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Distant Lights

by Alex Barry about a year ago in friendship

A short story inspired by the years spent numb and wasted.

Distant Lights
Photo by Pasi Jormalainen on Unsplash

It was early in the evening. The sun had set behind the horizon and made the sky glow. Night crawled across overhead from the opposite direction. I hesitated in front of Jerry’s tiny shack of a house. A muffled murmur of several voices at once could be heard from outside. The rest of the street was quiet. The occasional stray car passing by illuminated the darkened neighborhood and broke the silence for a moment. Everyone living nearby would have been long finished with dinner and thinking of sleep at this hour. An anxiety gripped my innards and twisted them into a knot. I was suddenly trembling from an unknown cold, despite it being the middle of summer and sweating buckets earlier in the day. Fuck it. I decided to go in.

The sound of the party grew louder the closer I got to the house. No one was out front. I walked up the short stone steps to the porch, a tin coffee can overflowed with butts next to the milk crates stacked as stools. The commotion inside was only barely contained by the heavy wooden door. A thought crossed my mind, and I hesitated again. No one forced me to go to this party. Even Jerry, with all his convincing. On some level, I wanted to be there. The reason was simple. There were free booze, drugs, and the slight chance of getting laid with the confidence brought on by inebriation.

By the time I arrived, everyone was already riding on a combination of booze, weed, and whatever else was brought. In the front room, a group had settled on the old couch that went with the cigarette-burned coffee table. A chipped ceramic ashtray that sat on the table overflowed with sickening reminders. I recognized the group gathered here from high school. It had been at least three years since I had seen any of them. Not that it mattered as I often found myself alone during that time. I guess Jerry was the same way, he was the only person I would have considered a friend during high school. Only because we both had difficulties maintaining social lives and followed similar paths after high school. Somehow he managed to become the lord of wild all-nighters in the process, while I still struggled to maintain a handful of friends.

I was offered a beer as soon as I entered. Everyone there looked like they were attacked by the city subculture Nazis. The mandatory grudge, punk, hippie attire ran through pretentious ideas of vintage garbage from twenty-five years ago. The cost and manufacture of their neo-retro clothing contradicted the anti-consumer statement they made by looking like a bum unstuck in time. Apparently they all knew me, despite our distance during high school. The beer was an empty token of a gesture, and it was made obvious as some strange sign of respect. Almost to say, “Yeah, I don’t give a shit! You don’t give a shit! We all don’t give a shit! Here, have some shit!” I can appreciate such attitudes if it meant I could numb myself for a few hours.

I pretended to only vaguely remember the years spent in high school, build faulty respect by alluding to a memory fried by substance abuse. They wouldn’t know the difference. “Are you sure I’m who you’re thinking of?” I asked the room, not directed at anyone in particular.

“Dude, we went to high school together! Remember Mr. Riley’s class in senior year?” Said a striking girl who offered the beer. She was the kind of pretty that made you wonder if she just approached you as part of an elaborate prank. Her voice carried a certain devil may care attitude.

“Was that History?”

“Yes! You’d correct him all the time,” she said. “By the end of the year, he would just turn to you to fact check during class. It was hilarious!”

“Oh, right.” I just had to feign memory loss for a bit longer. “That was pretty bad.”

“That school was so ghetto.”

I took a long drink, chasing away sobriety and the anxiety of this room. If these were complete strangers, I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad. Assume a new identity, play up the party animal persona. However, I recognized everyone piled onto the couch. Faces and names connected to a vague four year period, a time I wanted to forget but couldn’t. Memory can be a cruel bastard.

“What was your name?” I asked.

“We were at the same school for four years.” She laughed. “You really don’t remember?”

“That’s all a bit hazy for me.” She was right, we saw each other a lot around school. Her name locks into the mind, the kind that rings clear even in the worst mental malaise. Jesus. Didn’t think I’d ever see her again.

“It’s Rose!” She laughed again. “Seriously, do you know anyone else with that name?”

“Good point.” I said, feeling the alcohol settle into my blood. I took a seat in a torn-up armchair opposite the couch and coffee table as the conversation that was taking place before I arrived resumed. It wasn’t long, however, until I had lost track of what everyone was saying. Although just walking into the middle of it didn’t help. Perhaps, if I kept drinking it would start to make some sort of sense.

