When I wake up, it’s mid afternoon and raining. I make some coffee and take it out to the porch. There’s things I should do and things I wanted to do, but between the time and the rain, they’re not going to happen. Instead, I put on Side 3 of Electric Ladyland, the Rainy Day sequence, and sit on the front porch and watch the rain.
After a while, the kitchen door slams and wet sneakers squeak on linoleum. Stanley walks into the porch with a cardboard box in his hands. His hair and goatee are greasy-black with rain and plastered to his head. His glasses are so streaked with water that I wonder how he can see out of them.
“Look at what I got,” he says, offering me the box. Inside are a bunch of coleus and geraniums. The box is awash with dirty water.
“Did you steal those from the New Campus?” I ask.
“They planted them right in the ground,” he says. “They were going to die anyway. I did them a favor.” He runs his fingers through his hair and cold rain splatters on my arm.
“Hey, come on, Stanley. You’re dripping all over me.”
“Sorry,” he says. “You’re touchy today.” I mutter an apology. He drops the box in a corner and sits on the couch, starting to load what looks like a faucet with what looks like half an ounce of pot.
He shrugs. “It’s the last of my stash.” A tall hulk of a guy, Stanley was the first of his family to go to college. He was a philosophy major, no less. He spent the past two years in the Army stateside, learning radar mechanics and perfecting the art of appearing too dumb for whatever an officer wanted. He was a good student. And he was lucky–he never got sent to Vietnam. He has some kind of Army money and relatives on the East Side who feed him dinner, but basically, he’s been living on nothing for the last six months.
“Buy a pound from John. You can sell most of it and keep the rest.”
“My friends don’t have the money for Colombian.”
“He’s getting some Mexican. One fifty, one seventy five a pound.”
“I could sell most of it and make enough for a month’s rent. Let me call Mike.”
It used to be, you’d buy a pound, sell half of it, and smoke the rest. Even John, who was buying and selling dope from high school on, used to decide he’d made enough money and throw a party or bring a bottle of electric orange juice to a concert or something. Give something back.
For a couple of months in my freshman year, before John showed up, we used to get most of our pot from these two brothers. They weren’t students, just showed up, friends of friends, with a lot of decent weed. They liked it on campus and started staying with one guy or another. The girls all used to sneak food out of the dining commons for them, stuffing mashed potatoes and the mystery meat into dixie cups. They wanted us to help out. I never did. They were selling lots of dope on campus, sleeping with half the girls in our crowd and I still had to feed them? Why were we obligated to feed them, too? It didn’t make any sense to me. If they were drifting through or something, sure, but not these guys. What did they ever give back?
At least hey never slept with Matisse. Or at least I never knew about it. I listen to the bubbles and seaweed from the underwater sequence. They say it’s impossible for a man to live and breathe underwater.” As though sheer determination is going to let you grow gills. Still, the music is good and it’s an appealing thought right around now.
Stanley comes back. “Mike’s in. Call John, OK?”
While the phone is ringing, I check the fridge. Some leftovers from Stanley’s aunt, some bagels from work, some dead lettuce and some beer. There’s no answer at John’s so I tell Stanley I’ll treat and we head off for…I guess it’s breakfast for me. The Chinese place we pick is pretty empty and after one bite, I can see why. I can picture some fat white guy in a dirty apron out back, holding a cookbook upside down while he’s smoking a cigarette and trying to stir fry.
We hit a movie, but I must have dozed off, because the ending makes no sense to me. Afterwards, Stanley decides he’s hungry, so we hit the Deli. Too late, I wonder whether Christine is going to be there.
I call John again from the payphone in the lobby. No sense in doing drug deals on the private line. Howie, John’s roommate answers. “John’s not here. You’re about the 10th person who’s called.”
“Probably for the same reason. Tell him I called, OK?” I had back to table seven and sit.
“Boy,” says Marcie, “Do you look stoned. Had a nice day off?”
“Where’s Christine?” The words slip out before I can think.
“Bill gave her the night off. She’s your waitress now. Her nights are your nights.”
“I thought you’d be pleased.”
“How about a cup of coffee?” Marcie chuckles and walks away. She brings me the coffee and hovers around the table. Bill is gone and business is slow.
“How was last night?”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh come on now, don’t tell me that you two didn’t go home together last night. It was written all over your faces.”
“Why is everyone so concerned with my love life?”
“Because,” says Bob, standing in front of me with some sandwiches, “you might start having one. You’d neglect your responsibilities. Your work would suffer.”
“You make me suffer.” He sets the plates on the table without further comment.
“Kitchen’s closed for five minutes,” he says, sitting beside Stanley.
“OK with me,” says Marcie.
Stanley begins inhaling his sandwich.
“Where’s Bill?” I ask.
“At Gloria’s mother’s,” says Bob.
“She must really be sick. He’s over there every day.”
“She’s old,” says Bob. “Make any pots today?”
“In this rain? I was lucky to get out of the house.”
“We’ve been getting high all afternoon,” says Stanley. They laugh.
“Hey,” says Marcie, “We’re all out of whipped cream again. Know anything about that?”
“There’s probably full can in the meat case. I stuck it in there a couple of days ago but I haven’t used it yet.”
Marcie wrinkles her nose. “You’re disgusting.”
“Hey, It’s not like I’m drooling into someone’s sundae. I keep the cans separate. When the nitrous oxide is all gone, I chuck the can. Besides, dentists use it. It’s safe.”
“No dentist I know sticks a can of whipped cream into my mouth and tells me to hold my breath.”
I start to reply, but it’s too much of an effort.
“Why don’t you call John one more time?” asks Stanley.
“OK,” I sigh and walk to the pay phone. Someone answers almost immediately.
“Howie?” I ask. John laughs.
“Hi, man,” he says.
“John, where have you been?”
“Come on over and find out. I’ve got something to show you.”
“How about tomorrow? I’m so tired I’m going to drop.”
“You can’t come over tonight?” He sounds disappointed.
“I’ll be lucky if I can make it home.”
“Tomorrow,” he says. “Have a good sleep.”
“Welcome back,” I say, but he’s already hung up. I walk back to the table and tell Stanley it’s all set.
“How much?” he asks.
Forgot to ask. “One seventy five,” I tell him. I can always give back the extra.
“OK,” he says. “You want to go?”
“See you all later,” I say and walk to the door.
“Come again,” Bob shouts after me. “Bring your own whipped cream.”
I ignore him and keep walking. Stan and I smoke another joint in the car on the way home and that gives me enough energy to pull off my clothes and crawl into bed.