I wake up at one o’clock this afternoon, and it hits me; I don’t have any weed. There’s sweat on my forehead I see in the mirror when I enter the bathroom. I wipe it off and more sweat comes. I didn’t have weed yesterday and I ended up drinking too much. Ended up smoking the keef left in my grinder, looking for a feeling, and never got to it. I almost have enough money now. Made enough last night fishing out loose change from old coats in our basement. Found a five dollar bill in one of the pockets.
I can maybe buy an eighth today. I go to the bank and convert the change into cash. Walk away with sixteen dollars, and now I can definitely buy an eighth but I’ll be out of money for days. I can’t get to my drug dealer’s house. I woke up too late to bike there and back in time for my shift at work which starts at five in the evening. It’s a four hour shift at this coffee place where I just started working.
I’m sitting at the Starbucks in town drinking an iced coffee wondering how I can get to my drug dealer’s house and back before work. I can’t drive because of the DWI. I can’t pay for an Uber. I can’t go another day without smoking. I smoke a cigarette. I drink the iced coffee. I sit on the bench outside. Yesterday while I was sitting on the bench outside drinking an iced coffee, an older woman sat next to me and opened her laptop. Soon she turned to me and asked if I knew where she could find some bud. Funny, I said, looking past her towards the clouds, this is the first day I haven’t smoked in months.
This older woman texts me now. Her name is Jody. She says she’ll take forty dollars-worth if I can get some. I don’t text her back. I dictate the price, not her. She tells me she works on cruise ships all across Europe. Her husband is from Portugal. She is writing an article on yachting. She meets all these rich people. She tells me that yesterday while I’m drinking my iced coffee. Then I finish it and leave, telling her that I’ll get her some, but who needs it more.
I don’t have enough to buy extra. I want it. I call my mom. She’s having lunch with a friend but she can drop me off she says. She knows what’s up. She takes this liquid THC from Colorado that my dad sends her in the mail. But she doesn’t smoke. Smoking gives her anxiety. I say whenever you finish lunch. She says ok.
I finish my iced coffee and walk back home. I don’t live far away from the center of town, only about a ten minute walk. I get home and charge my phone. On my front porch I wait for my mom to get home from lunch.
It seems like an hour goes by. I text my drug dealer and tell him that I’m sorry but I’m going to be late. He doesn’t text me back. My drug dealer knows it’s hard for me to get around these days feeling like I’m stuck. He lives in Moorestown. He just moved to a new place right across from his old place. I say I hope to get there by three. Three passes, and then I text him three-thirty five. I call my mom. She’s fifteen minutes away. Fifteen minutes later she pulls into the driveway. She goes into the house to put something she got for my sister to eat in the fridge. Then goes to the bathroom. Then she comes out and we get in her car.
I keep flipping my sunglasses onto my forehead. It’s sunny but I can’t see clearly in them. I have a headache maybe. My mom is listening to NPR. There’s an old Fresh Air interview with Mr. Rogers playing. Terry Gross sounds young. The tape is from 1984. Mr. Rogers has been dead for years but they just released a documentary.
Isn’t he dead? I say, and my mom says yes, but they just came out with a documentary.
How did they do it? I say, and my mom says they must have collected old recordings.
Mr. Rogers says that according to their research, younger children respond more to scenes of his face while older children respond more to the make-believe of the neighborhood.
Terry Gross asks Mr. Rogers if he ever wishes to go back to being a child.
Yes, he says. Of course. But I wish I could go back knowing what I know now.
My mom smiles.
I give her directions to my drug dealer’s house. Get into this lane right here, I say, and she does. Make a left at the light, I say. Then a right at the next light. You can pull over here.
She keeps the car running parked in front of this Mexican restaurant. I jog across the street as cars are coming. I text my drug dealer that I’m here. He comes outside to meet me. We shake hands standing on the front porch, and he opens the door for me.
