Light ‘Em if You Got ‘Em

Question 2911: Have you ever smoked a cigar, would you, for what occasion?

The first time I smoked a cigar was in June 1999, the night I graduated from high school in Northern Kentucky. After the graduation ceremony, students from my class gathered in a parking lot on the banks of the Ohio River to celebrate our achievement. A few months earlier, we pooled our money together to secure a riverboat cruise.

After growing up together for nearly two decades in the small town, it was the last evening we all spent together before we headed off in separate directions. I already had a foot out the door: not only was I enlisting in the Air Force, but I had an airplane ticket stuck on the refrigerator at home for my flight in four days, destination Nuremberg, Germany. My suitcases were mostly packed, my passport was fresh from the State Department, and I was ready to go.

But that graduation night, I was focused on gathering with my friends, collecting their addresses and signatures in my yearbook, and just enjoying one of my last evenings in my hometown.

So, once the riverboat detached from the dock, and set sail along the river, I mingled. Talking. Laughing. Taking photos. At some point, I ended up on the top deck, in the very front, with my friend Dave, the now-former editor-in-chief of our high school newspaper, and a few others from our class. Dave and I knew each other for about six years at that point, having shared many of the same classes since middle school. After a few years of journalism together, he asked me to be his managing editor during our senior year. As a result, the two of us spent several hours putting together our school’s publication. He was sitting in one of the deck chairs, his feet propped up on the railings. And he was smoking a cigar.

“Hey, Julie! Have a seat! This view is amazing. Here, have a cigar.”

And that’s how I ended up sitting on a riverboat, cruising along the Ohio River, watching my beloved Cincinnati skyline, smoking a cigar, reminiscing about our high school journalism classes, and discussing the plans ahead of us. He was going to university. I was going to Germany and the military. Less than 10 years later, the two of us ended up living in the Washington D.C. area at the same time.

It wasn’t the first time I smoked, having puffed a few illicit cigarettes at various concerts and coffee houses throughout my teen years. But it was my first cigar.

The view from the Air Force House in Baghdad

And not my last.

Years later, I smoked another one while sitting with my team on the edge of the man-man lake outside the Air Force House located on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. We’d survived another day there, which seemed like a worthwhile excuse to light ’em if we got ’em.

And we did.

*****

This is a part of my Writing Prompt series. Learn more HERE.