Derek stared at the list of people on the internet willing to shack up with a stranger, or strangers, as it applied to him and Violet. Working as a writer was his dream job. He was writing for work and could thus call himself a writer. Violet worked at a local dry cleaners and was able to bring in enough for them to support the roof over their heads and contribute to food and other leisurely activities. They lived in a small town in Southern Colorado called Snowbird. Derek wanted to be someone in the community. He wanted to begin collecting heady glass. To do this he and Violet would need to rent the available room in their apartment. Neither of them were keen on the idea but Violet supported him wanting to become a figure in the public eye.
Derek sat playing a video game on the television late Monday afternoon. He hears the door lock turn and plastic bags rustling together as they clash for dominance in Violet’s hand.
“Hi babe,” she says.
“I bought stuff for meatloaf. I was thinking about either broccoli or asparagus. Do you have a preference between the two?”
“Yeah. Let’s do broccoli.”
“Ok. Let me change and get something to drink and I’ll get going”
“Take your time. I’m not starving.”
She leaves into the bed. He can’t help but wonder if this is going to work. Will they find a decent roommate to help pay for his heady collection? And what if the person is cool, but not one hundred percent money? He began overthinking the negatives. What if they rise at three am, and want to play dubstep music? What if the person ends up being a theater performer, or even better yet an opera singer? What if a pet monkey shows up with them at the front door, with that look that indicates poop missiles soon to be launched throughout the house? So many things could go wrong. And he could have the flu, or irritable bowel syndrome could kick in. There was too much to risk, when he thought more about a roommate.
As they finish dinner, Violet sets down her silverware and goes silent. She stares at Derek.
“Something on your mind babe?”
“What’s up sweetie? You ok?”
“I think so. I have some news.”
“Good or bad?”
“I don’t know how you’ll take it. I found someone to be our roommate.”
A look of disdain covers his face.
“Who is this person? Where did you find him or her?”
“Well, I met him during my shift at the dry cleaners.”
“What’s his name?”
“Well, he goes by El, but he says his full name is El Diablo.”
“El… Is that a nickname or something?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t really clarify that.”
“What else do you know about him?”
“Not much. He came across as being mysterious. He’s a computer programmer. Works from home.”
“So I’d be around him most of the day.”
“I’d say yes, probably so.”
He finished eating his chicken. He took their plates to the sink. It was clean and void of any resin smudges. He appreciated that since they used the sink to clean their current glass. Often times smudges of gunk would stick to the surface of the sink. He and Violet made a habit of cleaning the spots if they appeared. It was a conscious effort to be happy and healthy. Just because they smoked stuff that left a nasty residue didn’t mean they had to reflect a nasty surface to themselves or visiting guests.
“So do you think we can tell El yes?”
“Shit, why not. Tell him he’s got the room.”
“Great! I’ll text him.”
The next day was quiet. Derek woke up and made coffee. He went into the living room and gamed for awhile. He put on the tv and started up Hulu. He eventually went on to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Could he complain? Regardless, he did enough of it. Four knocks came at the door in a weird pattern.
knock knock knock…knock
“Yeah, just a minute,” he shouted.
He opened the door to an olive skinned white man with brown curly hair. His eyes were a pale green and he also had a neatly trimmed beard. He grinned nervously and stood with both hands holding duffle bags.
“Hi, I’m El,” he said.
“Oh hey, El. Yeah… Come on in.”
Derek stood back from the entrance to allow El to step inside. He timidly crept into the house, with a slight twinge of pain painted on his lips.
“Can I go ahead and put my stuff in my room?”
“I don’t see why not dude.” he responded.
“Cool…Oh and uh… I wanted to give you this as a thank you, ya know… For taking me in on short notice. And I know my name can kinda give off some bad energy,” El said.
“I mean for now it’s whatever El. I do want to know more about you at some point, so I would say that is going to happen. But for now, unwind. Do you smoke weed?”
