BlowMature

Short Story

  I stood up at the poor excuse for a podium at the front of the small, stuffy room. It was kind of dark, lighted by a few harsh fluorescent lights. It smelled ruthlessly of coffee, sweat, and cigarette smoke. I hated the way everyone in the semi-circle was staring intently at my lips, just waiting for me to say “Hi. My name is Jack and I am emotionally distressed”. Fat chance.

  I was never the type to admit to my issues, and God I had a lot of them.

  I pushed back the stray strands of tangled, black hair that had fallen into my eyes before digging out a joint that I’d rolled myself the night before.

    Here I was with a bunch of people that didn’t know me, yet were waiting to hug me and cry while we talk about our miserable lives. I needed that joint bad.

  “You can’t smoke that in here,” Mr. Sorecy, the group therapist said to me as I lit it up.

  I raised my eyebrows at him. Him telling me I couldn’t only made me want it more. I put it to my lips, taking a deep drag, and then blew the mesmerizing smoke in his direction.

  “Hi. My name is Jack and I think I’ve gone crazy,” I grinned.

  “Hi, Jack,” the all answered in unison.

 

The Night Before

  I pulled the comb through my wet, tangled hair. No matter what I did to it, it always went right back to being tangled, not that I minded much. It was just another thing to add to the list.

  It was Wednesday night, so Louis would be working my shift at The Dolton, the hotel where I worked as a bellboy. Tonight, I would be going to see Crystal Craving, my favorite band in the history of…ever! I bought the $32 ticket as soon as I heard they were performing. I could have waited, though. It’s not like I was afraid they’d be sold out or anything. Their songs were the most under-appreciated masterpieces of all time.

   I walked out to my beat-up, broken-down brown lemon of a car, praying it would get me to the concert that was being held at Millhouse’s, the rinky-dink bar on Seventy-third Street. I kissed the hood of the car for good luck. “Come on, kitten. Get me there,” I pleaded before turning on the engine. She sailed smoothly until she hit a pothole and broke down five blocks away from my destination.

  “Dammit…” I cursed. Thank goodness I was smart enough to drive close to the sidewalk just in case. Even better, I didn’t get pulled over. I sometimes wondered if it was better to just have no car at all than a car that broke down every chance it got.

  I ran the five blocks despite my smoker’s lungs and rushed through the doors, joining the crowd as they cheered on the band onstage. I pushed my way to the front, careful to avoid the moshpits that had already been formed by the misfit assholes such as myself. They were singing the first song they’d ever performed. I knew for a fact, because I was there the first time they performed.

Beneath my cold, broken ghost

I hope that you’ll see me

Look past the real, unreal cloak

And view vulnerability

  I was still pushing, desperately trying to get through the head-bangers and wannabes, but there was hardly any space to get through.

Whatever our souls are made of

Yours and mine are the same

Your eyes pierce through unknowingly

Do you even know my name?

 

  I barely heard the song through my desperation.

If only you’d reach out your hand;

Just cross that blurry line

You’re broken just as I am

You hide cornered in my mind

 

  I admitted defeat, deciding I’d never get to the stage when the weirdest, yet luckiest thing ever happened. I was jumping and head-banging with the rest of the fans when I instinctively stuck out my arms to catch a girl that was falling from above me. I didn’t even see where she came from, but from the way I saw it, it looked like she was falling from a bright light.

  Heaven, maybe?

  Merci,” she grinned at me. She had chin-length brown hair and freckled brown skin, and was clad in army-fatigue baggy cargos and a white turtleneck with “Boo!” written on the front in purple.

  “You’re, um, wel—” I never got to finish my statement, because she grabbed my face and kissed me while she was still in my arms. Her breath tasted like marijuana, and surely enough, as we pulled apart, she blew a cloud of smoke right into my mouth. Was she holding that in the entire time? Even more, would it be totally cheesy if I said that, at that moment, I was getting high off of her? A stranger?

Won’t you let me free you?

And free me in return

From the grasp you have on my thoughts

Or merely let me burn…

 

  Little Marijuana-Smoke-Girl hopped out of my arms and eased to the front easily. I tried to follow her, but the crowd wouldn’t part. Just as the thought that I’d never see her again passed through my mind, her thin arm pulled me up to the front with her

Beneath my cold, broken ghost,

I hope that you’ll see me,

Look past the real, unreal cloak,

And view vulnerability…

 

  We were right up on the stage as they finished the first song, switching to a slower song.

 

My beautiful sky

You hold the stars

You hold the moon

You light the dark path I travel

 

  Danse avec moi?” she said to me, but I had no clue what she was talking about.

  “I’M SORRY, BUT I ONLY…um…PARLE ANGLAIS,” I said loud and slowly. Apparently, the girl was French, but my French only went as far as the basics.