We sit in the living room. I like what he’s done with the place, and I told him last time. A guy named Justin is here. He has his money already out on the table. My drug dealer’s boyfriend is grinding up weed and loading a pipe. My drug dealer is talking about the World Cup and how he wants France to win. Bummed that Germany lost. Justin doesn’t know any of the teams but he’s seen all the games. I wonder what I should say but don’t feel like saying anything. My drug dealer’s black satchel bag is right over here by my foot. My drug dealer looks at an IPad that shows live footage of his front door and porch. Someone is here. Where is he? he says. Oh it’s Nick, he says.
He leaves the living room to let Nick in. I take the black satchel bag and look through it pulling out the plastic bags of weed with different names of strains written on them with a Sharpie. I recognize most of them. There’s Jack Frost, Northern Lights, Strawberry Cough, and a few more, and if I could I would buy them all. But I only have sixty-five dollars, and an eighth costs fifty. My drug dealer comes back and talks about how sixteen states have written into their laws that if Roe v. Wade gets overturned then abortion becomes illegal.
Can I get an eighth of Jack Frost, I say after a couple minutes pass. I refuse the bowl Justin passes me. He’s looking at a case of cartridges for vape pens. My mom is waiting outside, I say, and my drug dealer says she can come in. He weighs out the eighth and vac-seals it. I hand him fifty dollars which he counts in the kitchen.
I shake my drug dealer’s hand at the front door, and say that we should hang out soon. How are you doing he asks, and I say that I feel like I want to bang my head against a goddamn wall. But we should hang out soon. If you want to see any of the World Cup games let me know he says.
My mom is reading from her phone when I knock on the window of her car and she lets me in. She drives us home. I take a quick shower in my bathroom, get dressed, and am ready for work in twenty minutes. It’s ninety degrees out, and I can’t wear shorts to work, so I ask my mom if she can drive me to work and she says yes.
She drops me off seven minutes later. I order a macchiato and drink it before my shift. I clock in, and for the entire shift Matt the guy who hired me explains the closing duties and how to perform them. There’s a checklist to follow he shows me. Initial your name when you complete one. For example, cleaning the bathroom. I ask him and he tells me to clean the bathroom. Danny showed me how during my last shift. Danny is my friend from high school who helped me get this job. I’ve worked as a barista before, but they haven’t trained me on this espresso machine yet.
Matt and I are out of the door by eight-thirty. Matt has been working for the coffee place for four years. He’s become the manager now. He’s twenty-five. He lives with his girlfriend right around the corner from the coffee place and drives a Smart car. We bump knuckles and say peace. I walk home.
My mom hasn’t made dinner and she’s not going to she says. But we have leftovers in the fridge and I warm up a plate of pasta in the microwave and melt cheese on top. The sauce is pretty tasteless but my mom bought it from an organic grocery store. I eat half of the pasta watching the end of the Yankees-Red Sox game on TV and then I throw the other half away.
I go upstairs to my room and change my shirt. I put on a black t-shirt. I’m wearing cut-off jean shorts from Urban Outfitters. Drake has a new album out so I download it on my phone. I wait for my phone to charge and then I take it with me. I’m going out. I’m taking my backpack with me with the pipe loaded up in its case. I smoke on the walk to the bar and listen to the Drake album through these Beatz headphones.
The bar is crowded because it is Friday. It’s around eleven-forty-five. I go to this bar a lot. I started going here when the bar where I used to go closed. I started going here a lot. I know the bartenders. A couple of them used to work at the bar where I used to go. Andrew worked there years ago. Keith worked there before it closed last July. It’s been a year since The Irish Mile closed. This bar is called Brewers. It’s farther down on Haddon Ave.
Bartending tonight are Kevin and Janine. I stand behind a guy sitting at the bar and get Janine’s attention. There are no open seats at the bar. I can’t find one. I keep looking. Janine asks me what I want and I say a Miller Lite. I don’t have much money left. Fifteen dollars. Enough for a few Miller Lites if I tip right. One costs $3.25. If I tip well then I’ll only have spent fifteen dollars. I give Janine a five and tell her to keep it.
