The kitchen is dark when he enters through the back door. More from memory than the ability to see, Duo closes the door, sets the locks and crosses to the refrigerator. Light from the tiny bulb is casting a halo glow in a short arc, and Duo calculates how many beers have been consumed, and how many he can snitch without anyone being the wiser. Grabbing two, he turns away, leaving the door open.
Dishes are scattered about the countertop and in the sink; a pot of something is left on the stovetop. Shoving the beers in each jacket pocket, he picks up the spoon, stirs the lumpy mix and thinks it could be hamburger macaroni. A spoonful confirms it, and he eats what little was left, carrying the pot to the sink and adds it to the pile when he's finished.
His nose wants to run, and Duo sniffs loudly, lets out a belch just after and shuts the refrigerator door. It is late, and he has work in the morning. From the hallway, he sees the bluish cast of light and knows she's passed out on the couch again. He pauses in the archway; the television is broadcasting some old movie where all the actors had died years before he is even born. She is snoring slightly, and he doesn't soften his steps to the couch. For several long moments he watches her, remembers a time before here, when there was sunshine and woods. His lips tighten and he tosses the scrappy blanket back over the top of her. The TV he leaves on.
It is cold in his room, heat doesn't move farther than the middle of the hallway. He leaves his jacket on, but takes out the beers, setting one on the floor by his bed and opening the other. With a silent toast to his mother in the other room, he downs half the beer in two strong pulls and wipes his mouth with the back of his beer hand.
Music, he thinks and punches the power button. It's Pink Floyd and Duo almost finds a different tape, but gives a shrug instead. He lays back on his mattress, his pillow tucked up in a bunch under his head and his beer resting on his stomach.
There is no pain, you are receding. A distant ship smoke on the horizon.
Duo leans over just enough to reach under his bed and pull the tray out from under it. Papers, a lighter, a dime bag and a few loose leaves litter its psychedelic surface. His beer gets wedged between his thighs and Duo takes a pinch from the bag. He rolls the dried leaf with the balls of his fingers, picks out stems and seeds; zig-zag, weed and a flick of his thumb.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, Out of the corner of my eye.
He is toking deep, his eyes close, and he is holding his breath. Instant odor, sweet and nauseating, familiar and home.
I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now.
Exhaling, Duo reaches for his beer, finishes it off and lets the can drop to the floor. He tucks one hand behind his head, and stares at the distorted light from the neighbor's backyard. There are times when the smell of cannabis invokes images of trees taller than high-rises in town, of sunlight filtering through leaves, of salt and sea, and smiles and love. Duo draws on the joint, sucking the smoke and holding it in his lungs.
His mother used to wear flower garlands in her hair.
The child is grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.