  She giggled and pulled me to her, swaying.

I tell you all of my secrets

My hopes, dreams, and fears

And you tell not a soul

You don’t even respond

 

  My favorite band was on stage and I didn’t care. I didn’t even mind the $32 I’d paid for the ticket. All I could think about was how her hair smelled grapey.

  “Let’s leave,” I whispered into her ear.

  “Mais…Crystal Craving,” she said in an accent. Apparently, she could understand me. Good to know.

  I nuzzled my head into her grape-smelling hair. “Let’s leave,” I repeated, pulling her mouth to mine. Just as I was about to kiss her, she smiled, grabbed my hand, and ran out of the door.

  We walked a block, sharing a joint. I watched as she smoked it like a pro. I also noticed that she held in the smoke until the very last minute, and then blew it in the air, or sometimes in my direction.

  It was about one o’clock in the morning, so no one saw our “illegal activity”. They didn’t even smell our “illegal substances”. How can something that grows from the ground be marked as an illegal substance?

  I tried to mimic her smoking technique, but when I tried, the smoke got to me. I looked like a total dork almost coughing out my left lung in front of a girl I’d just met after trying to do something she did with ease.

  She didn’t laugh. She didn’t even stop to check on me. She just took the joint from my hand and kept walking, waiting for me to catch up…or maybe she was just walking away with my joint…

  When I finally stopped choking and went after her, she’d finished it and was turning into Poppa’s Diner. We sat in one of the cracked leather booths as we waited for one of the big-haired waitresses to come wait on us.

  “What’s your name?” I asked her.

  She chuckled. “Name,” she said.

  I smiled. “Cut the crap. I know you understand English. What’s your name?” I asked.

  “I…uh…no understand Anglais,” she said with an accent and a ditzy smile.

  “Okay, okay. But I have to call you something,” I told her. “How about…Smokey?”

  She just looked at me with a face that said “I don’t know what you’re talking about”.

  Just then, a waitress whose nametag said “Judy” walked over to our table. “What can I get for you two?”

  I smiled. “I’ll have a slice of apple pie and a chocolate shake,” I said. Just as Smokey was about to open her mouth to order, she closed it and smiled. “She doesn’t speak English, so I’ll order for her. She’ll have Poppa’s liver-and-onions surprise with extra hot sauce and the strongest whiskey you guys carry.”

  It may seem to you as though I was punishing her for not speaking English, but I wasn’t. The plan was to study her face and see if she reacted. If she did, she was obviously lying about not understanding English; if she didn’t…well…I’d be a complete ass.

  Judy looked at me, then over at Smokey before she shook her head (as most people do when they smell marijuana smoke on “young people”) and wrote down the order to go put it in.

  Judy came back within the next half hour with our food and drinks and walked away quickly. I looked over at Smokey, watching intensely as she switched our plates.

  She looked up at me. “J’aime tarte aux pommes,” she said. I didn’t know what the hell she’d just said, but I knew I wasn’t getting my hands on that apple pie. I also knew I wasn’t eating that liver-and-onions crap. Therefore, I sat there quietly drinking my chocolate milkshake while some girl that didn’t speak English ate my apple pie.

  The more I looked at her, the smaller she seemed. Her wrists were so skinny that her skin seemed almost translucent in the harsh lighting, and her clothes hung off of her tiny body as if she were playing dress-up.

  She looked up at me after she’d eaten a small fraction of the pie. “Fini!” she exclaimed with a big smile that didn’t quite meet her eyes.

  I took a sip of my milkshake as I winked at her. She smiled and grabbed her mug of whiskey. I raised my eyebrows. “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you!”

  She began to drink as she winked at me the exact same way I did with her, then she downed the entire mug.

 

  We began to walk back in the direction of my car as we smoked another joint. I tried, once again to hold the smoke in my mouth like she did, but failed, sending me into another coughing fit. She just grabbed the joint from my hand and kept walking. After that, I just let her have the rest.

  We turned the corner where my car was more or less parked. “Wait. This is my car,” I said to her, holding out my hand to make the “stop” gesture. I put my key in the door, jiggled the handle twice, and opened the door. “You’re going to have to slide in from my side. The other door doesn’t open.”

  She just stood there and cocked her head to the side until I motioned her in. I stuck the key in the ignition and turned. No go. I tried again. No go. “Dammit!” I got out to look under the hood. The problem was that I had no clue what I was looking at.

  Smokey got out of the car and slid her body between mine and the car. After a few seconds, she got in the car and turned the key. Surprisingly, the ignition came on.

  By then, I was in love…

  She motioned for me to get in the passenger’s seat, turned the radio on, and drove off. For a while, I just stared at her freckles. Then, we stopped. I didn’t even notice until she got out of the car. I was going to get out, but she closed the door and locked it from the outside. Apparently, I was supposed to stay in the car.

