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.