no tip of this week this week because we’ve got a sooooper long chapter to read. Let’s get right into it…
Alex dragged his tongue across the fold in the cigar paper to seal it, then passed the blunt to Leroy. “Fire that bitch up,” he said. Leroy sparked it, took a deep puff, and then returned it to Alex, the side-smoke from the lit end painting a wispy trail. The heel of Alex’s foot bounced up and down on the floor. He chomped his gum, ignoring the strain in his jaw.
“No, puff, puff, and then give,” Alex told him. “Hit it twice and then pass it. Makes the cherry not burn up so fast.”
“No, dog,” Leroy said, “maybe in a big group of people, but it’s just you and me. It ain’t gonna burn too fast. But, shit, I’ll hit this again if you want me to.”
They both chuckled, and Leroy tapped the blunt in the ashtray on the coffee table. The coffee table was in the living room of Alex’s new studio apartment in lower-downtown Denver, the trendiest part of town. Small but stylish, with new appliances, new paint, contemporary furniture and a balcony with a stunning view of the mountains.
“Pretty soon they’ll legalize this shit, and we won’t have to run around to get it anymore. Can you imagine that? Walking into 7-11 and buying a pack of joints instead of Camels?”
“It’ll never happen,” Alex said. “Not as long as big tobacco and the oil and alcohol lobbies have anything to do with it. If it was legal and hemp could be mass-produced, we’d shut down all their industries. Nobody would buy cigarettes or alcohol, and cars would run on hemp seed oil instead of gas. But that’s what they don’t want you to know. Like everything, it’s all about oil.”
“Shit, no more cigarettes? Well, I guess as long as they still make Phillies, I wouldn’t care.”
When Alex first met Leroy and Malcolm at Miguel’s house, Alex had been impressed that Brian had non-white friends. Alex sought out Leroy to befriend him, but now that Alex had known Leroy for some time, Alex lamented that the guy lacked the smarts to carry on a meaningful conversation. Alex had a low pain threshold when it came to stupid people.
“I ever tell you how much I like your place?” Leroy said. “How you afford this motherfucker?”
“By the skin of my teeth,” Alex said. A lie, as his parents mostly paid for it, but Leroy did not need to know that. Alex examined the blunt because it had started to burn quicker on one edge, so he licked his finger and rubbed it below the fast-burning side in an attempt to even it. “But I’m not going to be here much longer. I’m moving back to Boulder.”
“Ahh, shit. Alex moving up with the hippies. Gonna be drowning in patchouli pussy soon.”
“Yeah, going back to CU. I’m moving after Christmas.”
“Well, if you major in blunt-rolling, you might need some after-school classes and shit.” Leroy pointed at the shoddy blunt, which was slightly curved and still burning faster on one side. Alex snickered and ground it into the ashtray, putting the hideous beast out of its misery. He stood up, went the kitchen and opened the freezer, and returned to Leroy with a frosted glass.
“Check this out. I just learned how to do this.” Alex carried the glass back to the living room and set it on the table. From under the table, he produced a joint and straw, then he lit the joint and stuck it into the straw. He wrapped his lips around the straw, and then stuck it into the glass and began to gingerly blow out through the straw. Smoke crept out and stuck to the bottom of the glass, forming a thick white settlement.
“What the hell is that?” Leroy said.
Alex took the straw out of his mouth and passed the glass to Leroy. “Milkshake,” he said, “you drink it. Hit it, quick.”
Leroy tilted his head back, inhaling the contents. His eyes bulged and in a few seconds, he lets out a humongous plume of smoke. “Holy shit, that’s fucking crazy.”
“Milkshakes are the bomb.” Alex prepared one for himself.
Leroy, regaining his composure after that monstrous hit, said, “why you moving to Boulder?”
“It’s just time to go back,” Alex shrugged. “I’m tired of running around with nothing to do. Besides, Boulder bitches are way hotter than these bar chicks cruising LoDo. And most of the time they’re married. What’s up with that?”
“I feel you. You moving in with Wiles and them up there?”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.” Alex drank his own milkshake hit, held it until his temples throbbed, then exhaled. “Maybe get up there this weekend and look at some apartments. Something small, nice, maybe on the Hill. There are some real nice two-bedrooms up north of town. Something ballin’, though, for sure. My house is going to be the party spot.”
“Boulder’s expensive as fuck.”
“I’m not too worried about money. I just want a nice place. I mean, if you got a pimp apartment, all the chicks want to party there. It pays off.” Alex glanced at the wall clock. “Aww shit, I gotta go meet somebody.”
Alex opened a drawer under the coffee table and took out a baggie of yellow powder. He shoved it in his pocket, then flipped the TV remote control to Leroy and left the apartment.
