Two nights before my birthday, I stand in front of my neighborhood bakery, waiting impatiently to order a mankoushé.

A lady, old in age, interrupts my way. She is telling the baker a story about how she almost got hit in the head. “Praise be to Allah for your safety!” replied the baker. Sick of the waiting, I pull out my pack of cigarettes and light one, hoping that the flame of the smoke will burn the time away.

Halfway through it, the lady turns around and examines me then says out loud: “Yes! Smoke now so that you may destroy your lungs at a young age?” I stare blankly at her face, turn around and leave the store in fear of my tongue failing me if I reply.

A few minutes later, I walk back to the bakery. The lady is gone but the baker with a smirk on his face asks: “Since when do you smoke?”

“It’s almost been a year.”

“You are a sneaky boy, aren’t you? I never expected you to be a smoker.”

“I’m not really a regular one,” I hold out my packet, “I’ve had this one for about three months.”

I see the expressions of shock appear on his face as he nods his head both in surprise and approval.

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