Category Archives: Short Stories

Tata’s Bad Habit

park_benchLast night me and my girl Tata (like Pa tata) were sitting around shooting the breeze and doing everything BUT getting ready for the work week.  Somehow we got on the subject of bad habits. Now Tata is one of my closest friends, I have known her almost nine years, so when the subject of bad habits came up I immediately thought of her ultimate bad habit which is smoking cigarettes.

When I first met Tata she didn’t smoke; and even though I don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke and I truly hate inhaling secondhand smoke, Tata is one of the very few people I will allow to smoke in my presence; the others being my grandmother and a few other relatives.

As the subject came up I was tempted to tease her about why she began smoking in the first place. His name was Bobby Ray.  Around my second year of knowing Tata she started dating this guy named Bobby who I thought was the cutest thing ever. He was tall and chocolate and had these pretty round eyes that just made you want to stare into them forever.  Tata seemed to really like him too; I mean every time she talked about the man she would have this huge smile on her face. It was so teenage and cute.

After she had been dating Bobby Ray for about five months I noticed that every time she would come to visit me she would always have some reason to go out to her car during the visit. At first I thought it was nothing, but then I also noticed that when she came back in she smelled of air freshener. After she did this on about four visits I decided to ask her what was the deal with the trips to the car and coming back smelling like fresh linens.

She stood there for a minute, then she let go of the secret, she was smoking cigarettes. I was shocked because I had never seen her smoke a cigarette the entire time I had known her and I had spent entire days with her on many occasions. I promptly demanded to know when this started and why in the hell she decided at this age in life to begin puffing cancer sticks. She told me that this new habit was all because of Bobby Ray. Once she said that I knew there was going to be a good story behind this one. I just hoped the story was funny instead of upsetting.

Tata went on to say that Bobby Ray wrecks her nerves so bad that she turned to cigarettes as a way to calm down and keep her sanity. What started out as an every now and then smoke had turned into a vicious habit. I stood there in awe, because if this man had turn a woman into a chain smoker in less than six months he had to be a bad mamma jamma! I needed to know what in the hell he was doing that was so nerve wrecking that it would cause her to form a habit that she was embarrassed of.

With a sad look on her face, Tata went on to tell me that Bobby Ray was the nicest man she had ever met in her life. He was such a gentleman. He cooked for her and he was a great father to his children. He worked every day and so far she had no complaints with him…except the fact that he stuttered somethin serious.

Before I could catch myself I burst into laughter. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. How could this sexy man, who knew exactly how to treat a woman, be a stutterer? And first and foremost how had I not noticed that he stuttered? Even though I had only met him twice, each time we met we conversed and he had not stuttered one bit. Tata’s explanation for that was that he had controlled it during our brief conversations.  He could do that sometimes. When I thought back to both times I had met Bobby Ray each time he had seemed kind of nervous and honestly Tata had seemed even more nervous. Now there was an explanation for him seeming uptight and Tata standing in the background looking as if she just swallowed a hairball. All this time I thought the man had been nervous to meet me because Tata had warned him of my witty personality. No, he had been so uptight because he was trying his darnest to control his stuttering problem and Tata was just as nervous because she didn’t want him to slip in a shhh or thhh.

Now back to Tata’s bad habit. I asked her how his stuttering would cause her to smoke. Now I could understand if he turned to smoking, but her…? I needed and explanation for this one. She said that sometimes having a conversation with Bobby Ray was so frustrating that she would immediately feel the need to smoke a few cigarettes. Not one cigarette, but a few. She said that he would begin a normal conversation and a few minutes in, it would turn into long strings of thtthhh hhhh aaa tttt is whhhaa ttt happp ennnn. She then told me to imagine holding a conversation with someone on a day to day basis and almost every time this was the result. It frustrated her to the point that she sometimes caught herself wanting to clinch his lips shut with her hands.  So instead of doing something so spiteful, she turned to cigarettes. They were her shelter in a time of storm; Bobby Ray’s stuttering storm that is.

I felt sorry for my friend. I could tell that other than his stuttering problem he was the perfect guy for her. I asked her had he thought about speech therapy and she said that he was too embarrassed to seek help. She had mentioned it to him once and in the end she felt as if she hurt the situation more than helped it. She had even offered to go with him but he stated that her going with him would be like her taking her son to pre-school for the first time and helping him pronounce his alphabet. He wanted no part of that.

Almost a year into their relationship, Tata was smoking a pack of cigarettes in two days. Her habit had become so mandatory that she was no longer embarrassed. She would fire up a cigarette at the drop of a hat. Bobby Ray was still stuttering away, but he was also still cooking dinners, still paying bills, still holding her hand, still kissing her softly and still being an overall nice guy. Tata didn’t know what to do. She felt that she was getting closer and closer to a man that she knew she could not marry unless he stopped stuttering. This burden caused her to smoke even more. The stress of having the perfect man in her life, except for one little bitty thing that wasn’t such a little bitty thing was stressing Tata out beyond belief.

But soon Tata would find out that Bobby Ray had a problem with her also. One day after dinner they were sitting at the park on a bench and Tata fired up a cigarette as they sat and watched the ducks in the pond. Bobby had taken the entire length of dinner to tell her about one of his coworkers being fired today at work. What should have taken ten minutes took an hour and a half. Tata’s nerves were frizzled by the time they ordered dessert. She could not wait to get out of the restaurant and fire up a cigarette.

As she sat there dangling her legs and puffing on her cigarette, she realized that Bobby was staring at her with a not so nice expression on his face. Before she could ask what was wrong he asked her if she remembered one of the first conversations they had which took place on their second date. He then refreshed her memory. They talked that night about falling in love, what they expected from each other and lastly pet peeves. Bobby reminded Tata that one of his biggest pet peeves was women that smoked cigarettes. He said that over the past couple of months she had turned into the exact kind of woman he despised. A woman who was stressed and instead of dealing with her problems she puffed cigarette after cigarette. He said if it hadn’t been for his love for her he would have called it quits a long time ago.

Before Tata knew it Bobby Ray had dumped her sitting there on the wooden bench in the park while a cool breeze rippled past. It took her a few minutes to gather her thoughts and realize that the man who she loved and also the man who caused her to smoke cigarettes was now dumping her because of her cigarette smoking. She was shocked.

It took my girl quite some time to get over Bobby Ray. She never even told the man why she started smoking in the first place. Had it been me he would have gotten an earful that day at the park. He wouldn’t have got the opportunity to finish his rehearsed dumping speech. Once I realized where the conversation was going I would have gave him a piece of my mind and being that he has a speech impediment he wouldn’t have had the time to finish what he wanted to say because I would have been gone. But poor Tata was on such a high from the relief of her cigarette that she never saw it coming.

Till this day every time someone talks about cigarettes it makes Tata fume inside. Had it not been for those damn cigarettes she would have known she had been dumped much earlier. After all, it took Bobby Ray almost an hour just to say it was over.