Legalized

It was a gangbusters night at the pub New Year’s Eve. Nearly 500 people made their way through the door over the course of the evening, dumping cash and guzzling down booze. When the clock struck midnight, weed became legal in the state of Illinois. As it happens, one of Chicago’s few recreational dispensaries was only a few blocks from the bar and it opened at 6am. Since I didn’t get off of work until nearly 5am (and then drank heavily for 30-45 minutes after the doors were closed), I thought myself perfectly poised to get in before the rush, grab exactly what I wanted from the selection that had yet to be depleted, then bounce the fuck out happy and high as a clam (I’m assuming clams are big smokers).

In my slightly drunken stupor, I missed the bus stop and ended up coming at the place from the north. “No line!” I thought to myself. “Nailed it!”

As I got closer, I could see the beginnings of a line hidden on the south side of the building. By then it was about 5:40am, and I made it a little over three quarters of a block before finding the tail end of the throng of folks waiting for their weed. It was probably about 25 degrees, and the fuckers at the front had been there since midnight, which shocked me because stoners aren’t known for their forethought.

I took my place in line thinking, “Well I’ll wait until the doors open, see how fast the line is moving, then bounce if I think it’s taking too long.” At first, the line went at a decent pace. They were letting people in 20 at a time, so we’d move in big chunks. I imagined that most people there that early had a fairly decent handle on what they were looking for, so they weren’t wasting their time perusing the selection. Since I come from Cali where this shit’s been around a while, I knew my order well before I got in the line – it made sense that these early birds did, too.

I passed the time shooting the shit with the middle-aged folks around me. Everyone was in good spirits despite the biting early morning Chicago cold. Many of these folks had been waiting a whole lifetime for the day they could smoke themselves silly within the comfortable confines of the law, and it was finally here. Soon, the sun started to peak over the horizon, and I could tell the line wasn’t going anywhere for a while, so I offered to go grab coffee for my new friends while they held my place.

Initially I was excited to see a local coffee shop closer than the Starbucks, but of course they didn’t open until 8am that day and it was only 6:45am. I walked the extra couple blocks to the chain store that I’m significantly less fond of, its lights were mostly off inside, but I could see two barristas doing their opening shit, so I tapped on the glass and pointed at my watchless wrist. They held up seven fingers, so I waited by the door until they unlocked it. I got the coffee and a cheese danish (the guilty pleasure that I refuse to ever give up), and enjoyed watching the colors of the sky change while I waited for the bus.

When I got back to the line, I was hopeful that my little group made it farther along. “Maybe they’re already inside!” Silly optimism. They had barely moved at all. As if he heard the sigh of disappointment, a man who had successfully made it through the line drove by in his minivan, waving his canvas tote around outside the window and shouting, “EVERY DAY! EVERY FUCKING DAY NOW!” with so much joy in his voice that you couldn’t help but get swept up in it. The line cheered and clapped for him, and was reinvigorated to continue the standing and waiting. By that time, the line wrapped around corner, then went three blocks north on the adjacent street.

It was fucking cold. I couldn’t feel my feet. Dress socks are never the right call in winter unless you know you’re going to be inside, but in my defense, I very much thought I would be. They passed around hand warmers, and I immediately shoved it to the end of my shoe. Because there were so many people in line, we only got one each, so I had to alternate which set of toes I thawed. The coffee and the alcohol got me out of line three times so I could relieve myself in the alley, which was a much more justifiable breaking of the law before the sun came up, but no less necessary even after it did.

“You could totally just leave and come back later,” cropped up in my mind from time to time, but at some point I had been there too long to not see it through. Just before 9am they moved us into a different line so that we could give our phone numbers for followup when it was our turn. Bars opened early for the special day, so me and my little contingent went to warm up at one of the nearby drinkeries. Carafes of mimosas were $14, so I got one and turned down the offer of a glass in favor of drinking straight from the source.

Across the street was a highly-rated breakfast joint, so I pushed past the line of respectable people with kids and shit, and found a seat at the bar. I shot the shit with the young man sitting next to me. His tie dye shirt made it obvious that we had some things in common. I was my usual drunken ass of a self, making the bartender make me an old fashioned with maple syrup instead demerara. It was a’ight, but I was also too drunk to know. I honestly don’t remember if I paid my tab there or just walked out, but the breakfast sandwich and the service were solid, and I was a douche, so I certainly hope I paid and tipped well.

Around 11am, when I was about to give up and go home, I got a text telling me it was time to get in yet another line, as it was nearly my turn. “If my drug dealer made me wait five minutes in the cold, I’d be like, ‘Fuck this, I’m calling somebody else.'” I joked with the people in line 3 of the day. I finally made it into the dispensary, and spent about ten minutes procuring my shit. By the time I got out I thought, “Well fuck at this point my bar’s open again!” So I walked back there to tell my tail to my coworkers and friends and have a few more half-price drinks before heading home.

The combination of weed and alcohol kept me there longer than expected. Eventually I was woken up at the bar by a close friend who lived nearby. She had had a full night of sleep, so she was ready for some fun. I drank with her for some ungodly amount of time, told and retold my story of the morning to anybody who would listen, and shared the spoils of the battle with anyone interested in partaking.

