"I can smell your vomit," says she to me, bitterly.
Scooting a scented candle nearer to her, "Is this better?"
"No, it lurks."
"Sick," says the other boy, holding up the neck of his shirt to cover his nose. I can't smell anything.
"Should I get more candles, or... ?"
As if a bell goes off in their heads they rise simultaneously from
their chairs and travel across the lawn to the walkway, taking my
corn-cob pipe with them. I feel much better after having thrown
up, except for the bitter taste of something acidic lingering at the
back of my throat. I have a cup of water for drinking, but for their
sakes I empty it out over the puke to perhaps dilute it.
follow them, stand by them. Sylvia is smoking a Marlboro Light and
Max has the pipe in his mouth. Lighting up pulling hard, he holds the
smoke inside; lungs full chest expanded, he seems to shrink in the act
of exhaling. He holds the pipe out before me, and I accept.
"Wipe your mouth," reminds Sylvia.
"Do you want to just take the next hit and I'll go inside and rinse my mouth out with Listerine?"
"Are you sure? It only takes thirty seconds."
She doesn't say anything and I fill myself with a creeping smoke. I blow it out in her face.
"Moment of weakness," I say, handing it to her. "I wasn`t prepared and swallowed the smoke and, y`know, by such by such."
Max interjects, "I usually catch myself at that point just before."
Sylvia agrees, "Yeah, mhm, me too."
I say "Well that's good."
My legs are getting tired, numb and tingly and I feel like sitting
down. I look back to where we were, then under the papaya tree at
fallen leaves of varying shades of green, yellow and brown, and Sylvia.
She's almost done with her cigarette so I wait to ask her:
"I'm having another, either of you want one?"
Max's hand brushes against my own as we each reach for a cigarette.
An unlit white stick hanging from my mouth, I ask "Is that cashed?"
Sylvia dips the tip of her index finger into the pipe, wiggling it
around inside. It looks like she's giving it a wet-willy. I'm not sure
how much longer I can stand. "No, there's another hit and a half left."
She passes the pipe to her left, to Max, who takes a large hit and then
hands it to me as he blows out. I light it up, but only let out half as
much of the pale smoke as Max. How did she know? I gaze, amazed,
utterly at my fingertip. I lose myself in the finger-print maze.
Max's car is parked at the end of the walkway, behind a bush of some
sort with little red flowers that if you pull out the stamen and suck
on it you get a sweet taste in your mouth almost like honey. I grab
some of the wider papaya leaves and run over to the table where we were
sitting. With them, I cover the vomit by my chair, hide it from sight
and hopefully contain the smell, for their sakes. Though I still can't
smell anything, even standing right over it. Perhaps I have a deviated
septum. I heard that that affects your ability to smell and it would
explain why I have such a bad memory.
My cigarette is lit,
though I don't remember lighting it. I think that's odd then inhale and
wander back to the guys. They're talking about something for which I
have no frame of reference. How long was I gone? I try inserting myself
into their conversation with a witty Rodney Dangerfield misimpression:
"No disrespect, no disrespect at all," I say, yanking on an imaginary tie.
Against all odds, it serves only to sequester me on an even more remote and hostile island.
My legs wobble beneath me and I realize I have to sit down.
"I have to sit down." They watch me go.
I sit down. Phew, that was close I might have fallen. This is much better.
Shirts up over their faces, Max and Sylvia return.
"You know I have a couple gas masks from the first World War inside if you'd prefer those."
"That's okay." She has still not ashed her cigarette, and it's almost through.
"Are my eyes red?" I hold my face down close by the candle.
Answering promptly, Max returns with a "yes."
"Well lucky I brought this then, eh," I say, and like a bumbling fool
drop the vial of eye drops somewhere in the grass. It takes me forever
to find it and by the time I do Max and the chilly Sylvia have gone and all that's left is her ash and butt. I lean back down to look at a skeleton I found on
the ground. The bleached bones of a rat. I pick up the skull and wonder
if the brain is still cradled within.
"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew
him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he
hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my
imagination it is! my gorge rims at it."
I move my finger along his petrified curves, around the abandoned eye sockets, against loose white teeth.
"Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be
your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your
own grinning? quite chap-fallen?"
Just then I catch a whiff out
my right nostril of something keeping in the air, something basic. The
smell traces back to the pile of papaya leaves on the ground by my side
and I just know there's something beating underneath. But I'm too
afraid to look.
The pipe! where's the pipe? Oh there it is. I put it in my pocket, and the plastic baggie too.
I step into the house through the open door, and the kitten, Gooseberry, greets me as if I had been lost at sea.