went into overdrive figuring out how we could run the financial end of the business – to the extent we stayed in business – from home. While I was busy doing that – on the last days I’d be in the office for months – Susan took advantage of already working from home to duck out and “beat the rush” to the supermarkets. Unsure of exactly what was going on, she wound up getting us well-stocked on toilet paper, cleaning wipes, Lysol, bottled water, and canned food, among other items one might want when a pandemic strikes an unprepared world.
And cigarettes. I found that out on Thursday night of that week, when I came home for the last time for a while as my company had declared an indefinite work- from-home policy. I walked in to find our girls – not even yet tweens, and usually entirely uninterested in the news – watching CNN. “Daddy, what’s going on?” Charlotte asked, after the girls gave me big, but anxious, hugs. If this was all confusing for adults, it was definitely confusing for them.
“I don’t know, honey, but it’ll all be okay,” I said, reassuring them as much as myself. “We’ll figure it out. For right now, why don’t you put on Nickelodeon or something? Mommy and I will figure it out and then talk with you both before bed. Where is Mommy, anyway?”
“She is out in the smelly room where you smoke. That’s bad for you, you know,” Emily said, giving me one of her now-frequent warnings about my tobacco vices.

Sure enough, Susan was in the cigar lounge, smoking a Marlboro Red 100. She was also watching CNN and, by the looks of the nearly-full ashtray on the coffee table, becoming a nicotine-craved nervous wreck from the state of the news. When she saw me come in, she crushed out her cigarette, exhaled, and came over to give me a hug. Even with my longtime smoker’s nose – and even having just nervously puffed through three Parliaments on my drive home – I could easily tell she’d been smoking a lot.
We sat down on the couch and I lit a cigarillo as Susan told me about her trips to stock up. We talked about what our offices were doing and how we were going to manage to get work done while managing the girls, given that their school was apparently about to be closed indefinitely.
Through this all, Susan puffed on her Marlboro 100. When it was spent, she snubbed it out in the ashtray next to several other Marlboro butts, grabbed anther one from her pack on the table, and leaned in to me for a light.
I was thinking about asking her what happened to her five-Marlboro-Ultra-Lights-a- day practice, and was just deciding against asking that when Susan apparently had read my mind. “Oh, these things,” she said, exhaling her light-up puff. “I was driving by that discount tobacco store today when I realized I should get us both cigarettes in case the stores closed. No one knows how long all this will really last. When I went in, I realized the world may be ending,” she said, chuckling at the situation we found ourselves in. “So I figured smoking is the least of our problems right now. So I bought some cartons of these,” she said, holding out her Marlboro. “Oh, and, they had two cartons of your Benson & Hedges that had been on some special order that wasn’t picked up, so I got those for you too.” Susan took a deep puff and inhaled the Marlboro smoke deep into her lungs. “Now is not exactly the time to worry about cutting down and less tar and nicotine. But when this is over, if it ever is, we’ll go back to smoking less and then quitting.”
It didn’t come to be “over” for a while. For the several months before things resumed a semblance of normalcy, Susan smoked her Marlboros and I smoked my Benson & Hedges, each of us settling in at about a pack a day. We also unwound with cigars at night, usually sitting in the cigar lounge and watching either cable news or binge-watching a streamed TV show or movie.
Once Susan decided things had gotten “normal” enough, however, she pushed to bring our smoking habits back to where they had been. She came home from a shopping trip sometime that summer and walked into my guest room turned “office”

with a bag from the discount cigarette store. “It’s time, Stan. Gotta clean up our act,” Susan proclaimed, reaching into the bag and withdrawing three cartons of cigarettes. “This is it for the next month. One carton of Marlboro Ultra Lights for me, and two cartons of Parliament 100s for you,” she said, placing them all on my desk. “This gets us about where we were. Ultimately I’ll smoke a half-carton a month and you’ll smoke a carton a month. Then just cigars. But this is how we start.”
“Well, okay,” I said, not being at all prepared for this conversation which she had clearly thought out in advance.
“ ‘Well, okay’ nothing, Stan,” Susan scolded. “I turn forty next year and you’re barely still in your forties. It’s really time to quit. Like, now.”
Susan picked up the cartons of cigarettes and turned to leave the room. “I’ll put these out in the cigar lounge,” she declared, adding, “If you have any more Benson & Hedges, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
Susan pretty quickly cut back to Marlboro Ultra Lights, and resumed smoking a small number each day: a morning cigarette or two after the kids were at day camp or school; one after lunch; one after the kids were in bed and another before we went to bed. She’d have one after we were intimate, but overall got back to smoking about a carton a month.
While the number of cigarettes, and perhaps her overall nicotine consumption, had gone down, the fact that she still needed some “Vitamin N” in her life had not. I’d noticed for some time that she took deeper puffs and inhaled for longer periods of time when she switched to the ultra light cigarettes, and this pattern continued.
She also had perfected her ability to inhale her cigars (usually one a day) and cigarillos (also about one, sometimes two, a day). Add in the few pieces of nicotine gum she’d chew on any given day and she was still taking in a lot of nicotine.
For my part, I was facing some real challenges cutting back on cigarettes, however, and it quickly became a numbers matter for me. I’d had a settled habit at a little less than a pack a day for several years by this point. But the number would vary a bit – some days maybe fifteen cigarettes, somedays twenty or so – because I never really had a fixed cap. I smoked about as much as I wanted to, or

could, and it was somewhere in that number. Now, Susan had put a cap on how much I was supposed to smoke every day – about thirteen cigarettes.
It’s not so much that thirteen cigarettes was that many less than I was already smoking. It was the notion that I now had to keep count of my cigarettes that threw my mathematical mind into overdrive. I found myself almost rationing my own cigarettes, and constantly thinking about how many I would have left for that day or week to “live within” the two cartons Susan had arbitrarily decided I was allowed to have that month.
And all that thinking about smoking made me want to smoke even more, which just compounded my problem. Pretty quickly, I was making excuses to run errands so I could buy more Parliaments and smoke them on the sly. I hated hiding this from Susan, but I was driving myself crazy.
I told Susan how I was feeling one night when we were in the cigar lounge having cigars after the kids were in bed. I told her I felt confined by having to always count my cigarettes in my head. I told her I felt she had imposed a limit on me that I never agreed to, and that I needed to quit cigarettes on my own terms and in my own way.
I expected sympathy, but that was not what I got. “Wait a minute. You feel confined by your cigarettes?” Susan responded, getting angry. “That’s rich, Stan. You’re the one who has me trapped on cigarettes. I’ve been trying to cut down and get switched to an occasional cigar for years now. Why can’t I do it? Because my husband is still smoking a ton of cigarettes, that’s why. I mean, you know how hooked I am, and you’ve watched how I’ve struggled to quit cigarettes really since we got married. Do you really think I could ever stop for good, seeing you smoke them right in this house, and smelling smoke on you? Getting to watch you sneak outside to have the first cigarette in the morning with coffee, and knowing so well how great that tastes, and not being able to smoke with you?”
“Honestly, I have been confined by your cigarettes for years now. Confined into my own cigarette addiction. I could have switched over to these things” – Susan held out her cigar – “long ago if you could put some effort into getting there with me. But you can’t, or you won’t. Either way, you’re not trying. So I don’t feel bad for you feeling confined by your cigarettes. Welcome to my world.”
We puffed our cigars in silence for a few minutes. Susan broke the silence as she put her hand on my knee. “I’m sorry to snap at you like that, Stan,” she said in a

low tone of voice. “But we have to finally get real about on this, and you haven’t been with me on quitting cigarettes. I need you to be.”
After spending Christmas with Tom and Linda, we came back to our house, parked the girls in front of a movie, and headed out to the cigar lounge where the two of us immediately lit up cigarettes. Following the family tradition, we had stayed at their house with the girls on Christmas Eve night. We were also continuing to make them think we had both quit cigarettes, so while we’d enjoyed cigars with Tom and Linda after the girls were in bed – which Susan and I both inhaled heavily – the two of us were pretty nicotine-starved, other than a few nicotine lozenges.
After I lit Susan’s Marlboro Ultra Light, she double-pumped, held the smoke for a long time, and exhaled. After a few seconds, she spoke. “I’m going to miss this feeling when I am done with cigarettes for good. That feeling of immediate relief when you really need a cigarette and you can finally light one up. You just don’t get that from cigars,” she said.
“I know. It’s just not the same,” I said, feeling the same craving relief.
“Speaking of which, it’s time to keep moving on getting rid of these. Starting in January, we are cutting our cigarette smoking by half. Half a carton a month for me and a full carton for you,” she said, before double-pumping again. “You’re the math guy and you can check my math, but that’s about three cigarettes a day for me and about six for you. And don’t bitch at me about this, Stan. My mind is made up and you have known this is coming.”
“Susan, you’re treating me like a child, rationing my cigarettes like pieces of candy or juice boxes.” I said. “I’m cutting down in my own way. I don’t need or want you counting out my cigarettes every day.”
“Stan, I’m treating you like a child here because you’re acting like one by not taking this seriously. You’re not putting any effort in to get off cigarettes. And this is not a surprise for you. We’ve been talking about this for years. It’s time,” Susan said. “Look, we’re both smokers. We were both heavy smokers. It was fine for a long time. Cigarettes and you got me through law school and started my career. Cigarettes and you got me through having two baby girls. I’ll be the first to admit that I am heavily hooked on nicotine.”

“And let’s not forget you got to watch me smoke 120s, which turned you on for years and years. And I was happy to do that,” Susan said, through a talking exhale.
“But heavy smokers die young. And it’s gruesome. My Aunt Mindy was on oxygen for months and she couldn’t breathe at the end. My mom needs scans every six months because God knows what’s in her lungs,” Susan said, before taking one last puff and crushing out her cigarette.
“Speaking of my mom, Stan: did you notice her cough is getting much better since she quit? And you know whose cough is getting worse? Yours. I’ve noticed it, Stan, you cough a lot now. My mom walks six miles a day now, and you get winded going up the stairs.” Susan exhaled her final puff. “Stan, we have our fifteenth anniversary this June. Fifteen years ago we talked about switching to cigars to quit. We haven’t made it fully there yet. I am close, but you’re not getting there. But fifteen years from now you’ll be turning 63. Do you want to be smoking cigarettes then? By then it’s way too late to change any risk. The damage will be done. You have to do this now. This is the year, Stan. I love you too much to give you any more choice here.”
In my mind, I knew Susan was right. But in my heart, and every nicotine-craving cell in my body, I knew I wasn’t done with cigarettes yet. Nor did I know if I ever would be. My nicotine addiction – specifically to the quick nicotine hits cigarettes provide, as opposed to cigars or gum – was proving very strong. Unsure how to argue against her from that divided posture, I begrudgingly went along with Susan’s assumed right to cut how many cigarettes I smoked. But I kept sneaking out to ostensibly run “errands” that were really just excuses to smoke more cigarettes, bought outside of Susan’s embargo on how many I was allowed to smoke each day.
As COVID cases began to decline in the early Spring 2021 and daily life resumed some semblance of normality in Houston, Linda went back to her doctor to restart the lung screening regimen that the pandemic had interrupted. When Susan got the call from her mom with the results of the scan, I was – unfortunately for me – in the cigar lounge, smoking a cigarette. Susan came in, picked up her pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights, crushed them, and threw them in the garbage as she told me that Linda had another suspicious-looking nodule on her lung that would need another biopsy.

“I’m done with cigarettes, Stan. Done for good,” Susan said, her voice rising with anger. “And you know what? You better get serious about quitting, too. Now. You’ve smoked for a long time, for decades. Like my mom did, and she’s really not that much older than you. She might have lung cancer, for God’s sake. She might have to have a lung taken out, right? At least?” Susan asked her voice rising in anger. “I don’t want them to be cutting out your lung, Stan. I don’t want to be a widow. So will you just finally quit?”
Susan grabbed her nearly empty box of Nicorette gum from a drawer in an end table. “I’m going to the store to get more Nicorette, and I’m going to get some for you, too,” she said, as she left the lounge and walked quickly back into the main house.
Susan did buy more Nicorette that day. And some more disposable vapes. But she bought more Marlboro Ultra Lights, too. She went to extraordinary lengths to hide her smoking from me and the kids. From our bedroom window, though, I’d see Susan out on the patio smoking a quick cigarette in the middle of the night. In her car, there were flecks of ash on the floor and the smell of fresh smoke.
My own smoking habit was hard to indulge, too. Still technically working from home, I found reasons to occasionally go into the office – if only to smoke on the way downtown and back. And after Susan went to bed, I’d smoke a few cigarettes in the cigar lounge. I chewed Nicorette like a fiend when I couldn’t smoke. Because while Susan still had a cigar with me a few nights a week, she was trying to keep up the appearance that she was done with cigarettes, and she’d nag me whenever she saw me smoking one.
This tension over smoking was almost literally a cloud over our relationship – a cloud of cigarette smoke, ostensibly my cigarette smoke but really, at least partially, hers as well.
Cutting against that tension was that the lockdown had given us more time together and forced us to rediscover the strengths we’d always seen in each other. Figuring out virtual school and “pods” of our kids’ friends – as well as weighing risk and keeping things together when, for a few weeks, we had no idea what was going to happen – required us to communicate openly and often. Although I’d never really forgotten, seeing up close just how bright and talented she was reminded me of what a lucky man I am, whether she smokes or not.

These rekindled feelings – combined with the ability to sneak away from our respective home offices, at least once the girls’ schools reopened in the Spring – led us to have a lot more intimate encounters than we’d been having. And spontaneous too: she’d send me a text about a “meeting in the conference room” (our bedroom), or I’d send her a text saying I “wanted to get her thoughts on a pretty substantial and growing issue.” These sorts of texts became our subtle invitations to the other to meet for a quick romp in the sheets. On a few days, we’d have three such “meetings.”
After Linda’s screening results, of course, our after-sex cigarette became a very different matter. Before we knew the results, we’d cuddle for a few minutes before quickly getting dressed and heading out to the cigar lounge for a cigarette. After we knew the results, we’d cuddle before I – feeling a need for nicotine – would say something about having to get back to work.
“You’re sneaking out for a cigarette, Stan. I see you go out there. Don’t lie to me,” Susan said after one such encounter, popping a piece of nicotine gum in her mouth. “You just have to try harder at quitting. I’ve done it. You can too. And you have to – I am not giving you an option here.”
I avoided the temptation to tell her that from the window of the bedroom I was using as an office, I’d seen her just that morning furiously double-pumping a Marlboro Ultra Light out in a corner of the backyard where we kept the trash cans. That all the breath spray bottles she was keeping all over the house weren’t keeping me from tasting cigarette smoke when I kissed her. That a smoking fetisher’s sensitive nose for smoke was smelling it on her despite liberal doses of Febreze.
She was living a lie about her cigarettes, but I didn’t have the heart to call her out on it. But I could at least be somewhat honest about my own. “Susan, I am trying. But I can’t fully quit yet. I have cut down though, a lot. You need to be patient with me,” I said.
“Stan, we’ve been talking about quitting, and trying to quit, for years. My patience with you is gone,” she said, as I left the room. To go, of course, to the cigar lounge and have a cigarette.
Susan didn’t raise the topic again for several days. When she did, it was after another intimate afternoon encounter. I was getting dressed to go have a cigarette, and somewhat prepared for her to nag me about it, when she spoke.

“Stan, can I come with you? I want a cigarillo and I’ll have one if you have one. But not a cigarette,” she said.
I agreed, seeing this as something of a compromise – or at least I wasn’t going to be nagged. Plus, I still found it sexy when she greedily inhaled her cigarillos to quell a craving.
Susan did not disappoint on that score. I lit her Hoyo de Monterrey cigarillo and she took two aggressive puffs with deep inhales in quick succession. She was quiet through this process, so I sensed something was on her mind.
“Stan, I have to confess something,” Susan said, before exhaling a column of
cigarillo smoke. “I’ve been sneaking cigarettes. Still. and I haven’t. But I don’t want to lie to you anymore.”
“I had no idea, Susan,” I said, trying to act surprised.
I told you I’d quit for good
“I’ve unfortunately become a very good sneak over the years. Hiding my cigarette smoking from the neighbors and the other moms, and from our friends, and even from my mom. And now from you, too, who I love more than anyone in the world,” she said before taking another puff.
Susan exhaled. “I’m tired of lying and hiding, Stan. Especially from you. And I hate that you are sneaking around to smoke cigarettes, too. We need to be done with cigarettes, and we need to do it together. It’s just too tempting for me to know you’re still smoking cigarettes when I sooo want one. But I am partly to blame for this too, for giving in to that temptation.”
Susan ashed her cigarillo. “So I am putting my foot down. As your wife and the mother of your children. I know you are going to South Padre next week for work. But when you come back, you are not going to smoke cigarettes. That’s it. And I won’t, either.”
As if to illustrate her point, Susan crushed out her partially-smoked cigarillo. “I’m serious, Stan. Really serious. You’ve been smoking cigarettes for what, like thirty five years now? And I’ve been smoking for almost thirty. We’re at the point where if we don’t quit now, we’ll be quitting when one of us gets a lung biopsy like my mom. Or at the other’s funeral.”
“Our cigarettes just have to go. That’s all there is to it. We can have an occasional cigar, but no more cigarettes. And I mean ‘occasional’ for real, Stan. Not five

cigars a day. I mean, occasional, like my Dad, he only smokes maybe three a week now.”
“So smoke all the cigarettes you want on your trip next week. Smoke two packs a day if you want. But when you come back here, no more cigarettes. That’s it. You can vape or chew Nicorette or suck on those Swedish nicotine pouches or whatever you need to do. And have a cigar at night. We have to do it. We’ll just get through this together.”
This conversation was on my mind when Sunday came, and I packed up my briefcase and a few other things for the drive to our beach house. I’d be away for a week, making an appearance at the office, having some of the conversations that work best in person, and generally observing how things were running as the pandemic ended.
And since Susan wouldn’t be there to nag me, I’d definitely be smoking – especially since I had to mull all this over. I had no idea how Susan was going to carry out her directive if I didn’t quit. But I surmised that, at least, she’d nag me until the cows come home, and get the kids to nag at me too.
A lot to think about. So as I turned off of our street to begin my drive to South Padre Island, I pulled a pack of Parliaments from the glove box and lit up.

Author’s Notes:If you have read Part I of this story, dear reader, you may recall it starts with a rainy afternoon in late Spring 2021 in South Padre Island, Texas.
After a long trip through my relationship with my wife Susan and our marriage, we’re back to that day again. With that background, I can tell you what happened next.
Two things weighed heavily on me that day; Susan’s ultimatum that I quit smoking cigarettes, and her own struggles to quit. Along with what those issues meant for my marriage, our health, and my fetish. I was enjoying a bit of space – geographically speaking – to consider those things on that rainy afternoon.
My story now continues forward from there.

With some rare time completely to myself – no immediate work that had to be done, and away from my wife and my kids – I thought about what I wanted to do. Walking on the beach was out of the question, given the tropical rain. There was TV or a book, but neither choice seemed appetizing.
There was, however, a dive bar about two blocks from our condo. And while most bars on this small beach island were non-smoking by law, this one was so old it was a “grandfathered” exception to the law. I think. All I know for sure is that on the rare occasions I’d gone in to this hole-in-the-wall, it was thick with cigarette and cigar smoke.
Given the nature of my recent discussions about smoking with Susan, the bar – where no one would nag me about my tobacco habits – seemed the perfect place to go to pass a couple of rainy hours. I grabbed my cigarettes and a cigar and walked the short distance through the rain.
I shook the rain off my umbrella as I walked in to the Crow’s Nest Bar and Grill. Despite the nautical reference in its name, and its location in a small Gulf Coast beach destination, there was nothing particularly nautical about the Crow’s Nest. If there was, I couldn’t see it: there were almost no windows to let daylight in, and the lights seemed dimmed for a purpose. Maybe that purpose was to hide the beat-up appearance of the floor and the ancient tables and chairs.
Before the pandemic, I had only come in here a few times on my work trips to South Padre. Through the dim light, though, it appeared nothing had changed since then. The bar had been closed for several months during the lockdown, and it appeared no one had used that time to remove the posters promoting football games in Fall 2019. Or bothered to clean the ripped carpet that covered a karaoke stage nestled in one corner of the room opposite the bar. In short, the Crow’s Nest was the sort of place Jon Taffer would love to visit for an overhaul on his “Bar Rescue” TV show.
Another thing that hadn’t changed since my pre-pandemic visits was the smoke, which compounded the difficulty in seeing anything in the bar too distinctly. That was probably a good thing, as visitors probably didn’t want to know what they would learn about the Crow’s Nest in the light of day.
On this visit, most of the smoke was coming from ten or twelve late-afternoon drinkers filling most of the seats at the bar, and a couple more at tables near the karaoke stage. I saw an open seat next to four women sitting at one end of the bar, though, and sat down. I put my pack of Parliaments, a cigar, and my lighter on the bar. The bartender – a wiry man about thirty who was dressed in beach wear – greeted me briefly. I ordered a Shiner Bock on draft, and lit a cigarette.
Before I started to ponder what to do about Susan’s demand that I quit cigarettes – or, in fact, continued thinking about that, as I’d thought about it on the five-hour drive down here from Houston – I got distracted listening to the animated discussion the four women next to me were having.
Each of these four women were smoking different brands. But the one I was sitting next to was smoking Virginia Slims 120s, a personal favorite of mine. And she seemed to be the heaviest smoker, with a nearly-full ashtray and leather cigarette case on the bar in front of her, and a lit cigarette in her hand almost constantly for the twenty minutes I sat at the bar and just subtly observed. For a smoking fetish fan, it was the best seat in the Crow’s Nest.

