“You gotta try weed.” Emily’s head waved to and fro to a lazy beat only she heard.
“I tried it once,” I replied and held up my half-full bottle of Dos Equis. “This is enough for me.”
“You still working on your first beer?!” Emily shouted with a wild laugh. “You gotta keep up!” The unheard beat pulled her head back to the lazy wave.
“This is some dank weed!” Bina announced as she blew out a long stream of smoke. “You gotta try it!” she urged. “It’s just a joint.”
“I know what a joint is. Cade smokes them like cigarettes,” I retorted. “I’m happy with a beer.”
“You gotta party with us,” Bina insisted catching my eye with a look that clearly proclaimed, ‘If you don’t party, you’re not my friend.’ I let out a long sigh and reached for the still smoking joint. “Inhale like a cigarette, hold it in as long as you can, then exhale,” she instructed.
“I know,” I replied drily. I closed the back of my throat as I did when smoking cigarettes, pulled some of the smoke into the back of my mouth keeping my cheeks unpuffed, returned the joint to Bina and waited. Bits of smoke made their way back through my imperfect throat seal. I would not let myself cough. After a moment, I slowly blew smoke out of my mouth.
“Howes dat?!” Bina excitedly inquired.
“It’s okay,” I replied and took a sip of my beer.
“Another toke,” she extended her fingers to me again.
“Nother toke!” Emily cried out.
“Nother toke!” they sang in unison. “Nother toke!”
I faked smoking as well as I could. After my third toke, the joint was gone. The room seemed to be sliding back and forth. The smell, like concentrated essence of grits, left me queasy. I munched on butter cookies as Bina and Emily began doing lines of coke. Neither invited me to join them. Cookies and breathing were plenty. Then the cookies were gone.
“I gotta get home,” I announced to a corner of the ceiling.
“Iss early!” Bina cried out as Emily sniffed white powder off a small mirror through a thin straw.
“Long… train… ride…” I pushed out with difficulty. There was a disconnect between my brain and mouth.
Once in the warm Spring air, I walked carefully to the subway station lighting cigarette after cigarette that I forgot to smoke. An open supermarket promised more butter cookies. As I waited to pay for them panic clutched my heart, What if she realizes I’m high? I pulled on my red sunglasses, pasted a bright smile on my face, paid for the cookies, and made my way down the subway steps.
The car was empty. Still wearing sunglasses, I found a seat in the middle of it. I want to be able to see everyone, flashed through my mind. A few people entered as I seated myself.
God! I mutely cried out as the doors closed. There are only men in this car. What if they attack me? I felt a strong urge to take another look. Lifting my sunglasses, I picked out several women amid the men. A soft sigh of thanks found its way through my lips.
But God! Another mute cry. What if they get off on watching those men attack me? The soft pressure of an invisible hand atop my head eased my panic. I munched on butter cookies until reaching my stop.
As I exited the turnstile, I lit a cigarette. I had puffed my way through two of them by the time I was rounding the corner to the street that led to my house. A shadow neared. Something stopped my right hand; I held a newly lit cigarette three inches from a man’s eye.
“Excuse me, Miss, do you have the time?” the elderly Asian gentleman who owned the dry cleaners inquired.
I stared mutely at him as I swallowed my desire to shout, “How dare you come so close to me at 11:30 at night?! You fool! I almost burned you!
I took in a deep breath. “11:30,” I exhaled.
“Thank you, Miss.” He hurried off.
Once safely behind locked doors, I looked at my red-eyed face in the mirror. “I don’t like this God!” I informed Him and my reflection. “Life is hard enough!” I adamantly insisted. “I don’t need stuff that interferes with my perception.” I huffed out another breathe, “Try weed. Nope.” I shook my head, “Never again.”