When I smoke weed for the first time, I will be in my best friend Jason’s basement and it will be this dirt weed that he stole from his mom who smokes Misty Light 120s. I will enjoy it because Jason will show me his dick, and I will laugh at him and make him cry.
Misty Light 120s are the most glamorous cigarettes.
They come in a white box trimmed in sea foam green. They have water-paint brush strokes of mint green, and cerulean, and canary yellow, and pastel pink on the front. And they are longer than my middle finger. They taste like cold plastic, but they are delicious with Cool Ranch Doritos.
It is a fallacy that Capri Menthol Light 120s, in the white and green and blue boxes, are the most glamorous cigarettes. Don’t let anyone fool you. They are much thinner than Misty Light 120s, with less tobacco, but they still cost a dollar more. They are for the rich girls who live in Oakland County. And blue collar girls like us (with the bad skin and bras bought from Walmart on Telegraph Road) know that glamour is much more than a middle-class affectation. We like our cigarettes thick and long because we feel more powerful when we finally put them out — slamming their yellow-stained thick butts into the bottoms of our shoes. You just can’t smash the butt of a Capri like you can a Misty. A Capri will just break off.
Jason’s mom knows when Kohl’s has the best deals and she has this dangly gold cross hanging from one of her acrylic nails. A nail charm.
I want that nail charm.
When I was a boy I found a gold nail charm in the parking lot of a strip mall. My mom and I were heading to a Catherines. Or maybe it was a DOTS. Or a Lane Bryant.
We are not entering the brown-bricked entrance of a Macy’s, or even a JCPenney, and when she asks if I am embarrassed to have a fat mom, I lie and tell her no.
As we walk, I notice the glint of the nail charm at a short distance ahead of us. My eyes stay fixed on the tar-spackled cracks of the pavement that the charm is nestled in. I reach down and pick it up, and I slide it into the pocket of my blue and purple striped t-shirt.
When I get home I go to the toiletries closet next to our bathroom, and I take out a small sewing kit of my mom’s that she uses only when she is sewing a button back onto my dad’s pants. The sewing kit is a small plastic container with a row of cheap sewing needles and miniature spools of khaki, black, and blue thread. When I find the kit, it is sitting among bottles of nail glue and rings of my mom’s red Sally Hansen press on nails. I choose the thickest sewing needle and pierce the thin dirty white crescent of the tip of a fingernail and slip the ring of the charm into the hole.
I am satisfied and I feel beautiful.
I am sitting on my bed and I watch the charm dangle from my right index finger. It is a thin, small metal cross — tarnished from the motor oil and road salt from the parking lot I found it in. As I stare, I wish that I had long blue acrylics that vulgarly curl in at the tip (splashed with neon yellow and rhinestones). But soon a flood of shame and anxiety passes through my body. And it’s not because I am a nelly faggot with a fucking dirty nail charm hanging from my stubby fingernail.
I panic because I realize that I forgot to sanitize the sewing needle I used to pierce my nail.
As a little boy I have an almost debilitating fear of AIDS. Every cut and scrape leads me to believe that I will soon be Ryan White. I see Ryan’s smiling face on the cover of a People magazine for the first time when I am six years old. I find the magazine in a stack of Enquirers at my grandma’s house, and I take it with me across the street where me and my parents and my new little sister live. Ryan is sixteen years old and he looks juvenile in a way that I think is sickly.
Every article written about Ryan tells you that he is on the cusp of death. My mom tells me Ryan is dying from a blood transfusion — of blood that must have been taken from a faggot with AIDS. Because all bad blood comes from gay men.
Mom says that she almost had to have a blood transfusion when I was born. Just like Ryan, she could have been the victim of some gay man’s bad blood — and it would have been my fault! AIDS is so ubiquitous — it is in the blood of strange men, on the cover of People magazine in the face of a little white boy, and it was almost inside my mother.
I panic for three days that piercing my nail has now given me bad blood. Who used the sewing needle last? Where did it really come from? Not once do I sublimate my anxiety onto the nail charm. Nothing so beautiful could cause me harm.