The Exxon gas station outside the Lincoln Tunnel has American Spirit menthols for $8.05 On the other side of the tunnel, cigarettes are approaching $14. It’s hard to stop smoking when one finds such a bargain.
A young Spanish man who works behind the counter gave me a stroke when I purchased a pack yesterday. The lad is a new employee at the busy Exxon station and has never heard of American Spirits. I pointed the rack above his head and said, “The dark green pack”.
“Daa Green,” he replied with a slight twist of Spanish added to his English as he reached high above for my addiction. His beautiful, hairless, tight stomach blinded me for a second.
His ‘innie’ was enough to cause me to lose my composure and simply stare until he returned from his tip toes, when finally, his shirt went back down. When he asked if I needed matches, I simply held out my hand as if for charity—a slight touch would be all I needed – fuck the cigarettes!
A woman with broad shoulders who was in front of me in line had confused the poor boy terribly. She bought a ninety-nine cent pack of mints, handed the ‘papi chulo’ a ten and demanded, in a deep manish tone, nine singles in return. It took him forever to count those singles—I just watched and waited my turn. He shook his head covered with a carpet of black curls and gave her what she wanted.
I knew I had eight singles in my wallet, so I give the young man the wad that I purposely keep in my wallet to make it feel fat, and thus, myself, richer.
He counted the singles. There were eight. I was sure of it. That was all that was in there anyway. I watched him count them, but he insisted that I had given one too many.
“No!” I said when he tried handing me the dollar.
He graciously placed the dollar in a plastic tip jar and smiled at me like an angel. Now I’ll never stop smoking.