When Time Stood Still

By Joanna Avery


“All you do is hold it here. Mhm, just like that. Press your mouth against it, yes all the way. Okay now all you have to do is suck gently, but steadily. I’ll light it for you. Then when I take this part off, suck as hard as you can. Hold it in your mouth and then breath in deeply. You’ll probably cough, but as I always say; you have to cough to get off.”

My cousin Sylvie had always been the black sheep of the family. I don’t know what made me brave enough to spend the weekend with her and her friends. I mean, come on, me? The strait edged student that cried when she got a C? Who would rather show up to class with the flu than lay in bed and miss a lesson? My friends all told me to loosen up, have a little fun, it was our freshman year in college and we were meant to go a little wild. I just hadn’t been able to do it. That is, until my boyfriend broke up with me because I was “just so boring.”

I guess that’s what brought me here. I knew Sylvie would make me less boring, because everything about her radiated rebellion. Her black hair and washed out blue eyes, the scars on her arms, the holes in her dark jeans; she knew how to fit in.

“Whatever. Just let me try it,” I said bleakly, pretending not to care. That was cool, right? I took a deep breath and inhaled.

I think I must have done it right, because immediately I felt kind of… off, kind of slow. I leaned back onto the couch, and I suddenly realized that it was made of feathers, and that when I sat on them they floated off into the air and then popped, like bubbles. My head felt like it weighed about one million pounds, so I held it to the side to make it easier to keep on my neck. Someone close to me was giggling softly, probably at the floating feathers; actually it might have been me. I know at least that I was smiling, a great big smile that stretched so far across my face that I think it must have hung off the edges of my cheeks. I think everyone should smile like that at least once in their lives, because it feels so good. In fact, everything felt good. I don’t remember why I had ever resisted trying it before.

The room we were in seemed new; different. I no longer saw the grungy apartment littered with beer cans, but instead saw a place that was filled with excitement. The cheap, colorful posters on the chipped up walls spun in little circles. My ears buzzed with the faint sounds of people talking, but I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. The coffee table where I was resting my feet had a pretty little bowl on it that swirled when I looked at it. It was filled with some kind of sparkling dust. Duh, my consciousness rolled its eyes at me, it’s the burnt up marijuana.

A man with an ugly cross necklace shoved a glass into my hand. Good, I was thirsty. I started to drink it and I guess I must have been higher than I thought because it burned my throat. Oh wait, I think it was alcohol. Yeah, that definitely makes sense, because after that everything started feeling a little bit blurry. Okay, a lot a bit blurry. It tasted gross but I wanted more, and so I got more. My phone buzzed and I took it out. I forgot to look at the message.

At some point we ended up on the roof, which was fine with me. The little room we were in had been getting hot and the cool night air that swept over the flat rooftop gave me a sense of freedom. There were more people here than I had thought. Nine, maybe ten shadows formed into faces and appeared on the roof with us. The once menacing and mysterious figures seemed somehow innocent now that we were outside. Wow, we were high up. I looked over the edge of the small wall that surrounded the roof and peered at the alleyway below. The ugly little section of town that we were in transformed before my eyes. Instead of seeing the desolate, poor little buildings; I saw the places in town where cool things happened.

I remember that at some point, I kept grabbing blurry, faceless people to take shots with me. No one complained. They were my best friends, I knew they were because they kept saying so. I don’t think I know their names though, but they probably won’t mind because I’m not sure if they know mine either.

I wondered how much time had passed so I grabbed my phone out of my pocket. For some reason my passcode was acting funny. It didn’t seem to be working and my fingers kept tripping over the moving numbers on the screen. When I finally got it unlocked, there was a message from my friend, which is weird because I don’t remember my phone going off. I don’t remember what the message said. I do remember that my phone was lying. It said that only fifteen minutes had passed since I’d gotten there. I think I need a new phone.

I lay down and I must have fallen asleep, but I think my eyes were open. My new friends must have left because it was quiet and peaceful for a moment. The night sky and reflecting street lights were all mashed up together, and it was all spinning around me so fast. It must have been what it felt like to look up from the bottom of a blender. Everything, the stars, the moon, the clouds, all slurred into a masterpiece of swirling color and moved around my head just like a smoothie. I closed my eyes and just felt. It was all still whirling around, but now it seemed more like ocean waves. Time didn’t exist for me.

Someone jerked me up to a standing position and I didn’t know what was happening for a long second. I had to force myself to focus on his face. Pockmarked and pale, with beady black eyes that had giant pupils.

“Truth or dare?”

All my friends appeared again, and actually I don’t think that they ever left.

“Girl you were tripping so hard, I told you we shouldn’t have slipped it to her Jonas, she can’t hang,” Sylvie laughed as she pulled me closer to the small group.

“You gonna play?”

I nodded with that same silly grin on my face as earlier. They didn’t even have to explain it to me. I already knew how this one went. I chose dare, and they dared me to kiss Jonas, the one with the black eyes. Yuck. He tasted sour, like someone with morning breath. Next, Sylvie had to tell us how many people she’d slept with. It was a lot. Frank, the one with tattoos on his neck, had to hold a lighter to his arm hair. Another girl had to tell us the hardest drug she’d taken and the guy sitting next to her had to eat an old cookie someone found.

Then we ran out of ideas. Someone pulled out a gun. No one even questioned it. I think Sylvie could tell that it scared me, because she put her hand on my shoulder and gave me that look. The look that said, don’t freak out in front of my friends. I couldn’t stop looking at the gun.

It was an old pistol that you see in movies. One with the six slots. I knew what we were going to play next. Jonas put a bullet into one of the slots. Everyone had to take a turn, he said, or else we weren’t friends anymore. Jonas went first. I think he was brave. He took the gun, spun the thing that held the bullet, and then cocked it back into place. Moving the gun slowly towards his head, he pulled the trigger with a crazy glint in his eye. Click. Nothing. The whole group let out a sigh, and since Jonas wasn’t hurt, everyone wanted to try next. We each got to spin it so everyone had the same chances. I was still scared. The gun was passed to Sylvie next. Grab, spin, pop, click. I would be last.

I couldn’t help but flinch every time someone pulled the trigger. It was the reflex of a sober girl that was now buried somewhere inside of a fucked up girl’s body. The gun seemed to be doing some seductive, twisted dance as is went around the circle, getting closer and closer to me. Grab, spin, pop, click. Finally it was my turn.

“I can’t do it,” I slurred, trying to push the gun away. I was going to throw up.

“I knew you’d chicken out. You’re so boring”

You’re so boring. You’re so boring. You’re so boring.

I grabbed for the gun, and Sylvie gave passed it to me without any hesitation. The gun looked natural in her hand, with the black nails, pale skin, and the pointy rings on her fingers. When I picked it up, it seemed so light, yet looked so wrong in my own clean, innocent hand. They had all done it though, so what was the problem with me trying it? I wasn’t boring, not anymore. Time had been going slow all night, but right then, it stood still. Spin… pop…

Click.

Relief soared through my veins as I realized that I had almost been crying. I don’t think I had been breathing that entire time, because my lungs suddenly couldn’t get enough air. I was the happiest I had ever been and this was now the best night of my life. I could almost dance with excitement; I wasn’t boring.

I dropped the gun with a laugh, and heard a blast. Everyone was looking at me funny and I don’t know why. That’s all I remember.