Lionel bumped into me in the doorway. Stacey and Adam froze, both their hands still wrapped around the neck of the bong.
"Hey," Stacey croaked, a cloud of smoke escaping his mouth. I looked at my brother. Lionel's face was impassive.
"If you're going to do that, at least open a window," he said.
I exhaled. I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath. Stacey chuckled and Adam shrugged before putting the bong to his mouth. I turned away quickly.
"Sorry," said Stacey, hopping up from the bean bag to oblige Lionel. I was still looking at my brother for a sign that he was actually pissed or at least surprised, but I didn't see one. Sure, his friend was smoking pot with my friend, in his room. But it wasn't a big deal.
"I take it Dad's working late?" I asked.
"He never comes home before six," Lionel said. His eyes flicked to Adam, who was coughing quietly into his 0fist. "Uh, this isn't making you uncomfortable, right Dillon?"
I shook my head, a little more vigorously than necessary. “It’s cool.”
"Good," Lionel said. He looked over at Stacey again, who'd reclaimed the bong for another hit. "Well, I’m still gonna work on that song. I think I'll pass on the corruption of today's youth."
"Oh, they're plenty corrupt to begin with," said Stacey. "Right, Adam?"
Adam grinned. "Right!"
It was funny that Lionel asked, because I did feel a little uncomfortable. Though I wasn't sure why. I never felt weird around people smoking pot before, but that was usually at like, a party. This seemed different. Despite the coughing, Adam seemed pretty at ease with a bong—which if I'm being honest, I was impressed with myself for being able to identify at first glance. And Adam wanted to get drugs from Stacey. Did Adam do a lot of drugs? If it turned out he did, I tried to decide if I would care or not. I felt like all the anti-drug ads I'd seen on television should have got to me, at least subliminally, and that I should not be okay with it. But I was, I think. Okay with it.
I watched Adam take the bong away from his lips again, watched the way he opened his mouth just a little bit so the smoke plumed out and up in front of his face.
"You want a hit?" he asked, holding out the bong to me. Whose bong was it anyway? I wondered. Did Stacey bring it over just in case? Was it Lionel's?
I hesitated to answer, maybe a little too long.
"Hey," Stacey said, "you should shotgun him, Adam."
Adam laughed almost nervously and told him to fuck off.
"You're so cute," Stacey teased. Cute, like he was talking about a puppy. A puppy that had just told him to fuck off. Maybe later I'd ask someone what that meant, "shotgun," but for the moment I just laughed too.
"I'll take a hit," I said, reaching for the bong. Adam handed it over and I almost dropped it—it was heavier than I'd been expecting. From the corner of my eye, I caught Lionel watching me, his expression completely unreadable. When I looked over, he looked away and started playing chords. Did he care? My brother was so weird.
"Here, I'll light," Adam said. He held a red plastic lighter upside-down over the bowl.
"Thanks," I said, feeling kind of awkward. Obviously, I'd never used a bong before.
"Okay, exhale first," Adam said, still holding the lighter in position. It was nice of him to tell me that, but I wondered how obvious it was that I didn't know what I was doing. I blew out all the air in my lungs, then brought my face down to the bong so that the circle of the rim surrounded my mouth.
"Now pull," Adam said, flicking the lighter on. I heard the weed start to sizzle under the flame. I started to draw in a breath and Adam said, "Harder!" kind of laughing, and I could hear Stacey laughing too over the chords of Lionel's guitar. I sucked in more air until the water bubbled and the smoke rose up the column like a factor smoke stake. Suddenly, the whole neck of the bong was white and cloudy. Adam pulled the stem out and it hit me.
Smoke filled my mouth and before I had a chance to think about it, I had inhaled most of it into my lungs. Tears welled up in my eyes and I yanked the bong away from my face, coughing, almost dropping the thing because my throat was on fire, burning.
Oh god, if I could only stop coughing—it sounded awful and felt even worse. Stacey was still laughing. Adam took the bong out of my hands so I could cover my mouth. I let loose with a little more hacking, struggling to close up my throat so I wouldn't seem like such a chump. It was fucking uncomfortable and I was sure my face was glowing fire-engine red, but I finally managed to stop coughing.
"Oh my God!" Stacey said. "That was a monster hit!"
Adam laughed. "Impressive!"
"Dude, come here," Stacey said. When I staggered over to his beanbag, he handed me his soda. "Drink this, you'll feel better."
I took a huge gulp of the soda. The carbonation burned my throat too, but it was soothing in a weird way. I took another drink, and I didn't feel like I was going to die so much anymore. I waited for Stacey or Adam to give me shit, but no one did. Lionel was pretending not to pay attention, or maybe he was honestly lost in his own music writing world.
"There might be another hit left in here," Adam was saying, holding the bong aloft. "Stacey?"
"Sure, pass it over."
I sat down on the floor between Stacey and Adam and listened to the bong bubble as Stacey finished it off. I felt a little fuzzy, but it was maybe just from the coughing. Stacey blew a stream of smoke towards the window and set the bong back down beside him with a thunk. I guess it was empty. Or what were you supposed to say instead of empty? Cashed? I should know more about this, I thought. I caught myself staring at Stacey, who was reclining back in the beanbag, his chin tipped up to the ceiling. He was drumming his fingers against his chest.
"Hey, what's a shot gun?" I asked, before I could chicken out.
Stacey turned his head towards me. "Really?"
Adam said, "It's a highly effective firearm."
"Wow, thanks," I said.
"I'd show you if there was anything left in the bong," Stacey said, wagging his eyebrows. "Want me to pack another bowl?"
