I took the joint carefully from his fingertips, all too aware of how unaccustomed the motion felt. I must have hesitated for an instant, but I coolly played it off to the slightly buzzed observer. It was just a mindful passing of the party torch, a model of responsible practice to not squeeze too hard or too far up. It was not my first rodeo.
The night had lent itself to some bizarre happenstances and a delightful synchronicity of events – so fueled by vodka and the arrogance in which unbridled entertainment affords one, especially when that one is entrenched in a semi-ungraceful exit out of their 20s. Everything about the scenario screamed that I absolutely should not be doing this. Not tonight, just hours before daybreak. Not in the midst of absolute strangers and weirdoes and bizarre small group dynamics existing between the friends and frenemies there. I knew it all. I knew it for the better of myself. But, it was all part and parcel of “carping the diem,” as they say, and the occasion certainly called for it.
“This is good shit,” he said, with strangled effort. A voice on the short leash of a breath held in quarantine.
“Sweet,” I mustered.
Yes, there had been some markedly great times in the past, but the stuff had often taken me too deep into the recesses my mind, down some very dark corridors and into locked closets where I kept all my anxiety and fear stored next to lightly used winter sports gear and a well sized TV/VCR combo. I even spent a good number of years immersed in empirical study; some heavy field research with several control groups and placebos in place, some even double-blind, to ensure the systematic isolation of all potential factors at play and varied forms of ingestion. The results were as conclusive as a game of reverse Russian roulette, in which every slot, save one, held a bullet. The odds were rarely in my favor.
I pushed that all down now and glanced about the room in a self-conscious scan, hurriedly seeking any opportunity to be interrupted. I met no one’s gaze; in fact, I couldn’t have been more insignificant at that moment in time. The group seemed to be melding, enjoying themselves enjoying the company. That was some solace at least, the charade of camaraderie holding up soundly even between the most staunch of frenemy camps. They all melted behind the haze and into the soft-edge glow of an early 90’s soap opera.
In silent negotiation I brought the spliff steadily to my lips, hoping that this would be a time when I could let loose, give way to euphoria, keep Pandora out of my box and will a blank in the cylinder of this cocked fucker. Just this one time, fortheloveofgod.
Slightly moist from its passage through careless or greedy takers, I took a decent drag off the tip, even thinking myself conservative.
The contents of my exhale proved otherwise.
A sizable billow of opaque, white smoke poured generously out of my open mouth, tilted 45 degrees up towards the ceiling. The dense fog hovered there, indignant, and far for too long.
It was spiting me, I thought. It knows.