Casually listening in on their conversation, it seemed they all lived on the Island and knew it well. They mostly talked about which businesses they thought would survive the pandemic shutdown – which had curtailed 2020’s Spring Break and summer tourist seasons and led to some businesses closing for good. For a part- time “regular visitor” like me, it was insightful information to know. At one point, one of the women seated on the opposite end of the row of women from me said she’d heard that a particular beachfront restaurant had just reopened and was expected to survive the severe loss of business.
“Oh, that’s so good to hear,” the Virginia Slims smoker next to me responded. “I love their food. And the back patio is covered and you can still smoke out there.”
That was more confirmation that the one I was sitting next to was a serious smoker, so I was even more interested. I started to casually take a look at this woman. She was pretty good looking for her age, which I guessed was about sixty. She had brown hair, cut into sort of a bob, that may have been dyed at one point. About five feet and six inches, she had an ample bosom, brown eyes, and was a little bit overweight, but not obese. She was dressed pretty stylishly for this beach town in a patterned blouse and nice shorts. And she had a large diamond wedding ring on one finger.
This woman next to me also displayed some evidence of being a heavy smoker. She had wrinkle lines around her eyes, and others around her mouth that ran perpendicular to her lips. Her cheeks were a bit hollowed-in even when she wasn’t puffing on her Virginia Slim 120. She cleared her throat a lot and occasionally coughed, and had a rough smokers’ voice that sounded like her words were being run through sandpaper when she talked.
She was worthwhile enough to observe, or maybe flirt if I had the opportunity.
And as a man with a smoking fetish, there was a lot to observe from this woman’s smoking. I casually observed her style while she was listening to one of her friends expound on something. She had what I can best describe as a serious smoking style. She was clearly no lightweight when it came to smoking cigarettes. Nor was her smoking a casual matter, it appeared: she puffed often and deeply. She’d start each puff with the cigarette on the left side of her mouth, between the left corner and the center. The she’d spread her fingers about an inch apart, and draw in the smoke with cheek-hollowing force that would make the cigarette’s tip move quickly toward the sky. And she’d puff for a long period too, perhaps three or four seconds.

Then, after she finished pulling the smoke in to her mouth, she’d remove the cigarette from her lips. Next, she’d make an “O” shape with her mouth, and her chest would expand as she inhaled deeply. She’d hold the smoke in for a few seconds, and then exhale in a relatively tight cone.
Curiously though, one exhale wasn’t enough for this woman. After what seemed like the end of the cone, she’d inhale again – just air, not smoking the cigarette – and then quickly exhale again, this time expelling perhaps half the amount of smoke that she exhaled the first time. I had no idea if this she did this because her puffs were so big and deep, or her lungs were worn out from what I assumed was many years of smoking. Even this second exhale didn’t fully clear her lungs, as little wisps would continue coming out of her mouth for a few breaths afterwards. And because she was a frequent puffer, it seemed to me there was always some amount of smoke going into or coming out of her body.
So I sat there, sipping my beer, smoking cigarettes, and just enjoying the sighting. All things considered, there are worse ways to pass a little bit of time as a rainy afternoon slowly turned to a rainy evening.
Eventually, though, the blond Virginia Slims smoker next to me seemed to run into trouble with her lighter – namely, she had a fresh cigarette dangling between her lips, and the lighter wouldn’t produce a flame when she pushed the trigger button. I focused my attention on her when I heard the familiar clicking sound – a sound every smoker knows.
She met my gaze and through an unlit dangle, started to speak. “Sir, would you mind – this lighter doesn’t seem to want to –”
Perhaps reacting too quickly, but interested in a chance to learn more about these women, I cut her off as I picked up my lighter from the bar and clicked it to light. “Oh, of course. My pleasure. Here you go,” I said, bringing the flame to the tip of her cigarette.
She inhaled her first puff, brought the cigarette out of her mouth, and answered through a talking exhale. “Aren’t you a doll? I was just going to borrow it, but you offered me a light. Thank you,” she smiled.
From the corner of my eye, I saw that this woman’s three friends – in a row on the Virginia Slim smoker’s other side – were watching this exchange with curious looks on their faces. This was the sort of bar mostly inhabited by “local” residents in off-

season times like this in this little beach town, and non-regular customers were sometimes eyed warily.
The woman sitting next to me, however, seemed not to regard me with any suspicion. Indeed, she offered me her free hand, and warmly introduced herself. “If you’re going to light my cigarette, I at least have to know your name. I’m Donna,” she said with a smile.
“I’m Stan,” I said, shaking her hand. “Nice to meet you, Donna. I’m happy to light your cigarettes since I know what it’s like when your lighter gives out,” I said.
One of the other women down the row – a somewhat heavier redhead who was smoking a Salem 100 – interjected, perhaps to make a legitimate comment or perhaps just to establish a presence and let me know she’d be keeping an eye on me. But she did it in a friendly way. “Uh-oh. That may not be a promise you want to make, buddy. You’ll run out of lighter fluid fast with the way Donna smokes. You’re sitting next to the queen of the smokers at the Crow’s Nest.”
All of the women laughed, throatily and heartily, and I joined in as if to communicate I was not a threat to their small group.
As the short burst of laughter dwindled into a few coughs from some of them, Donna spoke. “Okay, okay. I smoke a lot. But all four of us do. And you, Mary- Ann,” – Donna looked at her Salem-smoking friend – “you better watch out what you say about my smoking, because they’re going to ban menthols soon. I can’t wait to watch how you try to make it through a day without a Salem.”
This was followed by more laughter, before Donna turned back to me. As I looked at her, I could see over her shoulder that the other women were listening intently, still curious, I guessed, about the new guest interacting with their little group. “There is some truth to what Mary-Ann said, though. I admit I smoke two packs a day. But that’s actually less than I used to smoke,” Donna said before taking a puff of her cigarette.
I am never one for witty comebacks and comments, but felt compelled to try under the circumstances. “Well, I guess since I don’t come here very often, it’ll fall to me to light cigarettes for the queen of the smokers,” I offered. While the group seemed to laugh at that comment, I realized I was now very intrigued by this female smoker’s “origin story.”

But well before I could get to that, I just wanted to figure out who she was. We started asking and answering the basic questions people exchange when getting to know each other. I gave her a summary of how I’d come to split my time between Houston and working in far South Texas with a condo at South Padre as a place to stay when I’m down here. She explained she is from Wisconsin and co- owns a business with her husband, but that she is semi-retired and really lives on this island while he’s running the business back in Wisconsin and preparing to turn it over to his nephews and become more of a part-time owner. Donna confirmed what I had surmised: that the other three women – who were talking among themselves but still appeared to be monitoring our conversation – all lived in South Padre full time. She told me they had all met here at the Crows’ Nest – “the last place on the whole island you can smoke indoors, if you can believe it” – and bonded quickly over their smoking habits and inclination to have a few drinks together at this bar most evenings.
While we were talking, I got to observe more of Donna’s smoking style without having to be surreptitious about it. Her style – serious and intentional, as I described – was really quite attractive, and she was an attractive woman even beyond her tobacco use. She was also a fun conversationalist and pretty smart. She’d managed construction projects for the business she owned with her husband, which is something, it seemed to me, that takes a fair degree of talent and intelligence.
When Donna put out her Virginia Slim and opened her leather cigarette case to pull out another, I seized the opportunity to learn a bit more about her smoking experience and habit.
Her leather cigarette case was well-worn, and unusually big. It looked to me like it could hold two packs of 120s – a size of case I didn’t even know existed. I decided to probe on this issue directly. “That’s a big cigarette case. Does that hold two packs?” I asked.
“Ha! Big cases for big smokers,” Donna laughed, before putting the filter of her long Slim in her mouth and taking a big puff when I gave her a light. “I doubt they even make these anymore. I found this in a little leather store in a small town in Missouri one time when we were on vacation years and years ago. I bought another just like it at the same time, because back then – believe it or not – I smoked three packs a day. This was long ago, when you could do that,” Donna said, before repeating her puff-deep-inhale-double-exhale cycle and continuing. “Plus, back then I smoked soft packs, and the cases kept my cigarettes from

getting crushed in my purse. The only way I can find Virginia Slims now is in the box, so I don’t need the case – but I just keep using it.”
Donna chuckled. “I guess I just use it out of force of habit. Like the cigarettes themselves.” We both laughed.
“So speaking of smoking,” Donna said, gesturing to my cigar on the bar. “You know you can smoke that in here, right? I don’t mind, and people smoke cigars in here all the time. You should feel free to light that big boy up.”
“You know, I think I might,” I said, never one to turn down an opportunity to have a cigar – and in this case, maybe continue the conversation. “Let me find my cutter here,” I said, feeling around in my pockets.
“Can I check this out?” she asked, pointing directly at the cigar. “It’s really big.”
“Of course, feel free,” I answered, and I told her about the cigar as she picked it up and studied it closely. “It’s a Diesel Unlimited. This brand comes in different sizes, but this one is the Presidente size – I think it’s seven inches long and a 58 gauge, so that’s maybe an inch wide. That’s more detail than you wanted to know for me to agree with you it’s a big cigar.”
Donna handed me the cigar and I went through the elaborate process of cutting it. She watched intently as I lit it up – a long process given its size.
As I finished lighting the Diesel Unlimited, one of her friends – all of whom had continued to occasionally look in our direction and sometimes seemed to lean in to try and hear what we were saying, but mostly talked among themselves – reacted with astonishment at the size of the cigar. This wasn’t a comically huge cigar, mind you. But it was definitely above average size. I mostly liked it for its robust, full flavor. Moreover, large cigars often give off a slightly cooler smoke that I find enjoyable.
“Oh my God, that thing is huge,” said Mary-Ann, the Salem smoker.
The group of woman, and I, laughed. I didn’t know these women nearly well enough to make the obvious innuendo.
But Donna did. To more laughter, she joked, “Bet it’s been a long since you’ve said that, Mary-Ann.”

Mary-Ann lost no time in responding. Looking Donna in the eye, she said, “I bet it’s been a long time since you said that, too,”
“Touchê,” laughed Donna, before exhaling a tight cone of smoke.
“Are you going to smoke a cigar, too?” Mary-Ann asked Donna.
“No. You guys give me so much grief about it when I do,” Donna said, smiling. Turning to me, she added, “I smoke cigars occasionally. Not ones that big, or that smell as good as that one. But they all give me so much crap about it I usually don’t bother when we’re all hanging out. But I do love the smell of yours and it’s very tempting,” she smiled.
“Do you want to try a puff? I’m fully vaccinated,” I joked, holding the unlit end of the cigar toward her.
“I am too. But don’t get me started on this whole pandemic thing,” Donna said, setting her cigarette in the ashtray and taking the cigar from my hand. As her friends looked on, she took a huge puff from the just-lit cigar and inhaled. As she held the smoke in her lungs, she gave a quick review. “Ooh, this is really good.” For a smoking fetishist in the cigars sub-category like me, it was an extremely impressive display.
Mary-Ann continued to jab at her friend with innuendo. “You look good with that huge thing in your mouth,” she guffawed.
Donna turned toward her friends and exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke down the bar – not directly at them, but in front of them. “That should keep all of you off my case or a while,” she laughed.
Donna turned back to me and handed back the cigar. Picking up her cigarette, she smiled. “So, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” she asked with a laugh, followed by two quick, chesty coughs.
I could have pushed to find out more about her smoking, how she started, her being a cigar smoker, all of it. But one thing I’ve learned is to be a bit circumspect about questions like that, to avoid tipping my hand about my fetish.
So we resumed non-smoking-related conversation. We talked about the hurricane season – a common topic on an island in the Gulf of Mexico with one bridge leading off it – her favorite restaurants, and other routine things. She asked me

some more about the arrangement with my company, and how I spent a fair amount of time by myself in South Padre even though I lived in Houston. I mentioned that my whole family only occasionally came down here for beach vacations, but enjoyed those days a lot. Throughout our conversation, I made clear I was married with two children.
Chapter 2: “I’ve Been Smoking A Really, Really Long Time”
After we’d been talking for some time, I heard Donna’s phone – on the bar in front of us – buzz when it received a text message. A second later, Mary-Ann tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to Donna’s phone. From the look on Mary-Ann’s face, I guessed the text Donna had received was from her friends, who had mostly been chatting among themselves while Donna and I talked.
“Excuse me, I think I need to read this,” Donna said. She read the text and let her Virginia Slim dangle from her mouth as she typed a reply and sent it. She glanced at her friends, and then turned back to me. “So, my friends here are going to call it a night. They want to make sure I will be okay if I stay so we can keep up our conversation,” she laughed.
“I’m glad your friends are looking out for you,” I said. Leaning in to the bar and looking down the row of her friends, I said, “Ladies, I promise, I’m harmless,” I laughed.
“I’m not sure I’d say the same thing about Donna. You better watch out,” Mary-Ann joked. The women gathered their things and left after we exchanged goodbyes.
After her friends left, Donna extinguished her mostly-smoked Virginia Slim and reached for her purse. “Finally, I can smoke a cigar in peace. They really do get on me about these. A couple of them don’t think women should smoke cigars. Even in this day and age. Do you believe it?” she asked rhetorically, bringing a Garcia y Vega in a brown plastic tube out of her purse. “Stan, I take it you have no objection if I smoke this, do you?” Donna asked.
“Of course not,” I said, setting my own cigar in the ashtray so my hands were free to light hers. After I lit her cigar, I asked, “So, how long have you been smoking cigars?”
Donna thought for a second as she slowly exhaled her first puff. “Hmm. I think I had my first cigar with my mother when I was fifteen. She smoked cigarettes but kept her cigar smoking hidden from my dad. That’s a whole other story,” she

chuckled. “Cigarettes, though, I had my first cigarette when I was ten. One of my mom’s Tareytons. And I’m fifty-eight now. So I’ve been smoking a really, really long time,” she said.
“So, your mother was okay with you smoking when you were only ten?” I asked.
“Well, she wasn’t happy about it, that’s for sure,” Donna said, after taking a puff off her cigar. With her words underlined by exhaled cigar smoke, she continued. “But she was easily a two pack a day woman, usually more. And my dad smoked cigars, and mom smoked them sometimes. And my grandmother smoked cigars. Now that’s really another story,” she smiled. “But this was, I guess, about 1973 or so, and I had a lot of friends who smoked. My older sister did. Everyone did. So while my mom didn’t like it when she caught me – which she did pretty quickly because I am horrible at hiding things and sneaking around – she couldn’t object too much, though. So she decided to let me smoke, although only at home until I was in high school. That’s when I changed to Marlboros.”
“And I never stopped since then, at least I’ve never quit for good. By the time I went to college, I was smoking two packs a day. But that’s when you could smoke in classrooms still, and in the library, and everywhere. It was such a different time.”
“What did you study in college?” I asked, very interested in her smoking history but trying to get other information to round out my knowledge of her as well.
“Architecture and design,” she said. “That’s what led me into the job where I met my husband, eventually,” she answered, before puffing again on her cigar and returning to her story. “I started smoking more of these, too, in college,” she gestured to her cigar with her free hand. “Cigars. Back then, I liked Tiparillos, skinny cigars with a little plastic tip you could kind of chew on.”
Donna’s story reminded me of the rather sexy Tiparillo print ads Susan and I had hanging in our cigar lounge, a housewarming gift from Susan’s parents.
Donna continued. “And I was a total, full-on cigarette smoker, too. By the time I graduated, I was almost a three-pack-a-day Tall 120s girl. Do you even remember that brand?” she asked.
“Barely,” I said, truthfully. They’re one of the long-gone 120s brands that I’ve read about, but don’t ever remember seeing a woman smoke.

“And when I met my husband,” Donna continued, “he was a pack a day guy. We hit it off immediately, and not just because we both smoked. My first job out of college was as a project planner at his father’s contracting company, which was getting into bigger building projects. The company was trying to get more professional with its services, which is why they hired me to help design bigger projects better – stay on budget and schedule, that sort of thing, and that was my training in college.”
Donna paused to take a big puff off her cigar, which gave me a second to consider the confirmation that she was married. Yes, she’d mentioned her husband and I’d seen her wedding ring – a pretty big diamond in an elaborate setting – but I’d found her very attractive, and her heavy smoking of 120s and cigars even more so. And Donna seemed to be flirting with me.
But if she was going to talk about her husband, I quickly reasoned, then she was probably signaling to me that she was actively attached to him and our flirty discussion would be just that – some harmless flirtation in a bar. In a way, that made things a bit easier for me: if this was just going to be some flirtation with a heavy-smoking, attractive mature woman, then I could just enjoy the “sighting” and her smoking history without worrying about how to position the night to set up another date or bring her home with me. Or the ethics of choosing to do so.
So, as I resolved just to enjoy watching her smoke and hearing her story, Donna made an “o” with her lips and inhaled the cigar smoke deeply. After holding it in her lungs for a few seconds, she thoughtfully exhaled and continued. “Donny – yes, we’re Donna and Donny – he’s a really talented craftsman. With his two younger brothers, he was being groomed to take over his dad’s business. But he had no head for finances or project planning. His father assigned him to work with me on designing and setting project plans for a couple of the company’s projects and learn that side of the business.”
Donna ashed her cigar and took another puff. “So over the course of working together, we started spending a lot of time together. One thing led to another and soon we were going out. And then, even though Donny is seven years older than me, we fell in love.” Donna exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke toward the ceiling.
“But even when we were dating, I was very clear with him that I was a heavy smoker,” Donna went on. “I mean, I smoked three packs a day and occasionally had a cigar. I was pretty much a chain smoker, and you could smoke anywhere in the office back then, so by that time he had certainly watched me smoke my way

through a whole day. After he proposed to me and we were planning our wedding, I told him I liked smoking, that I was hooked, and that I never wanted to quit.”
Donna puffed her cigar again before continuing. “I told him how everyone in my family smoked. And none of us had ever thought about quitting, and I certainly did not. So I asked him to be sure that he could spend his life married to a woman who would almost always have a cigarette burning in her hand, and sometimes a cigar too. Now back then, this was maybe 1985 or so, you could smoke anywhere, so that wasn’t going to be the problem. But if he was going to have a problem with me smoking up our house, and our car, getting winded sometimes, any of that, and start nagging at me, I wanted him to think twice about us getting married. I mean, yes, he smoked, but there’s a big difference between a pack a day smoker like he was, and me. And we talked it over and he told me he had fallen in love with me knowing I was a heavy smoker, and he accepted me and loved me that way, and that he’d never try to change me or nag at me.”
“So we were fine with our smoking, and everything, the first few years we were married. Donny took a bigger role in his family business, it really started to grow, and we were getting along great. We designed and built our own house outside of town,” Donna said, before taking another puff of her cigar.
Donna inhaled, held the cigar smoke in her lungs, and looked wistfully above the bar before exhaling and continuing. “And then we got serious about trying to have babies. And that’s where everything started between us. It turns out I had issues with getting pregnant, but that wasn’t easy to figure out back then, and we didn’t know that for sure for a long time. But before we did, my doctor did tell me he thought three packs a day was a lot and could hurt our chances.”
“So I cut down,” Donna said, ashing her cigar. “I went from three packs a day to a pack and a half a day. I also switched brands – I had been smoking Tall 120s for years, but Max 120s seemed a lot lighter. But if you have ever cut down to a lighter cigarette, and smoked less, you know what a nervous wreck you can become. And I was, for three years while we were trying to get pregnant. Donny was super supportive, and he switched from Marlboros to Marlboro Lights.”
“But after three years, when the best doctors we could find told us that they weren’t sure why, but that we couldn’t have children, I started smoking Tall 120s again. And I crept back up to three packs a day again. But I stopped being a nervous wreck, finally,” Donna laughed, before puffing again on her cigar.

She continued after a deep inhale and exhale. “So, after a while, Donny sits me down one night, very serious. And he tells me he’s worried I’m smoking ‘too much again,’ and that he thinks I should cut down on how much I smoke. He also gives me this book. ‘Switch Down something or other,’ about how to go to lower-tar and nicotine brands until you can quit. He says he’s worried about my health and he thinks we should both quit.”
I was, of course, very familiar with the book Donna was referring to. It had been my mother-in-law’s primary, if unsuccessful, way to try to quit cigarettes.
“So I was like, really, you have to be kidding me. I ask him what ever happened to him knowing he married a three pack a day smoker,” Donna continued, her voice still reflecting the shock, surprise and frustration she felt perhaps three decades before. “And he says, well, we’re getting older, and nobody smokes that much anymore.”
On a tiny wisp of late-to-be-exhaled cigar smoke, she continued. “I just said, ‘like hell, Donny, I still smoke this much and you’d better still be okay with it.’ And it kind of stayed that way for several years.”
Clearly a bit agitated by remembering these arguments with her husband, Donna puffed her cigar quickly, inhaled, and exhaled again before setting the cigar with its fast-burning cherry in the ashtray. “Until his fortieth birthday a few years after that. He sits me down again, says he’s really worried about his own health, and he says he’s cutting down to a half a pack a day to get on the road to quitting completely. He tells me he’s also worried about my health – and I admit I was coughing a lot by then, especially in the morning – and asks me again to cut down, but this time to a pack a day.”
Donna rolled her cigar ash a bit in the ashtray. “But he said he accepted that he married me as a heavy smoker, and that if I couldn’t or wouldn’t cut down, he’d always still accept me and love me that way. And I thought that was really sweet and respectful of me. So I gave it some thought, and I told him I’d meet him halfway: I would cut down to two packs a day, and find a lighter brand with less tar and nicotine. I thought I was being generous even doing that, but he was kind of irritated by it and huffed that he’d find a way to live with it. And that response really bugged me. But I cut down to two packs a day. And then I ultimately switched back to the Max 120s anyway because the Talls were getting too hard to find, and they were kind of heavy on my throat sometimes.”

