The first time was on the roof, and so every time after had to be on the roof, even though it violated the building’s bylaws. Fortunately it was raining in our rainy town, so we were alone up there, under a big purple bruise of a sky. It took a few small inhalations to get the thing lit, and then he passed it to me, casual and two-fingered. The tip glowed orange, a flare in the drizzly evening draped over the city. I brought the cigar to my lips, sucked in the nutty, full-bodied essence of it, which curled unhurried around my mouth, then whooshed out into the night like a phantom.
That night, we did nothing but smoke, and drink, and talk, my love and I. His history, my history, our history vanished into the simplicity of the moment. A rapidly diminishing bottle of Rittenhouse Rye marked the passing minutes. The smoke made an electricity between us, the conduit for an intimacy that felt like inhabiting the exact right place in the universe, at exactly the right time. Infinite possibility seemed to open up before us. We talked about the future: where we would live, the preponderance of dogs we would have, and how, above all, we wanted always to be able to retreat to a rooftop, or a space like a rooftop, to smoke and drink and talk about the future, all the futures we saw for ourselves.
That was the first time, and I think every time since has been in futile pursuit of its perfect stillness. A few months prior, my partner’s friend had given out sets of five Macanudos as wedding souvenirs to his groomsmen, as well as a humidor, double-bladed guillotine, and butane lighter: everything you need to start in on an ill-advised hobby. This was less of a novelty to my Texas-raised boyfriend, for whom cigars represented an infrequent but mundane aspect of certain social occasions. He’d grown up watching his friends’ parents light one up on muggy summer nights after football games and backyard barbecues. Not so his Yankee girlfriend, a product of the big-state, hyper-regulatory Northeast. My hometown was one of the first American cities to ban tobacco products in bars and restaurants.
If that weren’t enough to deter me, my parents are both doctors, and not the hip, permissive kind. The list of activities forbidden to me in childhood…