The story was that some girl they all knew slept with some guy Rose was recently dating. That guy, apparently, was then found to have been cheating on both Rose and the mystery girl with another girl. It turned out this second mystery girl happened to be the girlfriend of a previous ex-boyfriend of Rose. And because Rose and that ex were still close after the break up, that somehow made it personal. It was so convoluted and had devolved into mindless yelling at this point. They weren’t arguing, because they both agreed that this mystery guy was captain scumbag. Maybe they just wanted to see who could be the loudest. It was drama for the sake of attention. Following it at this point was yet another handful of brain cells thrown carelessly away.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up from the chair. I had finished my beer quickly to ease into the atmosphere. No luck, time for another. I found my way to the kitchen leaving the empty bottle among a collection of others in an overfilled bin. A crowd had formed in front of the refrigerator, blocking the way. The bastards, this can’t just be for beer. I heard Jerry’s voice over the crowd. It was distinct over the rest gathered, naturally high pitched with the texture of coarse sand.

“Who wants shots?!”

The crowd cheered. The savior of hard liquor had come to deliver them from cheap piss water. Now they could get efficiently wrecked. But I knew Jerry had something else planned for later. He hinted at “scoring something special” but remained vague when asked about it. That made me nervous about what exactly he got. Or what he thought he was getting.

Jerry and I had several of the same classes together in high school. Our friendship formed out of necessity as one cannot survive in pure social solitude within a social environment. It was after graduation when we really started hanging out together, which was more about seeing how wasted we could get. We spent many nights high as kites, giggling like hyenas at nothing, before running out of cigarettes at two in the morning and walking to the nearest bar to fish half-smoked butts out of the gutter.

Jerry emerged from the crowd and stopped when he saw me. He stood shorter than the mass of bodies behind him.

“Dude, there you are!” He had a bottle of Jim Beam in his hand. “Glad you could make it. Want a hit?” He asked handing the bottle towards me. I took the bottle and unscrewed the top.

“No more glasses?”

“Just chug it.” Jerry was always one for good ideas.

I drank what felt like a finger or two, feeling the burn go down into my gut. I shuddered as the warmth spread down to my toes. A passing rush of euphoria followed with little cushions of air underfoot.

“And to think I was going to settle for beer,” I said with a laugh, the lingering burn of whiskey making the words harder to form.

“Wait here. I’ll go get you one.” He slipped back into the crowd towards the fridge. I took another sip from the bottle still in my hand as I waited. It went down easier this time, another one wouldn’t hurt.

Jerry reappeared with two beers. “Give me your lighter.”

I set the whiskey down on a nearby counter and fished one out of my pocket and handed it to him. He promptly popped off the caps and handed a bottle to me.

“Where’s my lighter?” I asked.

Jerry’s expression went blank.“What lighter?” He was good at playing dumb.

I didn’t say anything, just squinted my eyes like I couldn’t quite see him through all the stupid. I held the same expression until he cracked up and handed back the lighter.

“A lot of people showed up. Didn’t think I’d run into anyone from high school.”

He laughed “Yeah, I ran into Rose at one of Harry’s parties. She kept in touch with everyone. You know how she was.” He chuckled at his own remark and took a drink. “You remember Harry, right? He’s a rent-a-pig now!”

“I don’t know him.”

“Big-tall-motherfucker, looked like a skinhead, was a couple grades ahead of us.”

“Oh right, him.” I do remember some giant of a senior being caught with a couple cans of spray paint in his backpack sometime in sophomore year. Later on a half a pound of weed was found in his locker. That could have been him.

“He’s kind of hard to miss,” he said and finished off his beer. Didn’t he just open that? Jerry could put them away like nobody’s business. He must have been a fish in a past life.

“I didn’t recognize the name.” I shrugged.

A voice called from within the group, “Ay Jerry! Where’s the whiskey?”

