Feeling paternal, I wanted to point out that even if you hold it like a cigarette, the smell gives it away.
I passed her in the deep darkness of the alley winding between the main road and the entrance to my bloc, past a dead space occupied by a flaking playground, cars learning how to park, a stunning array of cats and a couple scraggly dogs who harmonize oddly under a stand of dusty linden trees.
On that spring night the smell of her rebellious little joint mingled with the indescribably glorious aroma of those trees – linden, that late spring smell that triggers poetry and memory. A mother once told me the scent linked her to the peaceful, warm, fullness of a pregnancy. I will never know what exactly that might feel like but I imagined the embodiment and nodded in confirmation.
Linden on a nice evening does shift one somehow. It pulls at personality, would-be-word-smiths ramble on about it, lovers touch. It sets images.
Before I could smell that dirty-sock smell through the linden perfume, I knew she was smoking weed. The hesitant clutch like an immature smoker; but with an added twitch and one too many glances. Like the cigarette had somehow overheated on her guilt.
In the dark she looked a bit of a hipster. Hard to see what she was wearing but that was the impression. Definitely chuck-taylors and skinny tight jeans.
It struck me because pot is not so common around here. Years ago, meeting the couple who’s unborn son was to become my godchild, we spoke about teenage life in the States. The stereotypes. The pot. In Missouri it was easier to get than alcohol. For me anyway. But I always was some kind of nerd with my flute and theater and show choir. Yes, we pretty much all tried it, yes, we were rebellious in our own innocent ways.
But sooner or later the paranoia and Rage Against the Machine faded into Tom Petty as we realized no one was really looking. Good times though. Laughing for no good reason at midnight on a football field, getting my car stuck and skittishly calling my dad to help when we snuck away from a party to get high, and the time I invited J— to smoke on a summer evening. She was hot. Way out of my league. But there was courage in sharing illicitly.
My newfound Transylvanian friends, having grown up in a small town and an era when Big Brother made drugs sound like baby beating, took this in quietly. Wondered what kind of person they had invited in. Graceful segue attempt as the husband mentioned a two-beer-a-day prescription to help with his acne when he was 15. My turn to be incredulous.
The girl in the dark was different. As I passed she straightened up a bit. Defiant, proud, ready to run, ready to be caught… We watched each other in peripheral, each knowing, though she kept holding it like some lumpy kind of off-brand slim.
She slipped her way into the darkness and I slipped mine. I wondered what she had seen in her dimly lit snapshot of me. If anything.
Opening the windows of my flat I peeked into the dark with a curious nose. Considered going back out in search of a drag, conversation and the story it might lead to. Instead I sat down tired and drifted through some old names and far-away Missouri nights over a tumbler of scotch and started writing.