Pete said yes to the little vial of Texas booger sugar and the rest was history. They spent four hours gnawing on steaks, slamming premium Tequila, and howling underneath loud overtures of the elevated subway. The medicinal nasal drip was an ever-present electrical jolt of brain power, creating spasms of heightened soliloquizing, rapturous postulations on racism and the ahistorical manifestos of secret bastards in the zeitgeist.
Self hatred is the credo of the urban white boy in the 21st century. Inward judgment, fragile braggadocio, eyes cast down to trace the harried paths of las ratas. Drugs amplify. Yet the intent is good, the effect is nicer poultry, the smell of chicken blood-feather-foot is practically scrubbed since 1912 the place existed—
Pete, for his part, always tried not to draw attention to himself. To be respectful. Everyone else been here longer, he reasoned. Don’t dress like an asshole. New York City was the land of the high and the low—rich, poor; gorgeous, ugly; Brooklyn, Queens; penthouse, basement—a hell of a place Pete called it. By the time the night was extinguished the subway had dwindled to a tri-hourly trip, picking meat out their teeth they did not wish to say goodbye, eyes glued open, craving the next fix.
It was magic hour as they greeted the giant Indian bodega clerk whose eyes swam in pools of red. Huffing bacon scents he peered down at them with proud disgust, a notch down from the fury he emitted in the years of nights he had lived. Pete asked for rolling papers.
“You need rolling papers, man?” A young Latino appeared from the shadows, his voice slithering across many measures of the bodega soundtrack. The Indian clerk was now a dark red peripheral mass breathing those nitrate fumes, shrinking into nothing—“How many do you need?”
“Just one,” Pete said.
“Just one? What, you are not going to smoke me up? Come on, bro,” the Colombian said, looking out at the deserted violet borough where even the rats slept. “My name is Alex.”
Pete’s friend—who shall remain nameless, who at any cost remains nameless, whose visage was so contorted by the tenseness of his jaw at that moment that his forehead cut the morning glow like quartz—was silent.
Pete said yes to the Colombian’s request and the rest was history. He returned to the house to retrieve those cherished emerald fragments, his friend having earned his solitude and given up on adventure. Resistance to adventure was an epidemic whose only cure was more adventure. Dear the soft synthetic masses—namaste, tip your yogi, and don’t kill Pete’s fucking high.
Alex took him down Northern Boulevard to an alley hidden behind the houses on 78th and 79th. The morning’s light was intensifying as mothers shook linens out of their windows. It would not be hard, if you looked, to see a school child. The two sought refuge beneath a mass of dying trees and Alex’s hands went to work on the crumpled bambu and mossy buds.
“What do you like, Pete, man?” he asked, looking up. “You like molly, you like perrico?” He licked the glue and placed the joint in his mouth.
“I like everything,” Pete replied. “Todos.”
“Oh, you like everything, huh?” The Colombian leaned down into his body and lit up. “So I take this rock here, I smash car window. I get in the car, I start it up. You take rock, smash the other window, get in and drive away with me?”
The thick smoke that cascaded from his mouth devoured his face and clung to his features like fog on water.
“No,” Pete said.
Alex’s eyes gleamed from deep within that smoke. “Then you don’t like todos, man, you don’t like everything.” He offered over the weed.
All of the following happens in the time it takes Pete to put the joint to his mouth: The children leave their houses—these peripheral cherubs—and cars back out of lots. A mosquito sucks the blood from Pete’s hand. The leafage below the two sags and voids its muddy contents into the fibers of their sneakers. Alex’s legs begin to tense, and he takes the first step towards running. Pete’s lips pucker to suck the fire from their hewn cylinder.
Alex had left the frame. Pete’s mind crashed back to reality as officers emerged from a car parked several feet away. A fat bald white man in a Yankees shirt dashed after him as he turned and ran.
Pete stripped himself of the evidence: That small white vial which he had enjoyed so thoroughly, those little buds of goodness Alex had torn into, and the adventure he had agreed to. He was propelled so forcefully from the ground from his running that the pavement below him did not exist. He was flying. He caught Alex with ease, and as he passed him, he peered into those confident eyes.
He wanted to say, “I like everything, man,” because this rush was a rare and beautiful thing. But Alex was slowing down. Pete had just slightly more in him—he hopped the fence in their path.
There was nowhere to hide in that thawed cemetery. Drowned flowers lay strewn, attached to perpetual ribbons. The snow was piled against gravestones, soaked through with mud and salt. Names were perceptible beneath the sludge, Richard, Carter, Lopez, Grant—
There were a few mourners making their way around. They were all wearing green. They were all older men. They looked over at Pete, who had slowed to an amble. He could hear the ruckus behind him approaching over the muffled cries of the fallen.
His breath burned in his chest. He wondered to himself: Who came here when these souls were buried beneath the snow? Who had freed them from those whispering drifts of oblivion? Who considers the dead when so many damned yet live?
When they caught him there, their enthusiasm for punishment could not be contained. The fat cop had been wearing a bulletproof vest: He threw Pete onto the ground and nearly ripped his clothes off. The green men watched it all happen, as he was thrown up against the fence and searched, hands groping his genitals and searching beneath his shirt.
Alex was resisting his detention on the other side of the fence. They were questioning him, holding the white vial up in triumph. “That’s not mine, man, that’s not mine—”
Pete’s face was pressed so hard against the fence he thought his eyes would squeeze out. Alex stared into them deeply. The cops buckled Pete’s knees and rolled him onto his stomach. The mourners solemnly greeted his gaze.
They all seemed to hate him so desperately that he was forced to wonder whether his adventure had just begun.