“All that changed in 2000,” Donna said, before puffing on her cigar again and exhaling a thick cloud of its smoke. “My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. They caught it kind of late, they said, so there wasn’t to much they could do for her, and she died pretty quickly. Donny just up and decides that that’s it, he’s quitting smoking for good, and he just does. Cold turkey. And he demands that I do, too. He doesn’t ask me, and he doesn’t want to talk about it. Just tells me.”
“And that really pissed me off. I’m not his property and he can’t just order me to do something,” she said, animated at the memory. “And by then, I was in my late thirties and had been smoking heavily for years. You can’t just shut off a habit like that like a light switch, or at least I couldn’t. Smoking was a big part of my life then – and still is. I didn’t think I could quit, and I didn’t want too. So I just didn’t.”
Reader, at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll re-urge this comment I made in Part I of this work: This is not designed to be on the “darkside” shelf, way in the back of the online libraries where the devoted few keep this community’s written works organized for the rest of us to find. But some people do get sick as a result of their tobacco habits, and those illnesses don’t pass without notice by the people – smokers and nonsmokers alike – around them. Donna is, for sure, a mature smoker, and I’ve tried to write her character that way. She’s also a fictional character. But I don’t think this is an unrealistic scenario, and I don’t think her response is too fictional.
At the Crow’s Nest, Donna continued to tell me how her relationship with Donny progressed. “He didn’t take my decision not to quit very well. He started making snarky comments all the time, about the smell of smoke in the house or in our cars. Ultimately, we had the house repainted and he just declared that I’d have to smoke on the outside patio. You can imagine, with how much I smoke, I started pretty much living out there,” she laughed, before taking a puff off her cigar.
“Honestly, about this time, we started to grow apart,” Donna said, after exhaling her cigar smoke. “We were still great business partners, making plenty of money growing the business and building a great reputation. And we still loved each other. But I started hanging out on our covered patio more, usually alone, reading or watching a TV I put out there. And when we were together, he’d make mean comments about how I smelled or my cough. So I wanted to spend less time with him, frankly. It was one of those, what do they call it – a vicious circle? Vicious cycle?”

“I think it’s either one of those, and I get exactly where you are coming from,” I said, ashing my cigar.
“He did talk me into trying to quit one time, when I turned fifty. But it was a disaster for me because I really didn’t want to quit, and I was miserable. But that’s another story,” she smiled.
“Ultimately, about five years ago, we bought a house down here on the Island. We’d vacationed here for years, and the business was strong enough we could afford it. We picked out one we could use as a retirement home when that time came – but, of course, Donny had to tell me that if I kept smoking, I wouldn’t live long enough to retire down here with him. That really ticked me off. It was just so mean, and so uncalled for, I didn’t want to talk to him for a week.”
Donna took a puff from her cigar, holding and then exhaling a cloud of smoke before going on. “So then, about three years ago, Donny and I were making plans for the business. I’d brought on two other project managers over the years who had proved they were really capable of doing what I do, and they brought some very modern design ideas and methods to what we could offer our clients. And I had really grown to like it down here – the weather is great, especially the winter. So much better than Wisconsin.”
“So I proposed to him that I become a part-time employee, and work from down here,” Donna said. “He was a little stunned at first, I think. Maybe a little hurt, but he never clearly said that. A few months later, I moved most of my clothes and things down here, at least my summer clothes. He comes down for a long weekend every few months, and we talk daily. Sometimes I go back up there for a few weeks. So it’s not like we’re separated or anything. We just spend a lot of time apart.”
“And I now supervise my project team remotely, which is really a part-time thing,” she said, rolling some stray ash off of her cigar in the ashtray and looking at it thoughtfully. “Donny is preparing to turn the reins of the business over to his nephews and his younger brothers. But frankly, he likes the work too much to just retire for good now and let the two of us just be silent partners and share in the profits, even though the business is strong enough we could do that.”
Chapter 3: Disclosure

“So, that’s a very long answer to your question of how long I have been smoking,” Donna said, exhaling some cigar smoke. “Tell me about you. How long have you been hooked on this terrible habit?” she asked, with a laugh.
“Ha!” I laughed. “I’ve been smoking for a long time, too. Not quite as long as you, but years all the same. I’m 48 and I started smoking cigarettes when I was twelve, so that’s 36 years. Cigars I didn’t really get into until I got married, and that was fifteen years ago.”
Over several minutes and several puffs of our cigars, I gave Donna a very shortened form of Part I of this work. There was no way to leave Susan, and her smoking, out of my smoking history. I talked about how Susan and I had gotten into cigars together, and even smoked a pipe on occasion. I explained how my habit had remained generally steady while Susan – once a heavier smoker than me – had gone on something of a roller-coaster ride with her habit, before coming to the point that, with great difficulty and after several failed attempts, she’d essentially stopped smoking.
Donna seemed to understand when I talked about how Susan and I had come to feel different pressures to quit. How Susan felt a lot of pressure from neighbors and society in general to give up cigarettes, and how the effects of cigarettes – the smell and the lingering cough – weighed heavily on her. Speaking of weight, I told Donna how Susan believed quitting was causing her to gain more, although to me she was at a comfortable weight and as attractive as ever.
One pressure on Susan that was never really applied to me was from Susan’s mom, Linda. I picked up on Donna’s recounted tale of Donny giving her a book on how to switch to lower tar cigarettes. I explained that I was very familiar with that book, and how Linda had tormented Susan – and really herself – in a long and unsuccessful attempt to give up cigarettes inspired by it, even when Susan was in high school.
And to bring the story to the recent past, I told Donna how Linda’s lung nodules had finally prompted Linda to give up cigarettes, ostensibly for the last time. And how she had demanded I do so, as well.
I didn’t discuss my smoking fetish. Some commenters on Smoking Fetish Kingdom believe you should just put the fact of your fetish out there, right up front, in any relationship. I’m not of that view – I didn’t confess mine to Susan until we were planning to get married, and only then in a mutual exchange of thoughts on

our turn-ons. Even if I had the courage to do so at this particular time, the fetish was way too loaded a topic to bring up in a still-casual conversation with a smoking woman I’d just met at a bar.
I did, though, confess to the frustration I felt at Susan’s demand that I quit. The relative anonymity of our conversation somehow made me comfortable sharing that. Plus, Donna had already told me a lot about how smoking had driven her apart from her husband, so I surmised she’d understand readily. I explained I understood Susan’s points perfectly well from a rational point of view. But that I wasn’t ready, and I liked smoking – it had been part of my life for too long, setting aside the nicotine factor.
“It sounds like your relationship with your wife and mine with my husband are similar. My smoking, and my choice to keep smoking, has driven a deep wedge between Donny and me,” Donna said. “Yes, I’m addicted, that’s for sure. But smoking is a big part of my life. And it’s been part of my life since I was a girl in middle school. I’m one of the smokers that actually likes it, beyond being hooked. I haven’t changed my smoking, my husband is the one who changed whether he can accept it or not. And I think you’re in the same position, from what you are telling me.”
I agreed. I wasn’t sure what else to say, though. But it did feel very good talking about the issue I was having with smoking and my relationship with Susan. I didn’t know too many other people who smoked cigarettes and might understand it. For a second, I just enjoyed that feeling of having gotten words off my chest. And, I wondered what would happen next.
Donna also became quiet as she took a last puff of her mostly-smoked Garcia y Vega and set it in the ashtray to burn out. She held the smoke in her lungs and then looked at the ceiling as she exhaled a cloud of it upward, which quickly blended into the thick haze in the Crow’s Nest. Almost immediately, she withdrew a Virginia Slim 120 from her cigarette case. Instinctually, I picked up my lighter and gave her a light.
Through a talking exhale, Donna continued. “Thanks for the light again,” she said, smiling. “It’s such a nice gesture from a guy. Donny hasn’t lit my cigarette in years. We’ve really grown that far apart, you know?” she asked, before taking another puff and speaking more. “And you seem like a really nice, smart, handsome guy to talk with. I hope this isn’t too forward, or whatever. But it’s a

shame you’re married. I’m frankly kind of lonely a lot of the time down on this island by myself, beyond my friends here. If you know what I mean.”
Donna ashed her cigarette. “But one thing I definitely don’t want to be is a homewrecker, or the ‘other woman.’”
I puffed my cigar (bigger than hers, and so with a decent amount of tobacco yet to be smoked) and thought for a few seconds. I exhaled and turned to Donna. “I appreciate your full openness. And you seem like a fun, smart woman. And very pretty too, if that isn’t too forward.”
Donna blushed a bit and said, “Thank you,” through a wide grin. I don’t think she’d been complemented by a man in a long time, so she received my mild complement warmly. “You might find this weird, but I tricked you a little bit. My lighter wasn’t ever broken. But you seemed kind of cute. And you sat right next to me and weren’t bothered by all my cigarette smoke. So I figured I’d ask for a light to start a conversation with you and see what you were all about. I like what I see.”
I set my cigar in the ashtray for a second and looked into her eyes. “Let me tell you something about my marriage. This will seem like kind of a lot to hear, but you have been open with me so I’ll be open with you. Just hear me out, and do whatever you want with what I tell you.”
I picked up the cigar and took a quick puff to keep it going. And to give myself a second to figure out how to explain what I was about to explain.
“My wife and I have something in our marriage we call ‘disclosures.’ You see, when we first met, Susan was 21 and just out of college. I was 29, and had lived a full life in my twenties. We got serious pretty quickly and started talking about moving in together and getting married,” I said, before pausing to puff my cigar. I was watching Donna’s face, trying to gauge how she was following my story.
“We were head over heels in love, and knew we wanted to commit to each other. What Susan eventually confessed to me, though, was that she was afraid that by marrying me, she’d be giving up experiences in her life, and things about herself that she wanted to explore, that she didn’t even yet know. She was unsure about giving up other possible paths in her life. She was, again, very young. But she’s super smart and thoughtful. So she knew there may be other things for her to experience – in terms of companionship and intimacy – but she didn’t even know what they were yet. Is that making any sense so far?”

“Kind of,” Donna said, with a bit of hesitation. She took a puff on her Virginia Slim, thought for a minute and exhaled. “Maybe this isn’t the right way to put it, but it’s like she believed you were ‘the one’ for her, but she couldn’t be one hundred percent sure because she didn’t know what else, or who else, was out there, and what she really wanted. She didn’t know what she didn’t know, but she thought it might be something she might someday want, and she didn’t want to have regrets.”
“Actually that’s pretty much it. Exactly,” I said. “And my wife is not shy about sharing what’s on her mind. She told me all this pretty openly. We discussed it quite a bit before I proposed marriage to her. We both knew we were heading that way, and she didn’t want to marry me if she had any doubts. I absolutely respected and understood what she had to say, and tried to convince her that marriage to me would work, and that we could grow together and overcome any need she ever had. Even if she didn’t know right then what it was. But she wasn’t completely convinced, and she still had doubts.”
Donna was following this closely and waited for me to take a puff on my cigar before I continued. “So we kept talking about it and working it through. It was a lot of open and frank discussion. And honestly, I was willing to do anything for her, to get her to become my wife.”
“So we set some rules that became what we call ‘disclosures.’” I explained. “We don’t talk about them more than we have to, but they are always there and they are part of our marriage. Truthfully, it has worked pretty well and it’s kept us together. It lets her feel she’s never missing any part of her life just because she’s married, and we’re never dishonest or hiding these things from each other. And we occasionally learn some things about the other.”
Donna was listening, so I went on. “The rules we set up for ourselves are pretty straightforward, although we spent a lot of time working them out, and figuring out the boundaries. Maybe they’re more principles that rules. That’s something she would know as she’s a lawyer. But the first rule, or principle, is that we are always first for each other. No person can come before my feelings and love for her, and vice-versa. Anyone else in our lives is secondary.”
“But the next principle is that if either of us really believes we’re not getting something we need from the other person, or there’s something we need to explore that we can’t explore with the other, we can find what we need outside our

marriage if we have to, and in a limited way,” I continued. “Never in a way that displaces the other spouse, or would wreck the marriage.”
Donna had a curious look on her face, but wasn’t expressing disbelief. So I went on. “And the last rule we have is designed to keep us honest with each other, and keep us from having to lie. It’s that we have to tell each other – disclose – that something happened outside the marriage. We agreed we don’t have to disclose details to each other, only that something happened.”
“Now, sometimes, I’ll learn from her disclosures what’s important to her and that can help change something I do, or do for her. Sometimes not. But either way, I learn something about her when she feels compelled to explore something outside our marriage. And the most important thing is, it’s given us a very strong marriage. We keep the details secret from each other, but we’re not hiding important things from each other. Or, worse yet, feeling frustrated and keeping the frustration bottled up inside, which would be far worse in any marriage,” I said.
I surmised from the look on her face Donna was pondering all this as she took one last puff on her Virginia Slim and crushed it out in the ashtray. “Interesting,” was all she said as she held the inhaled smoke in. She looked straight at the back of the bar, exhaled a tight cone of smoke, and thought for a few seconds.
Then, she pulled another Virginia Slim from her case. Dangling the unlit cigarette, she asked, “Can you light me again?”
I promptly gave her a light. Through a talking exhale, she asked, “Can I ask you a little about this?”
“Sure,” I said, puffing on my cigar.
“So, how many disclosures have you and your wife had?” she asked.
Exhaling my cigar smoke, I answered. “Six total. My wife has made five disclosures to me, and I have made one to her.”
“Your wife has had five of these things?” Donna asked, with surprise in her voice.
“Well, we’ve been married almost fifteen years. Her first one was the first year we were married, when she was in her first year of law school,” I said.
“Really? That soon?” Donna said, seeming astonished.

“Yes, and with a much older guy. He was a philosophy professor at her university. They met by chance at a restaurant when they were sitting near each other. He became enchanted with her – she is a beautiful woman – and tracked her down. She really liked the attention and, it turns out, was wondering about being with an older man. That was something I couldn’t provide to her,” I said. “Maybe she has some daddy issues. I don’t know. But it wasn’t a need I could fulfill. I don’t know much beyond that, because like I said, we try not to share too many details.”
“Wow. That’s really something,” Donna said, listening intently.
“Two of her disclosures involved another need I couldn’t fill – they were with other women. One of them was a relationship with a woman who was actually her boss at her law firm. After a while, my wife and the boss both decided, wisely I think, to keep work and romance separate. They’re still good friends and colleagues today,” I said, before taking a puff on my cigar. I watched Donna’s eyes widen a bit. She was fascinated by my story.
I exhaled my cigar smoke and continued. “And the second one of those disclosures with women was with my boss’s wife. They actually had a lot in common, but really bonded over cigars. That’s back when my wife and I were both starting to get into cigars, and my wife had learned a lot about them. My boss’s wife had never smoked a cigar, and was curious.”
Donna’s jaw dropped a bit. She was hooked on my tale, for sure.
I continued. “So, after they satisfied their curiosities about cigars, and some other things, they both decided they had too much to lose if my boss caught them, so they broke it off. And it’s still their secret today.”
“And your secret,” Donna said through a positively lovely talking exhale.
“And yours now, too, I guess,” I said. “I do hope you’re good at keeping secrets.”
Donna, elbow on the bar and holding her cigarette out in her hand in a jaunty way, looked me in the eye. “Stan, trust me. As a woman who has some secrets – I understand. All of your secrets are safe with me.”
Donna took a long puff on her Virginia Slim, inhaled in her “O”-shaped mouth style, and exhaled after a couple of seconds of holding. “So, I’m curious. When was your wife’s most recent one of these, um, disclosures?”

“It was actually just a couple of weeks ago. I remember she told me on a Tuesday morning, because she’d gotten home late the night before from a long weekend trip to Dallas. Over the pandemic, she reconnected with some of her sorority sisters who live all over Texas. When things started to ease up, the lockdowns and all, a small group of them decided to get together in Dallas for sort of a reunion weekend.”
“Anyway,” I continued. “That morning, we had all gotten up, and Susan and I started getting the girls getting ready for school. Once that was underway, I grabbed a coffee and started to go out to a little room off our patio where I can smoke a cigarillo, as I usually do every morning. What I really want in the morning, of course, is a cigarette. But as I told you, apparently I’m not allowed to do that, and I’ll get all sorts of grief if I’m caught. So cigarillo it is. And as I am heading out the patio door, I cough. Not cough up a lung or anything, just a few coughs. Sometimes in the mornings I do that,” I said, my voice rising a bit to illustrate the frustration contained in my words.
“Which sucks, by the way,” Donna said. “I mean all of that. Getting the grief and having to sneak around, for sure. That’s nuts – I’d hate that. But the morning cough too – trust me, I know all about those,” she said, before taking a puff on her Slim. Through a talking exhale, she asked me to go on.
So I did. “And Susan yells across the kitchen to me, ‘Jesus, Stan, that cough sounds wonderful. Of course, go enjoy your cigarillo out there. Or is it a cigarette again this time?,’ all of which really pissed me off. Then, she comes closer to me and goes, in a low voice so the kids can’t hear upstairs, ‘And for the record, I had a disclosure in Dallas this weekend. He didn’t cough all the time because he doesn’t smoke. And neither did I, the whole weekend.’ And she storms off. We barely spoke until that evening.”
I puffed my cigar a bit and continued. “And it’s not the disclosure itself that bothers me. Those are the rules we’ve agreed to and lived under for years. It’s that she used it just to nag me even more. That irritated me about that one.”
Donna exhaled a thick cloud of cigarette smoke. “So, in that one,” she volunteered, “she needed comfort from someone who didn’t smoke, or was really going to quit smoking with her, maybe. That’s what it sounds like to me.”

I read Donna’s offering of what she viewed as helpful analysis as proof she was believing my words. Otherwise, why would she – or anyone – offer advice in response to what they thought was just a fictional story being told in a bar?
Donna ashed her cigarette and continued to offer her thoughts. “Look, it’s not wrong for your wife to be concerned about your smoking and your health. And it’s not wrong for Donny to be concerned about my smoking and my health. They both care about us,” she said. Holding her cigarette up toward me she added, “and we all know these things aren’t good for us.”
Donna took a puff off her nearly-spent cigarette, inhaled, and as she held the smoke in, she said, “But,” Donna paused to exhale a cone of smoke toward the ceiling, “what neither of us need is the constant nagging. It drives wedges between married people all the time. Donny and I are proof. Really, smokers should only be married to other smokers, I think.”
Donna put out her Virginia Slim, and immediately pulled out another cigarette. Whether she thought what I was saying was crazy or not, at least she wasn’t freaked out enough to go running home. I gave her a light as I contemplated how to continue.
Donna gave me a prompt as she exhaled her first puff. “So, you said you had one of these ‘disclosures’ yourself?” she asked. “What was that, uhh, about?”
I puffed my cigar and answered. “That was, in fact, a Winter Texan not long before the pandemic,” I said, referring to those folks – often retirees from the Midwest – who flee the winter for a few months by going as far south as they can go without winding up in Mexico, and that is pretty much South Padre Island. These folks keep the Island’s economy going during otherwise-quiet months. They were all generally older than me, and whenever I’d visited during this period, I felt like one of the younger folks on the Island – even in my late forties.
Donna, an Island resident in her late fifties, immediately knew what I meant by all of that.
“Really? So, an older woman?” she asked.
“She was older than me. We actually met in this bar one night, and kind of hit it off. I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic, and she didn’t come back down last winter, and doesn’t think she will this winter, either,” I said. “But we did a text a few

times over the past year, just to see if each of us was okay,” feeling a need to explain where my recounting of this disclosure ends.
“Let me ask you something,” Donna said, before turning her head away from me to exhale a cloud of smoke toward the back of the bar. She turned back to face me, but some residual smoke came out with her next words. “Did this woman smoke?”
I puffed my cigar as I pondered her intent behind that question. “Yes, she did. She smoked Marlboro 100s,” I answered.
“That’s really interesting about the smoking or non-smoking partner, for each of you, frankly,” Donna said, ashing her cigarette. She had clearly listened intently to my story and was honing in on the main points. “Sounds to me like your wife is using intimacy as a way to communicate about how much she wants you to quit. And your Winter Texan smoked.”
“Now, for you, Stan. I wonder if you just like to be with other smokers because you’re comfortable and not going to be nagged, or if you have kind of a thing for women who smoke. I noticed you light my cigarettes – which I really like, by the way – and you asked me about my cigarette case. And you just remembered the brand of cigarettes your friend from a year or so ago smoked. Those could be clues, don’t you think? Maybe you just like to be around people who won’t hassle you for smoking, and that’s probably what it is. And that makes perfect sense. Or maybe it’s more than that for you.”
Donna continued, as I shrugged my shoulders, falsely suggesting I had absolutely no idea about the possibilities she was raising. “You’ve probably never thought about this, but some men really get kind of, uh, turned on when women smoke cigarettes,” Donna said, taking a long puff off her Virginia Slim as if to underline her point. “My husband is one, or was one. We never talked about it much, but I could tell he used to really like it when I smoked cigarettes. But when my mom got sick from smoking, he sort of dropped it, I guess, and went the other way. Today, I think my smoking is a total turn-off for him.”
Donna exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. “That’s one part of the way our marriage used to be that I miss – sometimes I’d smoke a cigarette and I could tell it was really getting his attention. That, and we’d smoke together after we were, you know, together,” she said in a low voice, and with what I swore was a wink. But this bar was sometimes too dark to see very clearly if you weren’t directly in the beam of one of the few lights.

A note for your consideration, dear reader. Sometimes I wonder if anyone I know personally – not an anonymous correspondent on the Internet, who I’ve likely told in a forum posting somewhere – is on to my fetish other than Susan. Perhaps you’ve wondered that too. Maybe future technology will give us some sort of a fetish-detection counter-radar, so future generations of smoking fetishists will get a brain wave informing them their secret may have been intuited or otherwise learned by a person they’re speaking with. Or some such sci-fi device to accomplish the same purpose.
I really could have used such a device just then with Donna. Was she trying to hint to me that she had me tagged as a guy with a smoking fetish, like her husband? Or did she really think she was teaching me about the smoking fetish as a possible diagnosis for the disclosure I had told her about?
And if she had pegged me as someone with a smoking fetish: was that a good thing or a bad thing?
I didn’t have too long to ponder these questions before Donna took a big puff from her cigarette, exhaled after a long hold, and conveyed she believed what I had told her. “Well, it’s unusual, that’s for sure. But it’s really, I guess, smart to have thought this out. These ‘disclosures’ save you both a lot of heartache and let you stay honest and true to each other.”
She knocked some ash off her cigarette in the ashtray and continued. “I appreciate that you told me, too. That takes courage to tell someone you just met in a bar. And more than that, it takes honesty for you to tell me this. This all tells me you are a very honest person,” she said.
Donna took a quick puff and continued through a talking exhale. “It’s actually kind of fascinating to me. I wish Donny and I had set up something like this when we were married. I was much younger than he was, like your wife,” she said. “God knows I have needs that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of when we got married. I just didn’t know enough to know, or even to ask for something like that.”
“It’s a great way to set up a marriage, I think,” she continued. “Everyone has needs or wants, even if they don’t know them when they get married. It’s a question of the lengths we’ll go to satisfy those needs. And some of them, like some of your wife’s, can’t be satisfied inside the marriage. So you all figured this out beforehand, and set up a way to do it that makes the marriage itself work better, without lying or sneaking around.”