  “Hey. You lookin’ for a good time, suga?” a hooker asked me as she tapped my window.

  “Um…no, but…did you by any chance see a small girl with chin-length brown hair, soft brown skin, and freckles? She’s wearing a white turtleneck with ‘Boo!’ written on it and army-print pants,” I asked the dirty woman. Where the hell were we?

  “Time is money, honey,” she said as she rolled her eyes and walked away.

  “Crap,” I said to myself before I opened the door. Just as I stuck my leg out, Smokey appeared, holding my keys and a paper bag in one hand. I got back in, watched as she stuck the bag in the glove compartment, and decided it was best not to ask. She couldn’t answer anyways, seeing as though she didn’t speak English.

 

  We drove and drove until we came to what seemed to be an empty, abandoned back-road. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. For blocks and blocks, there were buildings with broken windows, no doors, and graffiti everywhere. It looked like it could have actually been something in the past. Now, it just looked like a place that would eventually get torn down to make way for a large resort of some sort.

  We parked in front of an old hotel. The windows had been replaced by gray trash bags—gray like everything else was in sight. Smokey got out of the car—I didn’t want to, so instead, I hoped she’d close the door. Instead, she reached her frail hand in to grab the paper bag and to help me out of the car.

  The entire street smelled bad. It was hard to pinpoint the actual odor, but I just kept thinking that it smelled like disappointment and abandonment… What did disappointment and abandonment smell like? It smelled just like this street smelled—how it looked—how it sounded—like gray negativity.

  Dépêche-toi,” she said to me. I had no clue what that meant, so I just stood there, hoping it meant “stay there”. Unfortunately, she waved me towards her. Like an idiot, I followed the foreign addict with the mysterious paper bag into the abandoned hotel. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was the thrill—maybe it was the freckles.

  She put a key in the door (which was sort of ironic to me, seeing as though the building had plastic bags as windows). We walked in and it looked just like the lobby of any hotel with a lot more dust and cobwebs.

  We walked up three flights of stairs until we finally opened a door leading to a hall of hotel rooms. With the passing of each door, I realized that she wasn’t the only one living there. There were people moaning and yelling and laughing and crying and speaking everywhere. You’d think with some much going on in each room, the hall would be noisy, but it wasn’t—it was completely silent. You couldn’t hear the noise until you walked past the specific room the sound was coming from.

  We stopped in front of room 309. She opened the door and a black cat ran out. Smokey turned in the direction that the cat ran. “Shampoo! Shampoo!” she called after the cat. It didn’t return, but she didn’t run after it either.

  Smokey opened the door. It was like no hotel room I’d ever seen. The mattress was on the floor, covered in stained and faded sheets and a ratty blanket. The windows, which were not broken like the ones in the lobby, were covered by a thick black comforter.

  She walked over and sat cross-legged atop the filthy mattress. I did the same. She opened the bag and pulled out a baggie of white powder. How could she afford this stuff when she lived the way she did? I didn’t think I wanted to know.

  She searched under the sheet and pulled out a wooden board and a razor blade. I was mesmerized by the way she carefully put the powder on the wooden board, cut the line, and sniffed it, somehow making it seem completely graceful, just like everything else I’d seen her do, even the way she fell into my arms.

  She cut another line. This one was meant for me. I’d never done anything more than marijuana. I had no experience and no clue how it would feel, but I did anyways.

  It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Those gray walls became welcoming and comforting. That bed was like a cloud beneath me. That girl was like an angel giving me fizzy touches and electric kisses.

  Her body seemed to melt into mine, fitting although she was so small. It was like nothing in the world mattered. I could feel her stubby fingers on my scalp as she intertwined them with my hair. I felt her sharp bones as her body covered mine. She was an artist—I was her artwork.

 

  I woke up naked and sweaty with an equally naked and sweaty girl next to me.

  She opened her eyes. “Good morning,” she said to me. What happened to her French?

  “Don’t you mean bonjour?” I asked her.

  She giggled. “I speak English.” She got up, stretching and yawning as she walked towards the window. “I studied French for four years—in high school, not France.”

  Then, the most amazing thing happened—she took down the comforter, letting the sunlight in. I looked at her for the first time in the light. She wasn’t beautiful.

  I recalled seeing a glimpse of what she truly was in the diner when I’d seen her thin wrists. It was like seeing a single letter isolated from an entire page of poetry.