In the retelling of my evening, my coworker said that his favorite part was when I picked my head up, looked at him eyes half-mast, and said, “Man, I’m so tired right now.” He noted that I could just go home. I did not.

I walked my friend to her apartment, then struggled for probably 30 minutes to get into her computer with every possible iteration of her password. She passed out sitting on the kitchen floor with me while I typed and retyped that shit more times than I can count. She lost her phone at some point in the evening and needed to get up for work early the next morning, and an alarm on the computer seemed like the only viable option. Finally I thought, “I bet this chick has an old clock somewhere in this apartment,” and found it after only a short time of rummaging through her nightstand.

I got her off the floor and took her to bed. Apparently that woke her up, though, and when someone insistently says “Kiss my pussy!” you don’t just turn and run. What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t muster up what remaining energy I had to comply? By 9pm I was finally on my way home. Obviously, I don’t remember much about that bus ride, but I’m sure I gave the homeless folks a run for their money in terms of how haggard I looked.

I don’t regret the time I spent being a part of such a monumental occasion, but I can say with certainty that I don’t care what drug they legalize next – I’m not waiting in another fucking line ever again.

Working Title

Are you in love right now? How awesome is that shit? If you’re not, have you been in love before? I bet you remember exactly what it feels like. If you’re like me, the powerful torrent of a river that was that love etched an indelible path deep down in you somewhere. Looking at it, now barely a trickle (but never completely dry), brings a weird combination of sadness and awe – how deep it ran, how wide its breadth.

Every now and again I get brief flashes of it. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint – I see a picture of an ex that reminds me of them. Sometimes it’s more subtle – like today when I heard a news story about how women smell their partner’s shirts as a way to calm themselves; just like she used to. I’m instantly transported to her side, and I feel her skin against mine for a split second before I’m thrown back into the present. It’s painful to remember just how happy I was, mainly because no matter how happy I feel now, it pales in comparison to that feeling. It’s a reminder that that shit is out there, waiting for me in the heart of someone I probably haven’t even met, yet.

She sits in a coffee shop and stares at the rain hitting the window. She listens to a combination of podcasts, NPR news stories, and sweet, somber instrumental music that matches the tone of the season. She feels perfectly happy with herself right now, but she too is reminded of the flame that burned in her belly once for that someone. The pang hits her as the music crescendos, and her eyes well with tears, and one sneaks its way down her cheek while she’s distracted by the beauty of the moment.

She’s proud of that tear for its audacity. She’s thankful for it being there for a moment before she wipes it away. She yearns for something strong enough to pull more of them from her someday when she’s so goddamn happy that tears are the only way for her body to cope with the overload of joy, happiness, and true love coursing through her veins.

It’s fucking corny! Deal with it!

Anyway, I can’t wait to meet her. I can’t wait to see her smile for the first time. I can’t wait to feel the electricity pulse through our skin when our hands meet for the first time. I can’t wait to see the glint of realization in her eyes when she finds herself thinking, “Holy shit, I love this guy,” for the first time. I can’t wait to feel that spark in me again.

Then again, I can wait. I AM waiting. I hate waiting. But the leaves are certainly pretty rustling in the fall winds, and I’m happy she and I both have that to enjoy while we wait, sipping our coffee (beer) and staring at the rain hitting the window.

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We’re Not Together

What better way to celebrate senior year of high school than an unexpected pregnancy between my best friend and his lady? Both of them had aspirations for the future that did not include any children with any immediacy, so they decided that an abortion was their best choice. Knowing both of them as well as I did, I agreed.

He made up some bullshit about not being able to get out of work, so I cleared my day and took her to the clinic. The waiting room was filled with people there for similar procedures, and people who were just there to receive any of the other low-cost medical services the office provided. It was not a lively bunch, and there was a hush that was noteworthy even by comparison to other doctors’ offices. Her name was called, and I went with her to the counter because what else was I supposed to do?

“Can you sit back down?” she asked me.

“Why? I’m not doing anything over there. I don’t mind standing here with you.”

“No, it’s just that… I don’t want everyone to think we’re together.”

I turned to the quiet room and said, “Hey – I just want everybody to know we’re not together!” My voice carries. I did not need to shout. I did anyway. She promptly punched me in the arm, blushed, laughed, and told me to sit down again. I listened this time.

She sat back down after checking in and filling out the necessary paperwork. I continued making shitty jokes about the people around us to try and ease some of her tension. It was marginally successful, her name was called, I squeezed her hand and watched her disappear into the treatment area.

“I’ll be right outside waiting in my car, so just call me when she’s ready to go,” I told the staff behind the counter.

“The procedure lasts a couple hours. If you have any errands you want to run, you should have time,” the nurse told me.

“No, I’d rather be here just in case.” I sat in my car reading Men’s Health and GQ magazines with the air conditioner blasting, and a Tenacious D album playing loudly through my crappy sound system. It was a hot summer day in the San Fernando Valley, and it was untenable to me that she get out of the procedure and into the heat and discomfort of the valley in the summertime.

They were pretty spot-on with their time estimate. She stammered back into the waiting room, significantly more pale, drowsy, and sans baby. I helped her into my car, and she didn’t want to go home in the state she was in, so I sat with her for another couple hours while she napped. I got her a couple Gatorades to down on the way back to her parents’ house, where she presumably avoided the topic of where she had been all day.