Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 19

One fall day in homeroom Jim said he discovered something in the woods, and you could tell from the shine in his eye it wasn’t the usual find, not an arrowhead or a stash of waterlogged porn.

“A joint!” he said.

“A joint? Pot?”

“A joint. I found it in a baggie by the river.”

We resolved to smoke it, Harry, Jim and me, that weekend. Harry’s dad was going to take us to a Sherlock Holmes play on the college campus. We’d have some time before then at Harry’s to duck out and light up.

On Saturday we walked single-file through the woods by Harry’s house. I gazed at Jim’s back in wonder, knowing he carried something awesome, like a loaded gun. When we were good and out of sight we found a boulder to sit on.

Jim withdrew what looked like a fountain pen case from his jeans pocket.

“I thought it was in a baggie,” I said.

“I transferred it from the baggie,” Jim said solemnly. As though the thing were an archaeological object to be dusted and protected, perhaps someday mounted on a pedestal.

When he opened the lid there it was in the little slot where the pen’s supposed to be. Slender, delicate, twisted at the tip. Part of the paper had been discolored a swampy hue.

“Why’s it green?” asked Harry.

“It got wet when I found it,” Jim admitted.

“It got wet?”

“I was nervous, I dropped it in the river,” Jim said a little defensively. “I picked it up as fast as I could. Now it’s green.”

We pondered it, lying in its ill-fitting coffin of purple velvet. It might not be perfect. It might have been fucked up from when Jim dropped it in the water. But it was beautiful.

Jim picked it up tremblingly in the requisite pinch and placed the tapered end into his mouth. He struck a match and lit the other end, drawing as hard as he could. Immediately he erupted in spasmodic coughs, holding the joint away as ashes and sparks flew off the burning tip. 

It was Harry’s turn. He drew on it, more tentatively, but finally exhaled a plume of sweet smoke and handed it to me.

The paper was dry, almost brittle, like the pages of an ancient tome. I felt privileged. Anointed. I placed it to my lips and sucked in. Nothing happened.

“Is it lit?” I asked, pulling it away and examining the other end. A taunting wisp of smoke emerged.

“Yeah it’s lit!” said Harry.

Jim helpfully fired up a match. He cupped it with his other hand against the breeze, like the Boy Scout he was. I approached gingerly, the thing in my mouth. The flame licked the charred paper as I drew again, hard this time. Still nothing. Or was there something? The tip glowed a moment, then not. An ash or two flew off. I held my breath as long as I could and let out a faint gray mist. That was it! Or was it? Could it have been my breath, vaporized in the cool October air?

“I’m not getting anything!” I cried.

Jim said try again and I did. Still it appeared to be lit. The stubborn little curl of smoke. Same thing again. A vague sensation of warmth in my lungs. A dubious exhalation. Jim took his turn again and smoked copiously. He blew a big, white cloud and passed it to Harry, who did the same. It was down to a roach now. Jim stubbed it out on the rock and put it back in the pen case.

Sitting in the theater as Sherlock Holmes rolled up his sleeve to grandly inject morphine into his arm, Watson watching bemusedly, I didn’t know if I was high. But I wanted to be high. I believed that I was high. I was high.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

It’s the sort of night when I want to fall into the imbecility of watching Worls Cup downhill skiing, a scotch in my hand, mouth a little bit agape.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

After I’ve emptied the little Tupperware dish of fresh litter into the box, I bring it outside and let it sail over the seven or eight steps into the open bin on the half landing. It’s so light it almost flutters, and it seems like it might veer off-course, but it always lands right there on the gravelly gray pile. Pufff. This is a moment of pure bliss, just a second and a half or so, every two days maybe.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Cat From Iran

When I was a kid we drove across France in the summer of 1979 in that Renault 4, the heat merciless on the rainbow-striped synthetic seats. An odor of glorious vomitude. Hollow metal poles formed the frames upon which the fabric stretched, ready to tear, ready to pop in a fender-bender, a serrated end ready to plunge into the firm neckflesh of a ten-year-old: me.

