Jane was mouthing something to me through the strobe lights and the couple grinding in front of me. I could feel the boom in my chest. I yelled back, “What? I can’t hear you!” The song ended and she said, “Do you want to leave?” I nodded.
Out the door with sweaty foreheads, I felt the cold air against my skin. “God, is it me, or have clubs gotten totally lame?” Jane huffed, as she pulled out a cigarette.
“You seemed to be having fun with that guy though.”
Jane offered me a cigarette, but I lit a joint instead.
“Yeah he was okay, a little too handsy.”
“I thought you liked that.”
“Maybe this is what growing up feels like,” Jane replied as she exhaled smoke, chuckling.
“Whatever happened to that guy you were dating, Zack?” I asked out of genuine curiosity.
“I ghosted him. He was weird, started trying to fix me, like not letting me go out to the club or smoke hookah. I didn’t like that.”
“You didn’t like how he was trying to … help?”
“Believe me, it didn’t help. It was patronizing. He thought he was better and uh, what’s the word he used, more balanced, than me.”
“Oh.” Jane did need help, but I didn’t dare say that to her, unless I wanted her to ghost me too.
I put out my joint and stuffed it back into a black tube and into my denim pocket.
“Want a ride?” she said after a moment of silence.
“Yes please,” I said, grinning.
Jane always drove a little drunk. She was a really good drunk driver and insisted she’s even better at driving when a little drunk. I wasn’t worried — she’s never been caught or close to an accident. But tonight she was off. Jane only had one cigarette instead of five and she didn’t like the guy she was grinding with at the club, and she refused to pregame with me before leaving like we usually do. I decided not to comment on it.
At a stoplight, she asked me if I had any weed. Jane usually only smoked cigarettes and said weed made her too paranoid. I said yeah, and she asked if she could buy some from me. Staring at the empty road, I stuttered — “Uhm-mm, sure.”
When we arrived at the front of my apartment building, I asked, “Is everything okay?” Jane didn’t say anything for a while. She pulled out her phone and showed me a text message she received today from her father. It read, “hey darling, are u ok? i miss you. when can we meet?”
“That’s weird,” was all I could say. She nodded with a rigid expression.
I thanked her for the ride and jogged to the elevator. When I got inside the apartment I felt my pockets for the joint I brought, annoyed that I seemed to have lost it. I grabbed a few nugs from my jar and ran back down to hand it to Jane from the car window and told her to call if she needed anything else, and watched her speed away. Her father had been dead for a year.
UMA JAGWANI is a poet and writer now based in Geneva, Switzerland, after living in various regions in the U.S. She is working on her first chapbook publication and her poems can be read in Underblong (Pushcart-nominated,) New Note Poetry, Impossible Task, and elsewhere. She can be found on X and Instagram at @umajag and at umajag.com.