The porch was cold this time of year. The wind carried round the corners of the old house, whistling as it went down towards the woods and the lake.
It wasn’t the same in the summers. Those long nights had been sat in peace, each one fulfilling a life time. Each seeming to last forever. There were so many countless years that this had been there evening tradition. Not just the summers, but spring, autumn, winter too. To sit, light a spliff in the evenings, and watch god’s creation go by. Not a care in the world.
From this porch they had seen shooting stars fall from the heavens. The uncountable parade of wildlife ascending from the woods, their nightly dance in search of food. They had celebrated life and mourned its passing.
It hadn’t always been plain sailing, there were nights when they had sat and not said a word to each other for hours, except small little digs or to carry on a full blown argument.
She knew how to argue. The one trait she had kept from that no good family of hers was a sharp tongue. She knew exactly what to say to cause the deepest wounds. In a way it was one of the things he loved most about her. She told it how it was, take it or leave it. If you didn’t like it then it was not her problem to change, but yours.
He took the box from the table that sat to the left of their old bench and placed it on his lap. With a small groan he opened and closed his hands. The arthritis seemed to play up more during the cold months and he had a feeling that this was going to be a harsh winter. That wouldn’t change a thing of course. This had been their tradition for their whole relationship, the whole fifty years that he had known her.
It hadn’t always been the porch mind you. To start with it had been the cheeky little joints out of her bedroom window late at night when her parents had finally fallen asleep. Back then she had looked on the world in such a way that each day brought something new and beautiful.
Through her he had grown and discovered who he was. She’d given him strength to peruse his love of literature and, at the age of thirty, to go to University and get the education he wanted. He’d been good at it too. Not the top of his class, but every two out of three results had been a top mark. She had also encouraged him to start writing, which eventually led to a small success with his first novel. It wasn’t an abundant success; he knew that his words could never rival the greats. But it was enough to buy this house. Their family home.
He took the rolling paper from the box and placed the skin into the small V shaped tray that had held hundreds of joints in its time. A memento of their first holiday together. His first holiday ever! It had been a trip to Europe, sun, castle and wine in the Alsaces, ending with a week in Amsterdam, the Marijuana capital of the world. It had been fun and they travelled well together. They loved the same things, exploring the culture and history of where they went. Soon it was Vietnam, Peru and Egypt. It had been the start of so many adventures all over the world, so many stories.
That was before old age had finally caught up with them. In their “golden years”, life had settled down. He couldn’t remember the last time they had left the town, let alone the country. Life moved on. The kids had flown the coop as they say, although to be honest, all the chickens had flown the coop as well these days. Time had flown by so fast.
The smell of weed hit his nose as he popped the lid to his little pot and placed a generous amount into a grinder. As he turned the two halves and the weed separated into a nice crumble, the arthritis nipped again.
“You ain’t getting the better o’ me”
He emptied the weed into the paper and gentle rolled the roach, placing it at the end. His spliffs were not what they used to be, after sixty years of rolling his hands just wanted to give up. His spliffs seemed tight and lumpy now. Not the perfectly coned specimens he had taken so much pride in during his youth. They still managed to hit the spot though.
She had never learned to roll, she had never needed too. During those early years they had smoked each one together, enjoying the experience of sharing something. The smell swirling around them as they cuddled up from the winter chills. At some point though, the ritual evolved to having one each. Both rolled by him. He never minded, he enjoyed rolling, found it almost therapeutic. God knows, back in the day, before weed was legal, it had been the only remedy that worked for the depression he’d suffered in his youth.
He placed the first finished joint on the table and took a second paper to start the next.
Of course, she had been the major change for those ‘issues’ of his early years. When he met her all those troubles faded to a distant memory. Another life. He’d been grateful for it, more so that she would ever know. He had tried to show her over the years, but how could you show someone how they had saved your life? He told her though, every chance he got. Once upon a time he didn’t think he would make it to thirty, now he was an ancient man of eighty six.
She had helped him without knowing it or without any great effort on her part. It was another of her gifts. Just by loving him and encouraging him, being there to talk to or just to sit with and share their evening ritual. He was, after all, a creature of habit.
He loved her with every minute of every year. Each of his old bones ached for her.
He reached across to pass her the second clumsily made joint, she wouldn’t mind that. She understood his hands smarted at times.
Holding it and the lighter out for her to take, life came flooding back.
The good, the bad, the endless love that they would always share.
It didn’t matter how long she had been gone, to him she was always there next to him.
For every nightly ritual. He could feel her.
The bench was cold and uninhabited, except for him.
“I’ll smoke this one for you baby.”
Photo © Tara Roy/Realty of Maine
Short Story © Phen Weston