“There there there!” says Eddie, pointing through the crack in the curtain. “See what I mean?”
I still don’t see it. “No man, I don’t. I think you better lay off the weed. Don’t you think you should cut back? I mean you’re getting kind of old to be doing this, don’t you think?”
“Eh Dad,” says Eddie, “this is what I worked for all my life. Retirement, brah. Now I can do this all day and night if I like.”
Sometimes I wonder if it’s all my fault. If I hadn’t introduced Eddie to marijuana back in high school, maybe none of this would have happened. Who knew it would one day become his second greatest love?
Eddie’s at the window again, watching. I sit back down and try to enjoy the beer. We don’t see each other much anymore. It’s ironic. Now that we’re both retired, you’d think we’d see each other all the time. We were best friends from elementary school, went to college together, and kept going to University of Hawai‘i sporting events even though we both married women who hated sports. Maybe that’s why we went to so many games.
“Look look look!” Eddie’s summoning me frantically with his right hand while continuing to stare out the window. “Hurry up, dude. Come check it out!”
I’m not glad I came. I sigh, and put down my beer on the coaster Eddie’s given me. I know he’s a bit of a neat freak, which doesn’t fit with his constant pot smoking. But his place is spotless. I know he’s kept it clean and tidy just in case Helen, his ex-wife, comes.
“You never know,” he says. “Any day and just come on up and knock on my door.”
But I do know, and if he were sober, he’d know. She won’t.
By the time I reach the window, Eddie’s turned around to give me the stink eye. “What the fuck, man. If you like see, you gotta look when I say. You too slow.”
I look him in the red, bleary eye. We sort of stare at each other like we’re in some kind of suspended animation, two Kabuki actors paused to emphasize our emotional states, my eyes wide open, his not so much. Between the dope-smoking and the drinking, Eddie’s just about disappeared around the bend.
The clock starts again, and Eddie slumps on the couch. “Fuck my life,” he says. He picks up his single-malt scotch and takes a big slurp. I can see him rolling his tongue around in the burning liquid. He closes his eyes and swallows.
Reaching for another joint, he strikes a match. It flares, lighting up his face like a moment in a movie about the desperate hours descending on a man who’s going down by the end of the movie.
I think about both of us being dead. Eddie and I are in the last quarter of the game now, and the clock is winding down. I’m going out with Coors light, he’s going out smoking and sipping very expensive scotch.
I’m almost relaxed into my seat when Eddie drops the joint in the ashtray and jumps up to the window. He turns to me. “Hurry hurry hurry!”
Jumping up to the best of my ability, I realize that this is why I don’t like to come over anymore. It’s this paranoid obsession of his. It came at odd moments before, but now, geez, this is a little too much.
I make like I’m very interested and sort of throw myself at the window.
“No no no!” says Eddie. “Not too close. You’re gonna scare her.”
I step back, try to look out there and see something, anything. It’s getting dark, the sun’s almost gone, and I really can’t see much of anything in the gloom.
“Ah fuck,” says Eddie. “Why’d you even come if you don’t care?”
“Eddie, man, I do care. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. You know that. We’ve been friends for sixty years. We’re maybe closer than brothers. I care, okay? I’m here, okay?”
My elementary school friend sinks into the couch, picks up the joint, and takes a deep hit. I’m kind of suffering a bit of a contact high myself, and I don’t like it. I gave up dope because it started making me extremely paranoid, and I didn’t like that sensation at all. It would go on for hours, a kind of fear that I was dying, going to have a heart attack at any moment. Eddie said it was because I was buying bad weed. “The stuff you’re buying, it’s laced with something,” he’d say.
Whatever. I couldn’t take it anymore. Another reason I don’t like coming over here is that I can’t help but inhale some of the smoke, and when it’s bad, I can feel that paranoia creeping back.
“So what?” I say. “Do you ever see anything out there after it gets so dark you can’t see anything?”
Eddie focuses on me. “That supposed to be funny?”
It was my attempt to lighten up the scene, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. Now he’s sounding pissed. Which is another reason why I don’t like coming over here anymore. Eddie’s lost his sense of humor. One of the things that made us great friends over all those years was that he and I could laugh through anything, no matter how bad. I think it started once Helen divorced him. Things just never seemed funny anymore. And we quit, ironically, going to UH games. They’d been our escape from our wives, and our wives had pulled the ultimate escape on both of us.
My situation was different though. Our divorce had been amicable. We had no problem sharing the kids, and the kids got along well with both of us.
With Eddie the divorce was ugly. Not only did he lose his wife, but his kids never spoke to him again.
“Forget it, Eddie. Don’t mind me. I don’t want to try to be funny if you don’t want it. Sorry about that.”
“Ah, sorry,” he says, sinking into the couch so far I’m afraid it’s going to eat him.
“Watch out,” I say, reaching for him.
He’s startled. “What? What is it?”
I kind of chuckle, a bead of sweat trickling down my cheek. “Shit, man, I thought you were going to disappear into the couch.”
I shake my head. “Nah nah. Nothing. Never mind.”
He blows a stream of smoke into the air. We watch it quietly explode off the ceiling in slow motion. I sip my Sliver Bullet but the can’s empty.
“Eh,” says Eddie, “you want another one?”
“No, shoots, it’s almost bedtime for me. I gotta go. Plus I got a doctor appointment in the morning first thing.”
“What for?” asks Eddie.
“Dermatologist. He’s burning off some pre-cancerous lesions.”
“Fuck,” says Eddie. “Fuck cancer.”
I know I shouldn’t have mentioned cancer. Why’d I do it?
“Sorry, Eddie, sorry, man.”
“Ah, no worries. It’s all good.”
His eyes water. It’s not all good. Me and my big mouth.
I stand up, waver a little. Not because of the beer so much, but the damn marijuana. And I am feeling more paranoid than I’d like.
Eddie walks me to the door, scotch in hand. “Dude,” he says, “if you see her out there, please tell her I’m sorry.”
I nod. “Okay, Eddie, sure. I’ll tell her.”
The door closes behind me, and I walk down the front stairs. Stopping on the walkway that winds out to the street through all these trees and bushes, I peer into the gloom. The street seems a long way off. My heart rate climbs a little. What if? I think. What if Helen is out here wandering around?
I start walking, my pace picking up pretty quickly as I trot through the maze out toward the street lights. My shirt catches on something and I turn to look. Is it Helen?
I run now, as fast as I can at my age. When I get to the street, I’m panting so hard I have to bend over and grab my knees.
No no, of course it isn’t Helen. How could it be? She’s been dead for years.