One night, I got really stoned and drove to the Taco Bell in Detroit because Grosse Pointe didn’t have any fast food restaurants. I took off my bucket hat while I was in line since people were staring — possibly because I wore pink shorts — and ordered eight tacos, paying with my debit card.
The reason I was even here was because my dealer Clint had fallen behind on his job and couldn’t get any weed. When I confronted him, he told me, “There’s a starving child in Africa right now. Get off my back.” For some reason, this bothered me a lot. So, after another week of waiting, I decided to try Van’s dealer who lived in Detroit. He had graduated from our school and was professional in every way.
I looked out the window from a booth. The neon McDonald’s sign next door shone in the darkness along with a sign for a bar. My phone was out of service, so I just zoned out and ate my dinner, but I didn’t really zone out.
Miserable was how I felt. I was still me, Trent Mulholland, the jerk who connived a geek into hacking into the school databases to change some grades, which led to the geek’s expulsion. This was the reason I smoked a lot, and the reason I was here on a warm spring night, bleary-eyed, munching on some dry, greasy tacos. Was the momentary praise from some seniors worth the guilt.
Thinking could reduce a person to a beaten beast, but people said I was too absorbed anyway to think. Not too absorbed to feel, though.
After finishing off all eight, I wandered to the restroom to put in some eyedrops. My parents probably wouldn’t notice, but I wanted to be safe.
I stopped at a red light and waited. Two cars pulled up behind my car so I turned down the radio and put my foot on the clutch so I’d be right off. The green light came, and as I crept forward, an old hobo shuffled across the way. My car stalled, and the Cadillac behind me blew its horn, so I honked at the hobo. The hobo, all rumpled and pitiful, stood right in front of the headlights and stuck his hand out like a claw. He hissed, sending spit right onto the windshield.
“Damn, you, you little bastard,” he cried. “Damn you to Hell.”
I flipped him off and kept on the horn. When he finished crossing, I took a wrong turn and found myself on an empty street. An attempt to get back on the right path, and I wasn’t heading north anymore. Another turn landed me even further away, surrounded by closed stores and no street lights. Panic set in.
I stopped at an empty storefront against my better judgement and began pulling up directions on my phone. The data bars flicked up and down until they went out. I was truly lost. Several ideas came to my drug addled mind, but they all relied on phone service. I reached into my glove box for some Adderall. There were two pills left, so I crushed them and snorted them to sharpen myself up.
As darkened figures may or may not have moved in the background, I sped off again, feeling panicked, and drove in some direction I hadn’t tried. It wasn’t hard to get lost in Detroit. The streets were always changing, and it only took one wrong turn. Also, I was high. Other than the hobo throwing me off guard, this was my fault. It could have been avoided if I had waited before smoking up. I was so stupid. The whole reason I got high was… complicated I suppose. Sometimes people would come up throughout the school day and ask why I hadn’t been expelled. One girl had told me, “Why don’t you jump off the Guardian Building, you asshole.”
More searching. No answers. There had to be a convenience store or some place I could ask for help.
The headlight of a Grand Am flashed onto my rear view mirror, so I sped up. The Grand Am stayed uncomfortably close even though there was another lane. I merged into that one. The Grand Am maintained its speed. I shifted into fifth gear and pushed further on.
Now I was sweating, unsure of what to do, until I came to a street all lit up. The Grand Am did not follow. But that wasn’t a concern anymore. The needle on the fuel gauge had hit zero. I wondered why my car hadn’t given some warning, but it was old. No choice but to pull over at a pawn shop. Still no cellular activity.
I deliberated. My options were limited. This situation was stupid, and I needed gas.
I put my phone in lost mode and hid it in the glove box along with my wallet. Then I slipped past the storefronts with ease and found my way to a gas station. There was a young man at the counter and an older Middle Eastern man in a chair with a shotgun. I paid with a few crumpled dollars.
Then I sucked up my pride and asked for directions to Grosse Pointe. The man was nice and wrote them on a napkin for me. He probably took pity since I looked like hell.
When I was done filling up, I saw Mrs. Norton at one of the pumps. Last year, she argued in front of the school board for my expulsion. Mrs. Norton double glanced and continued to pump gas.
I walked past her slowly.
