This fictional writing contains graphic depiction and language that may not be suitable for younger readers. Discretion is advised.
July 16, 2014
The air is warm and sticky with a light wind that rushes by every half hour or so. I can hear the breeze as it zips by when I roll my window down, ashing my cigarette along the rim of the glass. A tiny clump of ash falls inside and brushes against my seatbelt, leaving a hint of a burn.
I check the clock inside my car. It’s 9:27 pm; he’s late.
A Honda Civic pulls in to a parking space close to me and comes to a quick stop. The windows are tinted a dark, mysterious purple so much so that I’m not able to see inside. I can hear the car shift to the park position and see the lights flicker off. It’s been a while since I saw his old Civic, but I’m sure this is it.
The passenger side window of the Civic comes down about half way. I see his eyes peering over from the driver’s seat, his left arm positioned calmly over the steering wheel and his body leaning toward me. His eyes connect with mine as he lets out a smooth, “Hey babe.” He’s grinning as he says, “You ready?”
In a shaky, uncertain voice, I responded, “Yeah, I’ll follow you.”
He leads me about ten miles away down several dirt roads without names. The path twists and turns as we get closer to our destination, with only the headlights from both of our vehicles leading the way. We pull up to what appears to be an empty mobile home on cement blocks. There are no lights on or any sign of life with the exception of the swarming insects around me as I exit my car. The grass is high and reaches almost to my knees. I’m thankful for my combat boots and black skinny jeans as I wade through the swampy grass to the front steps of the trailer.
Ben reaches the door first and, without knocking, enters the trailer. He flips a switch to his left and a yellow, dim light flickers on. I step inside and close the door behind me.
“Someone lives here?” I ask in disbelief. Dishes are piled high in the sink and on the counter tops. Dirty clothes lay astray across every room. Cigarette butts line an ashtray overflowing with ash and old Marlboro wrappers. A few of the burned matches have fallen from the tray and are scattered on the wooden table, leaving a scorched burn mark in the stain.
Ben scrambles to pick up the dirty laundry from the living room floor. “I do,” he says, head pointing toward the floor in shame.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t-”
“It’s fine,” he interrupts, “I’m hardly ever here, anyway. I’d been staying at Shannon’s place up until recently.”
He leads me back to his bedroom which is surprisingly clean. His king size bed takes up a majority of the room. His tall, antique dresser is topped with two photos in a single frame. I’m sure one is his daughter, Elizabeth, and the other is a photo of the two of them together before she passed. He notices me staring at the frame.
“Come here,” he says as he reaches for a silver plate on his dresser. He opens the top drawer and pulls out a handful of wrappers, then sits down on the side of the bed. He doesn’t bother to turn on a lamp, but there is enough light coming from the living room that he can see what he’s doing.
I slide across the bed on my stomach and prop up on my elbows, legs held up with my feet crossed. I watch intently as he rolls our first joint, licking the edge of the wrapper to ensure it stays in place. He grabs a lighter off his nightstand and takes the first toke, then passes to me as he exhales slowly. I roll to my side, stomach facing Ben, as I pass the joint back to him.
“Feels like old times, ” he says as he smiles at me, “I missed us, Nat.” He was the only person that could call me the short version of Natalie without sending me into a rage.
Ben was my best friend. Well, he used to be my best friend; we parted ways before Elizabeth died and I’d been a real shitty friend after her accident. I called him once when she was in the ICU but I never bothered to visit. I did come to the funeral, however, but I stayed in the back unseen. Funerals really creep me out, and I don’t have a pretty “cry face”. I’m so sorry for your loss were the only words I could manage to say on the $0.99 Walmart card I bought a few weeks after her death.
I give him a genuine smile back as I confess, “I missed you, too.”
“You gonna tell me what you want to talk about or are we just gonna sit here and smoke weed?” he asks impatiently. He had never been one to sugar coat a conversation. When I called him three days earlier asking to meet, his first question was, “What have you gotten yourself in to now?” Even with our six month breaks between talks, we still managed to start over right back where we had ended. Twenty years of friendship meant we were family. He was like a brother to me, except that we’d slept together a time or two. So, really, he was like an on-again off-again boyfriend that would have been good with an open relationship. I don’t know, our relationship was weird. I loved him.
I laugh, almost uncontrollably, as I say, “You’re gonna need to be high to hear what I have to say.” My smile fades as I tell him, “It’s pretty fucked up.”