The other night I was walking home after class, pissed off because I still hadn’t found a date for that weekend, when my old lab partner drove up out of nowhere and offered me a ride.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I had always been curious, and had secretly hoped we’d run into each other outside of class, but the opportunity never came up. Yet here it nearly ran me over. For once it felt like the universe was on my side.
I tried to keep cool and got in the car. I hadn’t noticed earlier, probably because I’d been too busy trying to remember how to talk, but the inside was pretty hotboxed. It smelled like Fruit Loops and I could barely see the clock on the dashboard. After a couple minutes I realized that not only was the time way off, but the numbers were actually moving backwards, which I didn’t know was even possible.
We reached the railroad tracks and sat and waited for the train to pass. It was moving mockingly slow, so we decided it’d be a good idea to turn off the engine.
I couldn’t think of anything to say. There was something romantic about the dirty air and the noisy train behind our awkward silence. I didn’t want to fuck it up.
I told him that it smelled really good, and he laughed and pulled out a half-smoked joint. I handed him a lighter and he pulled the keys out of the ignition. But when he got a good look at my lighter, he crammed it back into my left pocket and told me that white lighters are bad luck.
He sparked up the joint and passed it to me. But the fumes and the touching already had me a little slow. And when he turned on the radio, I somehow got even more dazed.
I took a hit and tried to pass it back to him, but he didn’t take it. He smiled and told me to keep going, that I needed to catch up.
I was surprised by how relaxed he looked. In class he was never still. Poor guy was pre-med, and had an adorable fear of getting B’s. But at night he was loose and happy and even seemed to have developed a set of dimples.
Then out of nowhere he turns to me and says, “Still straight?”
It’s a good thing the air was coated in smoke, or else he would have easily seen how immediately red I got. But somehow, thankfully, the stoner in me took over and realized exactly what he was asking about.
I responded that the joint wasn’t burning straight, that it had a bit of a run on it and that it wasn’t really hitting.
He took it, tossed it out the window, and said he had something better. He pulled out a pipe, packed it and jokingly warned me that it was very potent.
Before he passed it to me, he chivalrously torched the mouthpiece to kill all the germs. He then tried to wipe it off on his sweater, but his sleeve rolled up without him noticing and he ended up rubbing the hot glass directly on his arm.
He was a little shocked at the pain, but then laughed at his mistake. I noticed that it had left an inky smudge on his forearm and, without thinking, I reached over and wiped it off with my thumb.
Outside, the rusty train seemed to have gotten even slower and louder.
I brought the pipe up to my mouth and sparked it up. But, embarrassingly enough, I didn’t do it right and the little bud broke free from out of the bowl and started flying around the inside of the car.
We both immediately started chasing it, but it was too fast and just made us look downright silly.
Still half on fire, it flew around and around and made me even dizzier than I already was. It crashed into the steering wheel and into the windows, all the while leaving behind a floating trail of burning ash.
He finally caught it and crammed it back into my pipe. He clasped his hand over mine, and held the little bud in place with his thumb.
I brought it up to my mouth again, and then torched the bowl and inhaled. I held it in for a little while, and then coughed it out the window.
Outside, the air was cool and quiet and I realized that the train had been long gone.
LEO OCAMPO can somewhat be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.