Authors: Todd Hasak-Lowy
Nate, pretending to be insulted, sort of slaps her shoulder and asks, “Are you calling my brother a liar?” Kimmy pretends to be even more insulted, makes a sound (something between “uh” and “oh”), and slaps Nate back on his shoulder. Darren wonders if there are any brownies left.
Â 10:41â10:46 p.m.
On the walk to the next party, Darren asks Zoey (who is already smoking) if he can have one. She takes a cigarette out of her pack, puts it between her lips (so that she briefly has two cigarettes in her mouth), removes the cigarette she was smoking, and holds its lit tip up to the unlit tip of the new cigarette (which remains in her mouth). Once the new one is lit she passes it to Darren. Then they walk in silence together, smoking. He feels like he's getting better at it, and that Zoey can tell.
Â 10:59â11:04 p.m.
At the next party (which is actually in two different apartments connected by an outdoor stairway that cuts the building in half), Nate jabs Darren and says, “You see that girl?”
Darren says, “The one in the dark green jacket?”
“That's the one,” Nate says.
“What about her?” Darren asks.
“Do me a favor,” Nate says. “When you start fucking people, don't fuck her.”
Darren feels a weird smile come over his face, so weird it sort of hurts his entire head. “Did youÂ .Â .Â .Â ,” he tries to ask Nate. But Nate is already walking across the stairway and into the other apartment, where he and Darren get in line for beer.
Right when they get to a shallow red tub holding a stubby silver keg, the girl in the dark green jacket comes up to Nate and says, “Hey.”
Nate says, “Hey.” Darren smiles at her cute, round face and big brown eyes. She smiles back the way you'd want someone to smile at you if you were the new kid in the cafeteria looking for a place to sit. Before Darren is done admiring her smile, Nate hands him another beer (which is even more disgusting than the first one). Darren shrugs his shoulders for her and follows Nate back into the first apartment.
Â 11:20â11:25 p.m.
Nate (calling Darren a pussy as he swaps his empty cup for Darren's mostly full cup) sort of pushes Darren in the ass toward a bedroom in the apartment that has the keg. He also sticks out his elbow and hits Zoey, who was standing just down the hallway from them and staring at a poster of a painting by Picasso or someone. “C'mon, kids,” he says, “let's go.” But they're not going actually, they're staying, or just going into a bedroom.
There's someone in the bedroom, maybe the person whose room it is, because the guy is just sitting on a beanbag chair and doing something on Facebook. Nate says, “Hey Matt, is it cool if we smoke up here?”
Without looking up Matt says, “Cool it is.” Nate sits down on the edge of Matt's bed. Zoey and Darren stand. She drinks from a red plastic cup and tries to tell Darren something with her eyes. It might be something along the lines of
I told you so.
The walls are half-covered with posters of the old parts of what must be European cities, except for one poster of John Lennon giving the peace sign in front of the Statue of Liberty. Nate has a lighter and a wooden pipe in his hand that actually has a wooden cover on top that he pivots to the side, revealing some marijuana ready to be smoked. Darren can smell the plant from about two feet away.
The pipe and lighter are extended to him as Nate says, “The time has come, young Jedi.” Darren almost giggles, takes the two items, and places the wooden pipe in his mouth, uncertain how much of it he should put in. The lighter doesn't light at first. Once it does (despite the angle and proximity of the whole thing to his face), Darren can see the green plant catching and soon feels the smoke, too much of it, taking over his throat. Yanking the pipe out of his mouth, he coughs uncontrollably, sending smoke everywhere.
Nate says, “Dude.”
Zoey takes the pipe and lighter from Darren, who can't stop coughing. His eyes are watering, but he can still see Zoey smoking with much greater success.
Nate, just before receiving the pipe from Zoey, asks his brother, “You okay, champ?” Darren continues coughing, but less. Zoey exhales a thick cone of smoke in Matt's general direction. Nate says,
Â 11:26â11:31 p.m.