  She stood in the sunlight, no longer speaking French. I saw her arms, covered in self-inflicted wounds and needle scars. I saw her insecurities get the best of her in the form of anorexia. I saw the way her childish eyes were hidden behind more than just thick eyeliner and heavy mascara—they were limited by the world she’d built for herself—a world where it was always dark, so she was always beautiful. She’d used lies and drugs and who-knows-what else to build that world, but in the end, there was no way that she could run from the truth—she’d made herself blend in with the room she lived in. It was such good camouflage. They were both beautiful with drugs and dim lighting.

  “What are you staring at?” she asked, suddenly aware that I hadn’t taken my eyes off of her. “You’ve never seen a bare woman before?”

  “No,” I answered truthfully. Yes, I’d seen naked women before, but never a bare woman—a real, stripped-bare-to-the-truth woman. She wasn’t beautiful—she was more than that. In that moment, it didn’t matter if she was beautiful or not—she was bare.

  She averted her eyes away from mine and slipped on the clothes she’d had on last night. Only then did I realize how silly she looked in the middle of summer. “I’m going to find my cat,” she said to me as she left out the door.

  “Shampoo! Shampoo, where are you?” I heard her calling out in the halls. I waited until I could no longer hear her voice, then got dressed and left.

 

 

  I’d reached my car, ready to leave, when I saw Smokey. She was sitting on the hood of my car, stroking her cat, and smoking a joint.

  “Sneaking out after I go to find my cat is so rude. Picture this. I’d open my door, happy I’d found my cat, realize you left, and then not give a shit if my cat was there or not. I’d probably leave the door open, and then Shampoo would run out again. That’s depressing,” she said in a sarcastic, nonchalant manner. She sat the cat on the hood of my car and lay down on my windshield, draping a free arm over her cat.

  I walked over to my car, took the joint from her hand and inhaled. I held it in, doing my best not to choke. (I still have no idea how she does that trick with the smoke.) I lay next to her, careful not to sit on her cat, and kissed her quickly. As we pulled apart, I blew smoke her way.

  “I was just going to find some apple pie,” I said to her. She smiled.

 

That Night

 

  I finally left the hotel after she’d fallen asleep. I left her a note so she wouldn’t worry and lose her cat again. I walked down the street for fresh air. Somewhere after where I’d stopped for a coke and slice of pizza, I came across a community center. “Group Therapy Tonight—Free Food,” the sign outside read. I went inside.

  I stood up at the poor excuse for a podium at the front of the small, stuffy room. It was kind of dark, lighted by a few harsh fluorescent lights. It smelled ruthlessly of coffee, sweat, and cigarette smoke. I hated the way that everyone in the semi-circle was staring intently at my lips, just waiting for me to say “Hi. My name is Jack and I am emotionally distressed”. Fat chance.

  I was never the type to admit to my issues.

  I pushed back the stray strands of tangled, black hair that had fallen into my eyes before digging out a joint that I’d rolled myself the night before. I needed it.

  Here I was with a bunch of people that didn’t know me, yet were waiting to hug me and cry while we talk about our miserable lives. I needed that joint bad.

  “You can’t smoke that in here,” Mr. Sorecy, the group therapist said to me as I lit it up.

  I raised my eyebrows at him. Him telling me I couldn’t only made me want it more. I put it to my lips, taking a deep drag, and then blew the mesmerizing smoke in his direction.

  “Hi. My name is Jack and I think I’ve gone crazy,” I grinned.

  “Hi, Jack,” the all answered in unison.

  “So, tell us, Jack. Why do you believe you’ve gone crazy?” Mr. Sorecy asked.

  “I feel as if I’m hell-bent on self-destruction,” I said.

  “Oh, really? Elaborate,” he answered.

  “I smoke marijuana, even though it apparently kills brain cells.”

  “And how does that make you—”

  “I spend a big chunk of what I make at my crumby job on the afore-mentioned marijuana, and concerts in rinky-dink bars.”

  “So—”

  “And I met this girl less than twenty-four hours ago, and I already know I’m going to let her ruin my life,” I finished.

  “How so?” Mr. Sorecy asked.

  “I’m in love with her.”

  “In less than twenty four hours?” he asked. I nodded. “I highly doubt that it’s love, but it hardly sounds like a negative thing.”

  “The girl is an addict with an eating disorder,” I smiled.

  There was a pause. “So, Jack, tell me this: what would you like to get out of this session?” Mr. Sorecy asked after a while.

  I stepped away from the podium and walked towards where the table in the back was with all the free sweets. I gave the table the once-over while everyone watched me. I found what I was looking for.

  “Here it is,” I said.

  “Here what is, Jack?” Mr. Sorecy asked.

  “The sign outside said ‘free snacks’. I knew it was a long-shot, but I took that chance anyways and here it is,” I said. I picked up the aluminum tin. “Apple pie.”

  With that, I left, pie in hand, to return to the Motel 6. There, I’d finally get to eat my apple pie before I returned to getting high off of the truth.

 

The End

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