Donna took another puff, this time deeper. She rested her cigarette in the ashtray and stared at the back of the bar for a few seconds before exhaling a large cone of smoke that scattered among the dusty liquor bottles arranged on the bar’s back. She took a breath and exhaled another half-cloud of smoke to follow the remnants of the first one. Then she turned to me.
“So, since we seem to be making more confessions to each other than in a church, I’ll make another one,” she said, her voice low and leaning towards me a bit. “This sounds weird, but I’ll just say it. I have a thing for men – handsome men – who smoke cigars. It turns me on. I know that’s strange, but no stranger than how Donny used to find it hot when I smoked cigarettes. He doesn’t feel that way anymore about my cigarettes, like I said. But I still feel that way about cigars. I don’t know, maybe it’s a manly, macho type thing. Or because my father and my grandfather both smoked cigars. Sometimes, you never know why you like something, right?”
“I understand that entirely,” I said, truthfully, anxiously waiting to hear how far Donna was going to go with this.
“For years, I tried to get Donny to smoke them. I’d talk him in to taking a puff of mine, or buy him a nice cigar back when we went to places where you could smoke cigars. But he never liked them,” Donna said. “Maybe I should have told him why I wanted him to smoke them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. We never really talked about our inner desires that way.”
Donna took a puff off of her nearly finished cigarette before continuing. “So, after you came in and I was kind of checking you out, I saw you put that huge cigar on the bar. Right then, I knew I wanted to see you smoke it. That’s why I made sure to tell you it was okay if you smoked it here.”
“And watching you smoke it…” she smiled a bit. “Well, let’s just say I like it a lot.”
All I could do at this point was smile and then take a big puff on my cigar while staring straight into her eyes. After inhaling and holding for a few seconds, I turned my face away from hers only to exhale.
“Wow,” Donna said, and just stared at me, smiling, for a few seconds.
A thought interrupted her brief reverie. “But, to be clear,” Donna continued, putting out her spent Virginia Slim and getting another from her cigarette case, “I smoke too, and I’ve told you how I hate to be nagged about it. I do think smokers should

stick together, especially now. If only so one half of the couple isn’t putting up with the smoke and the other isn’t always looking for a place to smoke or being conscious of their smoking. So even if you didn’t smoke cigars, but only smoked cigarettes, that’s a positive thing for me, and I’d already be kind of inclined to like you.”
Donna dangled the unlit ultra-long cigarette from her mouth and leaned a bit toward me. “Plus, you light my cigarettes. Some women would consider that way out of date, for sure. But not me – I’ve always loved that. It’s a romantic, maybe even sexy, gesture. So, Stan, it’s not just the cigar – you have a lot going for you, if you know what I mean.”
I lit Donna’s cigarette and she took a deep puff. “So, you never answered my question,” she said, before exhaling. “Stan, do you think you have a thing for women who smoke? Does it turn you on?”
And here it was. I ashed my cigar to buy time. Confessing your fetish – even to a woman who already suspects it, and has a smoking fetish of her own – is always a bit like jumping off a cliff into a lake. You’ve convinced yourself it’s a safe thing to do. But at the last second as you do it, you have doubts.
But I went ahead anyway, because the lake was below.
“Well, Donna,” I said, looking into her eyes while putting my hand on her arm and caressing it gently, “I do get turned on by sexy woman who smoke, in fact. And to spend an evening talking to a sexy woman who smokes extra-long cigarettes like those…well, as you just said. I like it a lot.”
“I thought so,” Donna smiled, putting her hand on mine resting on her arm. She didn’t pull my hand away, but just rested hers on mine. “You remembered the brand of the woman you met here a year ago. And you told me how your wife switched from Marlboros to Virginia Slims to Slims Ultra Lights. That attention to details like cigarette brands tells me you think differently about women who smoke.”
Our eyes continued to meet as Donna took a cheek-hollowing, intentionally deep puff, inhaled deeply while puffing out her chest, and turned her gaze only slightly away from me to exhale after holding the smoke in her lungs for what seemed like forever, but was really only three or four seconds.

Donna turned back to face me directly, and continued speaking as her usual second half-exhale turned into a talking one. “And you’ve lit every cigarette I smoked, without missing one. That tells me either you are the most courteous man left in America, or you want to see me smoking and so you help me along. Either reason is fine, because as I told you, I love it when you light my cigarettes.”
After a short pause, Donna said, “Stan, I think it’s awesome that you like it when I smoke.”
As if to demonstrate this premise, Donna took another massive puff and held the smoke deep in her lungs before exhaling a huge cloud slightly away from my face. The only difference with this puff was that instead of talking after her first exhale, she undertook her unique practice of quickly breathing in after her first exhale and then having a second exhale of a smaller amount of smoke.
“And Donna, you have given me a great reason to smoke more cigars,” I said, with a wry smile. “I love smoking them anyway. But knowing an attractive woman likes to watch me smoke them, well…” I said, intentionally pausing to consider my next words.
I looked at my cigar – once very big, but now a mere stub after an hour of conversation – and held it up so Donna could clearly see it. “Speaking of smoking cigars, this one is pretty nearly done and the taste is souring on me. But I have a humidor full at my condo. Why don’t you come there with me and I’ll have another cigar?”
Chapter 4: Two Pleasures at Once
I gave Donna a brief tour of my condo – mostly, I figured, to make her feel secure. But also to buy myself a minute to figure out what to do next. I hadn’t had time to do that on the short drive from the Crow’s Nest. While I had walked out to the bar, Donna lived perhaps a mile away and had driven there, so she drove us back to my place. She’d smoked part of a Virginia Slim on the way, telling me that while it was a short drive, for her, “smoking and driving just go hand in hand.”
After I assured her it was okay to smoke in my place, I lit her Virginia Slim after she sat down on the couch. While I poured each of us a beer, we talked a bit about nothing of substance – housing prices in the neighborhood, that kind of thing – while we both pondered what would come. Could we sustain the flirtatious energy

that we had built between us at the Crow’s Nest, now that we’d had a change of scenery?
Donna moved first to stoke the fire we had started back at the bar. “So, at the Crow’s Nest, you said you were going to have another cigar. If you light one, can I have a puff?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said, opening the small humidor I kept on the coffee table. “I’m thinking of, hmm, let’s see,” I said, looking over the forty or so cigars in the cedar box. One thing about a house on the tropical Gulf Coast: your cigars always stay well-humidified in the constant humidity, so I’d taken advantage of the climate by building a decent collection to keep on hand.
“Maybe this Nica Puro Rosado?” I said, holding up a five-inch Robusto.
“You would know best about those really good cigars,” Donna said. “I’ve had some of those hand-rolled ones before, but never really got into them. I’ve always smoked the cigars you can get at a drug store, like the Garcia y Vegas in the plastic tubes or Tiparllos. So I’m happy to try whatever you pick out.”
I cut and lit the medium-sized, full-bodied cigar. Donna took note as my cigar smoke joined her cigarette smoke, already filling the living room. “That smells so good. Different than the one you had in the bar, but they’re both great. Once I’m done with this cigarette, I’d like to try it,” she said.
“Absolutely. You’re smart to wait to fully taste it, too. One thing about the hand- rolled cigars that’s different from your Garcia y Vegas is that they take a few minutes of puffing to really get going,” I said, exhaling another cloud of cigar smoke.
“I’ve noticed that too, when I’ve smoked ones like you smoke, those ones you have to cut. You need to spend a lot of time lighting it and getting it started. I think this is one reason I’ve always stuck with the Garcia y Vegas or the Tiparillos or ones like that: you can just fire them up and smoke away. You’ve smoked ones like that, not just these expensive ones, right?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” I said, only partially truthfully. I’d always found the cigars you can buy at drug stores – made by a machine and with cheaper filler, not like my hand-rolled ones made with better tobaccos but with a higher price tag – not very flavorful. But Donna was a cigar smoker and had a clear interest in me smoking cigars, so I didn’t want to come off as a “cigar snob” just because she smoked

cigars I generally wouldn’t smoke. And because I had smoked some of these cheaper cigars on occasion, it wasn’t a lie.
“Plus, I was never sure about the cutting thing, and never really knew how to do that,” Donna said. “The cigars I smoke – and you know this, Stan – they come with little holes already in the smoking end,” she said, before taking a puff from her Slim and inhaling deeply. Holding the smoke in, she continued. “And because I was already a cigarette smoker when I had my first cigar, I’ve always inhaled cigars too, even though some people are shocked that I do and tell me I am not supposed to,” Donna exhaled a cloud of her cigarette smoke. “But I figure, tobacco smoke is tobacco smoke, right? If you’re not inhaling it, I don’t know what the point is. And every time I’ve had one of those cigars you have to cut, it’s like I don’t get a lot of smoke out of it when I puff it. Because I like a full draw, you know? That’s one thing my cigars with the holes give me.”
“I understand that,” I said. “For these hand-rolled cigars, if they aren’t kept exactly right – in a humidor, ideally – and allowed to rest for a time after they are rolled and shipped, they can get a little dry and it can be hard to get a full puff of smoke. I’ve let this one rest for a few months down here in the almost-tropics, so it smokes a little bit easier,” I said.
By now, Donna was finished with her long cigarette, and she inhaled her last puff as she put it out in the ashtray. She did her double-exhale and turned to me.
I carefully handed her the cigar. “Try this, Donna. I think it’s burning well. See what you think of the flavor,” I said.
Donna exhaled forcefully as if to clear any remaining cigarette smoke from her lungs, and then took a small puff off the cigar. She didn’t inhale the smoke, but just tasted it in her mouth and blew it out quickly. “Oh man, this is good,” she said.
Donna’s next puff was massive. She held the cigar to her lips with two fingers and drew in hard for about three seconds, hollowing her cheeks as she did. Her puff was strong enough to make the tip of the cigar glow bright red. I contemplated how someone who had smoked so heavily for almost fifty years could still have that much suction force in her lungs to take such big puff on a decent sized cigar. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, apparently.

As she did with her cigarettes, Donna made an “O” shape with her mouth and inhaled deeply. Her shoulders hunched up gently and her chest moved forward a bit. After about a second, she exhaled, then drew a breath in and exhaled again.
“This is awesome,” she said, looking at the cigar with its ash end still glowing red from her vigorous puff and a thin stream of smoke coming out of the puffing end. “I love the taste too. It’s sort of spicy and nutty, with a little bit of chocolate.”
“I’m glad you like it. This cigarmaker is a favorite of mine,” I said, while trying to find a way to keep this awesome display going. A close second to my fetish for sexy women smoking 120s is my fetish for sexy women smoking cigars, and Donna certainly knew how to smoke cigars.
I landed on a solution. “Donna, since you like it, why don’t you smoke that cigar for a while? Enjoy it. I’ll have a cigarette,” I said.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Of course I’m sure,” I said, finding my pack of Parliament 100s.
Over the next few minutes, Donna puffed and inhaled the cigar several times. The cigar was burning quickly under her big puffs and I was wondering exactly how high her tolerance for nicotine was – hopefully sky-high, or she’d be looking for a place to vomit in a minute or two. As a long time cigarette and cigar smoker, I can handle my nicotine, and inhale cigars on occasion. But even I know to be cautious with the nicotine in big cigars – too many inhaled puffs can spell trouble.
Donna appeared to have no problem handling the big cigar, though. “I really like this cigar. It has so many different flavors in it,” she said, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “So, let me ask you,” she said, looking into my eyes. “Do you like to watch me smoke this cigar?”
I was a bit taken aback by the direct nature of her question, but I saw no harm, at this point, in answering truthfully. “Yes. Yes, in fact, I do,” I said.
“That’s good,” Donna said with a smile. “So we both like to smoke cigars, and we both like to watch each other smoke them. Wherever this all goes, at least we can be cigar buddies at the Crow’s Nest,” she said. We both laughed.
“What about your friends who always get on your case when you smoke cigars?” I joked. “What’ll we do about them?”

“They’ll just have to get used to it,” Donna laughed. She took another immense puff and handed the cigar back to me as she held the smoke inside. “I think you can continue to go to work on this. I’ve enjoyed it, but I learned long ago to be a little careful with these full-size cigars.” I was amazed that she wasn’t already feeling nauseous, but maybe she was exercising a bit of prudence with her nicotine consumption.
Or maybe not. After I took the cigar from her hand, she pulled out another Virginia Slim. I gave her a light.
After exhaling her first puff, Donna spoke. “So, since we’re talking about this kind of thing – smoking, and what we like to see – and we’re both being open and honest, let me ask you one other question,” she said. “Of course, you don’t have to answer it. But when we were at the bar, you mentioned something about women who smoke long cigarettes. Are these 120s something that you find, err, appealing?”
“You have a memory like a steel trap,” I laughed, ashing the cigar.
Donna laughed. “That comes from spending years managing big projects with a lot of moving parts,” she said. “And if you do like me smoking these long ones, you should know this is the only length I’ve smoked since I was in college. I like them and I don’t plan to change,” she said, before taking a long puff.
“I like them. I think the longer the cigarette, the sexier it is, to be honest with you,” I said. “And to go even further, it’s sexy when an attractive woman like you puffs on her cigarette while she dangles it from her lips. Like you said about how you like to watch me smoke a cigar, I don’t know why. But it is what I like. You were dangling your cigarette at the Crow’s Nest while you were texting your friends, and it was just amazing to watch. ”
Donna smiled. “Really? You mean like this?” she asked, before putting the cigarette in her mouth in what for me was a perfect dangle – with the cigarette almost in one corner of her mouth, held only by her lips, and at a sizable angle toward the ground. “I’m kind of a master dangler. It comes from years of touring job sites with my hands full while taking notes on my plans, but still wanting to smoke a cigarette,” she said, as the cigarette bounced up and down in her lips. “So that’s fine with me. But I’m surprised you like this. Donny once told me he thought it was trashy, so I became a little conscious of it and tried to stop.”

Donna took a puff off the dangling cigarette that caused it to point toward the ceiling at a sharp angle, then inhaled and exhaled a tight cone of smoke through a small hole she made in her lips on the opposite side of her mouth from the Slim.
I answered her comment about whether dangling was “trashy.” “Every person likes what he or she likes, right? One person’s ‘trashy’ is another person’s treasure,” was the best I could muster, as I was becoming more than a bit distracted by her dangling performance. She was, in fact, proving to be a “master dangler.”
“So, Stan,” Donna said, with her cigarette moving up and down in time with her words. She paused to take a puff, inhaled, and then spoke as smoke billowed out of her mouth and nose. “We both know what we like, and I think we both know why we’re here. But I haven’t been seduced in a long time. I want to hear you tell me what you want to do. It’ll turn me on even more to hear the words.”
I took a puff off my cigar to think for a second. Donna was asking for a game plan, as it were. I hadn’t had to figure that out, or enunciate one, in a long time – Susan and I had known for a long time how to turn each other’s sparks into flames. And we usually didn’t put words to that, just carried out the actions we understood.
But I did the best I could. “Well, first, we’d kiss. We’d kiss like teenagers. We’d kiss to feel some of the emotional closeness I think we’re both looking for,” I said. “It would be hot-and-heavy, old-school making out.”
Donna ashed her cigarette and put it back to dangle between her lips. With a smile, she said, “I like it so far. Go on.”
“Then, after we’re feeling close, and comfortable, and maybe a little warmed up, we’d go upstairs to my bedroom,” I said. “But that’s only if you want to. I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with.”
“Oh, Stan, honey – if I don’t want to do something, trust me, I won’t,” she said, as smoke came out of her mouth and flowed around her dangling Slim. “If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be. So, tell me – what’s next after we go upstairs?”
I caressed Donna’s leg gently. “I’d take your clothes off. And mine. And I’d lay you down on the bed, and I’d kiss your face. Then your ears and your neck. Then I’d kiss and caress your breasts,” I said.
I could see Donna smile around the dangling cigarette and her eyes brightened. I took a quick puff on my cigar to heighten her anticipation.

“And then, so you can enjoy two pleasures at once, I’d light you a cigarette and put the ashtray next to you. You just lay back and smoke it, and enjoy it. That’s one pleasure,” I said, pausing a bit. “And the second pleasure is, I’d slide down your body, spread your legs, and kiss and caress you all over. And I’d give you as much pleasure as I can with my tongue and my fingers. All you have to do is lay back, have a cigarette, maybe another if you want. And let me treat you right between your legs.”
Donna raised her eyebrows a bit and ashed her cigarette. “I haven’t been treated right down there for a long time. That is definitely something I want. My husband doesn’t like to do that. And I’ve never been treated to that while I got to have a cigarette. But I want to try. Two pleasures at once,” she said in a hushed tone, before putting the cigarette back between her lips.
“So let me do it. I like to give pleasure,” I said. “I’ll give you as much pleasure there as you want. You just let the feeling wash over you.”
“Then, when you’re ready for me, we’d make love,” I continued, before taking a puff off my cigar – because I wasn’t sure I’d just said that.
“Whew. Wow. I like your idea, Stan. I like it a lot,” she said in a low, raspy voice, and with a wink. She took a big puff off of her dangling cigarette, inhaled, and after a few seconds exhaled though the corner of her mouth. At the same time, she rubbed her hand up and down my thigh, close to my groin.
Donna was clearly ready to go forward, and so was I.
“So, let me ask you,” I said, out of practice with exactly how to make the next move in this chess game toward intimacy. “You don’t mind kissing a man who has just been puffing on a cigar, do you?
Donna laughed. “I definitely do not mind kissing a man who has just smoked a cigar,” she said, before taking a last quick puff from her Slim and inhaling while stubbing it out in the ashtray. She held the smoke in as she gently took the cigar from my hand, and then through a talking exhale she added, “especially not if I get the last puff.”
Donna took a huge puff from the cigar, inhaled, and exhaled as she set it gently in the ashtray. Turning to me, she smiled and asked, “Now, Stan – do you mind kissing a woman who has just puffed a cigar?” Small tufts of residual cigar smoke followed her words out of her mouth.

“I don’t think so. But we’ll see, won’t we?” I said.
I leaned in and gave her a kiss. She reciprocated, clearly expecting the kiss. For several minutes, we made out like neither of us had in a long time. I was captivated by the powerful aroma of cigar and cigarette smoke on her breath and her clothes, mixed with a tiny amount of some perfume. I gently caressed her curves, exploring her body over her clothes. She lightly touched my back and arms and, eventually, the growing bulge in my pants.
Donna eventually broke off our kiss. With her face still close to mine, we gazed into each other’s eyes for a second. She spoke first, but said what was on my mind. “Let’s go upstairs to your bedroom. And bring our cigarettes.”
I took Donna’s hand and led her to my bedroom. Once there, we took off our clothes quickly and settled on to the bed, and I set a small ashtray and her cigarettes and lighter next to her. Starting with her face, I gently kissed her before moving down her body to kiss and caress her breasts. After a few minutes of this foreplay, Donna began to moan softly. Soon, she asked me to continue further down her body.
And so I did. Not long after I had started to pleasure her – starting by exploring her inner thighs with my tongue and fingers as something of a tease – she lit a cigarette. I observed her puff deeply and exhale with a look of pleasure on her face. She started to groan softly as I explored her vagina, teasing her clitoris with my tongue and slowly inserting my fingers – first one, then another – deeper into her.
Donna was beginning to get out of breath from excitement as she finished her cigarette and promptly lit a second one. As she smoked it and I continued to pleasure her, I felt her get more and more moist, and the volume of her moans increased. She was nearly screaming in ecstasy when her cigarette was almost done. Hastily stubbing it out, she uttered, “Get inside me, baby.”
Thrusting into her, I started to feel a release of tension that had been building up in me as a side effect of the strains my marriage was under. I’ll never know for sure, but if her passionate, loud moans were any indication, Donna seemed to be feeling a great release as well.
We both came at about the same time. I stayed on top of her, and for a while we just stared at each other, smiling and out of breath.

After sometime, Donna spoke. “Mmm. Mmm, mmm,” she moaned gently. “That was incredible. I haven’t felt that in a long time. You, sir, are amazing at this.” Donna paused and took a few deep breaths. “But,” she said, smiling and gently pushing me off of her, “right now, I need a cigarette. And you, my friend, deserve one after that.”
I smiled and took a deep breath myself. “I think we both do,” I said, getting the ashtray and my cigarettes from the nightstand on my side of the bed. I lit up Donna’s cigarette before lighting my own.
We laid next to each other, and were quiet for a minute as we took deep, relaxing puffs off of our cigarettes. With my free hand, I gently held hers.
Surely we were each thinking and feeling a thousand things in that quiet, smoky moment of post-coital bliss. But Donna shared her thoughts first. “You know, I didn’t know if I could still have an orgasm with a man. But apparently I can. I haven’t in a long time.”
Donna made the tip of her cigarette glow brightly as she inhaled a massive puff of smoke and inhaled deeply. Through a talking exhale, she added, “I use a vibrator a lot – I have a lot of lonely nights on this island – so maybe that helped keep me kind of ready for you.” She smiled through the cloud of smoke in front of her face. “And I think smoking cigarettes while you pleased me down there was like the cherry on top of an amazing sundae. I smoke sometimes when I vibrate, but honestly, this was just so much better. And then having you inside me – that’s just a million times better than any vibrator.”
I was heartened by her compliments, but wasn’t sure how to respond. I did the best I could, though, as some sort of response seemed required. “Well, whether it was the vibrator or not, making love to you was out of this world. And the cigarettes – I’m so happy they gave you pleasure, because it made me happy to look up from between your legs a couple of times and see you enjoying them, and the pleasuring, so much.”
We didn’t speak for another half-minute or so as we puffed our cigarettes.
“I don’t know how ambitious you are with me being here tonight,” Donna eventually said, exhaling. “But thinking of the pleasure we get watching each other smoke, I have an idea. If you were to smoke a cigar, it would definitely, um, keep me in the mood. And I have some other ideas for how to keep you in the mood, too.”

