Smoke in the Room

Story by Andres Tolentino

A soft grey haze eclipsed the room in a foggy dream. He warped in and out of consciousness, forgetting he wasn’t alone. Puff. Puff. Another puff. They continuously pushed the smoked around. He scanned the beige room, setting his vision on the boy only three feet away.

His close friend, Manny, lit the bowl, quickly released another puff of smoke, and passed the pipe back. Frankie held the piece in his hand; he knew Manny liked to smoke joints or blunts, but Manny didn’t have any paper on him, and Frankie’s hands were always too shaky to roll anything. So they just had to use Frankie’s pipe. “Que lástima, tan nervioso…” was what his mom used to say when he was younger.

He continued to scan the room, jumping from Manny to the swirling ceiling fan that unevenly hung above their heads. Its rotating blades created a faint hum in the background. Every time his family would slam the door, the fan shook.

Drifting away from the ceiling fan, he looked around the creamy walls. An apple-sized dent had remained by the door for years. In elementary school, Frankie’s teacher told his parents about him holding hands with another kid. His mom didn’t care, but his dad did. He could feel the dent staring at him. Mocking him.

“Frankie!” Manny shouted. His gaze connected with Manny’s. He waved his hand in front of Frankie’s face, and said, “You’re gonna need to light it again.” He held the red lighter towards Frankie, but Frankie just kept staring at him.

Manny scratched the back of his head in confusion, brushing up on his smooth fade haircut. As he blinked his dark brown eyes and furrowed his thick eyebrows at him, Frankie remained mesmerized.

“Dude, are you okay? You’re acting weird.” The lighter was tossed into Frankie’s lap while Manny fell back onto the fuzzy carpet.

“Yeah, I’m fine man, sorry,” he responded, “just haven’t gotten this high in awhile.”

It had been over two months since Francisco smoked anything. Naturally, the room was already twisting around him. The atmosphere felt distorted. All he could do was ponder. His imagination conjured up a situation similar to this one. The thought runs through his head every day: music with no lyrics plays in the background, smoke fogs up the room, just relaxing with a—friend.

Frankie raised his head and watched Manny stretch his arms into the air, exposing his cut midriff in the process. The lines and definitions of muscle that ran across his tan body were maps for Frankie’s eyes; Manny let out a yawn and laid back down on the carpet. Puffs of smoke shrouded him in the grey haze. But their eyes stayed connected, making Frankie feel like a cloud dyed pastel pink.

“Manny,” he said. A head perked up from the ground.

“Yeah?” He replied.

Every hair on the back of Frankie’s neck stood up.  “There’s something I have to tell you,” he said.

“Yeah man, what is it?” Manny said, switching from laying on his back, to facing his friend directly. Frankie’s right hand quivered as he brushed the dark curls out of his face.

“Sometimes…I—” He thought about his past with Manny: a friendship a decade in the making, had the potential to end with just a few words. “Sometimes I—I feel that I… Never mind.”

“Nah man tell me. You feel what?”

He took a deep breath and let out a sigh.

Air swirled around them. The fan trapped the smoke in a perpetual cycle of rotation.

“Well we’ve been friends for awhile. You know, like a long time…” Frankie said, “And I just feel that—”

“¡Oye! Take a hit first though, I been waiting.” Manny said.

Frankie looked down at the pipe. “Right. Sorry. You know, let’s just get to smoking. Maybe we can talk about it another time.”

Manny flashed a smile, and they smoked some more.