This myth was soon debunked by a fellow weed trimmer.
“Naw, brother,” said Austin, this California hippie boy he sat next to in the trim room. “No naked boys. They make that shit from explosives. Butane.”
As the midday heat faded, he was back in the garden, making sure the plants hadn’t swapped sexes. He started to separate the good pot that would be trimmed and sold as flower from the lesser grade that would be consolidated and turned into hash.
Soon the chores were done and he sat drinking water under the shade of another tree. His mind always doubled down on itself at this point in the day. Whenever catching a moment’s breath, he had the same thought: Where had he gone?
The last thing he remembered before the blackout was forgetting all of his lines. He was told later that he hadn’t resorted to curse words or jittery, unexpected behavior. Rather, it had been a cool and complete dissociation onstage. He’d gone to a table upstage right and buried his face in his hands for a full 15 minutes. The 49 people in the audience got frustrated and eventually walked out. His onstage retirement party.
Mid-November, when the harvest was over, meant it was time to return to the city to pay the rent and nestle in for the wet, rainy winter ahead.
He sat at the bus stop waiting for his Greyhound to arrive. He decided the bus trip would be nice and didn’t want to risk getting another religious fanatic as a driver.
It began raining so he wrapped himself in a poncho and covered his gear in plastic. The line for the bus was long, and the unfortunate farmhands who had not shown up early enough to stand inside the shoddy bus-stop shelter were all getting soaked.
On the ground near the little bench inside the shelter, he noticed a full ziplock bag of weed. Someone had dropped it or left it behind, but he didn’t even blink. He hated marijuana at this point.
The bus rolled up and all the wet, weary farmers boarded.
Looking out the window, he was taken aback as always by the beautiful landscape of the area, and by the cultural disconnect of the California backwoods. It somehow remained redneck as all hell—he even occasionally saw Confederate flags on bumper stickers. He remembered that a few hours outside any city in America, it was business as usual.
Later rather than sooner, he arrived in Oakland. He wanted no more of the bus and got off and called a car to take him to S.F.
His apartment was as he’d left it: sparsely furnished and clean. His life as a farmer had made him want to be a nomad, and every time he came back from the mountain he got rid of more and more stuff. If only it were possible to be a part-time resident in everything.
For the first time in forever, he felt that strange and foreign emotion—a stillness and a sense of peace. He began to cry.
He showered, put on warm sweats, turned on the heater, and boiled water for tea. He finally listened to the voicemails on his phone that he’d ignored while on the mountain. Mostly the usual: one from Mark saying he was no longer hanging out with the blonde or the kid with the birthmark; others from bill collectors, student-loan officers, his mother (over and over and over again)—and one of note.