Glitch in the system

“It’s puff-puff-pass, bro. Come on.”

A siren went off in JP’s head. His hearing was loud and clear – which it never was, when he was high. Did it wear off, already? From the slits of his eyes, he scoped out Tara’s living room. Everyone was here – Eli on one half of the couch, Aminata on the other, Tara sprawled in the armchair, Chris on the floor next to him, and Pablo– Pablo?

He strained to turn his head. Bright blue sneakers stuck out of Tara’s bathroom. Definitely Pablo.

Realizing what was going on, JP looked at his lap. He wasn’t supposed to see any of this – or else, he would remember it, and what was the point of this if he remembered? It felt wrong to see his friends like this. He shrugged, then laughed at himself. Why so uncomfortable?

“Yo… What’s wrong with you?” Eli asked, his head in Aminata’s lap, lips against her thigh, making direct eye contact with JP.

JP waved him off. “I’m good.” He knew he wasn’t.

Tara shuffled in the armchair. “Fuck... Pablo! Are you done? Come back. Pablo…” A muffled moan came back from the bathroom.

JP tilted his head back and closed his eyes. He knew he was running away from something before they split the mushrooms, but now, he wanted to run away – from this. Have they ever seen me like this? He chose not to answer his own question, and decided instead to sit quietly, and wait for everyone else to come back down.

He couldn’t sit still for long. The thought of being around his friends like this unsettled him. This wasn’t what they agreed to.

Why do we do this? Why do I do this?

JP was a computer science student, and was doing exceptionally well – in computer science. Everything else seemed to be holding on by a thread – but he didn’t have to think about it if he wasn’t… There. Right?


“I’m ready, man… Tired of standing in my way… I gotta do better,” Eli exhaled with a thick wisp of smoke, into Aminata’s right thigh. JP looked on as Aminata nodded and smiled, her fingers lost in his hair. It was the same encouraging smile JP had when he and Eli had this same conversation – the first time they smoked together, the first of many times he believed him.

A retch came from the bathroom.

“Pablo?” JP’s voice shook more than he would’ve wanted it to. “He’ll be fine,” Tamara moaned, sliding a tab under her tongue. “He just needs to get it out of his system.” She reached over to Chris, who was in a daze on the floor, parted his lips with her fingers, and slid a tab under his tongue, too.

“Wait,” JP said, “I don’t think he wants–”

“You don’t think? You don’t know,” Tamara sneered. “Shit, maybe you need one.”

JP got up. “I’m going to check on Pablo,” he said to no one in particular.

A pungent smell smacked him in the face when he was a few feet away from the bathroom. “Pablo? You good, bro?” Nothing. He inhaled deeply, and walked in. Shaking in a pool of urine turning browner by the second, Pablo had his arm around the toilet bowl, a black pool in his embrace. The only hint of color on his face was the inside of his lips, a fading shade of pink.

“Fuck– I’m going to call an ambulance; don’t move!”

Racing back to the living room, JP scrambled on the floor for his phone. “What are you doing?” Aminata asked, frowning at him. “Pablo isn’t okay. I have to call an ambulance.”

Stop!” JP froze. He looked up at Aminata, and felt the cold, sharp stare, the stiffness of her body – despite her soft fingers still on Eli’s scalp. “Don’t–” She forced a smile, and continued, “Don’t ruin this. You can always go home. Text me when you get there. But don’t ruin this.”

Everything went quiet. “Aminata, please…” They stared at each other in silence.

[A problem has been detected and your system has been shut down to avoid further damage…]


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