The Smart White Pipe
By: Caile Michelle Donaldson
It is all about to change.
The evidence is stark, and smutted upon the scratchy plaid sofa. The evidence is in the open space in the living room, and possessed by the dusty old sun as it scratches its yellow fingernails across the window panes, making all those little transparent hairs on my arms raise in goose bumps.
There are others here too, and they know it; we are all basking in this appetizer. It isn’t time yet.
Someone is subtly cracking their knuckles. Others chat; it ripples in mellow crests against my eardrums. I think we are all waiting for another, although he or she never arrives. Even though we wait, we know. The room is all tight jaws and roaming eyes.
It looks retro, and I think of the Valley of the Dolls as my hands rub the sofa’s stiff arm; it feels rough and grubby, garish prison-bar plaid. Makes me feel comforted, for some reason, and I am waiting too.
For a signal, a minute, a change in season, in chemical balances, in vibes.
A few boys, a handful of girls, we don’t really know each other. Maybe we passed each other in the hall of a high school, could be we brushed shoulders at a concert, or exchanged a word on the sidewalk. Names are assumed; we call each other “Hey you,” to be on the safe side, but I am not conversing with anyone, so this is not my concern.
I am just observing.
The room has a big picture window to my left. Outside, I see that the sky has gone all white like a changing mind; there isn’t a cloud. Even the birds stay away.
I’m drawn back into the room; I stop looking at the sky. I’m sure there was a door in this room once, but it is out of my view now.
We are this room and these strangers; it’s all we know. Our minds seem to have brought us together, a very specific part of our intellect, and maybe we aren’t really ourselves at all today. Maybe this specific part in all of us up and left our bodies, to meet here together in this living room with the tacky plaid furniture, the picture window with the white canvas sky outside, plastic Venetian blinds pulled to the side. A crowded shelf against the wall. A heavy wooden coffee table laden with unimportant books.
And now it is time; I can tell in the beating of my heart, how it goes from jazz and blues to drum and bass.
The pipe is one of those clear glass ones; stripes of red, yellow and blue that will eventually turn swampy and green from constant use. The bowl gets packed, a nice grassy hill, and I am first to take it. The smoke fits nicely inside my lungs. I was a fish out of water, a rusty hook gouged deep inside my flapping gill, but it has been removed, and I am plunged back into a clean lake.
I breathe deep.
I predict a feline smile, and although there are no mirrors in this place, I feel it, as the pipe pays us all a few visits.
The air is all silk scarves and speaking easy now. Whatever brought us together like this is acknowledged, mulled over, sometimes with clumsy, sodden words, but mostly there is no need for the archaic medium that is speech. We discuss better without it, although there are things that still need to be figured out and perhaps that particular pipe was just a peaceful pit-stop. My head swims a few laps while we all have private, conjugal visits with our own thoughts.
Something more potent is required.
We compile a grocery list of our dabbles, experimentations, what we have tried, what we have heard of. Horror stories and our memories have a last flight on rotting wings, while we spread out ideas nice and thick.
In someone’s pocket lies a solution, and I suggest he bring it out.
So he does.
He’s a faceless boy. I recall a brief sexual encounter, unmentioned and out of context. He reaches into his pocket, slipping his fingers inside. He has to be gentle with something this fragile. The boy grips it, extends his hand. His face is shining, beaded with the effort, and there in his hand it lies, this invitation we have conjured.
It is the white of a widow’s wig, swan feathers, snow in a deserted place, baby teeth, a virgin’s lie, a wedding dress still in its plastic sheath. It glares at our eyes, as if asking us our worth, demanding how we could glance so irreverently upon its purity. It sparkles and makes the white of the sky look shameful and inappropriate.
The boy holds it in a moist, unsteady palm; he is haunted, crucified and uncertain. It glints harshly at him, and he passes it off.
To me. He passes it to me.
As if I am responsible for this changed dynamic.
I am responsible for this changed dynamic.
Is this a crack pipe? One girl exudes. She doesn’t want to smoke crack.
Of course it isn’t a crack pipe, the air retorts. How dare we? As if this pipe could ever lower itself to our petty human pills, our mottled mushrooms, dusty grasses, our poisons and powders and pills.
What could we ever put into a pipe like this? We need to indulge to break away from our grassy stupor, to do what we are here to do. Someone produced this pipe. Now someone must produce the goods to put in it.
There is a patting down of pockets. Disoriented mutters film over our ears; we have momentarily lost our footing.
I am the only one sitting still, observing them.
I feel the weight in my pocket, but this is a lesson in doubt, and I wait for them to learn.
Then I reach for it.
It is tight. It is deep inside, and I have to push the pads of my fingers in, easy at first, then more urgently. It is so tight, I have to push my fingers in hard, deep inside, groping. I find it at last, and extract it. It is exactly what we need.
They all know I found it as soon as my fingers graze it, even before I bring it out of my pocket. There is no need for exclamations. Time is falling off of us in pounds and we need to lose no more of it.
It is put into the pipe. There is the grit of a lighter.
This is what we were waiting for.
In an instant, the air is full of magic, a screen of scrolling words. Our eyes glaze over. Orgasm upon orgasm, and I am dripping. My mind reels.
Upon the ceiling, questions unfurl among sparkles, souls and sex organs. These questions, they are life questions. The big ones. Profound in their wisdom.
We hold our heads as our brains swell; the pain is unbelievable but it feels so reassuring. Our craniums were not meant for this knowledge, as every curiosity anyone ever pondered is validated in a tornado of education. It flaps around our faces like manic bats, and there is much screaming, but it sounds like song.
I see it all so clearly.
What we are all meant to do, and how. I see the answers. They lie before my eyes, and when I conjure a question, the answer paints itself on the walls, the ceiling; a splattered marquee scrolling along, and my mind boggles.
How can I know this? We are all-knowing now, us animals sitting on the plaid couch in the living room, we know.
And then the door appears.
It flings open. Everything is sucked out, straining and sifting, warm bubble-filled bath water down a drain and we are left naked and cold. We stand unsteadily and file out of the door one by one, shell-shocked and hung-over.
The knowledge does not remain.
A lucid dream I had once…