The time I gave up smoking

The time I gave up smoking

A young Irish man finds himself amongst the hip youth of America. He smokes their weed at a party, leading to dire consequences.


Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


Rob Reeves (Ireland)

I gave up smoking after one house party in Vermont. A house party in a town called Burlington in a state called Vermont. A hip university town where some people don’t wear shoes in shops in summer. Me and my pals (Benny, Shalom, Jill, Greta, Iz) had a week off from being summer camp counsellors so we stayed at Iz and Greta’s friends place. Iz and Greta were two sexy hippy chicks. Their friends were aloof and talented, self assured, charismatic and sometimes mentally ill, everything I wanted to be at the time. Mike, the southerner, a temporary tenant, saw Shalom come in and panicked. He later got drunk and told everybody in the party how unracist he was.

This house had a porch. Not a shite Irish porch with a sliding glass door where your mam tells ya to leave your shoes. This was a fuck off porch with a rocking chair where you’d sit and read and smoke and grow your beard. It had two porches in fact, one out front one out back. We went out back and I had three drags off a bowl, my first in nine months. We were screaming our evening meal prayer at the time, this crap we had to do every day with the kids. We were giddy with freedom.

“Those who take this evening meal!”

And then the smoke went down.

“Please now show the thanks you feel!”

And suddenly everything became a little bit darker. What I mean by that is that the universal light reduced a little in that bit of space, perhaps from some solar jerk. Either that or God works the light thing by a dimmer system as opposed to a switch system, which all in all makes sense. The smiles of my friends were suddenly evil and clownish. Particularly Shaloms. I smiled my way through it as was my act in them days. “Everythings ok folks, i’m in terrible emotional pain here, really quite excruciating, but God forbid I wouldn’t think of troubling you with it!”

A few minutes on I walked back into the house. I met Iz and informed her immediately that my hands were blue.

“But rob, your eyes are closed!”

And I scuttled off to a chorus of hideous laughter. Shalom, the black basterd, laughing too. He’d been a Sierra Leon diamond boy, an asylum seeker to America at eleven, but despite this not a shred of empathy from the apeish twat. I resolved to report him as illegal once this medical issue had been remedied. Soon after I was attacked from a cupboard by a Scottish girl, Jill. She pushed me all the way into the wall. I screamed.

“My hands are still blue Jill! My hands are still blue!”

She was having similar issues. The stupid loveable whore was just as helpless as I was so I dumped her like that. I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. It was a truly hellish sight. Every square inch of my face spasmed for independence. My brain was being grated into cheese. My bones were loose as stones in a bucket.

I verbalised the two words that couldn’t be more appropriate in a situation like this.

These were: “Oh, no...”

Outside the bathroom Shalom asked me if I was paranoid. I ran away without answering in case it became clear to him that I was.

Luckily, I’d always been able to sleep after smoking so I lay myself down in the empty sitting room. I lay facing the back of the couch and closed my eyes. Peaceful peaceful peaceful I am the Lord the Lord is within me and he is peaceful peaceful like little lambs JOLTED UP AND SCREAMED AND LOOKED BACK TO THE ROOM. Death’s cold finger on my shoulder. The room was empty. I tried again and the same thing happened. The devil was hiding in that room, I suspected behind the armchair opposite. I stumbled upstairs, panicked, that gimp Shalom shrieking again. I suggested to Benny, my best friend in New York, that the world had become a funny place to inhabit. He laughed it off, the sobriety ridden prick.

I burrowed into a sleeping bag in the hall. I raced to and fro around in it like a halved worm. Greta strutted by like a mare in her prime, Jesus jogger sandals. She wondered if I was ok. She wondered what all the terror was about. I looked up to her, tears in my eyes and said “Greta, I think I may be having a problem with the weed I’ve recently ingested...” She patted my head and said “Ohhhh” nicely and walked off back to the party. That fucking fat cow, I knew I’d hate her forever. Fortunately I found out afterwards that she was simply so stoned herself that she needed a second to figure things out in her head. She returned and took me by the hand. She asked me what I’d like to do.

“Maybe it would be nice for us to go for a walk”

“I don’t want to” I wined

“You want to stay inside the sleeping bag? It’s only nine.”


“You want to come on a walk?”


She brought me out onto the crisp summer evening. I paced through that city with my hand clasping my chest. Like a WW2 soldier who had only just found out on the plane over that the two W’s didn’t stand for, I dunno, Weekend of Wanking. I was having a heart attack. Despite this she had to jog to keep up with my long legs. She brought me walking along the streets, up hills and through parks where she could hear my thoughts. Sometimes we had conversations through thinking and other times I communicated verbally. Sometimes she couldn’t keep up.

“My brother’s brother killed himself!” I’d exclaim, “Smacked himself to death with a banister!”

Then I’d chat to her a while with my thoughts.

Then I’d offer something like “Well to consider that option is plain foolish, Greta. I wish I could say I’d thought better of you”.

She walked around with me like that for four hours. I became transfixed by the street lights in the distance. They gave me a little peace. I found it strange that they could disappear so easily behind my fingertips. I think she may have mentioned her father’s death that night, it had just recently happened. I calmed a little. We sat on the grass. She wondered if I felt ready to go home. We began to discuss whether I was ready or not and afterwards I realised I’d been sobbing throughout my response. I wasn’t ready, but it wasn’t long after that that I was. I wasn’t afraid of the big house anymore.

“Will Shalom be in bed?”

“Everybody will be” she said.

“Greta, I don’t mean this in a weird way or anything but would you mind sleeping beside me tonight please cos I just think it would be better”

She said of course she would, she was going to anyway.

I had to stand atop a wheelie bin and climb in a window. I was sober enough to do my bit at this stage. I was the taller human by a foot. When I got inside the house I wondered if she’d disappeared forever. I ran to the front door and she was standing there waiting. I acted real cool. We slept in the hall and my hell resumed in my dreams. I wondered if we’d woken up embracing or if I had imagined it. Jill told me later we’d been hugging in our sleep.

Two hours on we awoke to drive 4 hours back to New York. I told Greta I’d keep her company in the front seat on the way back. The sun was humongous and bright in the sky and I was broken. I didn’t say much at all. Yoshima Battles The Pink Robots blared to keep her from sleeping at the wheel. I slept the entirety of the way home. I tried to write her a letter to say thank you but I didn’t know how and I never sent it.

A few weeks after that we fell asleep in a forest together by a river and woke up shaking. She came back to my Yurt and she left early in the morning to hike a mountain. We couldn’t believe there were only twelve days left. The end came and I chose Newark, New Jersey over Times Square, New York so I could meet her mother. I slept in a van across 20 states in America and I rang her sometimes. We fell in love after that sliding through icy Montreal the following March. We shared each other’s virginities there too. I told her I loved her in a subway.


We lost each other in Nice that May after a week of weird sex and too much wine. I’ve seen her once since.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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