The First Cigar

When we were in Paris on our honeymoon, I was tempted to try smoking cigarettes. It just seemed like a romantic thing to try for the first time in Paris. But Kirk, talking sense, said, "If you don't like it, you might regret having done it. But if you do like it, you might not want to stop." Smart man.

Last night, though, I did have my first smoke.

We had just left the Enzian Theatre, trying out a new French film in advance of my mom's visit, as she flies in tonight for a week's stay. As the Enzian is a great place to spend an evening with a film, with tables and comfy cushioned chairs dotting the landscape of the room and a great selection of food and beverages from which to order as you watch the latest independent film to breeze through town, we figured it would be a fun time to share while she is here -- if the latest film was worth seeing. (We made the mistake last time of taking her to see The History Boys.)

So we went for a preview. This week's film is My Best Friend, about a rich man who has no friends and, even worse, no idea how to make them. Being proud, he makes a bet with his business partner that he can track down a best friend in 10 days. Chaos ensues.

Having decided the film was cute but probably not worth viewing again with my mom, we headed home. On the way there, though, we stopped to pick up a bottle of wine. And when Kirk went inside the store to do the honors, he came out with an additional purchase: petite cigars! (These were, of course, for him. He enjoys a fine cigar every now and again.)

When we got home, he poured each of us a glass of the Franciscan cabernet, and then we headed out for a walk in the moonlight. This was not only a romantic idea but also so that he could smoke out of doors.

I thought he looked quite handsome and much the philosopher-intellectual type, smoking his cigar as we strolled down the lane, and I told him so. He, in turn, offered me a try.

What could I say? At first, I didn't say anything, just took the small, slowly burning article between two of my fingers and held it up to my nose. It didn't smell like cigars usually smell (meaning, badly). In fact, it smelled somewhat nice.

"I don't know how to do this," I said. "Is it going to ruin my lungs?" I didn't like the thought of my lungs being stained for good at my first puff, even though I've inhaled secondhand smoke plenty of times.

"Not a cigar," he said. "You breathe it in, but you don't inhale." That sounded pretty Clinton-esque to me.

"How do I do it?" I asked. I was nervous, but also a little mesmerized, staring at the little brown paper-shrouded piece in my hand.

"You breathe in deeply, from your lungs, and then you puff it back out," Kirk said. "But don't inhale."

I tried it. Nothing.

I tried it again. Nothing.

"I think I'm breathing in with my nose," I said the third time, coughing. "It burns my nose when I do that!"

"Yeah, that will burn if you do that. Don't breathe with your nose. Breathe from your mouth."

"Okay." I tried it again. This time, when I exhaled, smoke came out. "Wow! I did it!"

I held the cigar in front of me, examining it critically. "That wasn't bad," I said.

I tried it again. "Hm. I kinda like it. It tastes kinda . . . good." Weird. I never thought it would taste good. The smell always made me think it would taste awful. Except this cigar really didn't smell so bad. And going in and out of my mouth, it had a smooth, almost yummy taste. Did I just say yummy?!

We kept walking, each of us with our own cigar, the puffs of which we interspersed with sips of wine. We headed down and along the lake at the end of the street, then up to a small park with a bench that overlooks a pond. We sat down and watched the moon, which was covered with a thick veil of mist.

"She looks modest," I said quietly.

Kirk raised his glass. "To you, moon, for the beautiful eclipse you offered us this week."

I raised mine up. "To you, moon."

The orchestral murmur of croaking frogs sustained us in the moonlight, as we finished the cigars to their very last puffs, then slowly turned toward home.