“I think that’s a great plan. The night is still young, after all,” I said, putting out my cigarette and getting out of the bed. “You don’t have to ask me twice to smoke a cigar, that’s for sure. And I’ll get us some glasses of water.” In a few minutes, I was back in bed, cutting and lighting a short cigar.
For about a minute or so, we were quiet. Donna watched me smoke the cigar as she finished her Slim and sipped some water. From the look on her face, I got the sense she was thinking about something. When she finished her cigarette and got a fresh one from her pack, I lit her up – wondering what wheels were turning in her mind.
Donna exhaled her first puff. “So…I want to try something if you don’t mind. I think it’ll help keep you in the mood and maybe get you ready for Round Two? This is something I did for Donny a few times. Long ago, when we were dating or maybe when we were first married, I forget exactly. I do remember he really liked it, that’s for sure. It’s also what made me certain that he got pretty fired up when I smoked cigarettes.”
I was now very curious to find out what this special thing was. I took a puff on my cigar and looked into her eyes, as I’d done at the bar. “Darling, at this point, you can try anything you want. I’m up for it.”
“Up for it? Interesting choice of words, Stan. We’ll see how up for it you are. Now, just knock some ash off your cigar, and lay back, put your head on the pillow, and enjoy smoking that cigar. What was it you said, something about two pleasures at once?” Donna said, smiling.
I did as Donna asked.
Still dangling her cigarette, Donna pulled the bedsheet off of me and, with the ashtray, slid down the bed and positioned herself so she was above my penis.
And then, dear reader, your obtuse author finally realized what a treat he was about to get. In Part I, my metaphor for receiving oral sex was that it pushed one of my buttons – but that receiving smoking oral was a big, red, this-is-hands-down- awesome button. Susan had given me such a treat on very rare occasions, and not in a long time, for sure. I was happy I’d received it even that small number of times, as it’s something of the Holy Grail in the smoking fetish world. At least in my smoking fetish world. As always, your interests may differ. And that’s fine.

Maybe what motivated Donna to give me this bucket-list-level delight was the common belief that one good turn deserves another – after all, I had given her oral pleasure, and she’d made clear her husband didn’t do that. Maybe it was that she was having a rollicking good time, doing wild things with a man she’d just met in a bar, and was getting carried away by the emotions of our evening. Maybe she just liked doing it.
But whatever her motivation was, Donna knew how to give one hell of a smoking blow job. She blew smoke on my member from all directions, before slowly starting to use her mouth and tongue on me. If it’s true she hadn’t done this in a long time, she certainly hadn’t forgotten exactly how to do it. All the while, I did as she asked, leaning back on the pillows and enjoying the sensation along with my cigar. Two pleasures at once, indeed.
I wasn’t exactly watching the clock, so I don’t know how much time passed in this very enjoyable exercise. But relatively soon, Donna had revived my nearly half- century-old member, still recovering from our earlier lovemaking, into a fully erect state. Sitting up on the bed and contentedly observing what her work had brought about, she took a last puff on her Virginia Slim, put it out in the ashtray, and slid the ashtray towards the edge of the bed and out of our way.
“This is ready for me now,” Donna said in her raspy voice as she mounted me. I realized I was still holding the cigar, and as much as I wanted to set it somewhere, she had moved the ashtray too far for me, on my back, to reach – and I definitely didn’t want to interrupt our congress over a comparatively minor matter like where to put my cigar. So, I clenched the cigar between my teeth and held Donna’s hands to steady her as she slowly moved herself up and down my member.
Donna kept her eyes closed most of the time, but I got to observe her face. I hadn’t seen a look of such utter pleasure on a woman in a long time. She alternated between biting her lip and purring quietly, before beginning to moan. Her moaning increased, as did the speed at which she bounced up and down on my penis. Ultimately, we both climaxed at about the same time.
Very satisfied, we caught our breath as we gazed into each other’s eyes.
Donna noticed the cigar clenched tightly between my teeth. “Oh my God, I moved the ashtray. I’m sorry,” she laughed, reaching for the ashtray with one of her hands and putting it next to me so I could finally take it from between my teeth.

I chuckled a bit. “You know, I was enjoying that so much, I didn’t even notice the cigar was there,” I said.
And that was pretty much true. Between encountering this sexy mature heavy smoker who spotted and understood my fetish, two rounds of lovemaking, and an amazing smoking blow job – none of which I was expecting when I’d gone out to the Crow’s Nest a few hours before – my average weeknight had taken a wild, wonderful, deeply gratifying turn. I was enjoying it all and living in the moment. The ceiling of my bedroom could have collapsed right then, and I doubt I would have paid it much attention.
Donna rolled off of me and laid next to me in the bed after putting a Virginia Slim between her lips, which I promptly lit before lighting a Parliament for me. We held hands and smoked our cigarettes for a couple of minutes, not saying much, just idly grinning at each other.
We were both spent, and a little tired by now. But the gentleman in me still had to ensure she was comfortable. “You know, Donna, you are welcome to stay the night. I’d like that, in fact, if you want to stay. I have to work tomorrow, but don’t have to be in the office at a set time.”
Donna smiled. “I’d like that,” she said. “I miss sleeping next to a man some nights down here,” she said, exhaling cigarette smoke. “And I’d like to wake up and see you. To know for sure a night like this wasn’t a dream,” she said with a smile, before taking another puff of her Slim.
As she exhaled, she continued. “But just to warn you: I have a nasty cough from years of these things,” holding up her cigarette. “It sounds worse than it really is, though,” she chuckled. “Just so you’re not surprised.”
Donna crushed out her spent Virginia Slim and pulled out another one, which I promptly lit. “Mmm,” she said, inhaling a long puff. “Something no non-smoker would ever understand is how good it feels to smoke after great sex,” she said before exhaling a huge cloud that floated across the bedroom. “Or, frankly, for me, just to have great sex even without the cigarette after. Donny and I haven’t made love in months. We’re practically celibate now. I miss sex. A lot.”
I puffed on my cigar and exhaled. “Well, it’s not my place to give relationship advice. But honestly, if Donny ever had a thing for you smoking cigarettes, then one night you should just surprise him with a cigarette in one hand and give him

oral the way you gave me. That was amazing. That’s not something I’ve had at home in a very long time. If that doesn’t give him a charge, I don’t know what will.”
Donna smiled. “You liked that, huh?” she asked, squeezing my hand. “Although I don’t have to ask, because I could tell by how you responded that you did. I haven’t made a man, um, stand at attention that quickly in a long time. It felt good, and it feels good to know I can still do that.”
Donna double-pumped her Virginia Slim and held the smoke in her lungs as she rolled ash off the burning end into the ashtray between us. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try that with Donny, to see if I can get the spark back between us. But I stopped doing that for him because he never wanted to return the favor, if you know what I mean,” she said. “But for you and me – there are a lot of things I’d like to try with you if you are up for them. You make me feel like a woman again, and I like that feeling, a lot. I want to try a bunch of things with you because I like feeling this way. And Donny and me, well, we love each other, but we may just be a lost cause in the sex department.”
Chapter 5: “I Have A Cigar Thing”
The next morning, I woke up early when the sunlight started streaming around the window curtains. Despite an amazing night, it was going to be another workday for me. Donna was sleeping soundly with her back toward me, so I was able to gently get up and out of bed without waking her. As I went downstairs to the kitchen, I noted the smoky smell everywhere. I generally smoked cigarettes and cigars on the terrace, to keep the place in acceptable shape for when Susan and the girls came down. Last night, I’d made an exception to that rule. I made a mental note that I’d have to air the place out, use a ton of Febreze, and get the cleaning people in here before Susan and the girls came down for a beach weekend.
But my brain was skipping ahead to the cleanup, when there was a much more pressing and more current issue to be worked over. This main issue was: what was I going to do, if anything, with Donna? We’d had amazing sex and she pushed a lot of my fetish buttons, but did I want to make this a regular thing? If not, how would I get out of it? I decided to think on that a little bit later, as I poured two coffees – both black, as Donna had confirmed last night that we take our coffee the same way – and headed back upstairs to the bedroom with them. I’d have to do some detailed thinking on this whole thing, and the time to do that was not when she was still sleeping in my bed.

Donna opened her eyes as I set her coffee on the nightstand on her side of the bed, saving me the awkwardness of waking up a woman in my bed who I had only met about twelve hours before. She looked at me and her eyes widened for a quick second, as her brain switched on and reconstructed what had happened the night before, where she was, and who I was.
She was quickly alright with what she recollected, however, because she smiled widely and said, “Good morning, hon. You brought up coffee! What a treat to have coffee brought to me in bed,” in a dry, raspy voice. She reached out to me with one hand and touched my arm, while her other hand went right to the nightstand and instinctually grabbed a Virginia Slim out of her pack, and put the filter in her mouth. “I strive to offer first class service,” I said jokingly, as I picked up her lighter and gave her a light.
I went around to my side of the bed, climbed back in, and lit my own cigarette. Watching Donna, I was treated to a three minute demonstration of severe, hard- core nicotine addiction, seeing a craving satisfied by this almost-fifty-year, heavy- and-almost-chain smoker with no intention or ability to give up cigarettes.
Probably everyone who is more than a light smoker and reads this understands what a morning nicotine craving is about. In case you’re not in that group, dear reader, let me try to explain. In my case, since I was in college, I’d woken up every morning with a little bit of a gnawing in my stomach and a bit of tenseness in my nerves. It was really the start of a simple balancing reaction, really. My body – essentially every cell in it – had been used to doses of nicotine in varying amounts over the course of the prior day, and then I had the bad judgment to suddenly stop that nicotine dosing for about seven hours while I slept. Until I’d corrected this error – by smoking a cigarette or a cigar, chewing nicotine gum or snus, or even vaping, for after being deprived so long the body wouldn’t seem to care much about the form of delivery – the pit in my stomach and the tenseness in my nerves would only grow. My brain, responding to these urgent messages, would structure my morning in such a way as to get the craving satisfied as soon as possible.
For the first years of our married life, Susan and I had structured our mornings to satisfy our cravings immediately as soon as we woke up, with cigarettes at the ready on our nightstands. We never really talked about this process – it was just something we’d both understood from the first morning we were together, that we’d wake up and then light up, usually before we’d even made it to the kitchen to get coffee. In more recent years – with Susan struggling to quit smoking – I’d been forced to rearrange my routine to smoke later, after I was up for a little while and

could get out of the main house to our patioside smoking room. Susan, for her part, had always found abandoning her first cigarette of the day to be the biggest hurdle to clear in her many attempts to quit cigarettes.
So, as a smoker married to a longtime, pretty heavy smoker, I understood the concept of needing to smoke upon, or soon after, waking up.
At least I thought I understood it. But I’d never seen anything quite like Donna’s urgent need to get nicotine into her body.
From the moment the flame of my lighter touched the end of her long cigarette, Donna essentially puffed that cigarette the entire time, except for two occasions when she’d quickly knock ash into the ashtray. She triple-pumped very puff, and would often be taking these puffs as smoke billowed out of her nostrils. She had smoke inside her the whole time, either fresh smoke going in to her lungs or spent smoke on its way out, having given her some of the nicotine she very desperately needed. It put me in mind of some of the speed-smoking videos available on some corners of the Internet.
I’d been trying to be discreet while trying to watch this amazing display. But eventually Donna caught me glancing at her, and she rolled her eyes a bit and smiled. As she ashed her cigarette, a volcano’s worth of smoke tumbled out of her mouth with her words. “Yes, I need this,” she said in a joking, wheezy voice before quickly putting the cigarette back in her mouth and continuing through a dangle. “I used to love my first one of the day. Now it’s definitely a need.”
As the Slim burned to its filter with intense speed, Donna took one last huge puff, crushed out the butt in her ashtray, made her usual “O” with her mouth, and inhaled deeply. She exhaled twice, expelling huge clouds of smoke each time. She turned to face me and as residual smoke streamed from her mouth and nose, she smiled and said, “Okay. Now I am ready to start the day.”
I was only halfway done with my cigarette, but this tremendous display of the awesome hold Donna’s addiction had on her, and the vigorous way she satisfied that need, was giving me a morning erection. I was considering what to do next when Donna pulled out another Virginia Slim and leaned toward me for a light. Clearly, Donna’s next step was another cigarette.
After Donna took her first puff, she started to cough – a few coughs at first, then what seemed like a never ending stream of them, growing somewhat in their force.

She got them under control for a second and smiled wanly at me. “Here it is, the morning cough train. Sometimes it’s right when I wake up and sometimes it’s a little later. But it always comes,” she said. She coughed a few more times and excused herself into my bathroom. From behind the closed door, I heard a succession of half-minute coughing fits, interrupted only by a few seconds of quiet between each one. Eventually, I heard the toilet flush and the sound of water coming into the bathroom sink.
Reader: a quick note on the “coughing fetish.” It’s one of the close cousins of the smoking fetish. As I wrote in Part I, I’m not a huge fan of coughing, especially when it’s done by a woman I know (my wife, or in this case, Donna). A random cough by a heavy-smoking mature woman who is more or less anonymous to me can be interesting at times. In this case, though, any gratification I felt by Donna’s heavy coughing spell was outweighed by my legitimate concern for her well-being – given she’d just sent the night with me and I was more than a bit smitten with her. So, my concern for her health was more on my mind than any sexual interest in her cough, at that given moment.
Donna opened the bathroom door, returned to stand by her side of the bed, and put out her cigarette in the ashtray. “I’m sorry about that. It sounds kind of brutal, I know,” she said. “But I think the worst of it is over.”
“It’s perfectly okay, my dear. We’re smokers and that comes with the territory,” I said. “And anyway, a sexy woman wearing nothing but one of my t-shirts is welcome to cough or do whatever she wants in my house,” I joked, trying to put her back at ease. I pulled the sheet off my body to reveal my erect member and patted the empty place in the bed next to me. “Why don’t you come back into bed for a few minutes? I don’t have to get up for work quite yet.”
Donna grinned broadly and laid on the bed next to me. Pulling me close to her, she said, “And I thought coffee in bed was a morning treat. I didn’t know you had more in store for me.” The smell of fresh smoke on her breath only made me desire her more.
We made love. Donna’s cough had receded, replaced by a thick wheeze that did not interrupt the proceedings.
After our post-sex cigarettes, I told her it was time for me to get ready for work, and asked her to make herself comfortable while I showered.

“Are you sure there isn’t room for two?” she asked, smiling as she extinguished her Virginia Slim.
I readily agreed to having her shower with me. I gave me a chance to explore her body more – curvy in the right places, as I’d observed before, and not at all bad for a woman in her late fifties. She didn’t seem to mind soaping up a man in his late forties in decent shape, but whose corporeal form had slowly morphed over the years into a typical suburban “dad bod.”
Donna enjoyed scrubbing my private parts, and ultimately her gentle touching and caressing started to give me another erection. She grinned as the shower water ran down her face, apparently pleased that she was able to get me hard twice in the short span of time we’d been awake. Donna lightly squeezed my member, and asked, “My, what’s this, Mr. Andrews? Looks like someone wants more. I do too, but I want to get you off to work so you don’t get in trouble. I’ve got a conference call with my team in a little while, too.”
I’d learned last night that her nipples were very sensitive, so I quickly grazed one of them with the back of my hand to give her a bit of a thrill in response. She gasped quickly and smiled.
“Well, a raincheck, then. But not for long?” I asked.
“I hope not. I don’t think I can wait very long,” Donna answered.
After I got dressed for work and Donna cleaned up, I offered her breakfast – a gentlemanly thing to do, I thought, and fortunately I’d stocked up on food on my drive down from Houston. “I don’t have much here, but I can make you some oatmeal and I have some fresh fruit.”
Donna was warmed by this humble gesture. “You’re making me breakfast??” she gushed. “No one has made me breakfast in a long time. Thank you!”
I think her feeling of being well-treated compensated for my offering of my simple, usual “bachelor’s breakfast” I ate when alone on the Island – instant oatmeal, fruit and Greek yogurt, with more coffee. After we ate, I lit her Virginia Slim and my own cigarette.
As Donna exhaled, she asked me a question. “Stan, do you remember when I said I want to try a lot of things?”

“Sure,” I said. “Which is a great attitude, by the way. I’m always up for ideas and I feel comfortable with you. Tell me what’s on your mind – the worst I can say is ‘no’ if it makes me uncomfortable.” I recalled Donna saying that last night right after we’d been intimate – that she wanted to try things she couldn’t do with Donny – and while I assumed she meant sexual things, quite frankly it could be anything. Maybe Donny didn’t want to try windsurfing. Or deep-sea fishing. Both of them were popular pastimes here on South Padre, and maybe she was looking for a water-sport companion. I figured it couldn’t hurt to know.
Donna held her cigarette in her hand and stared at me as if she needed to be sure she could tell me something on her mind. “This is weird. But I feel comfortable with you.”
Now I was thinking Donna had something sexual in mind – you don’t need to be comfortable with someone to tell them you want to try windsurfing or offshore fishing. But I encouraged her to continue anyway. “Nothing’s really too weird, Donna, trust me. At least to talk about. I won’t laugh or judge you for whatever is on your mind. I’m honored you feel comfortable enough to tell me what you want. That’s important to me,” I said, before taking a puff on my cigarette. “So go ahead – try me.”
Donna exhaled a cone of smoke, then inhaled a bit of air and exhaled again. “So, here it is. I have a cigar thing,” Donna said.
“ I know. I’m always happy to smoke a cigar, both for my own enjoyment and your, uh, viewing pleasure,” I said with a smile, not sure why Donna was telling me something I thought we had already established.
“Well…it’s not just you puffing on one. Something else,” she said, exhaling a thick cloud of cigarette smoke.
“Okay. Tell me. I’m game for just about anything,” I said.
Donna ashed her cigarette in the ashtray and looked down at it as she spoke. It seemed she was a bit uncomfortable with what she was about to say. “So, as I told you…I use a vibrator. And sometimes I have thought about what it would be like to, um, pleasure myself with a big cigar like I do with my vibrator.”
She looked up at me as if to gauge my reaction, which was one of surprise but interest. “You mean like Monica Lewinsky? Do you remember hearing about that?” I asked.

I’d caught Donna mid-puff with my question, so she nodded her head and then inhaled before answering. “I do. Like that,” she answered. Donna exhaled a large cloud of gray smoke that spread around my breakfast table. “I remember hearing about it back then, and thinking it was so perverted. But I don’t know, now – well, I didn’t vibrate back then, so maybe I didn’t understand it.”
“But it’s occurred to me over the past few years that maybe there’s something to it. So, what I have in mind is, if you can get me, you know, kind of warmed up there, I’d like to see what a cigar feels like inside. Especially one of the big ones like you smoked last night,” she said, before taking another puff on her Slim.
“And then, after that, if you want to taste it, you could light it up and smoke it,” Donna said, through a talking exhale. “Which is where you come in, Stan. I can use a cigar to touch myself anytime. But kind of the really sexy part of it, that I can’t do myself of course, is watch you smoke it. After it’s been in me.”
I took a puff on my own cigarette and thought for a second about all of this. What Donna was proposing is not something that’s “mainstream” in the smoking fetish, by any means. It’s an outlier, even in a fetish that has a lot of kinks and interests that the majority of folks would think are pretty odd. But maybe that’s why the smoking fetish is a fetish, anyway – if it was mainstream, everyone would be doing it. And certainly everyone is not smoking to sexually stimulate their partners.
So, yes, Donna stimulating herself with a cigar and then having me smoke it was weird, and not something I’d seek out in the corners of the Internet where smoking fetish pictures and videos tend to be found. Perhaps it’s the oddest thing to come out of the Clinton impeachment matter a quarter-century ago. The Internet was just starting then, and maybe we’re all fortunate – if this sort of conduct came into the public sphere today, all of us would be dealing with massive amounts of negative publicity on our somewhat small, remote cove off of the great ocean of sexual proclivities and likes.
But in considering Donna’s request, I applied two principles that seemed to open the door to me agreeing. First, consenting adults are the only people who should be involved in any kind of sexual conduct – and that was met here, as Donna was 58 and I was in my late forties. Second, and simpler: you only live once.
So, I agreed. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s try it. I’ll pleasure you and then we’ll use one of my big cigars. Then I’ll smoke it. It’s a little wild and out there, that’s true. But

we’re both adults and I don’t know why we can’t indulge in a little fantasy,” I said. “But let me ask you: do you want to taste the cigar too, once I light it up?”
“Oh, yeah,” Donna said, now smiling. I surmised from how her posture changed that she was relieved I’d greeted her revelation of what she wanted to try warmly. “Absolutely.”
Donna snuffed out her cigarette and retrieved another from her leather case. I lit her cigarette and after taking her first puff, she continued. “Stan, I feel I can tell you anything. And you can tell me anything, too. So, tell me something – what’s a dirty, kinky thing you want to try? Like you said, the worst I can say is no.”
I felt emboldened by Donna’s rather extreme request. She had shared a deep desire with me, risking my reacting negatively. And Donna knew I had a smoking fetish. So my brain pulled up the list of “smoking scenes I want to see” and looked over the many that hadn’t been crossed off. You, dear reader, may have such a list yourself.
I picked one of the naughty deep-smoking-fantasy items off my list and just put it out there, as they say. “Well…you know I think it’s sexy when you dangle your long cigarette, Donna. I’d like to watch you dangle an entire cigarette, from me lighting it to down to the filter, without putting your hands on it,” I said.
Fortunately, Donna didn’t laugh. She actually seemed fine with the idea. She smiled a sultry smile for a second, and then dangled her Virginia Slim on the left side of her mouth.
Donna took a deep puff off her cigarette, and exhaled around the still-dangling butt. The Slim danced as she responded. “So this dangling really turns you on, huh? Well, I’m happy to dangle a cigarette for you, Stan. From start to finish.”
Realizing the ash on her cigarette was a little long, Donna quickly knocked the ash off and put it back to dangle between her lips. “But we should probably do this in the shower, where the ash can fall on the tile and won’t burn the floor. And,” – she paused to take a puff, and continued after exhaling – “I think it might be kind of sexy if you tied my hands behind my back while I smoke the cigarette. Not in handcuffs or anything, but just loosely. To keep me from trying to take the cigarette out of my mouth just out of habit. And, because, well, being a little submissive or tied up is a little sexy to me. I’ve never tried that.”

