My first cigarette was self-rolled—loose tobacco in a Zig-Zag paper. I was in high school, attending a summer program away from home. All of the kids had come to study art. One of them showed me how to take a pinch of brown shreds, pack it, and glue the paper around it.

We fired up on the outside steps of the art building. I didn’t care who saw me, and, at that moment, I didn’t care about art. The sensation of smoke hitting my lungs was great: I felt instantly alert, my breathing was deep, my head was light. But I wanted more.

“Is this all there is to it?” I asked. I meant, couldn’t we find some red Lebanese or camel dung to mix with the tobacco? I hadn’t yet sampled any of these smokables, and I wanted to catch up. I was an addict, no doubt about it, and I was ready to get hooked on anything.

“Man,” my friend said, “you only want to do this once a week.”

But that wasn’t for me. Soon enough, when I got back home, I was rolling smokes on the floor of my bedroom and puffing out the window, hoping my parents and siblings wouldn’t notice. And I never found the opium or angel dust that I craved. I had to make do with Virginia domestic.

Thad Rutkowski
The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler