You are fresh home from a road-trip to the mountains, which is where your best friend’s college is and where your best friend has gone and so where you went too.
And everything added up to an experience of total good. You hope each detail remains vivid in your imagination, undimmed by all your years to come!
And it is really great. It really is. But it really isn’t what brings you here.
Tonight you called another great friend, who lives in the opposite direction, and who you’ve planned to visit this weekend. You called him to probe his expert knowledge of cigarettes:
You asked him what the most popular cigarette brand is.
He said, “Here, American Spirits.” And by ‘here’ he meant the liberal arts college he attends, with many hipsters. He is himself a hipster and considers your mutual friends hipsters, and even considers you a hipster. So he began to explain that American Spirits have higher quality tobacco and—
You interrupted him, asking, “But what’s the most popular brand generally, in the U.S. as a whole?”
“Oh. Well,” he said, “That’d probably be Marlboro Reds.”
You repeated the name back to him, making sure you’d heard him right. Then you offered him your reasons for asking; you said your interest stemmed from the aftermath of your recent experiences up north:
You are bundled under layers of the different clothing. You packed poorly for this weather. But you’ve adjusted well with what you brought.
It’s a few hours after midnight, and the four of you are finding your way back to the car.
You take long strides beside your friend with whom you drove up here, and in front of you is your mutual friend (your best friend), and her boyfriend. Your cold voices breath clouds in the air. The four of you are marching down the sidewalk, approaching a corner.
As you’re about the round the corner, a middle-aged man appears from the other side and shuffles by your group, pressing gruffly for a cigarette.
Earlier that night, the four of you agreed without discussion that all your fun would be sober. However, it’s very clear this man made no such decision.
You all say you’re sorry, you don’t have any cigarettes, and continue forward. And the man turns away, saying, “Fuck y’all!”
Disappointed with the man—after encounters of only humble “God Bless You”s from all the other street people you’ve had to deny (because you really are just a group of young, moneyless non-smokers, and you really are sorry)—you groan in careless disapproval.
Though you’re all walking briskly and the man’s mind is slowed, in a few moments your remark registers a pronounced reaction:
He echoes back your groan, “Ohhh! Ohhh!” and turns to shuffling pursuit of your group, taunts and threats stumbling out of his mouth.
You bite your lip, wishing you hadn’t opened your mouth at all.
Of course you all contained yourselves, denying him attention, neither stopping nor hurrying. And of course once he’d let out his hot air he fell back and left you alone.
But in the ensuing conversation you apologized for your part in what had happened, and vented your pity for the man. However much stronger his want was, his plea was not uncommon. How much relief could you have given him, and the countless others whose wish was it was for a bummed cigarette? Such a simple gift! You decided the next day to purchase a pack for just such occasions. But first, you decided, you would find out which brand was standard.
And that, you said over the phone to your friend, is why you were asking him about brands.
“So you’re going to buy a pack of cigarettes and not smoke it?”
“That’s right!” you declared.
He countered, “Do you think you can do that?” which surprised you. It wasn’t a question you had asked yourself.
“… Yes.” you said.
You reminded him that you have a habit of never buying drugs, to safeguard yourself against using them independent of a social atmosphere. And you both understand tobacco to be under the umbrella term “drugs”, among alcohol, marijuana, and even coffee.
You said you weren’t breaking your rule and setting yourself up to smoke alone because you weren’t buying for yourself, as you saw it….
You ended the conversation finalizing plans for this weekend, and said your goodbyes. And by the time you did, you were parking in front of CVS—which, without realizing it at the time, was perfect! Because, for what you were purchasing, a pharmacy (a drugstore) is the exactly place to look!
Puns are too funny to you.
Anyway, inside you bought a pack of Marlboro Reds and a blue pack of American Spirits, so you’re ready for all situations, hipster and otherwise.
Now you are prepared to give.
By and by that time will come.
But you must be patient now.