“Me? No, nooo. I drink though!” he said.
“Ah. I gotcha man. Not really my style, but you’re welcome to crack one and chill.”
“Good stuff. Let me put my bags away.”
He walked into the room and shut the door without making any sound. Weird Derek thought. El seemed to be an alright person. Shy and strange but not too shabby. He felt good about living with this character. Out of silent recesses of El’s room music began playing. It was a song by Third Eye Blind.
“I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…” Time for some adventures, he thought. He pressed play on Hulu and continued watching Bob’s Burgers. The music softly emanated from the room a few feet from the tv.
Day seventy-three Violet left the apartment fifteen days ago. She said I cared more about myself than her. I was too disconnected from the reality she wanted to create and nurture. She wished me to take care of myself in a note. That was the goodbye I got. Maybe that’s the goodbye I deserved.
El doesn’t do too much. I think he sells fake insurance and files fraudulent taxes to people he meets during the day. He also claims to be a stock market guru. I’m not sure what he’s doing but he’s paid rent on time. I guess the biggest problem I have is the petty theft. People come over to party and he ends up stealing items – coats, purses, wallets. He claims this is true justice. I don’t know about that, but no one suspects either one of us. So far, nothing bad has come from his escapades.
Most of the time we eat Taco Bell. Today we upgraded and went for Dominos. We got the Hawaiian Pineapple which El loves more than me, but I’m not complaining. He likes slathering each piece with an absurd amount of ranch. He also farts a lot. He’s always saying, “Sorry, I farted,” after the fact. I think he watches too much Austin Powers in his room. The entire living room smells like grease farts and creamy ranch. And I call this my home.
El also never really bathes. He might rinse off once a week so as not to piss me off completely. Sometimes, I think he doesn’t use soap just to piss me off. But then again, not much else about him makes sense. He sings karaoke at three in the morning without holding a tune. He has a cat that hollers with him. He keeps the litter box clean, which is surprising. I guess he cares more about animals than himself.
Day seventy-six El has a strange guest over. The dude stands close to seven feet tall. He’s got this rigid walk, like he’s got no bend in the joints. His hair is a tousled mess with a scar directly across his forehead, reaching from left ear to right ear.
“Frank! Come on in buddy,” El says. He introduces me to his friend.
“Derek, this is Frank Stein. His grandma was a Holocaust survivor. Isn’t that neat?”
Not something I would call neat or think is cool. That’s the wrong emotion for that situation in my mind.
“Hi Frank. How’s it going?” I say. He stares at me and slowly raises his right hand.
“Mmmmuuuh.” he says.
“You’re good big fella. He knows you’re a gentleman and a scholar!”
“Meeeeehh.” he says.
“Alright guys, I’m watching a movie on the big screen. Can you keep it in the room?”
“You got it D”, El says.
They leave and go into El’s room. I sit back down to smoke a bowl out of the Porter Glass piece I recently acquired. I don’t buy heady’s since I got the Porter Glass Bunny. I do have more money to spend on myself but I have lost interest. I feel like I’m selling a part of myself to gain some other entity. I guess I’m taking a break. I still look at the glass being made and cannot help but realize I will return to collecting at some point in time. The bowl is a strong Indica concentrate named Purple Punch. Thirty minutes later and I’m out like a dead lightbulb.
Day seventy-eight I’m finishing my bowl of Captain Crunch when El comes out in an oversized sports coat. I recognize it’s Frank’s coat from a couple nights before.
“Aren’t you going to give that back?”
“I figured you could,” he said. “Hit up Violet. This is a chance for you to see her again.
Tell her you need to give this to her. Frank uses her dry cleaning place.”
“El, you know you’re a real fuck sometimes?”
“Don’t be sour D. You’ll thank me later.”
