Do You Have A Light?
By: Rene A. M.
There are times in life when a person must stop, step back, and take a deep breath. Such times are truly far and few between. They present themselves from events filled with drama and confusion, disbelief and at times fear. No one knows when such events will transpire or how, only that we are all guaranteed at least a few in our life- times. One of mine came on December 31st, 1998 at 11:45PM.
New Years Eve is a busy time of year for everyone involved, especially young couples looking for a good time. My wife and I were no exception; we were on a mission to have our biggest New Years Eve gala ever. My boss had invited us to Long Beach for the Queen Mary's New Years Eve Party and Ballroom Blow Out. These tickets were not cheap and there was to be numerous "dance floors" and DJ's on every level of the ship. I had visited the Queen Mary a few times in my youth, but had not seen her in many years. My wife, growing up in Los Angeles all her life had never been and was thrilled with the news (even though she was 2 months pregnant with our first child).
Shopping was in-order as well as the barber and hair salon. We only had a few days to pull it together and we were both very excited about bringing in the New Year together in such a beautiful place.
Around that time was the beginning of the infamous "cigar boom." People were once again taking interest in the suave and wonderful pleasure of a good hand- rolled cigar. Coming from a cigar loving family, I was thrilled with this new "resurgence" of a time old tradition. My grandfather and father were both "connoisseurs" on the subject and I had been under their wing since my early teens. I was given the full "Cigar 101": different countries were they are made, climate, rolling techniques, types of curing, sizes, shapes and how to light up. Who would have thought so much was involved? The only reason I mention this at all, is because my cigar would end up playing the biggest role in how this story plays itself out.
My wife was not a big cigar fan, at all. However she allowed me this one indulgence as long as it was in moderation and not in the house. I was given a Cuban Hoyo De Monterey for my birthday a few years back, and had been saving it for a very special occasion. New Years Eve at the Queen Mary seemed the perfect spot and besides we were going to party like its 1999 (which it was going to be). I packed all my cigar "essentials" into the coat pocket of my new blazer and headed out the door.
When we arrived at the Queen Mary we had no idea how packed it was going to be. Parking was insane to say the least. We managed to squeeze into a spot by the pier and headed in. We found my boss and his date sitting at one of the bars set up near the first dance floor. The ship was amazingly decorated and you can tell professional's hands were in on this one. I ordered scotch on the rocks and a juice for my wife. Luckily for me my wife does not drink so I always have my designated driver. The music was loud and after socializing a bit we headed off to get our boogey on. We had a ball, literally and after a few hours of on and off leg work; we decided to talk a walk up on the top deck. The air was crisp and surprisingly clean. You could smell the salt and sea foam as we walked hand in hand looking up at the stars. About half way through our walk my wife was starting to get a bit winded and she decided to sit and rest for a few. I took the opportunity to bring out my cigar and asked her if she wouldn't mind if I lit that bad boy up. She agreed with some hesitation, only with the understanding that I would do it a few feet away from her.
I calmly walked up the deck to the tip of the ship and proceeded to prepare the Cuban for its blast off. I smelled the wonderful earthy tobacco leaf and brought out my guillotine cutter to chop the tip and puff away on this beauty. I brought the cigar to my lips and began to bring out my torch lighter, when all of a sudden I felt a slight tap on my shoulder with the words "do you have a light". I immediately turned around and replied "of course" and to my amazement there was no one there. I stood there, dumbfounded with the cigar daggling from the tip of my lips. I looked around and could see no one but my wife a few feet away with a smile on her face. I started to dart about looking for anyone in the area, but to my surprise it was just us on deck. My wife started to walk over to me and asked if I was ok, or if I had lost something. She was wondering why I was acting so curiously. I asked her quickly if she had seen anybody tap me on the shoulder or walking on deck. She simply replied, "No. You were standing quite alone in the corner of the deck." I asked her again, are you sure; maybe they ran by you or took off into another corner. Her reply remained unchanged; I was alone the entire time.
We walked back into the dancing area to watch the balloons come down during the countdown for the New Year. We kissed exactly at midnight as others did the same and screamed out Happy New Year to whoever would hear.
I still have that cigar to this day. I pull it out of my humidor every once in a while, just to remind myself that it really did happen. I've shared this story with only a few close friends and family, and now you. So if you ever happen to visit the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, don't forget to bring along your favorite cigar. You never know who just might hit you up for a light.