Then again, since she was unconscious during the sex that night, it’s possible they were all lying and a single person, someone other than those who claimed to have pulled the train, might have been the father. She never knew. She also considered that the gang rape meant nothing, that she only had sex with a single person that night since the others were superfluous--first in terms of her pregnancy and then the motherhood that continued for so many years.
Thereafter, though, whenever she began a physical relationship with a new man, she tried to control it by marking the change in her life. She accomplished this by switching her brand of cigarette whenever she changed sex partners. In this way, she felt she could keep track of the total number of lovers she’d had, monitor how long her liaisons lasted, and impose some design on her love life by choosing a brand of cigarette that corresponded or related in some way to the new man’s personality or the way he changed her life or made her feel. More often than not, the relationship between the branding and each new man’s personality expressed itself in the cigarette’s packaging, the way it was marketed, and its target audience.
She’d laugh inwardly when a current boyfriend, if he was a smoker, bummed one from her. When she was feeling cynical, particularly in the morning just after she awoke, she regarded the man lying next to her as nothing more than another brand of cigarette.