In my dream the smoke was thick and slurry. It wasn't real sleep, it was drunken dozing, too far from consciousness for reason, too close to waking for dreams. The floor was still cold, even under the beaten feathers of the sleeping bag. My shirt was twisted around my neck, pinching. Trying to snuggle the wall wasn't helping. Brain alive but body dead.
Behind my spinning eyelids the party was set on repeat: I was standing in front of a bookcase, turning the pages uselessly. The girl who walked me back up the snowy street, brown eyes and short bobbed hair, she smiled at me just for a second. Throwing the cork in the air, champagne screaming at the foggy night, I could almost smell the one who wasn't there. Fireworks drizzled down on us, sulphur smoke in wispy puffs, smoke and rain...
One of the boys had a joint in the kitchen, my shriveled little raisin brain decided. Someone was hungry. Thudunkdunk, dunk, flerp, the dog's tail dusted the linoleum while we eight tried to sleep. Thudunkdunk, she'd bark if something was wrong, so it must be one of the boys with a joint in the kitchen. Eyes stinging, I rolled back away from the wall.
Diluted by morning, the light squirmed into me, just enough to make the floor harder and the room colder. Morning in a house not mine, unslept and still drunk, I was most definitely not ready to wake up. But a crackle from the next room, mumbled voices, and then she was shaking me, pulling my feet, something, what, smoke.
Slogging on boots, grabbing scarves thrown dangling on the chair, we toppled coughing out into the dull predawn of a new January. Fucking cold. The stairs were difficult, iced and crumbly, and turning I saw the boy with the silky hair emerge holding a shapeless melted hunk of plastic. The stick of incense had burned down to flakes. The pot had folded on itself, bubbled and green, the plant sticking out the top brittle and smoking. He threw the whole mess in the dumpster, and as a blossom of evil-smelling fumes started to rise, he shoveled wet snow in, slamming the rusted lid loosely.
The dog, looking like the canine version of Einstein with her bushy white eyebrows, deafly tugged at her leash while we stood there blinking. No batteries in the detector—should we call the fire department?—look, it's almost day—we all sputtered, breathing into our numbing hands and staring blankly at the sky.
In a meandering line, we scuffled up the slope to the path.
The dog rummaged amongst the bushes, and as a rose streak spread over the hills, we made prayers for the coming year.