Warm Beer And Cigarettes

  

Category:  Entertainment

By:  wheel  •  6 months ago  •  17 comments

Warm Beer And Cigarettes
Perhaps it's true you can't go back in time, but you can return to the scene of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fateful decision; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. (Eric Weiner)

A long time ago, in another century and in a very different time, and the '60's were a very different time, I was a teenager. Seems incredible sometimes to think about that as I close in on my 7th decade. But it's true never the less. I did a lot of the usual teenage things. I was on the wrestling team and the debate team. I had a job after school working in a local grocery store. I saved my money and bought a car. I had a '64 Falcon Futura that I bought second hand for 50 dollars. And I had a girl friend. A friend who was a girl. Her name was Emily and she was very special to me, still is in fact even though she's no longer with us.

Emily was the girl next door, literally. We'd known each other for years and we spent LOTS of time together. Talking for hours, hanging out reading books, picking blackberries, working in our parent's gardens, homework, pretty usual teenage stuff for country kids back then. Probably still is. She was the first person I ever smoked pot with, first girl I ever kissed. We both thought it was weird and we never really got romantic. We thought we were different and no one understood us. I guess all kids go through that without realizing at the time that's it's all part of growing up.

There was one night in June that I will never forget. It was just like any other June night, warm, little muggy. The tree frogs were singing their song and the lightning bugs were doing their dance. Emily and I were parked on a dirt road way out on the Lew place. That was an old plantation that had been empty for years except for sharecroppers growing tobacco. I knew it like the back of my hand having spent many a day picking tobacco there. There were rosebushes growing wild and the honeysuckle was in bloom. The scent was intoxicating. To this day whenever I smell honeysuckle I'm transported back to those days.

Now don't get to thinking this is some kind of teenage sex story, nothing like that. In fact, I found it easier to 'make a move' on girls that I didn't really care about than I ever did with Emily. I think we just knew each other too well. She would probably have laughed at me if I had. She was like that, always teasing me about thinking too much, reading too much, living all between my ears, and all the girls I dated. She was my best friend. She understood me better than anyone every has. She knew me better than my bothers and sisters, better than my mom.

Same for me, I knew her and understood her better than anyone. When she got her period for the first time, I was the first one she told, even before she told her mom. I knew she wanted to be a writer, even though she never showed anything she ever wrote to anyone but me. I knew she was not happy with her looks. She thought she was too tall, too skinny, too freckled. She wasn't, she was great and I told her so many times. We kind of held each other up, me and her. The bookish nerd and the quiet girl, we had a relationship that most people considered a little odd.

This particular night I had swiped a six pack that my step dad left in the car and bought a joint from a guy my brother knew. She had stolen a pack of her mom's cigarettes. I didn't approve of her smoking but she did it never the less. We didn't try to tell each other what to do, but we had no difficulty speaking our mind about anything at all, including each other. I think that's something that only the best friends have, that ability to say any damn thing at all without the other person getting mad.

It was a Saturday about a week before gradation. Emily was teasing me because I didn't have a date.

“What's the matter? It's Saturday night. That tramp Linda should be sitting here where I am.”

I didn't approve of her smoking, she didn't approve of my taste in girls and she surely didn't mind letting me know about it. I told her, “We're not dating any more. I asked her friend, Anne, out but she was busy, just not too busy to call Linda and tell her.” Emily got a big laugh out of that. She enjoyed hearing about my escapades and failures with all the girls I dated. And I dated a lot.  She dated very little, mostly jocks and muscle heads that couldn't possibly understand her. Stupid pretty boys that were basically the male equivalent of the girls I dated. I didn't say anything, much, about them. Other guys were nothing more or less than blips on the radar to me, unless they had a cute sister or something.

We were talking about all the stuff we usually talked about but then she brought up this, “What are you going to do after graduation? My mom, (who was divorced), is marrying Beth's uncle and moving to Florida.” I should mention we lived in a very small town and everyone knew everyone.

“Are you going to go with her? I thought you wanted to go to UNC-G.”

