I grabbed my keys before I realized the wet that covered the coffee table.
What the fuck.
I was running late, already calculating what sequence of stop lights would let me make it on time. As I searched for the culprit of the rank smelling puddle I’d plucked my keys from, I started recalculating.
If I don’t make the first light at Bell Street, I’ll have to call Karen (again) and tell her to cover me until I get there.
The glass bong, that had recently become an extension of the man sleeping under a blanket of Dorito dust, was toppled over. It’s black sedimented water coated the bottom but the rest circled the remotes, chip bags, and cellphone on the table.
“Hey. Dude. Wake the fuck up.”
He looked around in a frantic haze and sat up suddenly. I sent pointed stares from him to the bong on it’s side back to him.
By the time he sprung into apology and exaggerated action, I was halfway out the door.
Our relationship had been rocky since he’d started smoking. I was convinced that weed was the problem. But then getting high became the only way we could be together and not fight. At least, until the bong water spilled.
Once we were cuddled up under a blanket, an attempt at a romantic night, and we managed to soak our laps, the blanket, and the floor with sogginess and stench. The night ended with impromptu laundry and heavy sighs.
Once I climbed into his lap on the recliner. When we made the move to go to the bedroom, the foot of the recliner knocked over the bong. I went to sleep alone, leaving him to deal with the mess. When he cleaned, he didn’t move the recliner and the room smelled like bong water until we moved out.
Once we were high watching Kanye West on SNL. I reached for the remote and tipped the bong over myself. I shot up and hit his nose with the back of my head. He sat at the end of the couch, trying to keep his nose from bleeding, while I sopped up the mess and twisted the situation to be his fault for having the bong at all.
He’d first started smoking with his friends from his restaurant job. Lydia, a dealer of not just pot, housed the after-after-work-parties. In his retelling of these parties, they would do dabs and play with puppies from the newly-born litter living in the kitchen of her small apartment. When I finally joined him one night, Lydia’s 19-year-old daughter stormed through the haze of smoke yelling that her mother was a lazy piece of shit who was always high.
After a few months of partying with Lydia, a jade green pipe appeared on his bedside table with a small bag of weed that (when I finally smoked it) made my head throb.
I was obsessed with making rules about smoking.
First, he wasn’t allowed to smoke when I was home. The haze that he took on when stoned was a reminder of all the things he didn’t do (dishes, grocery shopping, finding a therapist, walking the dog). It almost always started a fight.
Then I started smoking with him and he just wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house. (My mom had the same rule about my dad, a cigarette smoker.) I’d join him on our tiny porch in an old jacket and hair wrapped in a beanie because I was convinced I’d smell like it at work in the morning.
He would load a hit for me in the makeshift gravity bong he made out of a 2-liter bottle and pieces of an unused tool kit. I’d cough like hell for 5 minutes, curl up next to him on the couch, and enjoy a few hours of contended peace without thinking about the bills in the mail and the dog poop in the yard.
Then the winter came and smoking in the snow seemed cruel. I let him smoke the little jade pipe in the house. After I’d wash the dishes, grade my papers, feed the dog, I’d take a hit, too.
Then, for Christmas, his sister bought him the bong and my rules focused solely on its rank contents.
After the first time using it, the water just a subtle tan, he spilled it in the hall on the carpet. He was carrying it to be cleaned.
“What am I supposed to clean it up with?” He asked, legitimately unaware of the uses for half of the cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink.
“Get a rag, or something!” I yelled, straddling the puddle as if we would forget where it was.
“I don’t want to mess something up.”
He had a point. In our 5 years, I’d found a way to criticize any minute decisions he made in this area. Why would you a beach towel to clean the counters? If you put the dishes in the dishwasher like that, they’ll stay dirty. If you’re going to clean the grill, can you at least wash the charcoal off the back door when you’re done? I always ended up cleaning his post-cleaning mess.
“Forget it. I’ve got it.”
I grabbed the grimiest towels and patted the stain. The smell radiated in my nose. How in the hell could this smell stronger than actual smoke? I scrubbed the spot with the same carpet cleaner we used when our dog peed on the floor.
By the time I was done, he’d made the bong sparkling and refilled it with clear water.
Every time I sopped up the bong water from the floor, I made some ultimatum about the bong and smoking in general.
“Ok. No more using the bong in the recliner.”
“I don’t care that you smoke, but could you put the bong somewhere safe before you pass out?”
“Can you just fill it up with a little less water? This is fucking ridiculous.”
I was always most furious when I knocked it over when my foot found it forgotten on the floor. Best case, the bong had only been sparsely used before spilling. The smell was distinct but dissipated quickly. Worst case, the spill came after a black cloud took form inside the glass bubble and stank the spill to high heaven.
But more often than not, it was clean.
He was obsessed with cleaning it. He ordered expensive neon green cleaner (the best on the internet), watched countless stoner youtube tutorials, discarded dozens of pipe cleaners at a time. Often I’d come home to elaborate chemistry experiments: glasses and mixing bowls half full, blackened cotton swabs littering the counter, the scent of rubbing alcohol on top of the tell-tale bong water funk.
The bong was the only thing he regularly cleaned. I’d stopped doing his laundry in our first year of living together and he didn’t pick up the chore. He’d leave bowls of half eaten food on the floor for days until even our dog wouldn’t touch the crusted contents. He could be carrying a four day depression stink like a shield around him but that bong would be crystal clear.
Sometimes, while I waited for him to clean and load the bong, I’d prod.
“You know as soon as you hit it, that thing is already dirty.” I’d say.
He’d always respond, “It hits so much better when it’s fresh. It just tastes better.”
Sometimes this would blossom into a full blown fight. For me, weed was a symbol of laziness, burnout, mediocrity, the exact things I felt my husband dangerously close to. When we smoked from the bong together, I felt close to those things too.
Sometimes, I’d decide I didn’t really care. I’d hold my tongue until I could ht the fresh bowl and get high enough to slip into fuzzy nothingness.
When we moved, he made sure to pack the bong in the bag he’d keep closest to him. He said it was because it was fragile, but I knew it’s because he wouldn’t want to be without it.
It took a matter of days before we were fighting over spilled bong water in a new city. We argued and cried and negotiated and prayed and got high. No matter how much we ignored it, the inevitable came.
I moved out in the middle of winter, just a few weeks after the bong water had halfway frozen from sitting on the windowsill. I slept through whole days. I slept through the voices telling me to go back and make amends. I slept through the empty and pain.
When I couldn’t sleep anymore, bought an ugly glass pipe from my bodega. I loaded it with the bit of weed a friend had given me and got high enough to drift off. When I woke up to the bit of ash that had fallen out, I laughed. No smell. No puddle. No him. I dusted it off and loaded another bowl.
I still use the pipe. It is cheap but sturdy and always dirty. But it’s better than bong water.