It is midnight and I’m walking around Burlington, Vermont. College kids run rampant in the streets, dodging and bumping into each other on their way to bar after bar after bar. The air is filled with alcohol and reefer. Kids smoking it openely in the streets, down alleyways, in between buildings in the dark. The smell is sweet and it brings back memories of St. Louis where I drove through and stayed for a week with a friend in public housing on the city’s Northside.
That smell of pot being a constant in the air. Black kids huddled together at bus stops smoking Swisher Sweets and Philly Blunts packed with herb. Rapping as they smoke. Talking about this bitch and that hoe. Checking guns they have in their pockets, coats, book bags, at hand and ready to use. The price of life in St. Louis is cheap. These white kids in Vermont do not realize that. They sing out rap music as well in their nasal tones. They know the words, but, they don’t know the music.
I’m sitting in a bar and it is almost closing time. A tattooed waitress tells me she’s going to New York as well one day to be an actress, or, a burlesque star; she hasn’t made up her mind yet. She talks to me as if I was her father, asking advice, wanting to know all about me, as if she came from me. I tell her I’m a bum on the run. A man who could not take it anymore. I tell her about the voices I hear, the highs and lows, the constant thought of ending it all. She places her hand on my shoulder and gives me a hug. That would be a shame, she says. An absolute shame, she kisses my forehead. It is good to feel her warmth. Maybe I’ll see you in New York one day, she says. I tell her maybe. Then, in a sweet old school way, she writes down her phone number on a matchbook. She smiles and says, Keep this. You might need it some time. And I realize I was wrong. Not all kids are bad.