All That’s Lit To Print

Abstract Galaxy
Leigh Alley

Into the Nebula

By Gail Watson

It's late, past twelve in the morning. Manny and I are crouched at the end of the garden, hidden behind the Wendy House. We'd snuck out the kitchen window. It's freezing. The ground prickles our knees. Our teeth are knocking.

Got it? he asks me.

I hold up the joint I stole from my brother. Manny grins. He reaches into his pocket and presents a lighter—said he found it at a bus stop.

I snatch it.

Manny snatches the blunt.

Hey! I say.

He puts it all in his mouth, then pulls it out again. I grimace. Manny looks at me. Got to, he says. Otherwise the paper burns too fast.

I think he's gross.

Manny hands it back. I take a deep breath. Manny does, too.

You go first, I say.

No, you, he says.

I relent. The paper and herb crackle against the flame. The smell is strong, kind of fresh like the garden after it's been mowed. It reminds me of my brother's bedroom. Manny says he likes it. I don't; my nose wrinkles.

I smoke. Once. Twice. I pass the blunt over. Stings. I don't cough. Manny does.

I don't think it's working, I say, I don't feel any different. Except I start to wonder if it has worked and I just don't know it. I look at Manny and his face is very pale, which is odd, because his skin is dark brown. I get this odd urge to touch him to make sure he's not a ghost, but I don't.

We smoke and smoke and then we start to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh. When we've finished the joint, we're stretched along our backs in the grass together, staring up at the sky.

I like the moon, I think/say. I like space.

Manny is giggling.

Staaaaars, he says.

I start thinking we're part of them, the stars. I look at my hands and they're glowing. I laugh so hard into Manny's chest that I think we're rising up into the night and transforming into shooting stars, flying across the Milky Way.

I remember I'm here on earth laying with my best friend and not up floating off into the nebula. Except Manny hasn't talked in a long while, or maybe it hasn't been that long. Maybe he's not even here. I reach across and pat his chest. He's still there. Good. Sometimes I think he'll dawdle off into the universe without me.

A few lightyears later, I ask, Will we be best friends forever?

He just smiles this crazy huge smile at me. Yes, he tells me. Yes, we will be.

Awesome. I think I say it a few times because Manny says it, too. And then I look at the night-sky and cry, Awesome! and that makes us bust out laughing again.

We go quiet. I get this feeling like I never need to be anywhere else but our quiet, and for a while I'm not. For a while, all we are is stars and happy and quiet.

© 2017, All That's Lit To Print