From the other end of the yard, I saw you, an athletically built man with cigarettes rolled up in his shirtsleeve. At first, I felt bad asking. I mean, even though we were at the same party, we had never met; I didn’t (and still don’t) know your name. A friend of a friend of yours told me your name was Karl, but a different friend of a friend told me that first guy was totally wrong.
Either way, I walked up cautiously. You were having a conversation with two girls. One had a nose piercing and wore a baggy top that made an ambiguous tent shape of every part of her torso, except her nipples. The other was a blonde who was nodding along while she rolled a joint. You were telling them about the time when you brought a surf board to Bonnaroo and “crowd surfed” in a very literal sense. It had been a key moment in your summer, and a testament to your innate sense of balance. They giggled and the blonde girl handed you the joint, because, although she rolled it, it was your weed and she found you attractive. I waited for a lull in the conversation and asked you timidly, “would you happen to have a spare cigarette-” and, not knowing what to call you, I added, “-man?”
The pause that ensued could not have been more than half a second, but I felt whole lifetimes pass before my eyes. You looked up at me—this destitute stranger—while you took an impressive hit from the joint. This moment of hesitation was just the space you had set aside to get stoned, but for me, it was all the time I needed to second guess something so foolish as asking favors without any sort of recompense. I thought about offering to turn my empty bottle of Georgi into a bong for you, but realized that was something I had neither the skill nor desire to do.
Laconic, with dank ganja-smoke still in your lungs, you calmed my nerves at the exact instant I felt like running to hide behind the Subaru parked in the driveway. “Sure thing, man,” you replied, sharing my appellation. We had bonded.
You pulled a pack of Chesterfields from the rolled sleeve of your t-shirt, fishing inside of the packet with a dexterous index finger. It was uncertain whether the two girls were now shotgunning the joint or kissing, but in either case, you hardly noticed. Perennially cool, you plucked the unfiltered cigarette from its pack. “Last one,” you said, adding, “need a light, man?” without missing a beat.
“Sure,” I could hardly stammer, forgetting to add, “man,” and feeling very rude as a result. You seemed to understand.
“I was looking for an excuse to get out of this party anyway, so I can just tell everyone I need to buy a fresh pack.” You scanned the backyard with glazed eyes, “I don’t think I know a single person here.” To think, I was of use to you without even meaning to be. A chance meeting of strangers, mutually beneficial. Symbiotic.
I leaned over the two girls, who, as if to clear up previous misconceptions, were visibly lubricating each other’s tongues in a haze of smoke and tangled bra straps. You lit my cigarette, and I thanked you and walked into the house to look for beer. I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire your generosity. There should be more people like you. More revolutionaries. More patriots.
All of a sudden, I wished we had gone to Bonnaroo together. Man.