I’ve been meaning to ask you, Shmiely’s older brother says when I walk up to him, where do you get your weed from?
We’re standing by the pool table. I’m still looking for a seat at the bar but there are none. Shmiely is playing pool. Shmiely also used to work at the bar where I used to go and so I know him. He works here sometimes. I don’t know his brother but have seen him here before.
I get it from the best guy, I tell Shmiely’s brother, and then I ask him what he likes to smoke. I tell him that my drug dealer gets exotic shit and a lot of sativa hybrids all from California. Driven cross-country to Connecticut. Then down to Jersey. Shmiely’s brother introduces himself as Mike. By the way he says.
I’ll take you next time I go, I tell him. I wait for Shmiely to make his shot and then I walk through everyone standing by the pool table. Then I walk past the bathrooms to the back seating area and put my half-finished Miller Lite on the table before the exit of the bar, and I go outside. I smoke a cigarette sitting on the bench around the corner by the side door of the bar. There is a group of young guys. One’s hitting a vape pen.
Those are blowing up here, I say. Everyone I see has one.
This guy is wearing a white shirt with a tattoo on his biceps and a cloud of smoke in front of his face. These things are great, he says.
I prefer flower, I say. But I agree.
The group of guys keep talking to each other and I smoke my cigarette. A blonde haired woman wearing all black walks in front of me. She smiles at me when I look at her. Later in the bar I see her sitting to the left of me. I’m on my third beer now. I’m waiting to play pool. I put my name on the board but they skipped over me when I went to go smoke a cigarette. I also finished the weed that was left in my pipe. I have some still left in my grinder and that’s in my backpack and that’s by my feet. That’s where it is. I look over at this woman. There are two guys sitting to the left of her but she’s not with them. There’s an open seat to the left of them. A whole row of them. The bar has emptied out. It’s around one-thirty. I take the seat.
The woman looks over at me when I sit there. She smiles again. I also see her smiling at one of the guys. There are two and she knows one. He’s with his friend. He says something to her when she gets up to go smoke, and she tells him to watch her drink. He nods. I watch the digital clock underneath the TV hanging. It reads 1:28. I tell myself that when it gets to one-thirty I will go outside to smoke a cigarette. I look over at the clock. I take a sip of my beer. I take another sip. I look over again and then I leave my beer almost finished.
I leave out the back door, but then I walk around the corner to the bench and the side door and the woman is leaning down, looking at her phone, smoking a cigarette and trying to tie her shoe. She ties it. Craig is here. Craig was going to be my partner in pool before they skipped over me. We’ve played together before. He’s always here playing. I tell him it’s hard to get on the table when he tells me he never sees me playing. Craig has a tan. I tell him I like it. He’s been golfing he says. I never figured out what he did after he quit his job as the manager of the restaurant but he’s been coming here more.
I talk to the woman about how hot it is. It’s fucking hot out even now.
Jersey feels like Florida, I say.
We talk about how our nights are going, and I ask her if she’s a bartender. She’s a server over in Philly but she didn’t want to go out alone in Philly so she came here. I ask her if she’s ever been here before. She has. But not often. She lives in Collingswood, which is the town one over. It’s the town three over from mine. My town is called Haddonfield.
This bartender is the worst, she says. He’s a jerk.
She’s talking about Kevin. I tell her that I used to think that, but now I just feel like he’s joking.
He’s a jerk.
She asks me if I come here a lot, and I tell her that this is my fifth night in a row.
She says don’t be a jerk, and I tell her that I’m not joking.
This is my fifth night in a row, I say.
Eventually she finishes her cigarette and goes inside to finish her drink and tells me that she’ll see me inside. I talk to Craig. I mention that I just got a job at this coffee place called Jersey Java. He tells me that he used to work there maybe ten years ago when it was called Three Beans.
I loved that job, he says. It was the best.
Craig explains how being a barista is just about talking to people and making them their drink. It’s the same as bartending. Except instead of alcohol you’re using shots of espresso. You have to be able to multi-task, and with how quick it moves in the peak hours of the morning, you have to memorize people’s drinks.