Alex drove his pristine Jeep CJ-7 through the streets of Denver on the way to the bar. He had owned the car for about a year, and although it had not quite turned out to be the pussy wagon he hoped, he believed that would change once he returned to Boulder. Girls like Jeeps. They just can’t resist. He imagined loading up the back with loose girls and a cooler of imported beer, screaming up Canyon road towards nearby Nederland for weekends of debauchery.
He parked in the bar’s lot, popped out his stereo deck faceplate, and stuck it in his pocket. No sense being careless in this neighborhood. Rodney’s black Chevy was already sitting on the adjacent street, which pleased Alex because he hated waiting. A quick in and out would be best since bong hits waited for him at home.
He opened the door and stepped inside the bar. As usual, almost empty, one reason he frequently chose this place to conduct business. The other reason was that they never carded him, since he would not be twenty one until next March. However, that did not matter tonight because he came here for reasons other than alcohol.
As he scanned the room for Rodney, the person sitting at the bar spun on his chair, and like a smack across the face, turned out it was Brian. Brian Connelly, a person he had not seen in years, just randomly sitting at the bar Alex just happened to walk into this evening. Alex did a double take, then raised his fist for a bump, and Brian obliged.
“Brian goddamn Connelly. You cut all your hair off. How the hell are you?”
Brian ran a hand through his shortish mop of hair. “Yeah, I did. I’m good, Alex, I’m good. Long time no see.”
“No shit,” Alex said. “Long fucking time. What have you been up to? Want to get a table? Buy me a beer. I’ll go get us a table.”
Alex spied Rodney in the corner, and walked towards him before Brian could respond. Alex dipped his hand into his own pocket. He leaned in towards Rodney as if he had whispered something, withdrew his hand, and pushed a little baggie into Rodney’s jacket pocket. Rodney slipped some cash into Alex’s hand, which Alex stuffed into his back pocket. Alex nodded at him. Deal completed. Alex scanned the room to see if anyone had observed the transaction, and he noted Brian standing at the bar. Brian was waiting for the bartender to fill their mugs, but his eyes stayed locked on Alex. Brian diverted his eyes when he noticed Alex watching. Alex did not care; no concern of his what Brian had witnessed. Alex went to a back table and awaited his old friend.
A couple minutes later, Brian brought two beers to the table and set one down in front of Alex. Alex picked it up and drained half in one loud gulp.
“Thirsty?” Brian said.
Alex ignored this. “I can’t get over that short hair. But, wow, right? I haven’t seen you in…”
“What happened to you? I heard you were dropping out of school, but one day you were there, and then you were just gone.”
“Bombed my Social Psych final,” Brian said. “Flunked that class and Algebra, and lost my financial aid. Moved back in with my parents, you know, the same old story.”
“Know your drop dates, right?” Alex said.
“I guess I hadn’t learned that lesson, or I needed to learn it again. I just couldn’t keep my focus. After Jimmy, and, you know, Heather, everything changed.”
You know, Heather. I was wondering if he would bring that up. Alex declined to comment. “Your brother never came back?”
“No, he didn’t. We still haven’t heard from him. I’m pretty sure I know where he is, but it’s obvious that he just doesn’t want to have anything to do with us anymore.”
“That sucks, dude,” Alex said as he belched. “But that’s life, eh? It’s like one minute you’re sitting in your cubicle, the next minute some towelhead is driving a plane into your office lobby.”
Brian scowled, but Alex smiled and drummed his fingers on the table. Alex had thought of this remark a couple days before and had been seeking a way to slip it into conversation. Brian glanced at the bar. “The RA they replaced you with was a total cock-smoker,” Alex said.
“Who was it?”
“Charles something. I don’t know. All about the rules. Real jerk-off; always up in my shit. Caught me smoking weed couple times in my room,” Alex said.
“Yeah, I know who you’re talking about. He lived across the hall from me, freshman year. That guy was always pretty hardcore, asking me to turn my music down all the time.”
“Douchebag,” Alex said.
“What have you been doing?”
“Oh, you know, this and that,” Alex said as he looked everywhere but directly at Brian. “Bumming around, mostly. Living down here in Denver.”
“Not still in school, then.”
“No, me and school weren’t getting along too well. Kinda got in the way of some other projects I had going on. I got tired of the people, and tired of the drama. All that vegan tree-hugger crap going on in Boulder; protesting this and that, all the political movements and stuff.” Alex did not feel the need to point out that multiple disciplinary infractions got him suspended from school.
“You living with your parents?”
“I did at first. Just for a short minute,” Alex said. “I mean, they weren’t too happy about me leaving school, so they were all hot for me to get a job and live with them, but I was having none of that.”
“After a taste of freedom, feels like defeat. I get it,” Brian said.