I was stunned by Donna’s idea. I’m not a huge dom/sub sort of guy, frankly. But the idea of Donna having her hands tied up turned the dial up even higher on my request. And, she’d not only heard my fantasy without complaint, but she seemed interested in doing it.
There wasn’t much I could say, but I had to try. “So, this would be, sort of, ahh, another form of two pleasures at once. One for you and one for me,” I said.
Donna exhaled another cloud of smoke around her dangling cigarette. “That’s a good way to put it, Stan. Two pleasures at once. And to make sure you are getting your pleasure, I’d like you to watch me do this without any clothes on either of us,” she said. She puffed her cigarette and, still dangling it, exhaled a cloud of smoke in my face. “I assume that’s okay with you? Because once I can see that you’re, how should I say, demonstrating your pleasure, then, when my cigarette is done, you can free my hands and we can get in the bed and both have a lot of pleasure together.”
I was, by now, essentially speechless and lost in the fantasy Donna was putting out before me.
When I didn’t say anything for several seconds, Donna realized she had me. She decided to end our first encounter on what any observer would consider a high note.
Donna took one last big puff off her dangling cigarette and inhaled deeply, opening a corner of her mouth a little bit to pull in some air to help the inhale along. As she held the smoke deep in her lungs, she spoke. “I take it we have a plan, then. We’ll try some new things.”
Donna exhaled a huge cloud of smoke around the cigarette, this time right in my face. She removed the nearly-finished cigarette from her lips and put it out in the ashtray. She exhaled some more smoke and then just looked at me and smiled for about five seconds. I was still unable to muster any words.
Donna’s smile widened even more. She clearly knew she’d made a big impact on me by accepting my fantasy and then playing it out even further, beyond a frontier my fetisher’s mind hadn’t yet even reached. “Let me help you clean up and then you have to go to work, and I have to go get on my call. And I’m almost out of cigarettes. I smoked a lot last night,” Donna said with a wink. “Will you text me later?”

Chapter 6: Trying New Things
Dear reader: The following section contains rather explicit content. Although it is
tied to the smoking fetish theme of this piece, it is not for the faint of heart.
After Donna left, I finished getting ready for work and drove in to the office. It was tough, however, focusing on my work, given the wild night and morning I’d just had.
For a short time that morning, I considered just not contacting Donna again, and filing the whole thing away as a wonderful experience.
But part of me wanted more. So around noon, I texted her:
Donna Me
Hi. How are you?
I’m good
Actually great. Really still on Cloud 9
Me too, last nght was amazing
Night, I mean
So, what are you doing tonight, or do you want to rest up and get together maybe next week
Tonight, absolutely
I’ve been thinking about the new things we said we wanted to try
And I am up for trying them
Do you have any of those big cigars
You mean the Diesel Unlimited Presidentes Yes, I have some if you’d like to…
It’s called the Presidente?
That’s an ironic name for what I have In mind…
We made arrangements to get together at my place that night. On the way back to the Island, I stopped and picked up ready-made dinners, ice cream, and flowers

from the supermarket. I thought about cooking her a full dinner, and while I’m a good cook, I’d never fully equipped the kitchen in our beach condo to make a big dinner. And she rejected my offer of going out to dinner, saying she really wanted to continue where we’d left off. Which was a hard offer to turn down.
So with some guidance on what she liked to eat, I hit the fresh-made, heat-up- meal case at the local supermarket. I had just put them in the oven when Donna arrived.
Donna clearly dressed more to impress tonight than when she went out the night before for just a happy hour drink with some friends. She was in full, well-done makeup, and wore a red silk blouse, tight-fitting beige linen skirt, and nice shoes.
She blushed when I gave her the flowers. “Aww, Stan. I usually only get these on my birthday. Thank you,” she gushed.
Since the dinners still needed some more time to cook, I poured her a drink and lit her Virginia Slim. She took two dangling puffs before removing the cigarette from between her lips with a wink. “Just a little sample for you…we still have to eat dinner, of course,” she said in a low voice.
As if to kill time, or perhaps to not appear too anxious to each other, we talked about a bunch of things not related to the real purpose of our encounter that night. She told me how her team meeting went, and about some of the projects she was working on. I told her about some of the accounting mistakes I was still cleaning up from before my company acquired this business. It was absolutely fascinating conversation.
But it did kill time. And after we’d had our dinner – not bad for a bachelor host, I think, but far from five-start cuisine – she dangled a Virginia Slim for me to light. “Just one of these for me, I think. At least here – I’d like more in your bedroom,” she said in a sultry voice.
“That’s a great idea,” I said, lighting her cigarette. “Because I’ll be in the mood for an after-dinner cigar.” Donna smiled at my foreshadowing.
After some more conversation, we finished our cigarettes at about the same time. Looking at me as she crushed out her cigarette, Donna said, “Stan…I’m ready for trying new things if you are.”
“I’m ready,” I said, meeting her gaze. “Let me get a Presidente.”

Armed with the cigar, cutter, lighter, and our cigarettes, we went upstairs. We sat on the bed next to each other, momentarily unsure of the next move.
I decided to take the lead. I slowly removed the cellophane wrapper from the seven inch cigar, making something of a show of doing so.
I handed the cigar to Donna as if to add to the drama. “Smell it. Doesn’t it smell divine?” I asked her. “I’m going to cut it and set it next to me. And then undress you and get you ready for it.”
Donna smiled and slid the cigar lengthwise under her nose, sniffing the aroma of the fine tobacco that would soon be inside her most intimate part. “Yummm. This smells almost as good as when it’s lit,” she said. “I’ll tell you when I am ready for it and we’ll put it in together. I’ll know how it should feel.”
She handed the cigar back to me, and I slowly cut it, set it in an ashtray on one edge of the bed, and put my lighter beside it. While giving her a few little kisses on her lips and neck, I slowly unbuttoned Donna’s blouse and removed her bra. She helped me remove her skirt and underwear, and then unbuckled my pants and kissed me as she unbuttoned my shirt.
We were both soon naked on the bed and I began to kiss her, slowly at first and just on the mouth. Then, with a bit more speed to pick up the tempo, I started kissing her ears and her neck. When I moved down her body toward her breasts, Donna lit a Virginia Slim. I slid the ashtray, cigar, and lighter towards her, so they’d be in easy reach of both of us.
As I massaged and kissed Donna’s breasts, she increased the speed at which she was puffing her cigarette and the intensity of her inhales. Moving one finger around the edge of her vagina, I could tell she was beginning to get moist.
Donna put out her mostly-smoked Slim, placed another one between her lips, and lit it. She dangled it through a wide grin. Exhaling smoke at me around the cigarette, she said in a seductive voice, “Go ahead, Stan. Get me ready.”
I did as she asked, and started to pleasure her orally. Donna began to groan lustily as she puffed her cigarette.
When her cigarette was almost done, Donna let me know. Snubbing her cigarette out quickly in the ashtray, she pulled herself up a bit so her head was resting on

the pillows and she had a better view of my position between her legs. “I’m ready, Stan.”
I picked up the large cigar and slowly ran its cut tip around the edge of her vagina. She gasped. After I did that for about ten more seconds, she placed her hand over mine. “Follow me,” she whispered.
Donna inserted the cigar into her vagina, clearly leading the way and using it as a sensual tool to stimulate her in ways I wouldn’t have known to do. I loosely held the opposite end of the cigar, being more of an observer to her pleasure.
And what pleasure it was. Donna gasped and moaned several times, and bit her lower lip as she moved several inches of the cigar back and forth inside her. Eventually, she took a huge, deep breath, and slowly exhaled. She removed the cigar and handed it to me. In a quiet, husky voice, she said, “Light it up, Stan.”
I moved up the bed to lie next to her, and before I lit the cigar, I lit the Slim that Donna had put between her lips. Donna watched me intently as I slowly lit the cigar. It was slow to light, as it was somewhat moist – not sponge-wet, but lightly moistened. Her body had given it a slight salty taste. By the third puff as I got the cigar burning, I discovered this slight addition of saline flavoring enhanced a great cigar. I was enjoying the taste of the cigar, and the moment, immensely.
“This is heaven,” I said, looking at Donna. “I mean – this tastes great,” I added, quickly running out of adjectives to describe an entirely new experience and cigar flavor. The blood flowing to my member in response to Donna’s body, and now her dangling her cigarette, might have helped my brain build a better response if it had gone there instead.
Donna exhaled around her dangling cigarette as she spoke. “Let me finish this cigarette. You enjoy that for a few minutes while I just leave this long cigarette parked right here.”
Donna continued to dangle and puff deeply on her cigarette, removing it only a few times to add some long white ashes to the ashtray between us. I continued to enjoy the cigar, now well past its early burn and giving off big clouds of gray smoke. We didn’t speak, but just observed each other.
Donna put out her cigarette and I gave her the cigar. She took a puff, inhaled, and exhaled, before looking at the cigar again and repeating that cycle. As she

exhaled the second time, she said, “Wow. This is really pretty awesome, to taste myself in a cigar,” she said.
I kissed her free hand gently. “Donna, you taste like a goddess.”
Donna looked at me for a few seconds as she puffed the cigar again. I was afraid I was gilding the lily with my over-the-top prose. But as it turned out, I was really just giving her confidence to go a step further.
“Stan,” she said through a talking exhale of cigar smoke, “I want to try something I don’t know I’ll be able to do. There’s actually videos on the Internet I found today of this, but all of them were younger women trying it. So don’t be disappointed if I can’t make this work. But slide down to the end of the bed so you can see between my legs.”
I had a hunch I knew what videos Donna was talking about as I slid down to take a position at the foot of the bed. They were the extreme of the extreme, and if my hunch was right, even too extreme for me. All the same, there I was. To paraphrase Star Trek, I was about to go where few in the smoking fetish community had gone before – and over a frontier many of them may not even want to cross.
Sure enough, Donna put the cut end of the cigar in her vagina, and slid it in about an inch or two. She was watching carefully to avoid burning herself, although I’d noticed that since last night, she had trimmed her pubic hair – perhaps preparing herself so that hair would be less of an issue if she tried what she was now trying.
I saw her face strain as she tried to puff the cigar with her vagina. Nothing happened to the cigar. She thought for a second and tried again. Nothing again.
Donna looked at me. “Okay, I think I know.” She slid the cigar out of her and slid it back in. She leaned back to straighten her body out more, but keeping her head at an angle that would let her watch her groin. She took a deep breath and tightened what appeared to be every muscle in her body.
The burning end of the cigar sprang to life, glowing a bright red and giving off a thick cloud of smoke that wafted upward. Donna watched herself puff the cigar for about five seconds, before releasing her breath and her muscles and opening her mouth into a wide smile. A huge burst of cigar smoke, imbued with a high pressure like the steam whistle on a locomotive in old movie, blew out of her intimate part around the cigar. The fast cloud hit me in the face and spread around my head.

Extreme as this was, I loved every second of it.
Donna did too. “Whew!” she said. “I had to really work at that. I moved some muscles I forgot I had,” she laughed, a bit out of breath.
As I’d been most of the night, I struggled to find words. “Incredible,” I said. “Just incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that before. You’re amazing.”
With her mouth, Donna puffed the cigar as I crawled back up the bed to lay next to her. I think she was at a loss for words too, perhaps overtaken by the moment like me. “Thank you,” she said, in a quiet voice. She smiled at me and puffed the cigar contentedly for a half-minute or so. While we were both enjoying an intimate moment, I was wondering what would come next.
Donna knew. She reached her hand under the sheet that partially covered my erection. “Oh, my,” she said, smiling as she exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke. “I really have to be careful dangling my long cigarettes around you, Stan. And now I’m smoking this big cigar, too, and you helped me give it this special taste. Well, you know what comes next, don’t you, darling?”
Donna handed me the cigar and gently rolled me on my back. “You have let me fulfill a fantasy I’ve had for some time, but that I didn’t want to do alone. So now lay back, puff that cigar, and enjoy two pleasures at once,” she said erotically.
After I lit her Virginia Slim, I laid my head back and enjoyed as Donna asked. As I smoked the cigar, she used the smoke from her Slim and her mouth to bring me to a climax very quickly.
We spent the next fifteen minutes or so smoking in bed – Donna her long cigarettes, and me still puffing on the Presidente – and talking a little bit about the fantasy she had fulfilled. Eventually, Donna started dangling her cigarette and puffing away on it. “So, when do I get to return the favor and dangle a cigarette for you without using my hands? Can we do it now? I’m kind of excited to see how this goes.”
“Two pleasures at once and then a dirty fantasy fulfilled? And it’s only a Wednesday night,” I said, joking.
“There’s no rule against trying new, dirty things on a Wednesday,” Donna said with a throaty laugh, exhaling a stream of smoke around her dangling Slim.

Donna had clearly thought through the mechanics of how this should work. “We should run the shower first a little bit so the floor is wet. This way, the ashes won’t leave burn marks on the tile. And do you have something you can use to tie up my hands behind my back?”
I had thought this part through. “I was going to use the belt from my robe. It’s soft, and if you get really uncomfortable you can wiggle out of it. Or just say something and I’ll untie you,” I answered.
“Like a safety word. Maybe ‘octopus’?” Donna proposed.
“Octopus it is. If you say that, I’ll take the cigarette from your lips and untie you,” I agreed.
“Great. And I want you to stand there, naked, and just watch me. I want to see what this does to you,” Donna said.
Naked, we went into the bathroom and ran the shower for a minute or so to get the floor wet while Donna put a fresh Virginia Slim in a comfortable position in her mouth. She fiddled with it a bit to get it positioned in just the right spot between her lips for her comfort. Then, I loosely tied her hands with the belt from my bathrobe. I made sure she could move her hands out if she really wanted to – I wasn’t viewing this as some sort of real confinement exercise – but the belt was tight enough that she’d have to wrangle her hands out of it somewhat. Donna stepped into the shower and turned to face me.
“I’m ready,” she said. I lit Donna’s cigarette and leaned back on the sink opposite the shower door. She puffed on it a couple of times while she watched me, her gaze traveling from my eyes to my penis and back.
Donna decided to add try some erotic dialogue to her hands-free dangling demonstration – she clearly wanted to watch me get aroused. “Stan, I think you should know how much I love to dangle my cigarette. It makes me feel like smoking a cigarette is just a natural part of me,” she said, as smoke poured from a corner of her mouth and her nostrils.
She took a huge puff that forced the tip of the cigarette to bounce up, inhaled deeply, and exhaled a huge cloud. Even as my gaze was fixed on her, I felt a stirring in my midsection. Donna noticed the movement of my member as well. “There it is,” she said with a smile as her cigarette dangled.

Donna took another huge puff. As she held the smoke in her lungs, she added, “And you know how much I love to smoke these long cigarettes. Two packs a day,” she said before exhaling another massive cloud that spilled out of the shower and enveloped me. She smiled again as she saw the increasing effect her display was having on me.
“You should have seen me back in the day,” Donna continued, before taking another deep puff. “Three packs a day of long cigarettes, and I’d almost always have one dangling right from this same spot where I have this one.” Another cloud of whitish-gray smoke billowed in my direction.
The cigarette, burning fast, danced as she went on. “But now that I can see what a, um, significant impact this is having on you, you better watch out. I’m going to be dangling all the time in front of you,” she said, before taking another puff. “At the Crow’s Nest, or if we go out for dinner somewhere. Even on the beach.”
Donna blew out a wave of smoke in my direction. Her cigarette had grown short, in direct opposition to my phallus. “And especially here in your condo. Or in my place. Anytime you want this, baby, I’ll dangle a cigarette for you.”
Donna’s Virginia Slim was nearly burnt to its filter, and a thick cloud of cigarette smoke filled the shower. The now-short cigarette danced upward as she took one last puff, and she inhaled deeply. Her next words came out of her mouth on clouds of exhaled smoke. “Stan, I’m almost done with my cigarette. And I want to fuck you. Will you put this out, untie me, and bring me back into the bedroom?”
Donna didn’t have to ask twice.
Chapter 7: Johnny Belsom
One weeknight not long after we’d met, Donna and I were at the Crow’s Nest.
Her three friends were there with us at the bar. As we’d agreed, Donna had told them that we were “seeing each other” by then. She didn’t tell them any details about what we were doing, at least if I was reading her texts right. Our text exchange about this earlier that day had gone this way:
Donna Me
Hey there, hot stuff. How are you?

Good! Ow are you?
Ow = How
I was just thinking about you
I was thinking about you too –
Are you still up for meeting up tonight? Maybe at the Crow’s next at 6 or so? Next = Nest
I can pick up some of those ready- made meals if you want – you know for
later !
Yay !
I might meet the girls at Crow’s Nest earlier Around 5
Which gets to something I want to ask you. Can I tell them that we’re seeing each other? I think they have probably figured that out But trust me I am not giving them the details You know
But only if you are OK with that
Sure, I think so – but with no details, I want to keep those to ourselves ”
I’m not the best at reading emojis. I think they’re a very imperfect form of communication. That said, I took Donna’s texts to mean that while she’d tell her friends we were seeing each other, she wouldn’t tell them how far we’d gone (the two people in bed emoji) or anything to do with smoking as a mutual turn-on in our relationship (the cigarette and little cloud ones).
All the same, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d hear when I met Donna and her friends at the Crow’s Nest around six that night. I got some wry glances from a couple of the women in her small clique, but nothing I could read. I cut and lit a cigar to see if that elicited any reaction that could clue me in to exactly what Donna had told the group.

“Another cigar tonight, Stan?” Mary-Ann, the Salem smoker, asked me. “You smoke those things every time you come in here,” she commented. A true statement – every time I’d met Donna for a drink at the Crow’s Nest, I smoked a cigar. For my enjoyment, for sure. But also because I knew Donna liked to watch me smoke it. So Mary-Ann’s comment itself didn’t give me any information about what Donna may have said, and probably just reflected that she wasn’t a huge fan of cigar smoke.
“You know by now I’m a cigar smoker, Mary-Ann. I just like them,” I said.
“You always have different ones, though. Some big ones and some smaller ones, and different shades of brown. I don’t know anything about them – I’ve always been a menthol cigarette girl myself – but I have to ask: don’t they all taste the same? If they do, why do you smoke different kinds of them?” Mary-Ann asked.
Donna gave me a look as I briefly considered my answer. I had no idea if she had told her friends about the “Monica Lewinsky treatment” we’d enjoyed together. If she hadn’t, I certainly didn’t want to tip her friends off to something that confidential between us. If she had, I didn’t want to add to what her friends knew, because for my part, I thought Donna’s rather extreme fantasy was best kept between us. And so the less said to others about it, the better.
So, I answered Mary-Ann as neutrally as I could. “Actually, no, Mary-Ann. No two cigars taste alike. It depends on how they’re made, and the type of tobaccos that get rolled up in them. Some are better than others, that’s for sure. But I’ve had some recently that have really tasted extraordinary.”
I would have winked at Donna, except I wasn’t sure how her friends would have interpreted that. So I just gave her a quick glance, and she was wearing a thin smile.
As the group of us chatted for a half hour or so, it became pretty clear to me that Donna hadn’t told her friends much beyond that we were having a casual relationship. She hadn’t shared any details about our bedroom interests, which was a relief to me. Soon, Donna’s friends closed their tabs and left.
I expected Donna to light a Garcia y Vega cigar when her gang left, but she didn’t. She offered an explanation, though, leaning close to me and whispering so other patrons couldn’t hear. “Stan, I expect we’re going to go back to your place tonight. At least I hope so. I’ve decided that, if you don’t mind, tonight I want to try

something I have never tried before: instead of a cigarette after we make love, I want to smoke a cigar. So I think I’ll hold off on having a cigar now and just have another Virginia Slim instead.”
Donna put a fresh cigarette between her lips and I lit it up. As she dangled it and gazed at me, I responded. “Donna, you know you can smoke whatever you want, wherever you want, as far as I am concerned. Especially, as an aside, if you’re going to dangle a cigarette in your sexy way,” I smiled. “So that’s fine. But you’ve been a cigar smoker for years, and you’ve never had a cigar after being intimate?”
“Nope. Never,” she said, still dangling her cigarette. As smoke came out of her mouth and nose, she went on. “Donny wasn’t big on cigar smoke, even back when he smoked cigarettes. So I never had the opportunity, and thought I’d give it a try. We try new things, right?” she smiled, as the dangling cigarette danced with her words.
Donna took a big puff and continued to dangle her Slim as her next words were punctuated by exhaled smoke. “I have had a cigar to avoid sex, though. That’s a story for another time. I’ll tell you that one later tonight when I am relaxing with a cigar in your bedroom,” she said, with a wink.
I was interested in Donna’s tantalizing tale. Later that night after we were intimate, I lit her a Garcia y Vega and one of my own cigars. We puffed away for a minute or so, enjoying the moment.
Finally, Donna exhaled a cone of cigar smoke and spoke. “I like this – having a cigar after we’ve been together,” she said. “It’s not something I’d do all the time. I kind of like the kick from my Virginia Slims at a time like this. But this is something I’ll do every so often.” She squeezed my hand gently with her hand that wasn’t occupied with the Garcia y Vega.
“And now you’ve tried a new thing,” I said, squeezing hers in return. “Another one to scratch off your list. So, speaking of cigars and sex, I’m curious. What’s the story you were going to tell me about how you had a cigar to avoid sex?” I asked.
Donna chuckled. “Oh, it was wild. It was a plan my grandmother came up with to keep me from feeling like I had to do something I didn’t want to do,” she said. “And it worked like a charm. Poor Johnny Belsom didn’t know what hit him.”
“Who was Johnny Belsom?” I asked.

