“They were always bad kids,” she says letting smoke escape her lips, carrying the words and tangling them into thinning wavering wisps above our heads.
“That’s exactly right,” I say, taking the bong from her outstretched hands. “They were mischievous.”
I take a long hit, wait to talk until the smoke dances out of my throat, shake my head, knock the bits and pieces in my mind into order, offer the bong back. Pause. Talk.
“But they were cute, you know.” She nods. She knows. “They were just bouncing along, two bad kids bouncing off each other.”
“And they really loved each other,” she cuts in before lighting up.
“Oh yeah, they really did. They were best friends all through high school.” They really really did love each other.
“He’s still bouncing, I think.”
“Oh I totally agree.” We’re taking a breather. A slight, unannounced break welcome by both parties.
“He’s still bouncing, but she’s kinda just…” she pauses, searching. “She’s wobbling. Is that a word? Wobbling?”
I give her a thumbs up and smile, sad but triumphant.
“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” I sing laughing, still sad. “That’s the word. Lilly ’s wobbling and Evan’s still bouncing.”
“He’s still a bad kid though.” She looks serious.
“Definitely. But he’s got his shit together. She can’t even function.”
“Well that’s what he was saying last night. He’s just over her.”
“That’s so sad. Do they see each other at all?”
“Naw, not really. He said she texted him like a month ago and he was gonna buy wine off of her or something and she told him to meet her at the beach, but she didn’t show up so after an hour he was like ‘fuck this’ and now he’s just over her.”
“Well that’s Lilly for you.”
“She didn’t answer her phone or anything. She’s just not who she used to be.”
“Oh totally. No etiquette. No respect. All she cares about are drugs and the people who do them with her.”
“And like, I’m okay with drugs. I do a lot of drugs. But like, that’s too much.”
“There’s a line and she’s crossed it.” Damien Marley croons in the background. There’s no AC. Fans whoosh. It’s too hot.
“When was the last time you saw her?” I ask.
“A few weeks ago. She texted me and asked if she could come over so I was like okay, whatever, and she showed up here with like seven people. And then, she was like can we smoke here, and I was like okay, do what you want to do. But then she was like, do you have any weed and I was like, no. But they had their own weed so they smoked and then they like, left. That was it.”
“Fuck,” I say. She shrugs her shoulders, raises her eyebrows, looks down and purses her lips.
“That’s why I didn’t invite her last night. I don’t want her bringing her kids over here and doing all kinds of crazy shit.”
“I think you made the right call. She doesn’t go anywhere without her kids.”
“True. But I was happy to see Evan.”
“Yeah, he’s a good one.”
We finish the bong and go downstairs.
“What are you watching?” she asks. Her brother lounges on the couch.
“Football.” He stretches out. We stand beside the couch, eyes flickering from the screen to him and back again. “What were you girls doing upstairs?” He smirks. He knows.
“Girl talk.” I smile.
“Right.” He turns back to the television. “I’ll change the channel then.”
We watch tv for a few hours. Her brother leaves. Her mom comes home. The high wears off. We go back upstairs.
“What do you think Lilly’s going to do with her life?” I ask, reaching for the lighter.
“What do you mean?”
“Like, after college. When she can’t do what she does anymore.”
“Like when she grows up?”
“Yeah. When she grows up.”
She wrinkles her brow. I hit. She waits until I’m finished.
“I don’t know.” I pass to her.
“You ever wonder…” I hesitate. “You ever wonder if she’ll make it?”
“She probably won’t graduate.” She hits, milking and pulling until the smoke drifts through her teeth into the room.
“No, not like that. I mean, do you think she might…” I shrug, hoping she knows what is missing. “I mean, it happens. All the time. Like, that’s what everyone’s always talking about with drugs and stuff. Just not really here. But like, in middle school.”
“Addiction? But Mr. Ellington was totally a pothead though.”
We laugh. He was.
“Yeah he was. But I don’t really mean like that. Everyone here smokes weed. But like, you know, the war on drugs and stuff. How they’re always saying it ruins lives. People getting hurt.”
I hit. She scrunches her lips to the side and cocks her head. Deep thought.
“Do you mean like…” She hesitates. Neither of us wants to be the first one to say it. “What do you mean?”
I pass off and our fingers touch for an instant. I have the thought of transferring the idea, never saying it but having her know. I don’t want the word out, tangling with the smoke wisps and fading into the air.
