I’m in the process of writing a memoir…a very lengthy process I’ve come to learn. This is a short excerpt from the manuscript.
On the days that I’m allowed to stay in the living room, one of the visitors, Neil or Walter or Linda, balances the tray that my mother keeps under the couch on their knees and break up the tight buds. The process mesmerizes me, the removal of seeds and stems, the sprinkle of a generous amount into the small paper, a gentle roll, the application of equal thumb pressure along the length of it and then the final lick and seal of its seam. The seemingly more experienced of them then holds one end and puts the entire thing in his or her mouth, slowly pulling it out between moistened lips to ensure that the seam is tight and won’t unravel once lit. I study the way they work knowing that some day I’ll roll the best joint they’ve ever seen.
I can’t wait for the parties, the loud music, the commotion and excitement. I stay in the living room doorway threshold, knowing that I risk getting thrown out altogether for crossing it. “Go outside and play,” my mother says. Or, “Go play in traffic.”
On the good days, after sucking that smoke into her lungs my mother reaches into her pocketbook and tears a clean five dollar food stamp out of the book, handing it to me, “Go to Richdale’s and get me a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi and a Hershey bar and you can keep the change.”
If the party starts early in the day, it almost always ends in chaos. The radio gets louder as the empty cans pile up on flat surfaces. The partygoer’s start yelling over each other, slurring words and mixing them up like little kids do, repeating them selves even though nobody cares what they said the first time. They’re talking and laughing and then, out of the blue, somebody gets pissed.
“What the fuck. Who took my lighter?”
“Stop your whining,” the slurred response of a different voice.
My shoulders raise up to meet my ears, the muscle on the left side tighter than the right, a clenched fist, the tell-tale sign for years to come that my body is getting ready…for a fight or to scurry to the closest hiding place. I sit still and wait, folding into myself, staying invisible, listening for what comes next—the sound of chair legs sliding back hard and fast on the kitchen floor; a table being flipped on it’s side, beer cans and ashtrays crashing around it.
Or the click of a lighter wheel, and then, “Thanks man.”