“Oh, wonderful Johnny Belsom. He was the star quarterback of the high school football team. A dreamy, handsome senior with a sports car. All the girls wanted to go out with him. But he had something of a reputation as a love-em-and-leave-em sort of guy. He collected girls like conquests, notches on his belt, as we used to say. If you know what I mean,” Donna smiled.
“So, I was just sixteen, a sophomore, and one day Johnny asks me out. All my friends acted like I had just been made prom queen or something. And I was ecstatic. To be asked out on a date with Johnny immediately made me popular,” she chuckled. “Which I think is what I wanted back then.”
“Johnny asking you out was a good thing, then?” I asked.
“It was and it wasn’t. He took me on a few dates and we kissed in his car afterwards, which was spectacular. So at the beginning it was wonderful,” Donna said, before puffing on her cigar. “But then I heard from one of my friends – who was dating another football player – that Johnny had decided the time was right for him to go all the way with me. And that did not sit well with me at all. It’s not like I was a prude or anything. But I was saving myself for just the right man. And just because Johnny took me to dinner a couple of times, and had a really cool car, didn’t automatically make him the right man.”
Donna exhaled some residual cigar smoke and went on. “I was also pretty ticked off that Johnny had just decided, really for both of us, that he was going to have sex with me. He never asked me and we never talked about it. But he decided it, and apparently told everyone on the football team. Like it was all about him, and I was just going to be there to make him happy. I was mad.”
“On top of this,” Donna said, ashing her cigar, “was that Johnny hated that I smoked. This was 1978, mind you – almost everyone smoked. Definitely all my friends smoked. There were ashtrays everywhere. So it wasn’t like I was doing something way out of bounds or anything. But on our first date, I lit a Marlboro when we were seated at the restaurant, and Johnny just started in on me – how he never liked the smell of cigarettes, all of that. And after he kissed me, Johnny didn’t say how nice it was to kiss me, but he only talked about how much my mouth tasted like cigarettes and he didn’t like it. He wanted me to chew gum or something.”
Donna took another puff from her cigar and continued. “And if Johnny wanted a girl who didn’t smoke as his next ‘conquest,’ then he shouldn’t have picked me. I

was easily smoking more than a pack a day by then, and when I wasn’t in class, I was in one of the school smoking areas. I’d practically made a science out of how to smoke almost a whole cigarette in the time we had to go from class to class,” Donna laughed.
“So between not wanting to be just a notch on his belt, and him really irritating me by always getting on my case for smoking cigarettes, I was kind of conflicted,” Donna said. “To sleep with Johnny Belsom would have put me in the top group of girls in my school. I would have had a ton of dates after that, for sure. But on the other hand, I didn’t think I wanted my first time having sex to be with a guy I really didn’t care about, deep down, and who clearly didn’t really care about me at all.”
Donna took a big puff on her cigar, inhaled, and exhaled before telling me what happened next. “Now, one thing about my mom and me back then: we were actually kind of close. I don’t think that always happens with teenage girls and their moms. But I always thought that because we were both smokers – she actually introduced me to cigars, because she had to sneak them behind my dad’s back, which is another story – we’d sometimes smoke our cigarettes together and just talk, maybe more than we would otherwise.”
“So, one morning before school, I was thinking about all of this and what to do, you know?” Donna said. “And Mom and I were having cigarettes with our coffee, and she asks me what’s on my mind. My mom always knew when something was bothering me. And I told her – everything. What I’d heard that Johnny wanted to do, and how I felt about it. How he nagged me about smoking cigarettes. And Mom really just listened to me, and said she understood, and that she’d think about it that day and we’d talk more in the afternoon.”
“That afternoon, when I walked out of school, Mom was there in her car, waiting for me,” Donna said, ashing her cigar. “She waved me over and told my friends she needed me to run errands with her or something. But after I got in the car, Mom told me she had talked to her mother – my grandma – about the Johnny situation, and that the three of us were going to talk this over at Grandma’s house.”
“Wow! Did you want your grandmother to know?” I asked.
“No, not at all,” Donna said. “At first I was pissed off that Mom had told Grandma. But Mom told me Grandma gives the best advice of anyone she knew. And that women in these sorts of situations have to stick together. That made me feel

better – Mom and Grandma were treating me like an adult woman with a guy problem, not just a confused teenager.”
“So we go to Grandma’s house which wasn’t far from where we lived,” Donna continued after taking a puff from her cigar. “And Grandma’s smoking a cigar, and my mom lights a cigar too. By now, I’d smoked a cigar or two with my grandma, who was fine with it – a story for another day. So I light a cigar myself. And even though my mom has briefed my grandma on the whole situation, Grandma asked me to tell it all to her, and I did. She had some questions for me about how I felt.”
“And eventually my grandma just says, ‘Well, Donna, all these decisions have to be up to you. But I should warn you: if you let a man dictate these things to you now – when and where you have sex, and whether you smoke or not – they always will. What you decide now at sixteen will become the pattern you’ll follow with men your whole life. They’ll wind up making all your choices for you if you don’t own the choices yourself,’” Donna recounted.
“That was an interesting way to put it, to say the least,” Donna said. “I hadn’t put it in the context of my whole life, but she was right. And I told her and my mom, right then and there, that I did not want to give in to Johnny Belsom. That I needed to find a way out of this that would make it look like he decided to drop me, not that I turned him down, because I was afraid I’d be known as a prude.”
“Well, my grandmother puffed her cigar for a minute, and she thought. And then she came up with a plan,” Donna smiled wanly. “It was kind of wacky, but it worked. I never became another notch on Johnny Belsom’s belt. And, in fact, I wound up getting rid of him. It taught me to only go for guys who accepted me for me, and not put up with men who wanted me to change for them.”
“What was this great plan?” I asked.
Donna puffed her cigar and continued. “Well, the next Friday night, Johnny took me out to dinner. Before we went out, he told me he wanted to take me up to the Point afterwards – that was a secluded make-out spot on a hill above our town. Kids could do what they wanted at night at the Point as long as the cops didn’t think they were making too much trouble. And, of course, Johnny could get away with anything he wanted to up there since he was the star quarterback of the football team. So, I was pretty sure he was going to try to go all the way with me up there,” she said.

“So after Johnny took me out to dinner,” Donna said, exhaling leftover cigar smoke, “we get into his car to go up to the Point. I remember he had this souped-up sports car, maybe it was a Ford Granada or a Mustang or something like that. He was so proud of this car. And he just starts driving to the edge of town and up the hill to the Point,” Donna said, before pausing to puff her cigar again.
“And that’s when I put Grandma’s plan into action. I reached into my purse, pulled out a big White Owl cigar, and lit it up. I rolled the window down, of course. But Johnny had his attention on the road and he didn’t notice I was smoking it for half a minute or so.”
I laughed. “You lit a cigar in this guy’s sports car? How did he react?”
Donna guffawed. “Ha! You should have seen Johnny’s face. He entirely freaked out. He lost his mind. I remember him yelling, ‘Oh my God! You’re smoking a cigar in my car? You’re going to get it all gross in here. What are you thinking? What type of sixteen year old girl smokes a stinky cigar?’”
“And I just blew out a cloud of cigar smoke and said, nice as could be, ‘Well, Johnny, I guess my type of girl smokes cigars. I’m so excited for going up to the Point with you I needed this to calm down.’” Donna recalled with a smile.
“I took another big puff and consciously didn’t blow the smoke out the window, just let it hang there in his car,” Donna said, after taking a puff of her cigar in the present day. “Johnny just kind of made sputtering noises. He didn’t know what to say. ‘Johnny,’ I said to him, ‘You know I’m a heavy smoker. Didn’t they teach you in health class how addictive nicotine is? I need tobacco. I am hooked! Especially since this will be my first time with a boy.’”
“And then, to kind of get back at him for being so annoying about my cigarettes all the time, I played dumb. I said, ‘I’m smoking a cigar to make this better for you, Johnny. You said you don’t like the taste of cigarettes on my breath. But maybe you’ll be okay with a cigar taste.’”
Donna snickered at the memory of how her grandmother’s plan was coming together. “Well, Johnny spun the car right around. Right in the middle of the road. And he just guns the engine and starts flying back down the hill. He was so upset. ‘Do your parents know you smoke those nasty things?’ he asked me. And I said, ‘Actually, I smoke cigars with my mother and grandmother,’ which of course was true. He couldn’t believe it.”

Donna laughed. “Johnny’s head was exploding. ‘You smoke cigars with your mother and grandmother? What a bunch of freaks you people are! This is nuts!’ I remember him cursing at me the whole way back to my house.”
“He barely stopped the car so I could get out at home,” Donna continued. “‘Bye Johnny,’ I said, and he just muttered, ‘Get out. I’m never calling you again.’ My mom and grandma watched him drop me off from the front porch.”
“The three of us thought it was hysterical. ‘I’m glad it worked,’ was all my grandmother had to say.” Donna laughed a throaty laugh at the memory.
Donna took a short puff off her cigar. Through a talking exhale, she spoke. “So, that’s Johnny Belsom. And how I had a cigar to avoid sex. Now, as an adult woman, I can smoke a cigar anytime I want to. Especially after great sex,” Donna said, squeezing my hand gently.
I squeezed her hand in return and Donna smiled. “Johnny Belsom didn’t know what he was missing,” I said with a smile.
Chapter 8: Denial
One morning after breakfast at my condo, Donna and I discussed going out to dinner that night. Many of the restaurants on the Island have outdoor patios to take advantage of the sea breeze, and most of those allow patrons to smoke. Given her heavy cigarette habit, I wasn’t surprised that Donna knew all of the ones that allowed smoking. We settled on a nice restaurant – nice, for this small beach town, meaning some of the menu selections weren’t fried – on the inland-facing side of the barrier island.
Donna surprised me by making a special request – not really a request of me, but rather proposing something she wanted to do when we went to dinner. “This sounds strange, Stan. But when you tied my hands in the shower and had me dangle my cigarette, it felt kind of neat to be a little submissive. I mean, I liked the dangling, and definitely seeing you get so turned on. But being a little bit restricted turned me on, too, in a way,” Donna said, putting out her Slim.
I lit up her next cigarette before she continued. “So, I thought about that feeling some, and there’s something I want to try at dinner tonight. I want to restrict myself from smoking to feel that restraint in the form of a craving I’m going to impose on myself. I want to be tempted by you smoking cigarettes, and I won’t smoke any. I’ll be watching you and totally jonesing for a cigarette, especially

when we get drinks and after we eat – you know those are two times I always have to light up. But then when we leave the restaurant, I’ll smoke one – actually a bunch of cigarettes in a row, for sure – and it will be like I punished myself by not smoking at dinner, but then released myself. Does that make any sense to you?”
“I think so. You want to tease yourself with your nicotine addiction, I think,” I said, trying to process her request. I’m not sure I fully understood, but getting to watch Donna try to wrestle with the “third rail” of her strong nicotine addiction was definitely something I was interested in observing. “You know I’m up for exploring things. This one especially, as all I have to do is smoke,” I laughed. “So let’s give it a try. Should we use the same safety word – if you want to let yourself loose from cigarette denial, just say ‘octopus’ and I’ll light you up?”
“Sure,” Donna said. “I’m going to try to go the whole dinner, though, from when we get there through when we leave. But if I can’t, I’ll work ‘octopus’ in a sentence,” she said, smiling at the crazy emergency brake we were putting in place for her game.
At the restaurant that night, Donna looked lovely. She was wearing a turquoise top that accentuated her cleavage, along with white shorts. She greeted me with a kiss and I smelled fresh cigarette smoke on her. “I had a cigarette in the car on the drive here. To sort of tide me over,” she offered.
We were seated quickly and after ordering our drinks, I lit a cigarette. Donna wasn’t showing any outward signs of temptation as I smoked it, and we chatted idly about how our days had gone.
Her craving increased when our drinks came. “You know how much I love a cigarette with a margarita,” she said, tapping her fingers lightly on the table as I lit another Parliament.
“Maybe the margarita will taste better if you’re not smoking?” I teased her a bit..
“I think margaritas taste better with cigarettes,” she laughed. “At least I am used to them that way. Don’t get me wrong, Stan. I can go as long as I have to without a cigarette. Shopping, at the doctor, whatever. I can hold out for a long time when I can’t smoke,” she said, idly playing with a table tent advertising happy hour specials. “The real challenge for me is when I’m in a place where I can smoke, like now, and I want to smoke. That’s the real temptation.”

Donna fidgeted with her napkin and silverware. “And what am I supposed to do with my hands?” she asked, trying to laugh but conveying a bit of tension in her voice.
As Donna looked at me for an answer, I took a deep puff off my cigarette, inhaled, and slowly exhaled the smoke. The sea breeze twisted it into a thick column that wound upward toward the hazy, early evening sky.
“I have ideas on what you can do with your hands, but we’re in a public place and we’d probably be arrested,” I joked. “But I get what you’re feeling, absolutely. We’re in one of the few places we can smoke on the whole Island. It’s a beautiful night. Absolutely perfect time to have a cigarette with your drink.”
“You’re turning up the tension dial on purpose, aren’t you?” Donna said, through a grin.
“Maybe just a little bit. Just to make your first cigarette after we leave taste even better,” I said, agreeing that, in truth, I was toying with her some.
After dinner, I lit a cigarette. Donna’s craving was building, and she instinctually reached for her purse – ostensibly to get her cigarette case – before stopping herself. Instead, she just watched me take a big puff off of mine.
Through a talking exhale, I moved to tighten the screws on the addiction that was squeezing Donna. “You know, I admire you for trying this. We just had a great meal. We’re outside, and a lot of people are smoking, so no one will give you any grief. And yet you’re still able to resist the urge to light up, when you know how good a cigarette would taste right now.”
Donna sipped her drink. “I know what you’re trying to do, Stan. And it makes this more of a challenge. But I can take it. I’m almost all the way through our night out without smoking,” Donna said.
“Speaking of smoking and after we finish our night out,” I said, before taking another puff and exhaling. I leaned in closer and lowered my voice, which drew Donna in toward me to hear – and, I fiendishly reasoned, smell more of the smoke from my cigarette. “I’ve been thinking of a way to extend your two pleasures at once. If you want to try.”
I ashed my cigarette and noticed that Donna’s eyes grew wider. She wanted to hear my idea.

“I was thinking this. And of course you can always say no,” I practically whispered, before taking a big puff, inhaling the smoke, and turning my head a bit to exhale. “But I know how much you love to smoke while I pleasure you orally. I love to watch you just puff away on your cigarettes, savoring each puff as well as the stimulation.” Donna fidgeted again with her fork and knife, and I surmised she was really feeling her craving even more than before.
I paused and slowly rolled the ash off my cigarette in the ashtray to make Donna wait to hear my proposal. “So, if you want, once you’re satisfied orally, and you say so, I’ll roll on my back,” I said, before taking another long puff and inhaling. “Then, I’ll light you another cigarette before you get on top of me. We can put the ashtray on my midsection to be safe. You can enjoy smoking a cigarette and enjoy feeling me thrust deep inside you at the same time,” my words accompanied by little wisps of smoke.
“Okay,” Donna said, laughing. “Enough. Octopus. I should have ordered the octopus.” She quickly got her cigarette case from her purse and I lit her a Virginia Slim. She tripled-pumped the cigarette to life, inhaled deeply, and then exhaled before double-pumping the cigarette without a pause. As she exhaled her second puff, I could see her facial features relax a little bit as the nicotine started to relieve her self-imposed craving. “Now you see why I couldn’t quit cigarettes even if I wanted to,” she said through a residual exhale. Donna aggressively smoked two more cigarettes in a row before I paid our check and we left the restaurant.
That night, Donna and I had a great session of lovemaking, and she tried my idea of getting on top of me while I laid on my back, and she smoked a cigarette during our intercourse. We both loved it.
As we smoked our post-coital cigarettes, Donna proposed an idea. “I want to try denying myself cigarettes again,” she said, exhaling a stream of smoke with her words. “Even though I didn’t make it the whole time, I kind of liked the feeling at dinner – the feeling of, I guess, having a craving of my own making, fighting it off as long as I could, and then the rush of relief when I smoked a cigarette when I wanted to.” Donna took another puff of her cigarette and held it out in front of her as she held the smoke in her lungs. “Usually when I need a cigarette, I just need a cigarette – I’m not really controlling it,” she said before exhaling, taking a short breath and exhaling again. “But in a weird way, I liked the feeling of having a craving that was one I set myself up for, and then satisfying it when I wanted to.”

“Interesting,” I said. “So, you denied yourself something you wanted, and then you controlled when it was over. I guess you could say by restricting yourself from smoking, when I could tell you were so desperate for one, you were making yourself submissive, but then exercising power over your own craving and submissiveness.”
“That’s a good way to put it,” Donna said. “So this time, I want to go big. I want to really feel the craving. And you know I have the biggest craving when I wake up,” Donna said, before taking a huge puff off of her Virginia Slim. “I can’t believe I’m proposing this. Since I was a teenager, I’ve smoked a cigarette – at least one – as soon as I can when I wake up. You’ve seen how much I need that cigarette,” she smiled as she exhaled. “But what I want to do is this. Tomorrow, when you bring up my coffee and wake me up, I’m not going to smoke a cigarette for thirty minutes. You just smoke away in bed. You don’t have to go out of your way to tempt me, but just seeing you smoke and smelling it is going to give me a huge nicotine fit.”
Donna tapped some ash off of her cigarette. “And after thirty minutes, we’ll go into the bathroom and I’ll get in the shower again. I want you to tie my hands behind my back like you did before with the belt from your robe. Then you can light my cigarette, and I’m going to dangle it for you while you watch.”
Donna dangled her cigarette from her lips. “I guarantee you, given how much I’ll need a cigarette by then, that it will be the best dangling you’ve ever seen me do.”
“And you do a lot of dangling,” I said, entranced as always by her skilled dangle. “I’m up for this if you are. Let’s go for it. Do you want to use the same safety word?”
“Octopus it is,” Donna laughed.
“Also,” I asked, putting out my cigarette, “Do you mind if I take a picture of you while you’re dangling your cigarette in the shower? You know I’m not going to put it on social media or anything; I’d get in trouble. But it would give me something to look at while we’re apart.”
Donna smiled. “Oh, of course, honey. That’s so sweet, Stan.” She took a puff off of her dangling cigarette. “And another thing: when we’re going to sleep tonight, could you take my cigarette case and hide it somewhere, and only give it to me

when we’re going into the bathroom? I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to smoke. This way it will be a real craving.”
I did as Donna asked, and hid her cigarette case in another bedroom before we went to sleep and after we’d smoked our last cigarettes for the night. In the morning, I woke up before she did and brought her a cup of coffee. She stirred at the smell of the coffee, and looked at the nightstand for her cigarette case for a few seconds. “Grr,” she muttered. “For a second, I forgot.”
By now, I was back on my side of the bed, about to light the Parliament dangling from my lips. “You can always call ‘octopus,’ of course,” I said with a sheepish grin. Consciously trying to test the limit of her will against her addiction, I lit my cigarette, took a long puff, and exhaled a cloud of smoke above the bed.
“I don’t give in that quickly,” Donna said.
Indeed, Donna wasn’t giving in – yet. But I observed some signs of the difficulty she was finding in passing the test she’d given herself. Not long after we woke up, Donna turned on the TV in my bedroom – something neither of us had ever done when we were in the bedroom together. She changed the channel to the morning local news.
I soon realized she was motivated less by catching up on local developments overnight as by watching the minutes pass. “Okay, so, you woke me up at 6:23, and it’s 6:26. There, in the corner of the screen. So, twenty-seven minutes to go,” she said, seeming to take comfort that some minutes had already gone by.
When my first cigarette was finished, I lit another. About then, Donna’s morning coughing fit – which I’d figured out was about five minutes of separate, short, sharp coughing fits – started. I decided to playfully rub in the pressure. “Uh-oh, the morning coughs – what did you call it, the ‘morning cough train?’ Sounds like it’s arriving at the Donna station,” I said with a grin, before blowing a cone of smoke toward the ceiling. “But is my cigarette smoke bothering you, Donna? I don’t want to make your cough worse. And I know how hard it can be to not smoke when you’re around people who are smoking, right? Especially when you really, really need one, like the first cigarette to start the day. Do you want me to put it out? I will if you ask me to,” I said, teasing but trying to sound serious.
Between coughing fits, Donna caught her breath and smiled a thin smile. “I know what you’re doing, Stan. And it is making it more fun for me. But I am going to

hold out – only 25 minutes to go,” Donna said. “So, you just keep smoking away. Enjoy! It’ll be my turn soon, and I can wait.”
Alas, Donna could not. She grew increasingly fidgety over the next quarter-hour or so, trying but failing to be engrossed in whatever stories were being presented on the local news. As I crushed out my fourth cigarette – far more than I would usually smoke in a row in the morning – Donna spoke.
“Okay, Stan. Octopus,” she practically yelled. “I’ve denied myself for nineteen minutes. That’s enough for me for now. Where did you hide my cigarettes?”
I retrieved Donna’s cigarette case from the drawer in the second bedroom where I’d hidden them, while she scampered into the bathroom and ran the shower to get the floor a bit wet to put out any ashes from her dangling puffs. I quickly tied her hands behind her back and lit the Virginia Slim she’d rapidly placed between her lips.
The wonderful display that followed should be on one of those “power smoking” video playlists. Donna practically destroyed the Slim, triple-pumping it so often the dangling slim never pointed downward, but was angled toward the ceiling essentially the entire time. Her puffs were so strong that the cigarette shook most of the time – so strong, in fact, that ash was almost always flying off of it and onto the wet shower floor. Her inhales were so deep that for the first minute or so, she didn’t exhale much smoke at all, keeping most of it in her lungs to help satiate her need for nicotine.
Donna’s smoky feeding of her addiction was a dream for a fetisher who loves to watch a woman take deep, powerful drags in response to her addiction’s mighty force. I was getting so turned on, I almost forgot to take pictures of this gorgeous display with my phone. But I wound up colleting several great pics, and made a mental note to move them off my phone into a backup drive when I was in front of my home computer in Houston.
It was a hot September night on South Padre Island.
The air conditioning in my beach house was working overtime – not just from trying to cool the oppressively sticky and hot air on this island in the Gulf of Mexico, but from trying to move a massive volume of smoke out of the bedroom.

