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Act One: Black Lungs, Black List Curiously, I spent almost the entire hour of my Business Law class

wishing only for it end, despite spending a good deal of money to be there. This Friday was no different; if anything, it was worse. Between the itching and twitching and all other manner of tics, nothing could have pleased me more than for the clock to strike 1:50, when my brain was finally to be liberated from the tedious tyranny of corporate legality . As often the case when subjected to involuntary learning, time ran its course before I was even through mentally complaining about how long it would take. Without returning to my dorm room, I bolted across campus, braving the street without a single thought of traffic, and clumsily fumbled through my pockets. A quick flick and little light later, the putrid sweet smell of the first puff escaped my lips, and the decompression finally began. With each mindless swing of my arm, from side to mouth to side to mouth, the placation began, mirroring the mantra reverberating in my head: made it...one week down, only a couple more and itll finally be summer. Just one more week. Three drags in, I began my usual saunter down the street, stopping to socialize with fellow smokers. Perhaps it is because cigarette smoking is no longer as socially acceptable as it was even twenty years ago, but I have always found that captivating conversations naturally arise among smokers. More so than ever, I have found this observation to be true during my time at Belmont University, a smoke free campus where a person who wants to enjoy a cigarette is banished from the grounds under threat of fines and social ostracization. Henry Rollins, a musician and writer famous for his work with the punk group Black Flag, once mentioned that nothing brings people together like mutual hatred. Ironically, Rollins is an outspoken advocated of a tobacco

Smith 2 free life, but his words never rang truer to me than under the cynical scrutinization placed on the world over a simple cigarette. ********** So whatll it be Jack, you going to go smoke this or go play with the kids? Whenever I recalled this day in the future, the style of peer pressure I faced before my first cigarette sounds like something directly from a low budget 90s D.A.R.E. film meant to scare sixth graders into a life of self perpetuating ignorance. In reality, we had snuck out of the stands of the high school football game, and the four of us were crouched behind an electrical generator, out of view of any passing spectators. Even at the time, twelve years old felt like a little young to start, but I had just hit puberty and sitting right next to me was Danielle, who at the time was the most beautiful girl I thought I had ever known. Her friend Sarah and their friend Johnny sat across, and all eyes were on me. I was the youngest by a couple years. Just put it in your mouth and suck on it, but try not to breathe it in. Well that made almost no sense to me, but being at that impressionable age where anything that might make you seem cool was worth doing, especially when a girl was involved, I opened the pack, pulled one out, and mumbled some lie about this not being my first time anyways; this fib was hastily expunged by ten minutes of coughing. By the end of the night I had three more cigarettes. ********** About half of my cigarette was lost in my lungs, and I had ceased my mindless mechanical pacing of my usual route in front of someones yard to chat with a stranger. Savoring the saccharine smell of my Parliament Full Flavor, my mind had long since disregarded the

Smith 3 worries of class, preferring instead conversation with a new soul. Being two college students in Nashville, our conversation naturally turned to music nearly immediately proceeding introductions. However, on a more surprising note, I had seen this particular musicians band at a house show the week prior, which provided quite a bit of content for us to mull over. This new transient relationship was growing with every drag, and I grew quite attached to my friend throughout the remainder of our conversation. A brash banging and the slam of a rickety screen door brusquely intervened in our conversation, and we gaped at the rapidly approaching and entirely exasperated individual scrambling down the sidewalk directly towards us. The relaxed aura that typically accompanies a cigarette dissipated like vapor, and we knew we were in for. ********** By sophomore year in high school, my clandestine smoking habit had grown quite complex. Few areas were safe from the prying eyes of parents, teachers, or disapproving friends, but like anyone with a secret, it was never truly difficult to find an excuse to go somewhere safe. Lacking a car, the closest haven within a short walk was The Avenues, a high end shopping center across the highway near my house; in particular, the benches outside a Barnes and Noble bookstore lured legions of underage smokers. It was common knowledge that the Chevron gas station down the street did not ask for identification, and as such many young smokers would purchase a pack and puff away outside the Barnes and Noble; there also was an American Eagle and a Victorias Secret to cloak the cloying cigarette stench before returning home. In short, this was the perfect location for secretive smokers, and it was there that I found myself on a particularly unremarkable Tuesday. The table sat five: two new friends, two old, and myself. Nearing the end of my cigarette, I looked out in the parking lot to see a familiar car meander past

Smith 4 in search of a place to park. As it loomed closer, I moved the remainder of my cigarette beneath the table, but the damage had been done. The car slowed to an early halt, and the back door slammed open. I cringed to see my next door neighbor pummeling across the street, and although I had long since put out my cigarette, the mawkish scent lingered in the air. To this day, Im not sure if my friends ran at the site of my livid neighbor, or if I simply stopped noticing them, but the rebuking I received from my neighbor left me feeling more solitary and abandoned than ever before. Words were indistinguishable when heard through the potent initial mixture of guilt, anger, and embarrassment. However, as the situation progressed, a new element was introduced, a sense of betrayal. I felt betrayed by my neighbor, betrayed by my friends, but most of all, betrayed by society. How could a world exist where one is encouraged to experiment and explore their possibilities except for a few small acts? Was it possible that I had become the scourge of society, a leper among dermatologists, a fourteen year-old fiend? Could I really do all that for $4.99? ********** You cannot smoke here, I dont care where you kids go but it cannot be here! Get out of my yard, and out of my life! There was a quarter left of my cigarette, and this fuming woman was about to waste the rest. Quite evidently, this was not the first time she had dealt with nefarious smokers in her yard, and the myriad of no smoking signs scattered across her neighbors lawns indicated this was an extremely regular occurrence. In fact, upon closer examination, I realized the exodus of smokers from Belmonts campus had done little to curb the population of smokers among students and instead given the problem to the surrounding neighborhood. The houses were permanently tainted with the ardent stench of tobacco, and children could not play

Smith 5 barefoot outside without butts clinging to their heels. Letting dogs and cats roam the yards was out of the question. Thoughts of whether Belmonts response to cigarette smokers was just tumbled through my head, and I recalled a lesson my father had taught me long ago: problems dont just go away. They wont work themselves out, and they exist whether you are there or not. You have to solve them for them to end. Obviously caught deep in thoughts, my accomplice had been forced to take the majority of this womans berating comments. My attention finally returned to the present situation. I wish that damn school had never banned smoking in the first place, the aggravated neighbor growled, It didnt solve any problems, it only gave them to everyone else. With this declaration, she returned to her home, leaving my companion and I with a deep sense of segregation. Where else were we to go? I took the last drag of my cigarette in silence, extinguished the butt on the sidewalk, and began my return from exile. Raging through my head during my return to my room were the injustices I had faced that afternoon. Who was this woman that had been so displaced by our behavior, and why had our displacement been a solution in the first place? How could Belmont justify the segregation enforced against smoking students? Was it because of societal pressures? How could society justify that same segregation against its own citizens?