“I think so. It might be nice to see someplace other than Draper. Have you decided what you're going to do?” I wasn't as focused on the future as Emily was. I was more of a live for the moment, live in the moment type.

“I've been thinking about it, with my draft number I'm going to be in Viet Nam by next year if I don't do something. I've been thinking about joining the Navy.” In fact I'd already talked to the recruiter but I hadn't told Emily yet and I felt kind of guilty about that. I hadn't joined up or anything, but I had taken some tests and he mentioned submarines to me for the first time. I'm smarter than I look and the Navy nuclear program was always looking for smart kids.

Emily was very anti-war and anti-military. Hippy chick. I wasn't a fan of the war, but my family has always served. My dad, several of my uncles, even one of my aunts were military or ex military. It wasn't something we often talked about but she always knew I would probably join up. To me it just made sense. I could get an education, which I did. I could get some discipline in my life and we both agreed that probably wouldn't hurt me. And I could see more of the world that just Draper too.

She told me that she had applied to a college near Fort Myers, which is where they were moving to. I wasn't the only one keeping secrets apparently. So I went ahead and told her about the tests I had taken and about volunteering for subs if I could pass the schools. We talked for hours that night. I think we both knew it was going to be our last 'us' time for a long time, maybe forever. We drank warm beer, she smoked her cigarettes. We passed the joint back and forth. She teased me about all the girls I was leaving behind. “What will all the easy girls do without you to pass around?”

“They'll find some other jock with a car.” I said. “Girls like that are never alone for long.”

“What will happen to all the poetry books in the library without you to read them over and over?”

“Some other skinny girl will find them and dive right in and live her life through other people's stories.”

“You're not skinny, you're great just like you are.”

Basically one of our more practiced exchanges. If any of those girls knew how she talked about them, or how I talked about them for that matter there would have been hell to pay.

We stayed out there for hours, talking and talking. We were saying goodbye. I think we knew it, I think that's why we lingered so long. We promised to write to each other, and we did at first. But were just too far apart and our lives had gone off in very different directions. I joined the Navy, went aboard the submarine and served for 6 years. Emily went to college, became an English teacher in Florida and never did publish anything. Always thought that was a pity, but she was never one to take chances. That was something I was more likely to do. Emily has passed now, lung cancer, and I never got to tell her, “Told you so.”  She's still my best friend.

And now, over 50 years later, sometimes something will happen. I'll hear a word or a phrase, I'll smell a smell or just hear an old song on the radio and I'm reminded of that night. That night with Emily and warm beer and cigarettes.


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Wheel
1  author  Wheel    6 months ago

I was afraid this would happen.  After going so long without writing anything I wrote that article last week and now I can't stop.  This is another story that has been boiling around in my head for a long time.  Figured I might as well share it.  Hell, I tell you guys everything anyway, sooner or later.

So...if any of you have the guts to share your stories, I'm always glad to listen. 

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
1.1  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Wheel @1    6 months ago

Wheel, you should think about becoming a writer yourself. This was a very interesting piece. I thoroughly enjoyed the read!

 
 
 
It Is ME
2  It Is ME    6 months ago

" We were saying goodbye. I think we knew it, I think that's why we lingered so long . "

GREAT STORY ! jrSmiley_34_smiley_image.gif

Been there.....ONCE !  Still think of her now and again, after 40 years. jrSmiley_54_smiley_image.gif

256

 
 
 
Wheel
2.1  author  Wheel  replied to  It Is ME @2    6 months ago
Been there.....ONCE !  Still think of her now and again, after 45 years

I think that's an important part of it.  It's the kind of thing that can only happen once.  We'll never be that innocent again. 

 
 
 
It Is ME
2.1.1  It Is ME  replied to  Wheel @2.1    6 months ago
We'll never be that innocent again. 

