I must be getting old.
Today I turned down a kid who asked me to buy cigarettes for him. I told him cigarettes are bad for you.
“Because they’re bad for you,” I said and shook my head in bewilderment.
Where did that come from?
Why would I use the word, “bad?” I meant to say, they’ll kill you, give you painful lung cancer, drive you insane with addiction. Not, “they’re bad for you.”
I’ve passed judgment. Something is wrong. Especially since I still smoke the occasional cigarette myself.
I must be getting old.
I wandered home and forgot about the kid. But, there he was again, darting through my head. The minor. Just a kid and his buddy. Just a fifteen year old with a scowl and the spirit to ask strangers to buy him cigarettes. I was floored he even spoke to me. Why me? Do I look like the kind of guy who would buy an adolescent cigarettes? Who do I look like to you? I feel older. I guess you thought I was just old enough.
Old enough and cool, the kind of guy who wouldn’t give a kid a lecture. I wouldn’t ignore him or twist and scowl myself, tell the punk to get lost. He thought I might do it, might take his money and stroll into the bodega, buy the smokes, take the change and hand them over.
"Sure, no problem." he wanted me to say.
He wished I might say that. I was cool. I understood. I dig it, brother.
I’m getting old.
I’m sorry. Maybe a few years ago I could mutter those words, even tell them to myself off and on.
But not now. I know too much now. I’ve seen what happens to people who think they’re invincible, who refuse to pay attention. If I haven’t seen it happen live, then I’ve watched it on TV or read about it in the papers. It happens. You hear about it all the time.
Sorry kid, I thought one last time and put my purchased two-liter of Dr. Pepper in the fridge. I wish I’d said more to you. I wish I hadn’t told you smoking’s bad. I wish I’d stopped and spoken with you. I wish I’d asked you why you smoke, asked how old you are, what grade you’re in? Whatcha wanna do when you get older, when all this being young shit dies off and you got lots of time to fill? Whatcha wanna do then?
You know why? You know why I ask? Because I’d like to see you do it. I believe in you. You can do it. You really can.
But I didn’t.
Because you’re young.
And I must be getting old.
See you on Monday.