I can’t believe I’ll thank him at any point in this relationship. He’s alright for now but I may kick him to the curb when the chance arises. I take the coat down to Violet. It’s Saturday afternoon so she’ll be working. I open the door and walk to the front counter.
“El stole this, and I’m here to return it,” I say.
“Nice. Sounds like he’s turning out to be a real winner,” she says.
“Yeah. Anyway, I got to go” I say. I turn and am about to leave when she yells at me.
“Whoever left this behind also left some weed. Do you want it?”
“No. Return it to Frank. That’s the dude’s name.”
“Okay. You got it.”
When I get home, I ask El about the weed.
“Did you think I was going to keep that?”
I shake my head and boot up the TV and Playstation four. I want to watch King of the Hill and not think about this jackass El. I don’t know why I put up with him. I guess I’m saving more money this way. And he’s just another asshole – what’s new? I figure I can keep this going for another couple of month’s. After that, maybe I can hit up Frank. See what his living situation is. Although the guy mumbled a lot. I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. It’s like, use your words, Frank – ya fucking idiot. But who am I to judge? People say I’ve got a goofy laugh. For now King of the Hill calls me.
I sat listening to Mac Miller in my room, eating nachos and scrolling dating sites.
“Alexa, play Good News by Mac Miller”.
A robotic voice responded, “Playing Good News by Mac Miller”.
Sometimes asking Alexa questions made the day go by without thinking about what went right or wrong as much. She’s pretty smart for a computer, I thought to myself when I first started using the program. Sometimes it’s random tomfoolery with Alexa. I’ll ask such questions as,
“Alexa, do you poop?”
“Alexa, are you a liar?”
“Alexa, what is the meaning of frosted mini wheats?”
I match with a woman who drives for Uber. She’s five foot six, red hair, in shape, and she also says she smokes weed. I only smoke flower- to hell with the dabs, is on her profile at the end of her bio.
“Alexa, what is the meaning of love?”
“I’m, sorry,” she says, “love means many things.” Great. Thanks Alexa.
El sits at the table eating Jimmy Dean Sausage biscuit patties while reading The Rolling Stone magazine. He’s grinning and nodding his head in an up and down motion. His knees are wobbling and he smells heavy of cologne. He also has his hair gelled to make him look like a modern-day punk rocker. From what I know about El, he’s planning some magnificent party in our apartment, that can only comfortably fit around ten people.
I grab a box of Fruit Loops from the top of the fridge and sit down with the milk. It’s too hot in the house, but all I can think is it’s saving money. The air tastes like spilt beer and weed. Not the most pleasant thing to eat breakfast to. I need to clean the house and get some incense before any party is going to happen. I eat my cereal and continue seeing El move about out of my peripherals. He’s smiling and smacking his food. That sound, people smacking, always reminded me of cows simply grazing on grass.
“Hey man, could you stop that?”
“You’re smacking out of control. It’s irritating me.”
“Oh, shit. Yeah sorry about that dude.”
“What are you smiling about?” I ask.
“Oh. Not much. There’s this pre equinox party idea I’m scoping online. I think it’d be a dope thing to throw here at the apartment.”
“Alright, man. I’m down. No more than six friends though. And I might invite a friend to join the party”.
“Yeah. I can abide. Who’s your friend?” El asks, grinning.
“Some woman I matched with online. She doesn’t take dabs. Kinda cool.”
“Look at you pimp! You gonna smoke her out?”
“Of course. She’s my guest.”
I laugh and shake my head. El isn’t the worst, but it could be better, I sometimes think. He always pays rent on time and for the most part I’m drinking and smoking with him. The part I dislike most about El is his scheming without asking me. I find him thinking of something he’s already orchestrating. I don’t have much to say other than “yes, and here are the boundaries.” No cops have been called to check out our place. No noise complaints from the neighbors. I drift into imagining what the neighbors are like themselves. Do they party like we do? Are they more quiet or as quiet as us? Who knows and who cares so long as this keeps working the way it has.