Nope !jrSmiley_85_smiley_image.gif

To Old now. jrSmiley_98_smiley_image.gif

Gotta make the best of what's left ! jrSmiley_24_smiley_image.gif

(Revised to "40", after counting back).  Age does that to some. jrSmiley_18_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Greg Jones
3  Greg Jones    6 months ago

There are just a few special people we knew and cared about for a brief time early in our lives. And then one day we looked into their eyes for the very last time.

Many times I wonder...are they still with us, where are they now, how did their lives go. So many good and happy memories.

 
 
 
Wheel
3.1  author  Wheel  replied to  Greg Jones @3    6 months ago
then one day we looked into their eyes for the very last time.

Thing is, all too often we don't realize it was for the last time until it's too late.

"Wish I'd said something different."

"Wish I hadn't said that.  If I had only known."

"Wish I'd tried harder with her/him"

That very last time thing is a real mother fucker sometimes. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Wheel @3.1    6 months ago
Thing is, all too often we don't realize it was for the last time until it's too late.

I wrote about that on NV years ago. I need to find that story. It's about one of the worst days of my life, and why I make a point to not lose track of people. To me, it feels like they have died. 

 
 
 
Wheel
3.1.2  author  Wheel  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.1    6 months ago
It's about one of the worst days of my life, and why I make a point to not lose track of people.

I wish I was more orderly about things like that.  I tend to just bang along from moment to moment, paying more attention to right now than what may come to pass.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4  Perrie Halpern R.A.    6 months ago

Great story and very touching. I can totally relate. My whole life I have had mostly male friends. I had moments like you described with my friend, Ronny. Luckily we have remained friends and live only about 20 minutes away from each other. But I can remember June nights like you described and moments that we shared the most intimate thoughts just like two buds and it's like I am transported there. And yes, I was the one smoking cigarettes and drinking warm beer. Kind of something perfect about that, right?

He gave me the single of Queen's "You're my best friend". Whenever I hear it on the radio I think of him. He says the same thing.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    6 months ago

btw... keep on writing. 

 
 
 
Wheel
4.2  author  Wheel  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    6 months ago
But I can remember June nights like you described and moments that we shared the most intimate thoughts just like two buds and it's like I am transported there.

What is about nights in June?  They're the best nights. Not too hot, not too cold, very long even though they're literally the shortest nights of the year, and somehow not so dark as nights in September for example.  I think they seem longer because we try to cram the most into them.  And we only get 30 a year, kind of a gyp. 

And yes, I was the one smoking cigarettes and drinking warm beer. Kind of something perfect about that, right?

Somehow I'm not surprised. jrSmiley_68_smiley_image.png

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
5  Larry Hampton    6 months ago

Wheel that is an absolutely beautiful piece; thank you!

The timing is something else. Reminds me of my conversation with my bestie just last evening. I went over to his place after work and we shot the shit while drinking brewskies and playing pool. It was our last face-to-face visit for a while. His Mom lives with him, and she is 76 and so vulnerable to the current infection going around. I sure don't wanna be the cause of her or him for that matter, getting sick.

So we said our "see ya laters" before I took off. We will visit of course by phone, and party-watch Netflix; but, it just ain't the same. It was actually harder than I thought driving back outta his drive...what if something were to happen and it's last time I get to visit with Rick? Really a weird feeling.

 
 
 
Wheel
5.1  author  Wheel  replied to  Larry Hampton @5    6 months ago

Keep in touch with your friend and don't take him for granted.  Hope all goes well for his mom and him...and you.

 
 
 
pat wilson
6  pat wilson    6 months ago

Very nice. Good writing !

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
7  Buzz of the Orient    6 months ago

Although I had one great love when between the ages of 16 and 21 it ended badly, but when I think back to those days I conjure someone totally different - a story I will tell when I eventually get my computer fixed.  In the meantime,Wheel,I much enjoyed yours.

 
 
 
Wheel
7.1  author  Wheel  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @7    6 months ago
Although I had one great love when between the ages of 16 and 21 it ended badly, but when I think back to those days I conjure someone totally different

There is what we remember.  What other people remember.  What we want to have been. And finally what really was.  We mix all of those things together and call it the 'Truth'.

 
 
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