The car pulls to a stop in a shady cul-de-sac as Angie passes me the joint. I stare at her through the smoky haze. Her eyes seem abnormally small and shiny and her normally sly smile seems to take up half of her face. “Come on! Take a hit,” she says. “We’ve never been high together,” she whines as if this is something friends are supposed to do together. “Come on, Sarah… It’s like we’re consummating our friendship or something.” She covers her face with her hands and giggles, her whole body shaking. There’s a reason we’ve never been high together. I’ve never been high at all, but Zed has quit the motor and is turning around expectantly.
This must be what it takes, I think. I take the joint from Angie (I recently started calling her “Ang” for short like Zed and Liza and the others do) and put the end to my lips. I have no idea what to do, but I don’t want them to notice, so I slowly drag on it, lips tight, the way my Uncle Todd smokes cigarettes. Am I doing it right? I hold my breath, and my throat begins to tickle uncomfortably the way my neck does when I wear the wool scarf my mom bought me last Christmas.
“GEEZ, SARAH! Puff, puff, pass!” Ang demands. Then she laughs rather maniacally and reaches for the diminishing roll of pot.
“Hey! I haven’t gotten to hit that at all!” Zed complains. “I’ll take th—Sarah, are you okay?” I realize I’ve been holding my breath, and I release the smoke. The annoying tickle now becomes too much, and I begin coughing uncontrollably, my whole body bending in on itself. Each attempt to quell the urges results in a series of sudden hacking that leave me empty and desperately gasping.
To my right Angie is gasping also because she is laughing so hard. “DAAAAAMN, SARAH! That was a nice hit. You’ll be high as hell!”
Zed reaches around his seat to pat me on the back. Chuckling, he says, “I think she’s got a little more experience than we thought, Ang.” So they bought that. Even after my coughing subsides Zed’s hand continues to linger on my back right over the part of my bra that snaps together. His hand is warm, and the pressure of his palm grows steadily. I imagine his hand sinking into my back.
Suddenly I realize Zed and Ang are talking to me. “What?” I say dumbly.
“Who do you usually deal from?” Zed asks.
“Oh… Uh. Lots of different people really. I don’t like putting names out there really,” I say. That sounds cool, right?
“Really…” Zed says after letting out a puff of smoke
“That’s cool, Sarah,” Ang says. “You know what isn’t cool? Someone who hogs the freaking J!” she says rounding on Zed.
“Chill,” he says. “I paid for the shit.” Zed passes the nub to Angie and checks his phone. Its light seems abnormally bright in the darkness of Zed’s Fiero. I become self-conscious; I must be boring him. “Ang, when is Alex going to get here?” he says.
Angie smiles as if she has a secret though her recent hook-up with Alexander Smyth is common knowledge to all of Ganton High. She flips open her phone. “He’s just down the road. Should be here any minute.”
“Hey, Sarah… do you want to see the park I used to play at as a kid?” Zed asks.
The offer takes me by surprise and the corners of my lips turn up in a smile that I can’t seem to mask. I hope that the dark conceals my pleasure, but when I reply with a soft “sure” I know he can here the smile in my voice. “Now?” I say a little too eagerly.
“Yeah, it’s just a little walk up the street. Do you remember when we drove by that park on the left?” I say I do though I don’t. We leave Angie as she crawls into the front seat to “powder my nose, Daaaaarling.” As we walk down the street we hear muffled laughter from the car.
The further we venture from the car and Angie’s company, the more anxious I grow. I worry as we trudge up the steep road that I’m breathing too heavily. I try to keep my mouth closed. I wonder what he will expect.
Before we even make it to the park, Zed has pulled me to the side of the road. He wraps his arms around me and pulls me to his large form. Then he presses his face to mine. His mouth, wide, wet, and sloppy, makes its way across the lower-half of my face as his clumsy hands make their way up my shirt. I gently push them away and laugh nervously. “Just… be cool,” he tells me as he unbuttons my shirt. “You’re so… mature. That’s what attracted me to you.”
Blue lights flicker in the corner of my vision…
I hear heavy footsteps growing closer as Zed and I scramble with our clothes. As I stand up I vainly attempt to smooth my now wrinkled shirt.
“Is there a problem, Officer?” Zed asks in a tone I’ve never heard him use—trepidation.
The police officer looks us up and down, his jaw set slightly to the right and his brow furrowed. “We got a call in about suspicious activity. Seems an unknown vehicle has been parked just a few houses down from here. You two wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” He sniffs the air. “What’s that smell?”
Half an hour later when Zed and I are ducking our heads into the back of the cop car, Angie will drive by, eyes big soaking up every detail that she will generously share with the student body come Monday.