A lot of people blow off work-related steam by getting drunk or high. My job is getting drunk or high, so I always had to look other places. I didn’t really like movies because I had met too many people involved in making those movies. I didn’t really like retail therapy because I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t go dancing because it’s too social an activity. Same goes for sex.
If there was one thing that always wound me down, it was the uniquely freeform structure of cooking. Not only did the sizzles, aromas, and flavors put me into a meditative trance, but I had something to eat when I was done.
If there was a downside, though, it was that I ended up with a lot of food I didn’t know what to do with. Luckily, I had roommates, and one drifted in, buoyed by the scent of my hobby.
“Hey, roomie,” Cameron said.
“Hey, roomie,” I replied.
“Hangin’ out in the kitchen?”
Since I was indeed hanging out in the kitchen, I could safely say, “Yes.”
“Cool.” He bobbed his head and studied every detail of the cramped space except for the large percentage of it occupied by me.
I waited a long time for him to say something, but nothing happened. It was pretty obvious what he wanted, though, so I decided to go ahead and skip the small-talk. “Want some?”
“Mitchell and I just ate,” he replied. “Not really hungry.”
Maybe it wasn’t that obvious what he wanted. “Oh.”
“Roomie, I think we need to talk.”
“Nothing good ever begins with that phrase, Cameron.”
He took a breath and stared into space, looking for the words he’d need to continue. “You know that Mitchell and I have no problem with you smoking pot on the fire escape, right? We even join you sometimes.”
“But…?” I asked, because the situation demanded a but.
“But you need to be cool about it,” he continued. “Somebody’s been complaining to the super.”
“The super?” he replied. “That’s the guy that–“
“We don’t know.”
“I know who it is,” I concluded. “It’s our neighbor.”
“No,” he said slowly, “Emma and I talked a long time ago about it, and she’s totally okay with us smoking weed.”
“She’s okay with you smoking weed,” I clarified.
“So you’re telling me that she dislikes you so much that she’d make all of our lives miserable just to mess with you?”
“No,” I told him, “she’s crazy.”
“You barely even know each other!”
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. “Leaving aside the identity of the snitch,” I said, eager to change the subject, “does the super know who’s doing the smoking?”
“No, but he’s getting pretty pissed.”
“Well if he doesn’t know…”
“Come on, roomie,” he whined, “you know he’s going to figure it out.”
“He never struck me as a perceptive man.”
“You’ve never met the guy.”
“In that case,” I said, “he’ll never suspect it’s me.”
“I don’t want to get evicted.”
“What should I do, then?”
“Be,” he replied, “cool.”
He left me in the kitchen, considerably less cool I was when he’d entered. With a grunt, I spooned some of my lamb rogan josh into a plastic takeout container I’d held onto because I was my father’s son, and he was apparently raised in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. And then, after thinking long and hard about the implications of the conversation I just had with Cameron, I decided to smoke some pot on the fire escape.
I crawled outside, balanced the container on the railing, and spent the next hour watching the buildings of the city fade from the cool blues and grays of daytime to the reds and ambers of night. The sound and fury of my life dissolved away and blew away in a gentle summer breeze, and I hadn’t even had to eat or spark up yet.
Wait. In other words, after all this time out here, the food was getting cold and my pipe was still in my pants. Fantastic. Now the memory loss was becoming a permanent fixture.
I shrugged and reached into my pocket, an action that knocked the container from its perch. In a move that would have impressed even the swiftest of hummingbirds, I lashed out my hand and caught it.
I placed it back on the railing, waited a moment for my heart rate to settle down, and put pipe carefully to my lips. No sooner did I light the match than I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey, dude.”
I yelped, spun around, knocked the container over again, caught it, returned it, and hid the pipe behind me.
Emma shook her head and grinned that sexy, crooked grin I still remember from when I first met her. “You know, dude,” she told me, “I’m not going to turn you in.”
“Why would you think I was thinking that?”
“Because the walls are thin, and you were shouting.”
I should have been mortified, but I really wasn’t. “I was shouting?”
She shook her head and laughed. “Nice move there, by the way, Johnny Ringo.”
“It’s the boots,” I informed her. “They’re what give me…” Once again, I knocked over the container, and once again, I caught it.
“There’s got to be a better place for that.”
I put it back and rolled my eyes. “Nonsense. This is the perfect… ah, fuck.” Apparently I’d not braced it properly this time, because it tumbled off the edge, and I couldn’t to anything to stop it this time.
It ricocheted off the railing below us, and, defying all laws of physics, bounced off the one below that before rebounding off the shoulder of a pedestrian, splattering lamb and yogurt and onions and ginger and cinnamon and lots of other colorful spices all over the sidewalk and said pedestrian.
Hypnotized by shame, I stared at the carnage until that he craned his neck to glare in my direction.
“Um,” I said to him. “Sorry?”
He continued to stare, his rage simmering to a boil.
“Do you think maybe you can toss that back–urk!”
The urk happened because Emma had grabbed my collar and yanked me from the edge. Eyes wide and teeth gritted, she hissed, “Do you have any idea who that was?”
“An innocent bystander?”
“Oh,” I moaned, “fuck.”
“You are such an idiot.”
I switched to disaster mode. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” I said. “We’re going to split up. That way, he can’t get both of us.”
“Good night, dude.”