Sorcha walks into the kitchen with a look of fear and horror on her face.
“Ross,” she goes, “I need to talk to you.”
I’m there, “If it’s about Johnny Sexton missing the rest of the season for Leinster, don’t worry, I already know.”
She goes, “Why would it be that, Ross?”
Now that she says it, I don’t actually know.
I’m there, “So if it’s not that, then what is it?”
She goes, “Ross, I went to collect Honor from school today. I got there a little bit early and I saw her – now, brace yourself, Ross – vaping!”
I’m like, “Right.”
She goes, “Right?” and I get the feeling that it’s not the reaction she wanted. “Vaping, Ross! Please don’t tell me that you’re okay with it.”
The girl was drinking at 14. Hand on hort, there are worse things she could be doing than vaping, although it’d take a brave man to say that to Sorcha with the face on her.
She goes, “Where did we go wrong as parents?”
I’m there, “We didn’t go wrong. We’ve given the girl everything she’s ever demanded and she hasn’t had to work for any of it.”
“Will you have a word with her?”
“She respects you, Ross.”
“No, she doesn’t – she calls me a loser to my face.”
“Oh, that’s all put on. You’re, like, a role model to her?”
It’s genuinely news to me. I’m a sucker for a kind word, though.
Sorcha goes, “Just remind her that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other hormful chemicals.”
I set off up the stairs like a man facing the gallows. I knock on her door and I wait for a response. There isn’t one, so I push it open and stick my head around it.
“Oh my God,” she goes, “here he comes! Let me guess – that absolute focking stain you’re married to has asked you to have a word with me about the dangers of vaping.”
It’s very cool. Dad, everyone I know is vaping. Even though that’s not the reason that I’m doing it?
I’m there, “No.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Dad.”
“Okay then, yes. Look, just because some of the other girls are doing it –”
“Oh, please! This has nothing to do with peer pressure. When did you ever know me to give in to peer pressure?”
“Never, I suppose.”
She holds what looks like a mascora tube to her lips and she takes a blast from it. The air is suddenly filled with smoke slash steam slash whatever.
I’m there, “What’s that smell?”
She’s like, “It’s butterscotch.”
“It’s gorgeous,” I go.
She’s there, “Dad, we all know what’s going to happen here.”
“You’re going to tell me to stop vaping. I’m going to tell you to mind your own focking business. You’re going to say, in that case, maybe just don’t do it in front of your mom. I’m going to say, whatever. You’re going to go downstairs and tell her that we had the big chats and that I’ve agreed to stop. And Mom is going to tell you how lucky she is to be married to you – until she catches me the next time.”
She takes another blast off the thing, tips her head backwards and blows – again – either smoke or steam into the air while sort of, like, shaking her hair loose. It’s amazing – our little girl suddenly looks like a grown-up.
“I know I shouldn’t say this,” I go, “but it does look kind of cool.”
She goes, “It’s very cool. Dad, everyone I know is vaping. Even though that’s not the reason that I’m doing it?”
“I often think, if everyone is doing something, then how bad can it be – right? And is there, like, loads of different flavours?”
“Oh my God, loads! There’s, like, cranberry cotton candy. There’s, like, mango daiquiri. Actually, I’ve got my old one here,” and she hands me a slightly bulkier version of the one she has. “Try it, Dad.”
I’m there, “I don’t know if it’s me, Honor.”
“Dad, it’s totally you. Come on, stop being a knob – try it.”
So I give it a lash.
“That’s it,” she goes. “Take it into your lungs. Inhale it, Dad.”
I’m been vaping for, like, six months and I weigh literally nothing
I stort coughing and spluttering.
I’m there, “That’s very nice. What flavour is this one?”
She’s like, “Gin fizz.”
I’m there, “It does actually taste like gin – so random.”
I have another crack at it.
She’s like, “You look – oh my God – so cool doing it, Dad.”
I’m there, “Do I? Genuinely?”
“So, so cool. By the way, it’s also, like, an appetite suppressant?”
“I’m been vaping for, like, six months and I weigh literally nothing.”
“I could always do with losing a few KGs.”
So suddenly we’re both sitting on the end of her bed, father and daughter vaping away to beat the band and – dare I say it – properly bonding.
I’m there, “Gin fizz, huh? Where can I get more of this?”
“I’ll get you some,” she goes. “I’d need, like, two hundred euros. No, three hundred.”
“Yeah, no, cool – I’ll Revolut you.”
“Anyhoo,” she goes, which is her subtle way of letting you know that a conversation is coming to an end, “I need to FaceTime my friends, so if you wouldn’t mind focking off?”
I’m like, “Yeah, no problemo,” at the same time standing up. “God, this is gorgeous. I think I’m actually hooked.”
She lets go of me and takes a step backwards, sniffing the air between us like a dog smelling fox shit. She goes, ‘What’s that smell?’
She goes, “I’ll tell Mom that you had strong words with me and you scared me straight.”
I’m there, “Just make me sound good. God, this is beautiful.”
She’s like, “Great talk, Dad.”
I stick the thing in my skyrocket and I tip downstairs. Sorcha is waiting in the hallway. She’s like, “Well?”
I’m there, “I laid it on the line, Sorcha. Told her all about the dangers – which she knew nothing about, by the way? Let’s just say you hopefully won’t be seeing her vaping again.”
Sorcha throws her orms around me. She’s like, “Oh my God, I am so lucky to be married to you!”
Then she lets go of me and takes a step backwards, sniffing the air between us like a dog smelling fox shit. She goes, “What’s that smell?”
I’m like, “What smell?”
“It’s like, I don’t know, juniper berries or something?”
“Could be this new aftershave I’m wearing.”
“It’s gorgeous, Ross. It smells like gin.”
I’m there, “I just need to, em, pop out to the gorden,” because I’m gagging for another blast off the thing.
She’s like, “Thanks, Ross. You’re actually amazing.”
And I suppose I am.