Alex slapped the table. “Right? Exactly. But then I got arrested on some lame-ass possession charge in Arvada. Just a misdemeanor, but my parents freaked the fuck out about it. Made me move back in or they wouldn’t pay for a lawyer… that whole bit. Trust me, it didn’t go too well.”
“They wanted me to have a curfew, family dinner every night, and all that shit. Like I’m still in high school or something. After the court stuff, I moved out, and I was a lot happier. I think they were too.” Alex laughed. Brian glanced at the bar again. “Why you keep looking over there?” Alex said.
“Oh, it’s nothing. There’s this bartender girl, I was going to ask her out, but I think she’s got the night off.”
“Me and Wiles banged these two twins a couple weeks ago. Not together, you know, but on the same night.”
“Hanging out with Wiles a lot?” Brian said.
Alex nodded, and he could tell Brian did not like this news.
“You still hooked up with Wiles?” Alex said.
Brian nodded, but with an unpleasant tint to his expression. “Yeah, you could say that. Doesn’t matter. So, did you get probation, or community service?”
“Six months on paper, and some mandatory AA meetings. Can you believe that? Like I’m a fucking alcoholic. AA meetings. I went to one, got my sheet signed. It was all a joke. Just a bunch of losers sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, talking about how they can’t drink anymore. I forged all the rest of those signatures, kept my nose clean, and six months later, I was good to go. Do you know the secret to forging a signature?”
“No,” Brian said.
“It’s pretty easy. You look at the name upside down and study it like a series of lines instead of actual letters. Loops and squiggles and shit. Then you just basically copy it, instead of trying to recreate a real signature. Way easier.”
Brian looked impressed.
An awkward silence ensued, so Alex cleared his throat, and raising the glass of beer to his lips, he spoke into the glass. “What about Heather? You ever talk to her?”
Brian shook his head. “No, not in a while. But I still hear stuff about her. Sounds like she’s just kinda doing her thing, partying all the time, not giving a crap.”
“Yeah, that’s what I hear too.” Alex chewed his lip for a few seconds, mulling over what to say next. Even though it happened years ago, he did sleep with the guy’s girlfriend, so he thought that he should say something. “I didn’t want it to go down the way it did. Between me and her, I mean. I didn’t want any of that shit to happen.”
Brian templed his fingers in front of his face, and then said, “it’s okay. I let all that go a long time ago because it’s pretty clear that she only gives a crap about herself. But you found that out for yourself, right?”
Is he messing with me? Should I answer him or ignore it?
He had tried to date Heather for a while, but it devolved into a complete disaster. All they did was get drunk and fuck, and if they were not drinking or fucking, Heather was yelling at him or crying about this stupid thing or that. Alex could not endure it for long, and the whole affair ended in a ball of flames.
“What can I say, dude? She’s a crazy bitch. Cause and effect shit.”
Brian spread a meek smile, even though Alex knew that Brian did not like the tenor of this statement. “I don’t know if I’d see it like that… so cut and dried, but I take your point. She’s not my problem anymore,” Brian said. “Maybe that’s harsh, but I’ve been there and I can’t do it anymore. I can only take so much.”
“No, I totally hear you. Carpe Diem… that’s not the right phrase, but, whatever, you know what I mean. Have you been doing community college and shit like that?”
“A little. I’ve taken a couple classes each semester at Front Range. But that’s not going to matter now that I’m back at CU for the spring.”
Alex lowered his beer to the table too quickly, causing a minor splash. “You’re going back? No fucking way. Me too!”
“Well, how about that?” Brian said. “What made you decide to go back now? Ready for more vegan tree-hugger crap?”
“Oh, you know, had the big sit-down come-to-Jesus with mom and dad; they’re going to pay for everything. Not a bad deal. I’m ready to go play with the coeds again.” Alex also did not feel the need to mention that his suspension had been lifted. “You got a place to live yet?”
“I was going to go up this weekend and look at places.”
Alex slapped the table. “Jesus titty-fucking Christ, this is some karmic shit right here. I’m going up this weekend too. We should totally get a place together. I have a couple I checked out online that are really nice. There’s a luxury loft on Pearl Street that’s just the pimp shit: fully furnished, underground parking, private gym and all that.”
“I don’t want anything expensive,” Brian said. “I’ve got a limited budget. Those financial aid people are like the mob.”
“Just wait ‘til you see it. This place is unreal. The bitches will just flock to it.” Alex saw before him a grand opportunity. He realized that he could afford a nicer place if he had a roommate to split the bills. Less privacy, for sure, but Alex could live with that. In addition, Brian still probably knew heaps of people, therefore more connections, and Alex would not have to worry about reestablishing himself in a new town.
Brian chewed on his lower lip. “Let me think about it,” he said.