Before going to the park to play a pickup football game, we swatted at mosquitoes, pecked at our marijuana-infused popcorn and spoke about sentimental things.
My friend Sean (the New-Age guy) had worried over the popcorn, thinking we’d been cheated because he believes microwaves kill endangered species, cancer patients, and more specifically, THC. This theory, he’d said, was not far fetched. He was grumpy from allergies. He spoke about his old house in Chile, wiping his nose with the bottom of his shirt. He’d lost his father before his sixth birthday, and never learned from him how to throw a ball. He told us that we had been privileged to hear things from a man about playing sports, kissing girls, trying drugs. His father was in the priesthood, Sean said, and sometimes shows up talking in his dreams.
Max (my oldest childhood friend) and I sat across from Sean on my parents’ porch, popping the mosquitoes that landed on our limbs. We had some time to kill before the pickup football game down the street. These middle-aged neighborhood guys — short, shaped like old pears — tossed the ball at a nearby park on most Friday evenings. The lawns and streets were damp from the afternoon rain. We worried that the weed popcorn would be too much, filling our heads up with fogged thoughts and miscalculated football moves. We didn’t know what to expect.
Sean has never watched a full football game in his life, and told Max and I (both avid NFL fans), that tackling doesn’t have any poetry. Everything seemed down; Sean was moving away in one week, and we weren’t very sure how this “potcorn” high would manifest.
I always get nervous before pickup games. Some guys, like myself, can get real torn up about points being scored on them. Once, when I was in high school, I found myself dodging a baseball that was thrown at my head after I’d gotten chippy with a stranger over some balls and strikes.
The popcorn hit slow and made my neck feel like it had been pulled out from under my chin. This phantom neck experience caused me to run my fingers around my Adam’s apple and to the top of my spine. Max thought I was thinking about football plays in my head. Sean giggled, “That looked like a sign of suicide.” Through the front door of the house, I could hear Daryl Hall and John Oates sing “You Make My Dreams” on the radio. We didn’t speak, just nodded our heads to the rhythms in silence. This weed popcorn, like most edibles, came on without any alarm, but it put wind under my feet. I burst out laughing. “My throat feels very, very high.”
Sean and Max didn’t hear me.
Sean took a big breath and together we looked at the park. The three older guys were stretching and throwing the football. Max’s eyes lit up and he pulled off his sweatshirt. Sean was the last to leave the porch: “Do I need to know anything in particular about football?”
At the park Max asked the middle-aged guys if we could play three-on-three. They all wore black nylon shorts and white tennis shoes. I remember thinking how bizarre it was that none of them tied their drawstrings, just letting the white ropes dangle at their knees. It was difficult to make eye contact and the weed mixed itself into an oddly energetic phase.
I feel like there’s a high within the high whenever I meet new people while stoned. Anxiety and social cues can twist up and push the brain into sloppy thoughts that move at highway speeds. Max handled the conversation with a forced ease. We shared our names and they pointed at the houses where they lived. Sean never said a word. It was getting dark and the street lamps had come on. I watched him watch the moths beat themselves against the lamps.
The rules were easy. We played between two trees. There’d be four downs, no kickoffs, and each touchdown was a point. Winner: first to five.
Max, Sean and I started with the ball. In the huddle we giggled. We spoke in sentences that dismembered themselves in high football play theories. Max was our quarterback, and decided that we should run wherever and just try to get open. I have never been able to catch a football too well, they’re big and heavy. Our first play was dramatic. Sean froze up when Max launched him a 15-yard deep ball. The ball came down and bounced off his chest, kicking up into the night and into the arms of one of our opponents. Sean was scared of the ball, and I don’t blame him, I’ve seen sports gear do nasty things to a human. This was the first of the older guys’ four unanswered points.
For most of the night we ran around like drunk turkeys. I kept rubbing my throat. Sean would forget about the man he was supposed to cover, losing himself in the flicker of moths in light. Max didn’t seem to care. He sweated through his shirt, made guttural noises, and put a hole through his sweat pants. We ended up losing the game. The other team was slower and out of shape, but they could play together. There wasn’t much teamwork on our side, as we were out in our own worlds.
After the game we shook hands with our opponents, and as we left the park we noted the weed seemed to have traveled deeper into our system.
“I had an issue out there,” Sean said, “I didn’t like putting my hands on them.”