Camel Straights


My sweet Sven hurt his back.
He is down for the count.
A bench warmer for the season.
In our house it is called laying on the couch.
This means that I am in charge of the situation.
I am the runner of all errands.
Picker upper of all supplies.
Bringer inner of all wood.
Shoveler of all snow.
Walker of all dogs.
Taker outer of all trash.
Driver of truck to dump and the dumper outer.
I am retired.
It is not that bad.
I got the time.
I have enough embarrassing items to purchase for yours truly.

You know what I mean.
The necessary items in order to slow down the aging process.
And the necessary items in order to endure the aging process.
To numb it a little around the edges.
We all have our crutches.
It is a delicate balancing act that one must juggle.
Tit for tat.
Which some people refer to as, life.
Just about the time you don't have to buy tampons and giant pads for yourself, you are out there picking up big mama underpants, hair removal kits and gin. And then your mother gives you, her list.
Which is why you run into more people you know in other drug stores than you do in your hometown pharmacy.
Many years ago, I, me, Millie Noe, quit smoking.
And I did it more than one time.
I had several different ways of doing so.
There were a couple years that I smoked as many cigarettes as I possibly could from sunrise to sunset, from the beginning of Memorial Weekend through Labor Day Monday. And then not a one for all the months in between.
There was that one year in the late eighties that I decided I could buy as many pairs of earrings as I wanted to, as long as I did not smoke.
Which explains that cluster of hanging glitter under my sink upstairs.
There were those two years that I smoked clove cigarettes and clove cigarettes only.
And only on weekends.
But then Thursday became the new Friday.
And I would stay up really late on Sunday nights.
One day, fourteen years ago, on our nineteenth wedding anniversary, my sweet Sven was in surgery.
It was a beautiful, sunny, August the second.
I wanted to go outside and light up a cigarette while he was under the knife and hang out with the other smokers out there.
My favorite kind of sinners.
Instead, I stayed right there in that chair.
In that waiting room.
Until my name was called.
"Millie Noe?"
And I still have not had one.
So, that is why I felt a little weird at Walgreens the other day when I was at the checkout counter and I spotted something on Sven's list.
It was behind the clerk.
"I would like two packs of Camel Straights as well," I said.
She looked at me over the top of her black and silver sparkly glasses with chains hanging on the sides.
"I will need to see your driver's license," she said rather cooly.
"Oh," I said and pulled it out.
"Which ones?" she says.
"Camel Straights," I repeated as the line behind me grew by a couple more people.
I pointed.
"They are those short ones. In the yellow package."
"No. The short ones."
"These?" she said, holding up another brand altogether.
"No. Not those. Camel Straights," I hear myself shout. "The unfiltered ones."
I looked at the other items sitting there on the counter to be rung up, hair color in a box for root repair, age rewind foundation, a tube of all day stay on lipstick, a facial hair removal kit and an oversized bottle of ten dollar wine.
"Really?" I thought. "Do I look like someone who would smoke filtered cigarettes?"
When my sweet Sven is up and running again, he owes me.

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