“Trent Mulholland? What are you doing here?”
“My car ran out of gas, and I was going home — it’s….”
I felt exposed. All I had on were shorts and a loose polo that billowed in the warm breeze. A Camaro with no muffler sped past us on the open road.
“You should call roadside assistance,” she said.
I shook my head. “Uh, I’m already here and I have the gas. I’ll go back to the car.”
“Why don’t I drive you?”
She finished up and we both got in her mini-van.
“You smell like pot.”
I looked at her exhausted. “Does it matter?”
“You sound stoned.”
“My car’s just up ahead.”
“Are you smoking weed because you’re feeling guilty about being privileged?”
An ejaculated “huh?” and then a momentary glare. “No.”
“Are you sure? You don’t wonder why you have so many things that others don’t have?”
“No,” I said.
“Not even when there are kids living so close to you, who aren’t able to do the things you can?”
I shivered as the air conditioning blasted. The high was dissipating.
“I don’t know, Mrs. Norton. I wonder why I’m not a dying kid in Africa, but nearly everyone in the U.S. could do the same.”
She snorted contemptuously. “I don’t know. You’re better off than a lot of people. Especially here. There are boys younger than you with felons.”
“Well, I’m thankful I don’t have a felony.”
“You know,” she said. “If a white male doesn’t thrive, it’s all on him. You orchestrating that hacking is as bad as a felony because you’re rich and privileged.”
Mrs. Norton was a white pumpkin. My eyes watered momentarily.
“Jesus, how can you keep telling me this?” I asked. “I’m a person. I have feelings, and you have no problem saying these things to my face.”
“I’m just being fair. You are what you are. A white teenage male from an affluent city.”
“Listen, I can play what ifs until the end,” I said. “I’m only guilty for what actually happened, not a bunch of hypotheticals.”
Then I tripped out of the car and took the gas, managing a thank you because it was a polite thing to do. I began filling my car as hers went farther into the city. I wondered why she was in Detroit tonight.
When I was back in the driver’s seat, I sighed and turned on the ignition, searched my pockets for the napkin, but it was gone. I checked again. It wasn’t in the hip or back pockets. I shut off my car and went to my knees outside on the gravel, searching in case I dropped it. Had to find it. Without the directions, I’d just waste the last of my gas. Of course, I could go back, but that was too embarrassing. Were the tacos worth it? Was the weed worth it?
Sweat seeped through my pants, my underwear, and my shirt. It was all so hopeless. Something cracked and my knee felt like it had been split open, almost to the bone. And then I yelled. I looked down. There was a broken bottle underneath me. Didn’t want to see if the bone showed from under the layers of skin. Simultaneously, my phone went off. I scrambled to the glove box and answered.
“Hello? Hello? Kaitlyn?”
She said tiredly, “Trent, did I forget my rain boots at home?”
“I don’t know. I’ll call you back. I’m kind of in a jam.”
Before she could ask any more, I ended the call. Great. I just searched for the directions on my phone. They came up and I screen-shotted them, fearful that my network would drop off again. Then I took my polo off and tied it around my leg. The blood still flowed, but the makeshift bandage was good enough to get home.
When I made it to Grosse Pointe, I was reminded of what Mrs. Norton said. I wondered why she had to remind me of what I did, why she lived in Grosse Pointe even. I also wondered if she had any compassion for anyone. My guess is that she didn’t. I didn’t know if any of what she said was true. All I knew was that I was a sixteen-year-old who may or may not be addicted to weed and that I wouldn’t be going to Van’s dealer again. I’d stick with Clint even if he was a flake.
I stood in front of the wall-to-wall mirror at home. The dirt-covered shorts, blood-soaked polo around the knee, visible ribs, messed up hair, and slick sweat made me look like a cast-away. I laughed for a moment before calling Kaitlyn to tell her that her boots were in the mudroom.
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HOMESICK is a short story I wrote to accompany my manuscript I’m trying to publish, called THE STONER IDIOT. This is Trent’s account of his sophomore year after he got a boy expelled. Now he’s trying to redeem himself amidst rejection and distrust. This is a story centered around relationships and characterization, with a plot strong enough to bring out the best emotion. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written and look forward to what’s coming next. You can follow me on Twitter @AlisonLilla