There are some things you don’t forget, no matter how long you live. Your first day of school, your first crush, your first car. Things that have a special place in your mind, forever memorialized and fondly recalled. For many, their first cigar is one such memory. That day when you discovered the wonders tobacco had to offer, and the overwhelming variety that just begged to be explored. While I can say I have come to appreciate the majesty of truly great cigars, this is not that type of story.
I was eighteen, right out of high school, and ready to take on the world. No idea what that meant then or now, but I know that’s how I felt. There’s something about being out of high school where you just think you’re invincible. Life has a way of disabusing you of that notion. One summer night, a friend invited me out to try cigars. He knew I’d never had one and wanted to introduce me to it the same way his father introduced it to him. I was playing The Last of Us, and told him flatly I wasn’t interested. He mentioned his sister would be coming with us, suddenly my schedule had opened up!
We went to a local shop, didn’t even have a name, just a neon sign that said CIGARS. But it had a lounge area, with nice leather armchairs that thoughtfully had cutters chained to their legs. My friend is going on, talking about his favorite brands, flavor profiles, strong versus mild. I didn’t catch a word. His sister, I would find out also a seasoned smoker, was clearly paying attention even if I wasn’t. We all sat down, while my friend retrieved the stogies. Here was my opening, try to seem cool in front of her. “You smoke yourself?” Seemed like the logical question, might open up the conversation. She said she did, she loved them in fact. “So do I!” She pointed out this was my first time trying one. I quickly corrected that I thought I was going to love them, and was excited to smoke my first cigar. I was so adamant I’d love them, I said I’d finish the thing before we left. She warned that might not be the best idea. My eighteen year old brain thought this was a test, so it was clearly a great idea to smoke the whole thing!
My friend returned with the cigars, and tried to show me how to cut and light up. I explained that, despite my complete lack of experience with cigars, I needed no help lighting; especially not when a girl was watching. I grabbed it, cut just a little off the top. My friend told me it was actually a good cut, I must be natural. Now cocky, I attempted to light the cigar by holding the end with my thumb and forefinger, and placing it right up against the butane lighter. Picking up the cigar and shaking off my now burned finger tips, I insisted everything was fine and graciously let my friend light the cigar.
I turned it in my mouth, it tasted bitter, but a pleasant type of bitter I’d never experienced before. There was also something strong that was staying on my lips and tongue. Something peppery. I took a deep, deep puff. Big mistake. My lungs wanted to cough, but I couldn’t risk looking like the idiot I clearly was. So I stifled the coughs, turning them into much more embarrassing mini coughs which I then tried to talk through. My friend and his sister said to slow down, take it easy on my first cigar. Only weak men take it easy, so I puffed even deeper! And deeper still! For every draw my friend took, I took two. I was determined to finish that cigar.
Which I did, and I felt supremely proud of myself. If that didn’t impress her, nothing would! Right about then is when the nausea kicked me in the stomach like a mule. I could barely stand up, I’d give anything to be left alone for the next few hours to sit and wait for the sickness to pass. His sister said she wanted to get ice cream. “Absolutely. I’d love to!”
I staggered into the car, willing myself to be well again. It wasn’t working. They started talking about Cold Stone, the car started moving. My stomach moved with it. They asked where I preferred to go, and I managed to squeak out a timid “Anywhere is fine!” Should not have said that. I could have swallowed my pride, said take me home. The thought was being given very serious consideration, when we got to the ramp for the highway. The moment the car sped up past forty miles an hour, it was too late. I just managed to roll the window down before vomiting all over the side of his car. Conversation ended rather abruptly after that.
They took me home, got the car washed, and laughed about it every single time I saw them after that. It would be three years before I tried another cigar and started my love affair with them. But even though it wasn’t what I expected, I won’t ever forget my first cigar!
What was your first cigar experience like? Let us know in the comments!
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