I couldn’t be in my house. I needed to be alone. Somewhere outside. I wanted to sit outside as the sun set, completely left to my own thoughts and the hum of nature. I was feeling frantic — unable to relax. I had just spend an eight and a half hour workday sitting at a desk, staring blankly at a computer monitor, answering the phone when it rang (which was under ten times), and reading. Despite the fact that I just sat there from morning to late afternoon, I was exhausted. Hungry too, after my lame lunch of a yogurt, some blueberries, and the last of my pretzels from the day before. I got lost on the way home, still unfamiliar with the route to and from my new temp job. And to top it off, my boyfriend and I got in a ridiculous and unnecessarily heated argument over where to go to dinner that night. Frustration drove me to tears, caused me to lose my appetite, and created an uncomfortable itch inside me to just GO somewhere. Utterly alone.
I sat in my rom and rolled a joint, determined to make it a decent one. I then pulled on a sweatshirt and a pair of leggings, rinsed my face and wiped away my dripping mascara, and headed out the door.
My town bothered me because there was nowhere to just sit outside, especially to watch the sun set. There were some spots deeper in the woods, but I would never dare navigate those by myself, especially in the dark. After driving aimlessly for awhile, I pulled over on Lake Road. I drove along this road hundreds of times throughout my life in my town, yet I never stopped to actually walk through the small patch of trees to the reservoir. But after pulling over and shutting off my car, with lighter and joint in hand, I walked the several yards to the water’s edge.
The reservoir was always a beautiful sight while driving alongside it, regardless of the time of day. But being on the edge, and having a 180 degree view of water was breathtaking, especially with the coral pink staining the sky on the other side of the reservoir. Everything was so open — I felt like I could breathe. I stood there in silence for a few minutes, looking out at the expansive body of water. There was a perfect reflection of the clouds and sky in it. I looked down at the water right in front of me and could spot little fish in the shallow areas. Still standing, I pulled the lighter out of my pocket and unclenched my fist to expose the joint. I sparked the end, let the paper burn down a bit, then placed it between my lips. With the first deep inhale and exhale, I felt a release. As if in that cloud of white smoke that was dispensed out of me and into the fading light was filled with all of my stresses, worries, anxieties from that day, the whole week, my entire general life that looked like it was being led in no true direction. That one exhale made me feel lighter, more at peace with myself and everything around me.
That was exactly what I needed. Nature and its greatest gift to quiet my buzzing brain. The overwhelming feeling that I had only minutes before about work, my stubborn boyfriend and his childish approach to an argument — all of it went up in smoke. Still puffing on the joint, I guided myself through trees and overturned fishing boats to another clearing near the water. There wasn’t as much space there, and as I made my way back to my original spot I noticed that the light was fading quickly. But for once, my dominating fear of the woods, darkness, monsters, everything and anything, went to another place in my mind altogether. I sat on some roots in front of the water and continued to smoke, holding clouds deep in my lungs until they felt they would rupture, and then the smoke would come out in violent bursts of an exhale. I heard a small splash in the water, and saw ripples dispersing a few feet away. I sat there calm, squinting through the smoke that was unraveling through my parted lips. There it was again, this time to the right of me. Once I narrowed my eyes and looked closely at the surface of the water, I saw them: hundreds of bugs. And then a fish hopped up, breaking through the water’s sheen, its dark skin glimmering in an abrupt instant before disappearing again. I watched for them, anticipating where they would appear. I even smiled to myself, wondering which fish was winning when it came to snatching bugs out of midair.
The sky continued to darken as I sat. I could hear a car pass behind me every few minutes, but with the trees blocking their view, and where I was sitting down on the edge, they would never see me, or suspect I was even there. I was halfway through the joint, sitting placidly, my mind at ease, deep in a meditative thought, when I heard something. Dog chains? A man’s voice?
I froze, my hand with the burning joint down by my side.
“Who’s there? Huh? Who’s out there?” For a second I thought someone was speaking to me. They must’ve seen my car and pulled over. Was it a cop? That’s when I realized someone must be speaking to their dog. That was the same tone I used to get my dog all curious and excited when I knew my Mom was in the driveway after getting home.
Shit, please don’t come down here. Please don’t come looking. As my mind raced and my body tensed, I frantically stubbed out the joint. Don’t be a fucking moron, I thought to myself, and threw it out into the water. If someone comes down and asks, you just came here to be alone and collect your thoughts, I reassured myself. That was the truth though, wasn’t it? Why does smoking weed here have to be taboo to so many people still? I needed to unwind, a release, and unlike many people, I didn’t want that release through a glass of wine or a stiff drink after work. It’s sad to know the truth though, that if a cop, or just a common passerby saw me emerge from the woods to hear that excuse, noting my puffy, red eyes from crying (mostly) they would believe me. I sat there frozen until I heard the footsteps and chains withdraw.
My heart was racing. I was suddenly furious at the fact that there was nowhere I could sit to be alone for more than twenty minutes. It was such bullshit that I couldn’t sit outside somewhere, alone and undisturbed.
Get the fuck outta here, my head finally pulled me back. You’re sitting alone in the dark woods near a man and a dog. What if he comes back? I crept up through the trees, my car in sight parked off the road. When I saw no one near me, I ran to the car, stabbing at the unlock button, my house key between two of my knuckles. As I got to my car door, I looked up at the road ahead of me, and sure enough, about fifty yards away was a man with his two black German Shepherds. I put it all together. My car parked on the side of the road at an odd hour. A pungent smell of marijuana smoke rising through the trees. I’m sure those damn dogs smelt it in a second, police-trained or not.
I thanked myself for my tints as I started the car and pulled away, driving right past him. I looked at him with my eyes but didn’t twist my head in his direction. He was saying something, and for the split second I was next to him I heard him yelling but couldn’t make out the words. I thought I saw a slight smirk on his lips, too. I drove away in a high huff. Like he fucking owns those woods. Like it affects him who’s down there before the sun fully sets. I wanted to sit in peace for at least thirty minutes, away from my house, from everyone. To be comforted by the life and calmness of nature, while I got high and cloudy and distant — which was exactly what I needed. What happened to minding your own business? Fuck you guy, and your dogs. What would you have done if they sniffed me out and led you down there? Sic ‘em on me? A 22 year-old girl with a college bumper sticker on her Honda? Sitting on the water’s edge watching the sun set with her eyes puffy and swollen from tears (mostly)? Fuck you guy.