Jerry grabbed the bottle off the table. “Here!” He held it up in triumph and disappeared into the crowd. I leaned against the nearby counter, my stomach twisted into a knot. My hand holding the beer could not keep still, and I noticed it was still relatively full. That explains it. I was not nearly as wasted as the mob cheering for whiskey in front of me. I had a good buzz from Mr. Beam over there, but these people were already leagues ahead of me.

I realized then that there were two massive speakers and a table with a laptop stand hidden in a darkened bit of the wall away from the refrigerator. It looked like Jerry’s roommate Greg was going to fire up his set later, whenever he showed up. If he was here, he would have been making moves on a girl like Rose if not blasting his awful, boring electronic dance music. His speaker system sounded like the hammer of god when dialed-in right. It was mainly there to compliment his ambitions of being a DJ, and Greg liked to show it off. Mainly to get laid, which he was often successful at. He always seemed to find the worst of whatever trendy subgenre of obnoxious electronic music. The same stupid sounds from this month’s popular style drowning out any semblance of creative ambition. A few months ago he and Jerry were into what sounded like robots having a violent orgy to boring hip-hop beats. I guess I just didn’t get it.

I made my way past the kitchen and the monolith speakers to the laundry room. The craving for tobacco gnawed away. The laundry room led to the backyard. Jerry and Greg didn’t care about smoking in the house. I needed the fresh air though. The door to the laundry room was closed. I opened the door and a massive cloud of smoke overwhelmed my senses. Some people had snuck off from the main group and were now fogging up the laundry room. I noticed the towel on the floor, moved aside from its place at the bottom of the door when I opened it.

“Dude, come on in!” said a familiar voice through the haze, Fred a career stoner. Chill guy, knew how to grow incredible plants. Bit of a scientist in his own way. Rumor was that he came to class one day after taking an eighth of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“Welcome to the real party,” said Emily, another from high school. She dressed in flowing faux-hippy attire, considered herself an artist of some vague description, and could never decide if she was actually a vegan or not. She was sitting on the dryer next to the door with an expensive camera nestled in her lap. Fred handed me a burning joint that was reaching its end. I inhaled and held the burning exhaust for moment before exhaling. I resisted the urge to cough, handed it off without looking before a fit of coughing took over.

“Good shit, huh?” said Kenny, sitting on a stepladder opposite the washer and dryer. I didn’t realize that he was sitting there to begin with. I knew Kenny back in middle school, and we lost contact in high school only to end up running into each other through Jerry. It was always weird to run into him now, like seeing a ghost that walks and talks.

“What kind is it?” I asked.

“Sour-Blue Scooby Cookies” Fred proudly answered. “It’s a new strain I made.”

“Damn. How did you get that name?”

Kenny handed it to Fred, “Well, I had a bunch of seeds lying around, right?” He took a hit, and held it. “And I knew some of the names of the plants they came from.” He strained out with hand gestures before exhaling. “Not all of them though.” Fred passed it to Emily. “So, I just slapped the names together.”

“I like it.” Kenny chimed in.

The room chuckled at his earnest conviction.“What? I want to try some blue Scooby cookie shit! Don’t you?”

It came back to me. “Why didn’t you just name it something else?” I asked before taking another hit off the disintegrating roach.

Fred shrugged. I passed it on to Kenny as I coughed up a storm.

“Gets you high, right?” Fred asked.

I nodded in agreement, still coughing. I then remembered my reasoning for coming back here. I checked my pockets for my lighter and pack of cigarettes and made for the door leading outside.

“Where are you off to? We’re going to roll another.” Emily asked.

“Outside, I need some fresh air.” I opened the door and stepped out into the dark.

The last of the sun’s glow had long faded completely from the sky. Crickets chirped an impromptu chorus. The heat of the day’s unrelenting sun lingered long into the night, the streets radiated with its warmth. During these long summer months, it simply made more sense to stay up all night and sleep all day. I closed the door and sat on the stone step. There was a moment of quiet, precious night was mine for now. I ritually sparked a cigarette, inhaled, exhaled, then chased it with beer. The line between ritual and habit is often blurred. I felt a rush of blood push from behind my eyes. The weight of my head could be felt, its contents sloshing around when I moved it. The knot of anxiety I carried through the house felt further away. I took in the clear sky. The depth of the stars above could be felt when looking straight up, like hanging upside-down over an ocean. There was no end in sight, just layer upon layer of tiny pinholes where the light could shine through.