"No," Adam and I said simultaneously. I looked at him and we laughed.
"It's when you take a hit and then blow the smoke into someone else's mouth."
That actually came from Lionel; when I turned around to look at him, he was watching me with that same impassive expression.
"Oh, okay," I said, feeling my face flush again. "I never knew what that was called." I'd seen it before, just never participated. It was a totally intimate gesture, almost like kissing. And Stacey had just offered to do it with me.
"Come on, I was just messing with you," Stacey said, like he was reading my mind. "Dude, you are bright red again.”
I moved to cover my face with my hands, giggling. Which was even more embarrassing, but I couldn't help it. Oh, God, he'd also told Adam to shotgun me. No wonder Adam told him to fuck off! Mortified, I kept laughing. I was totally over-reacting. I was high.
"You're so gay," Adam was telling Stacey.
"You are," Stacey said.
"Nice one, dude."
We all sat there for a second, listening to Lionel's guitar.
Then Stacey said, "How gay am I?"
Adam laughed. "What?"
"You said I was so gay, and when you use so... like that. You have to have, like"— Stacey waved a hand around—"another part to the sentence."
Adam seemed to consider this for a second. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"It's how English works, dude! You can't just say 'so' and not give a 'how,' you know."
"I've heard that before," I found myself saying. "It's like on Match Game, you know? When they pull out a card and it says like, 'my wife is so fat' and the audience goes 'how fat is she?' because there has to be another part of the sentence saying, you know. Like, 'my wife is so fat…when she puts on a yellow raincoat, people yell Taxi!'"
"Thanks, Dillon," Stacey said. "That's exactly what I'm talking about."
"What the fuck is Match Game?" asked Adam. "You guys are making this up."
"Nuh uh," said Stacey, "It's true. Read a book sometime.”
Adam rolled his eyes. "Fine. You're so gay you sit around arguing about grammar."
"Well, you're so gay, you... " Stacey trailed off, reclining back in his beanbag and closing his eyes. "Guys, I'm a little high."
I realized I was giggling again.
Adam was watching to me, and that started him laughing too. "Dillon's pretty high too."
"I'm so not," I said.
Adam pointed at me. "You just did it too! The 'so' thing!"
"No... that's different... I... " I completely forgot what I was saying.
"It's okay," said Stacey, "I was just giving you shit anyway."
About what? What were we even talking about? Oh, yeah— Stacey said he wanted to shotgun me. And he was giving me shit. And he'd said that thing to Adam too. Why? Did Stacey suspect I was gay? Did Lionel tell him something? Or maybe he thought Adam was gay? But why would he think that? Something Adam's sister said?
Adam was straight though; I already knew that. He'd dated that girl, Casey. Then again, I'd never heard why they broke up, so maybe there was something there I didn't pick up on.
Was Stacey gay? Was that why he thought he knew? I was completely unable to read him. I tried to think back to all the interactions I'd seen between him and Lionel, where Stacey came off as a kind of touchy-feely. But he could just be like that with everyone. And Adam said he was a raver, which made me think about people hugging and cuddling while they're on their various party drugs, so maybe that was it. But what if that wasn't it? What if—oh shit—was he like, in love with Lionel? That would be so weird, too weird. Unless like, the feeling was mutual, and Lionel actually... oh, god. My brother?
And just like that, everyone in my head space was suddenly gay. It didn't make any sense, but once I started thinking about it, I couldn't stop. I was mostly thinking about Adam. I wondered like, if I should ask Stacey. Stacey, do you think Adam's gay? I might ask. Does he set off your gaydar? because that was something people said. I found myself staring at Adam, thinking. Had he ever said anything to me that would suggest... ?
"You look like you're off on another planet," Adam said, and I realized I'd probably been staring at him for a while.
I guess I really was high. My mind kept bouncing between all these weird and illogical thoughts. Each one erasing the one before it. Oh, right. Adam.
"Earth to Dillon," he was saying.
"Oh, hi," I said.
He laughed. "Hi."
"How are you?" I said.
"Fine, thank you."
"That is good to hear." I giggled again. "What are we doing?"
"I don't know, you started it."
More laughing. This was fun, just sitting with Adam, talking, being goofy. This was okay. I wondered if school was out for real yet.
"Yeah, it got out ten minutes ago," said Adam.
"I said that out loud?" That was really funny. Stacey was laughing too and I thought he was going to call us cute like he did to Adam, but he didn't, and I felt kind of... I don't know, disappointed? I'd decided I really liked Stacey. I wanted him to like me too, to joke with me like he did with Adam.
"Do you think I'm cute, Stacey?" I asked, before I had a chance to consider how weird it sounded.
"Yeah, you're cute," said Stacey.
Adam made a sound that was part surprise, part laughing.
"Stacey says I'm cute," I told him.
"You're very cute, Dillon," Stacey said.
"Careful," Lionel told him, "Chris Hansen is watching you."
That cracked me up.
"Who?" asked Adam. Adam didn't watch enough TV.
"Chris Hansen, To Catch a Predator," Lionel said. "You know, underage boys?"
I never thought I would hear my brother use the phrase underage boys. I was laughing so hard I thought I might die, I could barely breathe. I kept trying to stop, just in case, but then I'd think about Stacey saying I was cute or Lionel saying Chris Hansen is watching you and I'd start in again.
"Dillon's lost it," Stacey was saying.
"Dillon is totally crazy," Adam agreed.
I was the least cool person on the planet, but I didn't care.
"Hey, I'm hungry," Stacey said suddenly. "Is anyone else hungry?"
Up next Thursday, Chapter Fourteen: Home.