January 30, 2016 by RJ
Eyes wide with earnest, she says, “Weed brings me closer to God.”
I don’t tell her I have heard that line before. Said it before. Was I ever that young? She’ll grow out of it. Nobody can stay so sincere.
She already knows more than she should, but not about what makes a difference. So I let her tell me—as if it’s all new. We don’t talk about the hard stuff. The white guys cooking in the hills—the Percocet patch that is her father’s best friend. We both have perfected avoiding ugly.
It’s a sunny day. The grass on the field is dry. We wear glasses with Space Needles on the side and hide in the shade of the totem pole under repair.
She tugs on her long sleeves. Her habit. “I thought it always rained in Washington?”
“Things are unpredictable.” I say. I wonder if she knows her shorts don’t hide her self-esteem like her shirt does. She talks of her boyfriend—the one that introduced her to good music. “He thinks I’m all his. As if he wrote the chords himself.”
I hold my tongue and do my best to listen. You can’t tell someone they are the ones composing the songs.
We are far from home. Seattle is a disappointment, neither of us can pretend differently. She hasn’t smoked in days—I am sneaking a cigarette. This college tour is entirely funded by some federal grant. It’s clear that she isn’t going to school here. She came looking to fit in.
I want to lie. Work hard and you can be anything. Instead, I say, “All of us feel the same. It’s the joke of being born Indian. Needing each other, trapped in ourselves.”
She laughs—so hard—tears come. “Fuck.” She wipes her face. “I need a head change.”
I lean into her. “Faraway places won’t cure that.”
She leans into me. “Life is all about the patterns of our scars.”
SLOAN THOMAS writes some and reads a lot. Some of her favorite stories are in SmokeLong Quarterly, Word Riot, Revolution John, and Jersey Devil Press. She has stories in some of those publications as well.