The door opened behind me and light flooded out from inside. Jerry appeared in the threshold. “There you are.” He closed the door and stepped down onto the concrete patio. “You know it’s cool to smoke inside, right?”

I stood up. “Yeah, I just wanted some fresh air.”

He looked up at the unlit bare light bulb sticking out over the doorway. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”

I shrugged. “No reason.”

“You’re not getting emo on me?”

“No, I just don’t like the light. Can’t see the stars when it’s too bright.” The words felt odd as I said them, like they were merely thoughts and not said aloud. The words spoken in a waking dream state of intoxication.

“Whatever, wanted to tell you that Greg made it back.” I could tell from his tone he was excited, almost like he was about to tell the punchline to a joke.

I wasn’t sure why that mattered. “Okay. And you’re telling me because,” I trailed off, waiting for him to finish my sentence for me. I waited for an awkward moment before asking again. “So, what does that mean?”

“He was picking something up for me. Remember what I told you about?” He almost couldn’t contain himself. “Dude, I scored it.”

“Shit, Jerry what did you get?”

He just laughed.

“Seriously, what the hell did you get?”

“You’ll see. I got enough for a few people.” He was going to keep this up for a bit longer.

I wasn’t going to get any further hints from him. I sat back down.

“I also told him to pick up some more booze. Gave him fifty, so we’ll be stocked for a while.” He sparked up a cigarette and joined me on the stone step. “Did you see Rose in there?”

I thought back to her and the drama surrounding her. The kind of drama one could easily get roped into if not careful. A glimpse of it was nauseating to say the least. Still, she could have been a model.

“Shit, I had the biggest crush on her in school.” I laughed as inebriation spoke for me.

“Everyone did.” He took a long drag off his cigarette and held it for a moment. “She was so hot back then. And she only got hotter over the years.

We sat in the dark, not saying anything for a moment.

“So, what have you been up to?” Jerry finally broke the silence. “Haven’t heard from you in a while.” He seemed to laugh at his comment.

What was I doing? “The usual, you know?” I tried to gather any detail of significance from the past few weeks. The days just blurred together, each one interchangeable with the next.

“Are you still working for that guy?” He took another long drag off the burning stick.

“Yeah. But he still doesn’t pay me in cash.”

“Doesn’t he give you weed in exchange though?”

“Yeah. I guess it’s not too bad.”

“You’re just packing and shipping, right?”

“Yeah.” I took in the burning exhaust and held it.

“That’s chill. Easy work. He let you smoke?” His words stumbled into each other.

“Of course. It’s boring as hell. If anything, my boss wants me to be stoned.”

He laughed, “I’m telling you dude, you got to get on that Social Security.”

“I don’t qualify.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I’m still waiting for a doctor.”

“But you were 5150ed?”

“I have to wait for an appointment now.”

“Damn dude, that sucks.” His sentiment rang hollow.

Jerry took another drag before suddenly standing up. “Oh shit, I forget to get my change back from Greg. Hopefully he didn’t spend all the money I gave him. Speaking of, did you see me bring my beer out here?”

I shook my head, “No. Didn’t see you bring it out.”

“Can’t seem to find it, swear I just had it with me. Fuck it, I’ll get another. Come find me when you’re done out here.” He stepped past me and went back inside, closing the door behind him. Relief washed over. I was alone again with the sea of ink overhead. My thoughts, however, took paths of their own. They took me to Rose, showing her features to me. I remember the years pining over her apparent perfections during school and when she graced my presence out of class. I was far from her mind. I could never figure out how everyone else was her friend though. We both knew the same people in school and yet she was as much a stranger to me as the rest of them. There she is though, sitting in on my memories as an unwanted guest.

The cigarette had burned to the filter and gone out. I flicked it into the darkness and stood up. There was a commotion inside, different from the sounds typical of the night so far. I wasn’t sure if I could hear Jerry’s voice yelling from inside or if I was just imagining a fight happening. I opened the door and immediately blinded indoor lighting. I could hear now that it sounded like Jerry and someone else yelling in the next room. I shielded my eyes and stepped forward without looking. I stumbled into the stepladder, and fell next to the closed door leading inside. Fuck. Where did everyone go? Fred, Emily and Kenny weren’t here. Just me, the towel on the floor, and Mr. Ladder collapsed on my shin. It took a moment for me to realize what exactly had happen. The commotion inside paused. The door to the laundry room suddenly swung opened.

