In another life I was an avid stoner. My boyfriend, Paul, only knew other stoners. We went to a party once. Thick with THC and trying to appease Phthonos, my paranoid mind wove a tapestry: Paul had sent the quiet dud on the couch to flirt with me -- to see if I would tell on him, to test my loyalty. Paul told me many times that he'd kill me if I ever cheated. The dude left the couch when the conversation slowed and I never saw him again. I spent at least an hour trying to remember the word "entrapment." I had the "trap" part but couldn't remember the rest.
Later we smoked a joint with the couple who lived there. He rolled it fat, leaving in all the seeds and stems. he said, through a thick Russian accent, that to truly love cannabis, one must accept and appreciate it all, a sentiment punctuated with the popping of a red hot seed which kamikaze-dove from the forest-for-the-trees-joint into the man's lap. Cantárida, he yelled. There was an eruptioin of laughter. Maybe he was from Mexico. From there I floated on a cloud of deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of everything, even the nuts and bolts of weed. My thoughts meandered peacefully until his wife tugged at my cloud, beckoning me to a dark corner across the room. She dug through her oversized purse, pulling out rustic tampons and q-tips and denture cream while she searched for her treasure, which I hoped was eye drops or gum. Finally she pulled out a gallon sized ziplock bag.
It was half full of white powder. I froze in place, afaid it was a felonious amount of something that might counteract this beautifully mellow high. I was right to be cautious. My first husband, she said. There was an hour of silence before I realized that she was finished with the sentence. I couldn't figure out how to say I was lost in the conversation. It's him . . . His ashes. Here . . . she said, clearly frustrated with my cognitive inabilities. She unzipped the bag, put it to my nose, willing me to smell the act of cremation. I pretended to inhale, moving my shoulders up above my drooping head. Still congratulating myself on a damn fine act of pantomime, I saw that she was frowning and disappointed. Touch him. After negotiating with reality of what she'd just said, I lowered my hand below the zippered line of the opening of the bag and pretended to touch the contents. No, like grab some. Pick him up. Not yet satisfied, she pinched a thimble-sized amount by way of example. I tried not to do what she was asking of me. While my hand was in the bag, hovering over the ask like The Hindenburg, she pulled the bag up, into my hand. There, she said with a satisfied smile. I looked up, shocked, hoping maybe it was an earthquake that crashed my hand into her dead first husband's remains. That would've been so much easier.
Behind her I saw Paul walking toward us, looking curious, hurried. Believing it possible he might feel threatened, I quickly pulled my arm out of this poor dead man's burnt body. But my hand was covered in him. Up to my wrist. I had fisted the mother fucker! And now what? I was left with yet another awkward conundrum. Should I clap my hands together so that most of him would fall to the ground and then blow off the rest? Would that be considered rude in this type of situation? Should I wipe him on my shorts? Should I excuse myself and wash him off in the bathroom sink? What had she done with the thimble-full? If only I had paid attention. Typical me, always missing the details.
What did I do? I wish I could remember but I can't because suddenly my boyfriend grabbed my arm, hard and pulled me toward the door. I couldn't even utter a word, I barely had my footing. He dragged me to the car and drove us away furiously. At first I thought he was being noble, saving me from the horrible social predicament of what to do with a fist full of some chick's first husband's ashes. But he wasn't. He was pissed. He had received the report from the flirting couch-dude.
Jacqueline Markowski's work has appeared in Chronogram Magazine, Cochlea/The Neovictorian, Permafrost Literary Journal, Camel Saloon, Pyrokinection and Jellyfish Whispers and she has been anthologized in Backlit Barbell as well as the upcoming Storm Cycle (Kind of a Hurricane Press). She was awarded first place in poetry during the 2006 Sandhills Writers Conference. She is currently working on a compilation of short stories and a collection of poetry.
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