The Secret

ACT 1: A question of trust

Every day, after school, on her way home she would stop at her best friend’s house where they played and played and forgot about time. They explored many forbidden things. Adult things. Listened together to that bald haired, big-eyed singer’s song, „Noooothing compaaaaaares.... PU-IUUUUU“ and to Jenny Făraş. They felt they could do just about anything together. One day, must have been in second grade, 1989 or perhaps 1990, her friend told her she discovered a secret, a treasure behind the porcelain figurines displayed in the glass windowed cupboard in the living room: a packet of Kent cigarettes. The best cigarettes in the world. A rare commodity, not available to everyone, as they somehow sensed. It was not the Carpati her grandfather and her mother smoked. It was a Western brand, most certainly American, a symbol of privilege. Her mother was a pharmacist and had probably procured them from a client, or so she thought.

I already tried one, and believe me, it’s great, the friend confessed. Let’s smoke one together.

Oh yes, it will be so cool to do it! Let’s smoke it at the balcony window, and do the gestures like the women in the movies do, when they smoke. The passers-by will see us and be amazed how grown-up we are.

But before getting to enact their vision of smoking at the window, they light the cigarette up while sitting on the floor in the balcony. There is a colorful rug made of rags. The girl takes the cigarette and takes a deep puff. She chokes immediately. The smoke inundates her throat, floods her lungs, she cannot breathe. She thinks she will die. It tastes horrible.

What a disappointment. Is this how adulthood tastes like? The excitement dissolved in the smoke.

ACT 2: Revealing without revealing

When she went home, the girl kept wondering why adults smoked. Her grandfather would surround himself in a cloud of smoke. When you would enter his room, you could only see his shadow, over the desk, through the heavy smoke. They used to say that one could cut through the smoke in his room with a knife. The girl goes up to him and asks him, directly, perhaps even provocatively, eager to appease her growing curiosity, her sense of astonishment about the horrible taste of cigarettes and the suffocating feeling: 'so what do you adults like so much about smoking? I simply cannot understand!'. He takes his cigarette from his lip (where it seemed to be glued). He looks at her and says 'here, try it'. She finds herself perplexed, caught between her big mouth-curiosity to understand the adult world and the fear of being caught: should she tell him “no, thank you” and raise questions about why she is asking in the first place, should she reveal the unrevealable that she had already tried it with her friend and risk not ever being allowed to meet with her again, or should she just take the cigarette and get on with it, knowing that the sensation of choking all over again, the terrible taste will inevitably be experienced again. She chose the latter option and played her role, she took the smoke in, and choked again. Her grandfather’s Carpati tasted equally horrible to the American, precious Kent.