“What the fuck was that?!” The door was held open. I was pinned between it and the wall. Only my legs caught up in the step ladder could be seen from behind the door.

“Who the fuck is that?!” Whoever this was finally figured out my predicament and let go of the door. I rolled away from where I fell and got up, almost tripping on the ladder again before finally freeing myself from the metal death trap.

“I thought someone was breaking in, had no idea you were here.” I finally saw it was Greg who opened the door. He changed the subject quickly. “Did Jerry already tell you?”

“Not really. He only said you were getting it.” I could only assume at this point.

“Ah, okay.” He said shortly before turning around quickly and going back into the house. Greg was as vague as Jerry, if not more so. Even if they got on each other’s nerves, they could find common ground when it came time to get high.

The noise of the party flowed in from the open laundry room door. The kitchen beyond was dimly lit except for an ambient glow. The knot in my gut was back. Efforts to numb myself were not as successful as I had thought. Dread washed over me. Can’t just stand here, can I? I entered the house. The kitchen had more people in it than I remembered. My way through the kitchen was completely blocked. Everyone was gathered in front of Greg’s DJ setup. I noticed then the glow of a laptop from behind the speakers, Greg’s lanky figure moving around in the computer light. The speakers hummed with electricity. An air of anticipation hung above the crowd gathered in the dim light. The only source came off the stove next to the refrigerator. A sickly yellow of an old bulb on its last legs. I looked to see who was in the crowd. People I recognized as being at my graduation or in a math class. Still the same strangers as they were back then.

I didn’t see where Jerry had gone off to. I had to get through the crowd though. I was back in the hallways at high school. I dulled my peripheral vision and searched the crowd of ghosts from the past. Although I was a ghost to them as well. The dim old bulb kept me from being noticed by the crowd transfixed on Greg’s preparations. I weaved through the unmoving bodies, went over to the refrigerator and stove. I found the near empty bottle of Jim Beam and a few shot glasses but no Jerry.

The search halted as I realized, in my haze, the urge to piss had been pressing for a while. I went past the kitchen to the small hallway connecting the bedrooms and bathroom to the rest of the house. It was luckily empty. I went in, turned on the light and was greeted with deep red walls and light-blue tiles, the bright fluorescent light making the color scream a high falsetto. Why would you do that? What if someone walked in here on a bad trip? I closed the door behind me and went about relieving myself, ignoring the nightmare inducing colors. This was apparently the only room either Greg or Jerry had bothered to paint. An open paint can with a brush sticking out sat next to the toilet, it dried solid months ago. I went to wash my hands and noticed the razor blade and a residue of off-white lined up neatly into rows on the sink top. Okay then. I dried my hands and left the bathroom with the blood stained walls.

Greg started up his set, some distant synthesizer line shrilled from the kitchen. The crowd cheered and demanded it be louder. The bands of frequencies warbled as the volume increased. The crowd cheered as they got ready for the cue signaled by the typical eight measure build up. Then the bass dropped, the speakers tuned to hit everyone right in the chest with the low frequencies at that climactic moment. A hand on my shoulder startled me. Jerry had appeared suddenly.

He said something I couldn’t hear.

I asked what he said and realized I couldn’t hear myself talk. He pulled me by the arm into his room. Fred, Emily, and Rose were all sitting on his floor. The carpeting was covered in burn marks. His walls were marked with random doodles and sayings in permanent pen. Jerry would write on the walls when he got high. Empty bottles and cans of varying brands of booze decorate his stacked milk crate shelves. He shut the door behind us, muffling the sound system.

“Goddamn Greg.” Jerry sounded like he was talking about a dog that peed on his rug.

“Why?” I asked. I thought Jerry was into that garbage he was playing.

Rose answered for him. “Greg didn’t get Jerry his 24 pack of PBR.”

