So I was on the train the other day when I smelled that bitter, grassy, nicotine-y stench of weed (marajuana/dope/whichever name you prefer) coming from the seat across from me. At first I thought somebody was puffing away on the train, and I was tensed to spring on them until I realised that he was just rolling it up ready to smoke freely when he got off (as if I wouldn’t still be breathing in the same air as him when we got outside?!). I didn’t have a reading book with me and my phone battery was going to die, so I found myself sitting there and imagining this stranger once he’s smoked his spliff (doobie? Again, whichever name you prefer), with his red eyes and vacant expression, either eating junk food, laughing at nothing or seeing invisible entities and trying to fight them off. It made me wonder why on Earth these people think it’s okay to get themselves into that state. And then I thought about the song, Burn One Down. “Herb of the Earth”, is how the lyrics describe it. Ah, I thought to myself, that’s why. Because it’s natural. It’s okay to get all paranoid and messed up by this drug – and yes, it’s a drug, whether you like it or not – … because it’s natural. That’s alright then! (And yes, that was sarcasm).
the fiction part:
Sprinkle the grass. Lick the paper. Roll it up. Light the end. Inhale. Hold it… hold it…
A perfect end to the worst day. Matthew kicked off his black Nike trainers, which after another puff of his joint, he glared at, remembering the sound of his manager’s nasally, grating voice in his ear: trainers aren’t uniform, Matty.
Matty. Matthew didn’t remember ever telling any of his new colleagues that they could shorten his name. Actually, he was pretty sure he hadn’t, because there had been that meet-and-greet at Christmas, where he had been introduced to everybody at the office one by one. Hi, it’s good to meet you. My name’s Tom. It’s good to meet you too, Tom, I’m Matthew. Ah! Matthew. What can we call you? Matt? Matty? Mattius? *Laughter* None – Matthew’s fine.
He rested his head against the back of the sofa and stared at the cobweb in the ceiling that his girlfriend, Sara, had been asking him to get rid of for as long as he could remember. But the truth was, he hated cobwebs just as much as she did. Matthew lifted his smoke to his mouth once again and took a long, deep draw, almost groaning with relief as he felt it slide down his throat and into his lungs. There was nothing better. Beer and spirits didn’t give him the same feeling – nothing did. Sara didn’t see the point. I’d much rather see you relaxing with a Carling after a hard day’s work than sit there and smoke that s***, she would say. Why? Matthew would reply. At least this isn’t just a bunch of chemicals mixed together. At least this isn’t going to mess up my insides.
He sat and smoked the whole thing until it was barely visible, just a little nub of white and orange poking out of his thumb and forefinger. But he didn’t mind; his head was swimming nicely, the memories of the day a lot further away from his immediate thoughts than they were five minutes ago. The people on the muted television grinned at him, and he grinned back. The music in the background was quiet, chilled, calm, but it had a heavy bass that seemed to thud in time with Matthew’s heartbeat, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was almost painful.
Sara’s voice came from the bedroom. Matthew got up, feeling his body sway slightly before he found his footing. He chuckled, but then rubbed at his chest. It was still throbbing. Before he went through to the bedroom he turned the volume right down, but the thudding inside him wouldn’t stop.
‘Where are you, babe?’ he called. Sara didn’t reply, so he went through to the bedroom, hoping to see her waiting in bed for him, but she wasn’t there. If he hadn’t have just smoked, he would have known that looking in the wardrobe for his girlfriend was a stupid thing to do, but because he had, he did. Of course, she wasn’t in there, and so Matthew came out of the bedroom and headed for the bathroom, where he could hear the shower running. He began shuffling out of his trousers and loosening his tie, and then he swung open the door.
‘Here I am!’ he said loudly, but then he stopped, staggering slightly from the wall of steam that hit him in the face. There wasn’t just one blurred body behind the shower screen, but two, and Sara’s soft giggle indicated that she was one of them.
Matthew didn’t understand what had carried him forward but suddenly his hand had smashed through the screen and grabbed the man from behind it, ignoring the blood, the pain and the shards of glass that stuck grotesquely out of his fist. He dragged the man by his neck out of the bath, across the floor and into the doorway, where he knelt down and began to punch him, one, two, three, four, his nose, his cheeks, his mouth, his eyes, all to the sound of Sara’s horrific screams. Five, six, seven eight, and then he stood up and began kicking him, satisfied by the pained grunts and moans that came from the stranger who had been showering with his girlfriend.
Sara was screaming his name, shouting at him to stop, but it was as if a demon had taken over Matthew’s body. He couldn’t feel himself, couldn’t feel his mind, and was only barely aware of Sara’s arms around his waist as she tried to pull him off. Without thinking he turned and shoved her away, but she stumbled over the foot of her secret boyfriend and crashed violently to the floor. Matthew flinched as he heard the sickening smack of her skull on porcelain, and silence enveloped him as he watched her. Sara’s eyes were open, staring at him with nothing but hurt and betrayal in them. But you betrayed me, he wanted to say. But of course, he couldn’t, because surely his killing her was not a fair payback. He knelt down next to her body and felt himself begin to sob, head in his hands as he watched her fingers twitch before she went still.
‘What have I done?’ he whispered. ‘Sara…’
Matthew whipped around to the door to see Sara standing in the threshold, fully-clothed, dry-haired and watching him, bewildered. Matthew looked back at the Sara he had just killed, but there was nobody. He looked at the unknown man on the floor in the doorway, but again, there was nobody. His hand was clean, empty of blood from himself or from the stranger; the shower screen was intact; the shower was off; the bath was dry. And Sara continued to stare at him before she rolled her eyes knowingly, and walked away.