“I mean what if she dies. Overdose. That stuff.”
She puts the bong on the bedside table. I see her considering it, deciding her response more than her actual opinion. It’s getting dark outside the window. Crickets chirp. Cars rumble down the road.
“You know what’s weird?” She asks.
“We have a lot of friends who do a lot of drugs, right?”
“And here, it’s kinda not a big deal.”
“Compared to other places, yeah.”
“And people talk about it all the time.”
“All the time.”
“But I haven’t heard the word overdose since middle school.”
“It’s like, drugs are normal.”
“Naw, it’s true though. It’s like a reactionary normalization.” I nod, impressed with myself. She laughs.
“Listen, so everyone was told back in the day that drugs are the devil’s work. And if you do them, you’ll get addicted and ruin your life and die and stuff, right?”
“I guess.” I sit up and use my hands, motioning with the sentences. Conducting the words through the atmosphere.
“Yeah, that’s what they were told. But then, a bunch of them did it anyway and were like, this is not that bad. Because for the most part it wasn’t. Weed is not a bad drug. It’s pretty awesome.” I gesture toward the bong and shrug my shoulders.
“I love me some weed.” She nods, agreeing.
“So then a couple of these kids, they did some other stuff. Some garden variety shrooms and some acid and some coke and maybe a little MDMA, before Molly was even a thing.”
“And again they were like, this shit’s not so bad.”
“I love me some Molly.”
“Exactly. But the difference is respect.”
“Yeah. You respect the drug and you respect yourself. You don’t do it to…” I smile and put on a stupid voice. “Get fucked up, man.” She laughs.
“Yeah I know. But for real though. It’s an experience. It’s a journey. It’s fun. It’s like going to the beach. Something you do to have a good time. Not to come home and brag about how much you go to the beach. You do it for you. Not because you need to or you want to brag.”
“Yeah, I got you.” A dog barks in the distance. The summer winds pass through her window, smelling like the ocean and the mountains.
“So anyway, these guys were like us.”
“Wait, what guys?”
“The guys back in the day.”
“I’m getting to my point. I swear. Don’t get bored.”
“No, I’m not bored.” She shakes her head. “Not at all.”
“Okay. I’m getting to my point. Dudes back in the day were like us. Respect and shit. But, because they did it the way we do, they decided all the anti-drug people were stupid. So they reacted against that by making it normal.”
“That’s exactly what happened.”
“Right. Minus some details, but that’s the gist. So anyway, because they cut out the negative language, you get these kids coming along like Lilly who don’t respect the drugs.”
“No self respect at all.”
“No respect for anything. All they want to do is get fucked up, man. But because they grew up here where the negative language isn’t a thing, they don’t really know that overdosing and addiction and those buzzwords were created because they’re reality. They think it’s just part of the anti-drug conservative bullshit.”
“Exactly. Danger zone. So kids like Lilly who might have problems anywhere, growing up here, can’t handle it.”
“Hard to tell when things are right or wrong.”
“And then Evan .” She lays back and positions her head on the backboard. “Evan didn’t know when he started, but he found out.”
“So really, actually, it was Evan who changed. Not Lilly. She just escalated.”
I yawn. “Guess so, actually.”
“But they don’t fall down.”
“Not yet, anyway.”
“Yeah.” We pause. “I’m calling it a night. I’m tired.”
We move to the sofas downstairs and tuck ourselves into the pillow folds. It’s too hot for blankets. New Hampshire is quiet tonight. Quiet and peaceful. The silence extends.
“Hey.” I roll over to see if she’s awake. It’s too dark to make out anything but general shapes. She’s just a lump in the room.
“Yeah?” She’s almost asleep. Tomorrow, she won’t remember what I say now.
“Do you ever feel like you’re just waiting.”
“For what?” She mumbles, half in dream.
“For Lilly to fall. She’d be the first of our friends from high school, but I feel like she’s teetering on the edge.” I pause. “Maybe we should do something.”
“She makes her own life.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Just feels like I’m waiting for the phone call. And maybe I’ll regret doing nothing.” Silence. I wonder if she’s sleeping, but then out of the darkness she sniffs.
“She makes her own life.”
“Yeah. Can’t argue with that.” I roll back over, back into the pillow folds. “Good night.” I close my eyes.