“I gave him fifty fucking bucks, more than enough!”

“He clearly forgot. You got your money back, right?” Rose said as a matter of fact. It didn’t calm Jerry’s volatile rage.

“Don’t you defend him!” Spite and bitterness frothed from his mouth. “He’s a piece of shit and you know it!” Jerry paced to a wall, like he was telling this the graffiti he put up there. He turned around dramatically, his eyes burning with hate. “You know he never does the dishes. Not once!”

The room fell silent. An awkward tension hung in the air after the outburst.

“He still got the acid, right?” Fred asked, spilling the beans it seemed.

Jerry looked at me, his raised eyebrows seemed to say “surprise”, and turned to Fred. “Yeah, he did.”

So this is what it was about. I should have figured this is what he got so excited about.

“How the hell did you get acid?” I asked. According to Jerry, the last time we took it together, it was near impossible to find. The doses he got that one time were rare occurrence, allegedly.

“Harry got a hold of it. Greg and I went in on a deal through him.”

That still doesn’t explain how though.

Jerry pulled out something rectangular wrapped in tinfoil. He unfolded the tinfoil to reveal several sugar cubes. Last time I took acid, it was with Jerry and Greg. Everything was going fine, the first peak was reached and we were buzzing nicely. And then something Greg said set Jerry off. Some off-colour joke about the state of starving children in North Korea. Not a laughing matter, sure, but Greg had a dark sense of humor that Jerry was already familiar with. Jerry must have misunderstood what he actually meant or thought perhaps Greg was serious. Jerry then proceeded to walk around the house having a one-sided argument with himself at the top of his lungs. He didn’t actually speak to Greg, instead ignoring him when approached. When I asked him what was going on, his demeanor would change and acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about. This was about a couple month ago. I had avoided Jerry since then.

My body began shaking uncontrollably as I tried to steady my hands. I couldn’t catch my breath or seem to keep warm. I couldn’t stop the shaking.

“You okay?”

I’m still in this room. I looked up and saw everyone looking back at me.

“Have a seat.” Rose gestured to a spot on the floor. What could have been concern flashed on her face for a moment. The semblance of sympathy gone as soon as it’s observed.

“Here,” Jerry started sorting through the collection of sugar cubes. “Let’s take these before Greg realizes where we are.”

“Didn’t he pay for some?” Fred asked.

“Fuck him! He didn’t get the booze he said he was getting.” Jerry wasn’t going to hear the end of this little act of petty vengeance. He started going around the room with an impish glee, handing them out like the magic drug fairy. “Take two, just to make sure.”

I had no interest in being there anymore. I wasn’t about to drop acid again after such a bad experience the last time. Jerry and Greg couldn’t have had a good trip either. Greg started having a one-sided argument in response to Jerry’s endless ranting. They were both screaming about the other one at opposite sides of the house, making passive cryptic remarks about each other. This devolved further as Greg started blasting his music and Jerry started washing the dishes in the sink without using soap. This continued until Jerry smashed a plate in the sink and then threw what was left at Greg. At that point I left, so I don’t know how it ended between those two. I wondered if something similar was going to happen tonight. The elements were already in place. They had already had a fight apparently. This was a powder keg waiting for the right spark to set it off.

Jerry came around to me with two cubes left. I picked up one and looked at it.

“Take two,” he said, giving me another one.

The anxiety was unbearable. “No.” I gave him back the cubes.

“What? Why?” His face scrunched into a scowl. “It is bad luck to turn down free acid.”

“Remember last time?”

Jerry’s expression went blank. “Yeah and?”

Is he serious? “And remember what happened?”

“What happened?” He asked in a way that seemed like he really had no clue what I was talking about. At the same time, a voice in my head insisted it was all an act. There’s no way. He’s fucking with me.

“Greg said something to you and you two ended up yelling all night.”

“What did he say?” His expression remained blank.

“Does it matter?”

The rest of the room waited awkwardly to see where this was going.

“Oh! No dude, that was all Greg. Remember? He started going on about all this really dark stuff. That guy is seriously crazy. You don’t know what it’s like living with someone like that.” Jerry could be pretty convincing sometimes. The problem was I was actually there when it happened.