Dad had the radio on and the French people do love their news. Music, news, news, news. Weather. News. Traffic—vacation traffic. Live reports on the jam you’re in right now. Music. News, news, news, news, news. They kept talking about this cat. A cat was fleeing to France. To live out the rest of his days. This cat was on the run. From some kind of danger. Who was this cat? This cat from Iran?

Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 18

Harry and I began to hang out with Jim. Just another loser with a mother who knew our mothers. Is that not how lifelong bonds are formed? I sensed that Jim was interested in more than television and Atari and Star Wars and sports. He did like guns and swords and tanks. That was normal but he liked them more than me, more than most. In the library I’d look for race car books. There was one with black and white pictures of North American sports car races in the ‘60s, a book that was already old and nobody cared. Races that had faded deep into history, their results recorded but never re-examined, the names of the drivers forgotten by all but their descendants. Triumphs and Corvettes with roll bars winding up and down and through the fields. Men in white, short-sleeved, button-down shirts and their wives or girlfriends in long floral-print skirts sitting on the hilly lawns to watch. This is all I wanted. Jim came over to my house one day to build model airplanes. We began with a strangely ceremonial lunch, as though my parents had to check him out to be my girlfriend. For some reason Mom had severely undercooked the burgers. I gamely swallowed clumps of cool, mealy meat, its blood soaking the bun, dressed in pickle relish and Heinz Tomato Ketchup, as Jim excitedly explained why he’d prefer a knife to a machine gun in hand-to-hand combat. “A machine gun might jam,” he said. “With a knife, you can stick it in the other guy’s body.” I gulped my iced tea and the lemon wedge knocked my nose. My parents examined Jim with some concern. “Unless you have a bayonet on the gun. A bayonet is the best,” Jim exclaimed. “It’s like a knife!”

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

It occurred to me that I didn’t know how to operate the fire extinguisher in the corner cabinet under the sink. It had stood there behind the U pipe, next to the leftover tiles, ever since we bought the place ten years ago. In the back of my mind it was always, there’s a fire extinguisher there if there’s a fire.

But today I imagined a short circuit over by the TV, maybe something the cats did, sparks shooting, smoke, flames, the cabinet alight, the album collection smoldering, vinyl dripping like molasses on the floor. I’d go get it of course. But then I’d hold it up idiotically, fumbling with it, not knowing what to pull or push or squeeze.

I knelt down and opened the door. The thing was farther away than I remembered; I had to press my face against the stove to reach it. In the bright kitchen light I examined the cartoon instructions on the side. Pull the pin. (Like a grenade.) Squeeze the thing and aim for the base of the fire. Sweep back and forth.

I brushed off the dust that had accumulated on the canister’s shoulder. I gave the pin a little tug, just to have the ghost of the muscle memory I’d need. It seemed flimsy, ready to be ripped away. I fingered the lever gingerly. And then I knelt back down and put the thing back for another decade. But closer to my reach this time.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Something like a gun or firecrackers went off outside but when I looked out the window everybody was doing normal shit, jogging, crossing the street. Still I heard it: pop-pop-pop.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

It’s always a shock to wake from lunatic dreams to find the world as it was: clothes where you left them, dishes done, cars and trees and the white sky outside.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

It was a beautiful day on the island, as though the world weren’t about to end. Masked people milling about as their tacos and pulled-pork sandwiches were being prepared. We played soccer with the kids on a big field with sprinklers spraying, in the hope—the expectation—that there will be another season.

In line for beer a woman play-punched her man, a fake karate punch to the side of the head, and I thought it was so charming.

Friday, October 09, 2020

I lay in bed in the middle of the night with my eyes open and my knees up, the way you do when you know you’re not possibly going to sleep. I thought about how I get this way sometimes at night and I know it’s bad but I can’t help it. I could get dressed and take a walk around the block. I could turn on the little reading light and read. I could curl into a fetal position on the kitchen floor. All seemed like equally bad options. And a few hours later I woke up.