Jennifer is down to come over on Saturday evening. I tell her to drop by anywhere around seven or eight and to not worry about bringing any medicine for the party. We already have movies and shows we both like- The Conjuring, Jason Voorhees movies, Black Mirror, King of the Hill, Broad City, Letterkenny. Jen is also a meat eater and loves a good medium rare steak. I started grilling out before she came over. Put some brussel sprouts in a frying pan and have salad greens ready to go for later.
El has eight people total for the party. The guy pushes the envelope every time. Whatever. At least everyone is dressed with ball masks and Victorian attire. Overall, me and Jen will be the only ones not wearing the lavish outfits supported by the rest of the party goers. A little after seven, Jen arrives. She’s wearing jean shorts and a pink tank top. She’s smiling, which makes me smile in return.
“Come on in. Just loaded a fresh bowl of herb.”
The party was better than expected. Lots of beers and shots, lots of joints, grass and hash being smoked. People started to either pass out on the floor or leave by around one in the morning. I cook up the steak and brussel sprouts and prepare some salad for me and Jen. We sit down to eat and begin talking more about our love for cannabis.
“I see you have some heady pieces. Do you smoke concentrates? I thought that wasn’t your thing.”
“I do love collecting glass for the sake of art. I used to smoke concentrates on a more regular basis. If I do use the rigs I rarely find myself smoking hash rosin. But it’s not a regular thing. Just the finest flower these days.”
“I can dig it. I don’t smoke any concentrates, but from what I know rosin isn’t as dangerous for the body.”
“So they say. I do enjoy the consistency. It’s also easier on my lungs for sure.”
We finish our food and I put on South Park. We smoke a couple bowls and laugh until we’re in tears. Rewatching classics has a place that opens the heart to enjoying the memories again as if experiencing them for the first time. I put my hand across the couch to hold Jen as we watch the episodes. She shrugs back with a timid smile. She’s looking away and hunches her body together like a frightened Hedgehog.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“No, it’s totally okay. I’m sorta breaking up with my ex still. I really like hanging with you. But if it’s alright maybe we can keep this to a friendship for now.”
“Of course. I get that one hundred percent.”
And now I’m ready to hang it up for the night. Not because we aren’t going to fool around. Or be bad when we shouldn’t. I miss having a living person next to me when I’m sleeping. I like knowing there’s someone else dreaming beside me. Going through the unknown trails of the mind when we find ourselves unconscious and unaware of why we imagine what we do. I also miss the touch of someone I care about. I feel like a sole ranger traveling space. Without any company other than computers and technology. I can still interface with breathing humans who mule together ideas of spectacular magnitude, but I am at a loss of connecting through a hug or a handshake. I cannot look someone in the eyes and stare into the mystery of life, mirroring the questions of eternal understanding that I will only grasp at.
Jen leaves the apartment around four. She says she’s got work at the local pet store, Paws, at noon. She also wants to clear things up with her ex. Figure out if they will end the relationship and move on, or if they will get back together. I wonder what Violet is doing? Does she still live in Arizona? Or did she move and start again somewhere else. I feel a connection with her but know I may never speak with her or see her again in my life. That’s a tough pill to swallow although a necessary task if I’m to keep living in the moment, moving forward instead of backwards.
El comes out of his room. He looks hungover and worn out. He sits down next to me, smelling awful. I can’t figure out what the smell is- maybe too many hotdogs covered in onions and relish. Maybe something not fit for human consumption.
“Wanna smoke a bowl?” he asks.
“Sure. Load it up”
Dietrich Dash is a local to Arizona, born in September of nineteen eighty-eight, in the town of Scottsdale. He enjoys listening to the Rolling Stones, Queens of the Stone Age, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem. In his free time, you can see him at local bookstores, hiking or hanging out in public areas with his chihuahua mix and pugs. He also frequents dispensaries across the valley in search of what the valley has to offer medicinally.