“The guy is messed up in the head.” He looked around at the others sitting there, looking for agreement. The room remained frozen in silence. “People like that have something they need to deal, deep down inside, you know? And if they can’t deal with it, then I can’t be around them. And they definitely shouldn’t be doing drugs.”

“You have a point Jerry.”

He smiled wide, exposing his foul yellowed teeth, and shoved the cubes back to me.

“I told you, I’m not interested.”

He paused. His expression soured. “Are you serious?” He paused again, his face furrowed. “Wow! And here I was being your best friend and shit.” I thought for a moment this was a joke. An elaborate prolonged gag. “You know, I can’t fucking believe you!” His rage from earlier returned with a vengeance, focusing itself sights on me. “Here I am, letting you into my home. You drink my booze. I offer you LSD for free, that I bought. And now you’re going to embarrass me in front of everyone?!”

Where is this coming from? “Sorry.” I shrugged my shoulders. Was it really that big of a deal for me to not take drugs with him? No one sitting there made a sound, even too afraid to take a breath for fear the sound would snap the last of Jerry’s nerves.

“You’re sorry?!” His voice was shrill and had gone up another octave. “Is that all you have to say?! What does that even mean? Why are you sorry? Is it because you’re such a worthless piece of shit?!” His anger slipped into manic laughter.

“Fuck it.” I stood up and headed for the door.

“Where you do you think you’re going?!” Jerry screamed.

I didn’t say anything.

“Hey! Where in the fuck are you going?!”

I opened the door and the sound of awful dance music assaulted my ears, drowning out Jerry’s continued screaming. The mass of bodies in the kitchen were stumbling over each other vaguely in time to the repetitive four-to-the-floor beat shaking the house. Would hate to see this crowd turn when the booze ran out. The bottle of whiskey caught my eye. Why if it isn’t my old friend, Mr. Beam. I grabbed the bottle by the neck and finished it in one gulp. The rush of alcohol was overwhelming as the room started to spin. Damn you, Jim!

I pushed through the sweaty, foul smelling bodies, all pressed against each other. The crowd continued into the front room, where more people were gathered around a massive bong on the coffee table that hadn’t been there before. A thick fog hung over head.

“Want a hit?” I had no idea who the hell this was.

Get out of my way. “No!” I yelled, barely able to hear my own voice.

“What?!” I thought I heard him say, also being drowned out by the bad music.

Guess he didn’t hear me the first time. “Fuck off!” I pushed my way past him and made for the front door. The group there did not appreciate the attitude of my exit. Not that it mattered, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I just wanted to get out of there.

“What’s your problem, dude?” I thought I heard someone else say as I opened the door and stepped outside, before slamming the door as hard as I could. I then ran up the next block, and then one more. In the distance, I thought I could hear a drunken angry mob from the party following me. I ran another block, and then a few more to make sure, weaving through alleys and across yards. No one was following me, only the sound of my shoes hitting the cement echoed in the empty streets and alleyways.

I was just running aimlessly from nothing at this point. I had no idea where I was or how long I had been running for. I stopped to catch my breath and figure out where I was. The urge to puke quickly rose up as I stood there. Without thinking, I doubled-over on the sidewalk and spilled my guts into the gutter. I should have seen that coming. I spit out the last of the puke and stood up slowly, resisting the urge to stumble and fall forward into my own pile of vomit. A realization crept up on me, as I processed what had just happened. This haze I found myself in would not pass for a few more hours. The full extent of what happened would not become clear until I sobered up. The taste of bile mixed with alcohol lingered in my throat as the craving for a cigarette gnawed away. I patted my pockets, searching for the pack and lighter absentmindedly. I thought back to that moment in front of Jerry’s house. One decision could have avoided this night entirely. Nothing would have changed if I had just stayed home.

The sound of an approaching truck pulled my attention to a pair of headlights approaching in the distance. The mechanical roar grew louder as the sidewalk and gutter were bathed in the blinding light. The sound climaxed and rushed by in an instant as a powerful gust followed, kicking up dirt and dust. Red light flooded the street briefly as the machine roared off in the opposite direction before everything sunk back into the night.

friendship

Alex Barry

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