“Ready to try that again?” Darren may not be ready but nods in the affirmative, receives the equipment, lights the lighter quickly, inhales a tiny bit, and immediately exhales. Nate says calmly, “Yo, Spazologist, this isn't the Special Olympics.” Zoey smiles a brand-new smile and maybe even nods her head in approval. Nate takes the pipe and lighter from Darren and says, “Sorry, Lady Z, not to jump my place in line, but someone here needs a serious tutorial. Okay,” he says. “How to smoke up in six stepsÂ .Â .Â . no, seven. Please pay attention:
1.Â Put the pipe in your mouth. Like so.
2.Â Light the lighter. Ta-da!
4.Â Crucial: Keep the smoke in your mouth [he says this and the next step like he's a ventriloquist, opening his mouth just a tiny, tiny bit].
5.Â Optional, but pretty crucial, too. Swallow some of the smoke.
8.Â Be high.
“Eight steps, okay?” Darren nods and tries, pulling off steps #1â4 and #6 pretty well. He waits for Zoey, Nate, and now Matt to do #1â6 (and Nate, and maybe Zoey, look to be taking care of #8, too) before doing #7 himself. He still coughs, but not as much, probably because his throat is a total and 100 hundred percent disaster by this point.
After #7 is done a couple more times, Nate asks, “How we doing?”
“Okay,” Darren says.
“Yeah,” Zoey says softly, her small eyes smaller than normal.
“Cool,” Nate says, and directs them back into the party. “Nothing about this on your status update, Mr. Cook.”
“Roger that,” Matt says.
“Bye,” Darren says. “Thanks.”
Â 11:32â11:37 p.m.
Nate, Darren, and Zoey stand in the stairway between the two apartments. Darren tries to decide if he is high, unsure how he would know. “Nate,” he eventually says, “how do you know if you're high?”
“If you have to ask,” Nate says with a small grin frozen on his face, “you're not.” Darren looks at Zoey, who is leaning against a wall with her eyes closed. He can't tell if she's okay or not. Maybe he should check to see if she's okay, but maybe he only thinks to do this because he's high, since of course she's fine, it's not like she's having trouble standing up or anything, she's just leaning against the wall with her eyes closed, what's the big deal?
“Does it not work sometimes?” Darren asks Nate.
“Was that your very first time, D?”
“Yeah,” Darren answers, but not embarrassed. Nate places his hand on Darren's shoulder and squeezes it a few times, which feels remarkably good.
“Sometimes,” he says, “the first time is sort of like just downloading the getting-high app.”
“Then you've got to smoke another time to actually use it.”
“No worries, little man,” Nate says, sipping on a beer. “The night is still young.” Darren looks at Zoey. She clearly downloaded her getting-high app sometime before tonight's party began.
Â 12:09â12:14 a.m.
Darren uses his app, which he can tell because he's never really thought about his tongue this much before. It's so thick and heavy. Not to mention: Someone actually invented carpeting. How in the world had that never occurred to him before? He has an enormous urge to look at the mark on his arm, but he doesn't, because part of him is terrified it will still be there.
Â 12:47â12:52 a.m.
Sitting on a couch high, Darren tries to not listen to the music, which is loud and heinous (like Dubstep but somehow even worse), only you can't close your ears. Nate just returned from getting another beer, which makes that like eight or nine beers at least. The house, which took forever to walk to, kind of looks like Bryce Cummings's house back in Chicago, which means big and not old and filled with low ceilings and puffy leather furniture. Being high is okay, but maybe just because this couch is probably the ninth-most comfortable couch in the entire Western Hemisphere. Darren wishes there were brownies nearby, but there are so many people dancing, there's no way he could go check without losing his spot on the couch, which would suck so bad he can't even think about it.
“Nate,” Darren says, leaning his head most of the way toward Nate but not turning it at all.
“Huh,” Nate responds.
“Dad's gay,” Darren says, turning his face to Nate. “Isn't he?”
Nate scratches the side of his beard with his thumb, “Probably trending on Twitter by now.”
Zoey is standing against a wall on the other side of the room, and if Darren leans to his right he can see her all the way. She's talking to a guy with a ponytail, though Darren can't actually tell if she's talking herself or just being talked to. The guy in the ponytail is probably a dick, because he has a ponytail. Though he does have a Windbreaker and hiking boots on, so maybe he's only a pain in the ass.