I want to get into bartending, I say. That’s where the money is.
Sure, Craig says. He tells me about how he used to work the six-to-three shift at Three Beans and would walk away with one-hundred and twenty dollars in tips. Plus the base pay.
But times are different, he says.
This was before the recession, he clarifies.
Craig and I finish smoking our cigarettes. When I first met him here months ago he was rolling his own cigarettes. Now he was smoking American Spirits. He took longer than I did to finish his.
Inside the bar I take my seat but Kevin has taken my beer away even though there was still some left. I buy another one and use my credit card. My balance is unbelievable. The woman is talking to the two guys. I leave to go to the bathroom and I take my drink with me. I come back to the bar and stand next to the woman and drink my drink. Soon she starts talking to me. She tells me that she doesn’t mean to be a jerk but she forgot my name. I tell it to her anyway. Her name is Nicole. It’s an inevitability that she’ll ask me how old I am. Women like to. I say how old do you think I am. She says twenty-two and I’m shaking my head. Still when she says twenty-four.
I’m twenty-eight, I say. How old are you?
That’s good, I say. Only a couple years.
She asks me what I do and I tell her that I just started a job as a barista. She asks me if I went to school. I say yes and grad school.
What are you doing being a barista? she says.
Wasting time, I say.
She’s a server and she makes house calls as a nurse. Smoking cigarettes outside the side door five minutes later she tells me that she used to be engaged. And the guy said he wanted to have kids. But one day he just changed his mind. And I told him it was over she says.
Have you ever smoked marijuana? I say.
Yes, she smokes, she says, and I ask her if she wants to smoke some.
Do you have some? she says.
What do you think’s in here? I say taking my backup off and unzipping it. We’re crouched on our knees, the both of us, resting against the side of the bar smoking cigarettes. The group of young guys occupies the bench. They’re getting ready to leave but they won’t. I wish they would leave. I open up my grinder and load up my pipe. It’s resting in my case. They won’t leave and I know they’ll ask for some. Cloud of smoke in front of their faces.
I wish they would leave, I say.
They’re the worst, Nicole says.
An older woman and man stumbles out of the bar. The woman stops by one of the guys and tells him he’s handsome. You know me, the guy says. My first name begins with Jake and my last name begins with O’Brien.
Who? she says.
Mrs. Madden, it’s Jake O’Brien.
Who? she says.
Mrs. Madden, Nicole says. Oh, Mrs. Madden. Nicole knows her apparently. When she passes by, she says hi.
Be careful, Mrs. Madden leans down and says.
When the place is finally empty, and Kevin leans his head out of the backdoor, I nod to him and lead Nicole to this open field behind the parking lot. I take the first hit, and she only has two hits, and then she says she’s good. I take a couple more. Then I put the pipe back in its case back in my backpack, and Nicole and I walk towards where her bike is locked up by a pole on Haddon Ave. She rode her bike here. She asks me if I’m drunk. She says she’s pretty drunk.
Hope I can ride my bike, she says.
We talk about hanging out sometime, maybe even going on a date, and I give her my number, and she texts me. I tell her the name of my favorite book. She says she’s going to read it but she gets the name of it wrong. We pass the two guys from earlier in the bar lingering by the front door.
Bye, Chris, Nicole says to one of them, and I forget your name she says to the other one.
When we pass them, she tells me there’s a reason you forget someone’s name, and I ask her what her name is again and then tell her I’m joking.
You’re a jerk.
You need to mentor me.
We’re going to whip each other’s asses into shape.
I want to say physically but I don’t.
We hug across her bike, and she tells me that she’ll text me when she gets home.
I walk home smoking the rest of what’s left in my pipe, and then I load it up again. Drake’s album is a classic I say to myself. Nicole never texts me back, and around four in the morning I fall asleep naked in my twin bed thinking about how hot it was today and how I’m going to make it through the next one.
Ian D’Emilia is a graduate of the University of San Francisco. His work has appeared in Coldnoon.