Having been brought up in a family that never hid its aversion for the cigarette, it would never have occurred to me that this tiny object for which I bore a vehement dislike, and which my parents had strictly forbidden in our house, with interminable warnings about its detrimental effects, would play such a fortuitous role in reinforcing the bond between Martin and myself, and intensifying our love.
Martin smoked, not heavily, but it was the only thing about him that I wished had been otherwise. Seeking to circumscribe his affection for the cigarette, my diffident endeavours, in the first two or three months of our romance, would not have exceeded a few pieces of well-cloaked affectionate advice such as, ‘Smoking is not good for your health’, or ‘Why don’t you quit?’ Feminine coquettishness, however, came into play in due course in order to produce the desired effect. Once I started my mannered cough, he would extinguish his cigarette in the nearest ashtray with a warm, affectionate apology. Such demure tactics, however, were the extreme my artlessness could come up with so as to get him to stop smoking.
Well, having realized the tremendous pleasure he took in, not least valued, my attentive effort to help him rid off his addiction, it seemed as if I had by good fortune lit upon a powerful ally through which I could bypass my bashfully reserved nature and reciprocate the spring of effusive emotions that Martin had encircled me with. It was paradoxical that this should be yesterday’s foe, the cigarette.
Courage and bravery joined forces one day setting me upon a venture that once I would not have dared to contemplate, had it not been for the inspiration prompted by my odious ally. It was past midday; the offices were relatively quiet. Facing me near the doorway, Martin sat to the left side of Jack’s desk chatting with another advisor who sat facing Martin with his back to me. As was usual, Martin was smoking. Soon miasmic clouds of smoke billowed all around the office. I shot him a meaningful loving look, hoping that he would desist, but my try was futile. Notwithstanding the discouraging lack of result, I wouldn’t abandon the effort though, and I re-assayed. His response did not vary; he, once again, averted his eyes from me to his expansive partner. Strangely enough, and in an act that seemed an utter departure from my normally timid and bashful nature, I stepped across to grab the nearest ashtray. Returning to my seat, I held it cupped in my palms with both my arms stretched in the direction of my precious ‘chimney’. Bent more than ever on attaining my purpose, I turned another supplicating smile towards him. My attempt, however, proved fruitless as he wouldn’t kill the cigarette. Instead he intently re-shifted his eyes from me to his voluble mate who seemed absorbed in delivering some sort of a soliloquy. His ostensible stubbornness only goaded my obstinacy. I had no intention of knuckling under, and I persevered with my exhibitionistic yet soundless entreaties.
Stop it… please Martin…
Enthusiastically, the advisor with whom Martin was in conversation, continued to wax loquaciously, totally unaware of the intriguing scene that was fervently running behind his back. Martin, while listening and, on the face of it, appearing calm, relaxed and savouring his coffee, frequently glanced at me. My feminine instinct was entirely attuned to how he seemed to be enjoying this audacious display of emotional attachment through such an unorthodox vehicle. He wouldn’t truckle under though. He continued taking a drag on his cigarette and blowing whirls of smoke that tumbled in the air. When the cigarette was reduced to a butt, he nonchalantly lighted another in a manner that appeared purposely designed to further goad the uncharacteristic display of my emotions. The intriguing scene ran assiduously behind the back of the guy who was still invincibly chewing the fat. Determined to gain our opposite goals, both of us firmly held our respective ground. But I could sense my heart leaping with sweeping joy as I watched how hard my beloved’s eyes sought to subdue the ecstatic emotions that seemed to threaten his composure even as he tried to sustain the role of the ideal listener.
All of a sudden, the advisor got up and stepped out of the office in what seemed to be a trip to the coffee maker that was estimated to last two to three minutes. That was my Godsend opportunity. I jumped up, and in a split second I was standing in front of my stubborn ‘smokestack’, with the ashtray cupped in my palms like a begging bowl. My eyes implored, as did my lips, which feverishly pleaded for him to exterminate my rival. An adorable smile pervaded his face as he maintained his amused silence for a few moments, staring affectionately at me. This atypical departure from my usually coy demeanour, as well as my impulsive and urgent body language, which was prompted by the expected imminent return of the oblivious party, seemed to have him mesmerized. Conspicuously overwhelmed with emotions, he said very tenderly, ‘I adore you kiddo’. I sensed my heart fluttering like a small bird in its ribcage. My determined effort, however, was not to pass unacknowledged. He ultimately stubbed and twisted the young cigarette in the ashtray, and declared his warm affectionate surrender by rewarding me with a wonderful air-kiss.
‘Kiddo? I’m twenty-one and four months’, I exclaimed, feigning indignation, as I turned round towards my desk, holding my trophy of victory with a tremendous sense of exultation.
‘You’ll always be my gorgeous kid’, he declared in a wonderfully indulgent tone, full of affection and tenderness.
‘Kiddo, after all this hard work?’ The neophyte female within me thought in disapproval. I shot him a glance of dissatisfaction in rejection of this fall in rank, and I sulkily turned my face to the opposite side. The resentment that must have been sketched over my face further stimulated his mirthful mood. The garrulous partner was back now with a cup of coffee, his curiosity stirred sufficiently to enquire what it was that was so funny. But we both disregarded his question.