Darren would like to watch TV or have a snack or go to sleep. There are two girls dancing about three feet from him, and he wishes they'd take him out to breakfast tomorrow morning and tell him what their majors are and how swell college is and act like none of them were at any of these parties tonight. They seem nice, especially the one in tights who keeps doing disco moves while giggling.
Nate slaps Darren's knee and leans into him. What's weird is that it makes more sense for Nate to lean into Darren than the other way around, because Darren is bigger overall at this point. Even though he's younger and always will be. And less wasted.
“Girls will like it,” Nate says.
“Dad,” Nate breathes into Darren's ear. “Being all gay and everything.” Nate seems to be snuggling into Darren. “Girls dig guys with gay dads.”
What Darren would really like is some soup. Butternut squash, the kind his dad makes so well. Which may or may not seem more fitting now that his dad is gay. Either way, Darren would obviously need to eat it somewhere other than this couch. So maybe just some hot chocolate. Something for his throat. Something to drink.
“Hey, man,” he says to Nate. “Can I have a sip?”
He takes a sip, and it's still horrible, but it does make his throat not hurt so much. What he'd like is this couch, reruns of “Family Guy,” and a tray with a bowl of his dad's butternut squash soup on it. Or the two dancing girls at breakfast. But not dancing anymore, just telling him that of course they were planning on ordering Mickey Mouse pancakes too.
The guy with the ponytail is standing much closer to Zoey than he was just a minute ago. Zoey nods her head, but Darren can't tell what this means. He hasn't seen Kyle for at least an hour. There is a chance they're actually not that far from Nate and Kyle's apartment, because Darren has a really bad sense of direction and it's not like he knows Ann Arbor or anything. He'd bet the girl in the tights is an English major. If he had to bet. She's not very good at dancing, but she still seems to be having fun, which Darren admires.
Zoey must get in trouble a lot, unless her parents don't care anymore, which would be even worse. His parents still care, and that's both good and bad news right now.
The guy with the ponytail puts his hand against the wall, on a spot less than three inches over Zoey's shoulder. If Darren could shoot lasers out of his eyes, he'd vaporize the guy and his ponytail, assuming he could open his eyes wide enough to shoot his lasers.
“Can we go to sleep now?” Darren asks his brother.
“Help me up,” Nate instructs him.
They get up with great difficulty and bisect the dancing girls, who Darren already misses. Nate is turning away from Darren, who bumps into people on his way to Zoey.
When he gets to her, he takes her wrist and pushes up her sleeve, revealing some of her design. “I knew it,” he says, without even looking at the face of the guy with the ponytail, whose face he'll probably never see. “C'mon, time to go home.”
“Okay, bye,” she says to the ponytail. And then, a few seconds later, she whispers into Darren's ear, “This planet's lame.”
Surprises That Nearly Redeem Tonight
Â Right outside the last party, Nate says, his speech slurred, “Darren, you've got to get us homeâtake my phone and GPS us, bro.” After a lot of back-and-forth, Darren gets the address and discovers that they're only four and a half blocks from his brother's apartment. Nate has his arm around Darren, who holds up the phone to monitor their progress, making him feel like some sort of commando leader.
Â Zoey hums a song behind them. Pretty loudly. Not one that Darren recognizes, but it seems like a pretty happy song. After crossing a street, Darren pauses for a moment to adjust his hold on Nate, who may be more asleep than awake. He turns around and looks at Zoey, who keeps humming her song. She stops humming, opens her eyes wide, bares her teeth, and then giggles. For less than a second, Darren is able to recall exactly what Zoey looked like at her seventh birthday party, which he now definitely remembers attending, unless being high and exhausted gives you the ability to fool yourself into remembering a bowling party with a bowling-ball cake and a birthday girl with pigtails.
Â Stopping yet again to fix his hold on Nate, Darren notices some nocturnal animal, probably a possum, awkwardly crossing the street near the edge of a streetlight's illuminated circle. “Zoey, check it out,” Darren says, pointing at it with his elbow.
“Huh?” Zoey asks.