Donna and I had filled the room to a level of smoke that would probably violate several Environmental Protection Agency standards during an extended lovemaking session. This was part of a comfortable pattern we’d set very early on: one or two nights a week when I was on the Island for work, we’d meet up at the smoky dive bar where we first met. We’d each have a couple of drinks while she chain smoked her Virginia Slims 120s and I had a cigar. We’d talk and she would dangle her cigarette often, having learned quickly that I found that to be an irresistible behavior and she enjoyed teasing me in public. We’d eat some fried bar food for dinner before heading back to my place together – earning ourselves a few innuendo-like comments from some of her friends at the bar.
Back at my beach condo, the pattern would continue. I’d make us each another drink, light the first of several Virginia Slims she’d smoke in a row, and light a small cigar for myself. We’d talk for a while about nothing in particular – goings-on on the Island or the hurricane season, that sort of thing – and then eventually she’d take the cigar from my hand, take a puff, and put the cigar in the ashtray. That was my cue that she was ready to make out. We’d kiss deeply and passionately, me enjoying her smoky smell and she enjoying some passion she’d been missing in her marriage for a long time. I’d grope her breasts and occasionally place a finger down her panties to feel her vagina beginning to get moist.
After a little while, Donna would break off our makeout session, put a Virginia Slim between her lips, and let me light her up. Puffing away on the long cigarette dangling from her lips, Donna would pull down my shorts and underwear and then give me the highlight of my week at South Padre Island: a smoking blowjob that amazed me each and every time. She’d alternate between puffs on her cigarette, wrapping her tongue around my penis, and taking the entire thing into her mouth. It was impossible for me to last the entire time it would take her to smoke her long cigarette, so after I came in her mouth, Donna would take one last puff on her cigarette and put it out. “Let’s go to the bedroom, Stan. My turn,” she’d say through a talking exhale, while grabbing her Virginia Slims off the coffee table.
We’d set a nice routine for what would happen next pretty well. I’d take her clothes off slowly, and then take mine off. She’d dangle a freshly-lit Virginia Slim and point at my still-exhausted member and make a comment about having to find ways to get it back up. Donna would then position herself on her back the bed while getting her Virginia Slims, a lighter, and an ashtray positioned within easy reach. I’d climb into bed next to her and start kissing her ears – an erogenous spot she’d identified early on – and her neck for a few minutes. This was important foreplay, even if it was a bit uncomfortable as she would still be puffing

occasionally on her Virginia Slim, and I’d have to be careful to maneuver around the burning end of her cigarette.
After that, I would move down to her breasts. Donna’s breasts, like the rest of her body, were physically somewhere on that arc between her youth and old age. They were ample – a decent C cup, I’d guess – and fifty eight years of gravity had given them only the slightest sag toward the ground. But the sag was only noticeable when I removed her bra: when she had her bra on, they stayed comfortably in place and attractive.
And they were sensitive. The first time we were intimate, I noticed that even lightly touching her areola or nipple with my finger would make her gasp with delight. As intimacy is as much about pleasuring your partner as yourself, I’d made mental notes of how she’d squeal and moan when I ran my tongue around her nipples. Fortunately for me, I did not have to experiment too long to find out how Donna liked her breasts treated as part of our intimacy. She felt no hesitation in teaching me just what she wanted me to do where they were concerned. During our first times being intimate, I’d listened carefully to her specific desires, offered breathlessly and between groans: “Rub your teeth across my nipple,” “Use your tongue again, Stan,” and so on. After a few lovemaking sessions, I was able to stimulate her whole body by spending a few minutes carefully kissing, caressing, and massaging her breasts. I’d learned that Donna’s long, guttural, throaty groan meant that my time with her breasts was doing its intended duty by getting her ready for more intimacy, because invariably after a few of those groans she’d gently push my head down toward her thighs.
Following her push, I’d slide down toward her navel, stopping to give it a quick kiss and look up at her to see the smile of intimate pleasure widening across her face. She would, of course, be puffing away on a Virginia Slim 120, and when she caught my eye she’d give me a quick wink, take a superlong drag, inhale deeply, and exhale a huge cloud of smoke in my direction.
My desire fueled by this brief, smoky pause, I’d continue down her body to her vagina. I’d kiss the insides of her thighs for a minute or so to tease her and heighten her anticipation before moving my attention to her wet core. Here, as with her breasts, I’d listened and learned to how she liked me to treat her most sensuous part. She’d begun shaving her pubic hair in response to my request, too. So together, we were making her receiving oral from me a highlighted and special part of our routine.

I enjoyed learning how to pleasure her most sensitive place almost as much as actually doing the pleasuring. There’s a tremendous sense of power that comes from watching a woman’s face light up in ecstasy and hearing her deep, almost primal moan as you please her orally. A simple touch of the fingertip on the right spot or a thoughtful caress with the tongue can lead to such amazing reactions. Every fiber of her being is responding to simple moves from you.
And Donna would puff away on Virginia Slims the whole time. Counting the cigarette she smoked while I was tending to her breasts, she would smoke three Virginia Slims before telling me to get inside of her. And when she called for me to do that, I was ready – while I was touching and licking the most sensitive parts of her body, I was enjoying glances at her long puffs and deep inhales. She was truly enjoying the “two pleasures at once” philosophy of combining sex and smoking. And seeing and hearing her sexual delight while watching her smoke 120s is always a synthesis of the best elements of my smoking fetish. So, even though I had ejaculated not long before, while I was pleasuring her I was becoming erect and waiting for her to tell me she was ready.
When Donna was ready, she’d let me know. As she started to orgasm in response to the oral pleasure, she would hastily crush out her cigarette. “Stan, fuck me,” or “get inside me,” she’d say, quietly through a talking exhale. I’d slide up the bed, enter her and make love to her, lasting a decent amount of time even though the thick smell of smoke on her face and body would be driving me absolutely crazy. I’d try to control my orgasm so we’d both climax at the same time, a skill I am still working on.
This was our routine for intimacy – varied occasionally to try different positions. It would always be capped with us both physically spent and sweaty, staring into each other’s eyes and grinning, catching our breath and letting our heart rates start to slow for a moment as we embraced. After a few moments, one of us would playfully suggest it was time to light cigarettes.
Tonight, I spoke first. “While this was amazing, outstanding, and totally wonderful, you’ll have to let me move to my side of the bed. I have to take an urgent call from Philip Morris,” I said, grinning,
“Yay! Me too,” Donna laughed. “I was feeling my skin starting to crawl but wanted to see which of us would mention it first. Gosh, Stan, you are as addicted as me.”

We adjusted our positions so we were next to each other but in reach of our cigarettes. In a few seconds, I was lighting her Virginia Slim, and she avidly double-pumped her cigarette while I lit my Parliament. We spent the next minute or so puffing on our cigarettes, clasping our free hands together and still basking in the afterglow of intimacy.
“Speaking of smoking, you should know I took your advice,” Donna said, exhaling a cone of smoke toward the ceiling of my bedroom.
“Which piece of my sage advice was that?” I asked with a grin.
Donna smiled. “One you gave me on the very first night we were together. You suggested that if Donny had ever been turned on by me smoking cigarettes – even though it turns him off now – I should try to spark our love life back up by giving him a blow job while smoking a cigarette. I thought about that for a while. I wasn’t sure it would work. And honestly, we’ve been so far apart, I wasn’t sure I wanted to bother to try.”
Donna took a huge puff of her Virginia Slim, made a small “O” with her mouth, and inhaled deeply. After she held the smoke in for a couple of seconds, she continued speaking through a talking exhale. “But he came down this past weekend, and we were actually getting along really well. I think we had missed being around each other, because I hadn’t seen him in a month or so. And he made fewer wisecracks about my smoking than he normally does, which put me in a good mood and made me a little less defensive.”
Donna rolled the ash off her cigarette into the ashtray between us. “So one night, we’d had a few drinks and were just idly watching TV and talking a little. I just, I don’t know, just decided to try it. I lit a cigarette and I dangled it while I started feeling his crotch with my hand. He was kind of surprised at first, but he caught on to what was going on in a few seconds. Pretty soon, I was helping him pull his shorts off.”
Donna puffed her cigarette again. “And then I did it. For the first time in maybe thirty years, I gave Donny a smoking blow job. And it worked! You should have heard how he groaned. And I haven’t seen him with such a big smile in so long. He loved it!”
Donna exhaled some residual smoke from deep in her lungs and cleared her throat. “Later that night, when we got in bed, he started kissing me and we wound

up making love. With real passion and feeling, you know? That hasn’t happened in a long time. And we never really talked about me giving him the smoking oral, but he didn’t make any comments about my smoking the rest of the weekend. And, get this: we went out for breakfast the morning after all this, and I went to light up a cigarette after we ate, and he lit it for me! He hasn’t done that in I don’t know how long,” Donna said, evidently very happy.
Donna inhaled deeply on her Virginia Slim. “For the first time in years, we were really close – emotionally and sexually – for a few days. It’s a real breakthrough in our relationship. I had kind of written our marriage off as emotionally dead, but now I think there is some hope.”
The power of the smoking fetish is pretty amazing, isn’t it? From what Donna had told me when we first met, I was pretty sure Donny had once had a smoking fetish, and had tried to suppress it out of concern for his health and Donna’s health. But once a fetisher, always a fetisher, I thought. Donna had figured out how to bring Donny’s sexual impulses back to the surface from the deep part of his psyche where he’d buried them for decades. Because anything buried can be brought to the surface with enough effort, and a smoking fetish is no exception. Donna had found out how to do that, prompted by an offhand comment I made.
I thought through the meaning of what Donna had just told me as I undertook the next step in our established routine: cutting and lighting a cigar. Donna had been clear from our first meeting that me smoking a cigar was a turn-on for her. And I had noticed that when I smoked cigars, she’d essentially chain smoke her Virginia Slims 120s – a brand that is my favorite for a woman to some, especially with her outstanding style. Plus, I’d grown over the years to really enjoy cigars. So to borrow a boardroom phrase and apply it to the bedroom, this part of our recharging routine after intimacy was a “win-win.”
Exhaling the light-up puff from my cigar, I spoke. “I think that’s wonderful. Really, I do. You two have been married for a long time and to put the spark back in it is absolutely awesome,” I said. “I’m glad I helped this with my advice. But,” I continued, looking into her eyes and cutting to the chase, “be honest with me about what you think this very positive development for you and Donny means for you and me.”
“I think this is a positive development for you and me,” she said, exhaling Virginia Slim smoke. “Or at least, we’re in the same place. My time with you helped relight

the fire under my marriage, that’s for sure. And now I’m grateful to you for that, which makes me want you even more.”
Donna ashed her cigarette before continuing “Plus, there’s things you can give me that Donny can’t. The excitement of someone new and a willingness to try new things with me – things I could never tell him, I feel I can tell you. And our time together hasn’t just relit the fire of my marriage, but it’s relit the fire under me, too. I just feel so warm, and, I don’t know – whole, somehow, or complete, after a night with you.”
Donna puffed on her cigarette, held the smoke and did her double-exhale before looking at my cigar and continuing. “Also, you pleasure me orally. Donny never likes doing that, but I love that feeling. And then there’s your cigars. Donny wouldn’t even dream of smoking one of those. Let alone enjoy them together the way we do,” she said with a wink.
As if to underline her point, I took a puff off my cigar and exhaled slowly.
Donna liked my modest display. “It’s amazing how you doing that makes me feel,” she said with a smile. She tapped the ash off her cigarette and held it up and toward me. “But speaking of our smoking, how are you doing with these? Do you still have to sneak around to have a cigarette at home?”
“Actually, I don’t have to sneak around anymore. Susan and I had sort of a breakthrough last weekend,” I answered. “We had a long talk and have kind of reset our whole relationship on our smoking.”
“Really? What happened?” Donna asked.
“Well,” I said, considering how to approach this. “What really happened was you, even if you didn’t know it. So, let me explain.”
I rolled my cigar a bit in the ashtray on the bed between us to get some stray ash off before continuing. “I’ve told you how since Spring, we were having a very difficult time with our smoking. I wanted to keep smoking, or at least I don’t want to quit yet, and Susan was struggling to quit and demanding I do, too.”
“My mother-in-law’s lung nodule turning out to be negative for cancer took a little bit of the immediate pressure off of the issue. But Susan continued to nag me any time she smelled smoke on me and she was just on my case incessantly about it. And at the same time, she fell off the quitting wagon every few days or so, and was

sneaking cigarettes out by the trash cans in the backyard. We were both miserable about it,” I said. “I think we both knew we couldn’t go on this way – something, somehow, had to give. I was at the point that – setting aside my wonderful time with you, which is a great reason to want to be down on this island and not in Houston – I preferred to be alone down here away from my family just so Susan wasn’t giving me grief and I wasn’t constantly craving a cigarette or sneaking around to have one. And I hated that feeling.”
“So, something had to give, but neither of us knew what to say to work this out, I think,” I went on. “Last Friday night, we had a breakthrough. It had been a great evening – a beautiful sunset – and the girls and I were swimming in the pool. I gave Susan my phone to take some funny pictures of the girls floating on tubes while I pretended to be a shark. We loved it,” I said, noting a look on Donna’s face that suggested curiosity.
“While the girls and I dried off, Susan went out to pick up a pizza and get some ice cream, and she said she had to pick up some other things at the store. When she got back, it was a very normal night – we all had a nice time together and watched a movie, and then put the kids to bed,” I continued. “And then, I went out to our patio room to have a cigar. Susan came out with me, and I assumed she was going to pick out a cigar and join me.”
“But much to my surprise, Susan pulled out a pack of cigarettes – Virginia Slims Gold 120s. You know how I notice brands, Donna,” I said with a smile before taking a puff of my cigar. “And I gave her a light before she told me everything she was thinking, and feeling, about smoking cigarettes. She told me how much she really missed a cigarette with her morning coffee, and after dinner. How much sometimes she just liked the feeling of having one cigarette.”
“But on the other hand,” I continued, “she told me how much she hated the smell of stale smoke now, and how she couldn’t stand being judged for being a smoker. And she was really afraid for her health, and my health, if we were smokers for the rest of our lives.”
“Those are realistic concerns,” Donna said, ashing her 120.
“They are – very realistic,” I agreed. “But Susan was also concerned abut her weight, which has gone up a little over the past few years. She says she’s gained weight because she’s not smoking much at all. I think everyone gained a little bit of weight in the pandemic, and to me she looks positively amazing. But she’s

concerned about the excess weight on her health, and the impact of the weight on her image and her confidence. Those things don’t offset the risks of smoking, for sure. But she sees not smoking as having some physical and mental health consequences as well.”
As was her pattern, Donna finished her Virginia Slim with a huge puff and her double-exhale, before immediately pulling out another cigarette. And as was my pattern, I gave her a light before continuing. “And one thing susan really missed, and that she said tipped the scales for her to try to find a way out of this quit-or- don’t-quit rut we were in, is the way she could turn me on with her cigarette smoking. We have no problems in the bedroom even when she’s not smoking, but she said she likes how my eyes widen when I watch her smoke a cigarette, and she says she misses the fun of the games we used to play when she’d smoke a cigarette and tease me a little.”
Donna laughed. “I know that look. Your pupils get really big,” she said. “I know that look so well. And I like teasing you, too, but you know that,” she said. “What did you decide to do?”
“Well, after she said all of this, Susan proposed that we make a deal about cigarettes,” I said, puffing on my cigar. “In my business, and hers, you make deals all the time, so it’s kind of our natural thing. So she said we should figure out if we could smoke some cigarettes, a small number, and not really be ‘smokers’ like we used to be.”
“We talked late in to the night, trying to find a way we could both smoke, but be really moderate about it to reduce the risks to our health,” I said. “And smoke so little we could hide it – more of Susan’s concern than mine, but a fair one, to be sure. Kind of smoke just enough so we could enjoy it, and enjoy what we like about smoking, yet not be tagged as the heavy smokers we used to be. And not go crazy without any cigarettes at all.”
I puffed my cigar and went on. “We settled on a compromise that we think will work. Time will tell. But it’s essentially this. Susan is going to smoke Virginia Slims 120s, but will limit herself to no more than two packs a week. I agreed to limit myself to three packs of cigarettes a week for now, and Susan said if I smoke more here at South Padre, she won’t object – but she really wants me to keep it moderate, and I agreed. We didn’t put any limits on our cigar smoking because we both enjoy that, and that’s kind of a pleasure we keep to ourselves and a couple of neighbors anyway. We also agreed to keep our cigarette smoking out of public

view and away from the kids, friends, and neighbors, and definitely from her mother. We’re not going to be fully closet smokers, but kind of one foot in the closet, you might say.”
“Wow,” Donna said, exhaling cigarette smoke. “That sounds awesome. You may have come up with something that works. Especially with the neighbors and all – I mean, look. What other people think is important, but at some point you two have to live your lives for you.”
“That’s right,” I said, ashing my cigar. “And we’ve agreed this is the way we’ll live our lives now, but it isn’t permanent. In about five or six years – when she turns 45, and I will be 53 – we’ll both switch to only cigars. She proposed that based on a colleague of hers who quit cigarettes when she was 45, and because she knows I’m not, now, ready to quit for good. And, she finally admitted to herself, neither is she. We’ll see how that all turns out in five or six years, but we are both good with this for now.”
“So, she’s not going to follow that switch-down-to-quit nonsense that her mother tried to push on her, and Donny wanted me to try years ago?” Donna asked.
“Nope. No switching down or quitting involved – thank God,” I said, before puffing my cigar. “We’re just going to be light smokers, and just be comfortable that way. I’ve agreed to keep my smoking pretty light, too, next to how much I used to smoke. I’ll have a smaller number of cigarettes every day in Houston, but I don’t have to sneak around, which was making me miserable. And of course down here on the Island, a few hundred miles away, I am pretty free to smoke when I want to.”
“Susan and I are comfortable with this,” I continued. “I think we both liked that we talked it through, and came up with a way to break the logjam between us. Things are much better now. We’re no longer on each other’s cases about smoking. Neither of us has to sneak around from the other. We’ve accepted there is a role, a small role, for cigarette smoking in our lives, at least for now. But we are, hopefully, minimizing the health risks and the impact on our social lives. Maybe it will help Susan lose some of the weight she wants to lose. And we still enjoy our cigars together, too.”
“Does she enjoy cigars the way I enjoy your cigars?” Donna asked, playfully.

I laughed. “Not quite the same way. She’d divorce me if I ever proposed what you did with that Presidente that night. Her mind just doesn’t stretch that far.”
“But she knows what she likes, within bounds,” I said. “And we’ve always been open about that. She likes that I indulge her feet, and she caters to my smoking fetish. We’re sort of back to an even trade with turning each other on.”
Donna spoke through a talking exhale. “Speaking of this foot treatment – what did you say you called it, a ‘pedicure?’ I think I’d like to try that someday,” she said, smiling.
“And I’m happy to give you one. Or give you ‘pedicures’ all the time, if you like them,” I said. “Because just as you said about my advice for Donny, I owe you a debt of gratitude for bringing Susan and I to a place where we could really talk openly about our smoking and work this all out. And I bet you didn’t even know it.”
Donna furrowed her brow. “I don’t understand – how?” she asked.
I puffed my cigar while I tried to find the right words.
“Well, for months, Susan had been debating inside herself about going back to smoking. But what really prompted her to admit she liked smoking and decide to be a light smoker, and then start the discussion with me to work something out, was that she discovered you.”
I exhaled the smoke from my cigar while Donna’s face continued to reflect a puzzled look. So I continued my explanation. “Months ago, I’d told Susan that we had met – my ‘disclosure,’ under our rules. She didn’t ask about it and I didn’t share any details.”
“But last Friday evening,” I went on, “when Susan was using my phone to take pictures of me and the kids in the pool, she saw the pictures I took of you in the shower dangling your cigarette. Those were the last ones I had taken, and they were on the screen when she opened up the camera.”
“Oh my God,” Donna said, clearly horrified – in fear of being the “homewrecker” she’d told me she didn’t want to become.
“No, honey, it’s not like that. Not at all,” I said reassuringly. “Susan said she was thankful for what the pictures taught her about my ‘disclosure.’ She said she learned something she didn’t really know – how much a cigarette smoking partner

is something I needed and wanted and didn’t have at home anymore. She said she wouldn’t have ever understood that any other way, and it wasn’t something I could ever tell her, given how emotionally charged our arguments about cigarettes had become.”
“Plus, she already knew she liked smoking. Not being a heavy smoker, but smoking a small number of cigarettes. What she learned from those pictures of you, she said, let her put all the pieces together. That’s why right after she saw them, she ran out to the store and bought a pack of her favorite cigarettes. During the movie that night, she figured out what she wanted to say to me and how we could work on this.”
I puffed my cigar to give Donna a chance to process all this.
Donna took a deep puff on her cigarette, and after holding the smoke in for a few seconds, followed her exhale-breathe-exhale routine before she spoke. “Well, I have to say, Stan, it’s a bit weird. But if you think this was a good way to have this discussion, I guess I’ll trust you. It does sound like things are a lot better between you two.”
“A lot better. And really, thanks to those pictures of you dangling a cigarette,” I said. “By the way, Susan said she’d forgotten how much I liked it when she dangles her cigarette. So since that night, every time she smokes, she makes a point of dangling and staring into my eyes. We’ve both been enjoying that.”
While I was speaking, Donna extinguished her Virginia Slim and promptly put the filter of another one in her mouth. With the unlit cigarette hanging loosely from her lips, she pointed to it and said, “Speaking of dangling.” I promptly gave her a light.
Donna puffed vigorously on the cigarette as if she hadn’t just finished one seconds before. Still dangling as she exhaled, she spoke. “So…where does this all leave us?”
“In the same place, or maybe better,” I said. “Not only because I am grateful that my time with you helped me get my home life back on track. But just like you said there are things Donny doesn’t give you, you give me things Susan can’t give me.”
“Like the Monica Lewinsky?” Donna asked.
“That one, at least,” I smiled. “There’s so much you give me. There’s the wild intimacy, for starters. And that we can talk so openly about so much of this. Then

there’s the comfort of being together. Plus, we both need some company on this Island.”
“So the things we’ve learned in this ‘disclosure’ of yours has made life better for both of us,” she said, as her dangling cigarette bobbed up and down on her words and smoke poured out of her mouth and nostrils.
“That’s absolutely true,” I said.
Donna ashed her cigarette and dangled it again from her lips. “Well, so far, so good. This all makes me really happy. I think we should keep using our relationship to improve our lives at home,” she said, before pulling the bedsheet off my naked body.
She bent over near my groin and took a huge puff off her still-dangling cigarette. “For example, if you want to get this kind of treatment at home, maybe you should disclose a picture of this,” she said, holding the smoke deep inside her lungs before exhaling a huge cloud of smoke around her dangling cigarette and over my member.

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