“So yeah, you’re becoming too much of a liability,” he says. He pulls the joint back to his chapped lips and takes a brief pull. “And for those reasons, we’re gonna have to let you go.” The words flow with the exhaled smoke right into my face. “Oh,” I respond appropriately, making sure this revelation seems real.

I can’t say it’s a shock to learn I’m getting the boot. Seven really is an odd and inefficient number. And, to be fair, I haven’t been making the most effort lately.

“Yeah,” he continues, as if reading my thoughts. “It also seems that you just haven’t been trying. You know?”


“And, like, you’ve been distant and, you know, not present.”

Even though I disagree with this point, I nod. It’s never good to contradict Josh when he’s high. And you can tell he’s high by his profusive “likes” and “you knows” and strings of synonyms. How long had he been sitting there, smoking, alone, before I came over?

“And when we go out, we always have to like, babysit you, you know? Remember Juan’s thing? You’ve got some serious social anxiety or something.”

“Uh huh.”

“And that, too, dude!” he sits up in his chair a bit, an uptick of indignation in his voice coming out with the “too.” “You’re not even communicating with me, you know? Talking with me.”


“And you’re always fuckin’ apologizing!”

My mouth moves to open automatically for the “sorry,” but I realize the irony and quickly close it. Then I realize the irony embedded in Josh’s criticism.


Josh stops talking for the first time in what feels like 30 minutes. He breaks the silence by offering me the joint he’s been suckling on since I got there. A gesture of good faith. He doesn’t want to be seen as the bad guy. You know how it works. Politics, etc. Don’t shoot the messenger, here’s a hit. The joint stands erect between his thumb and index finger in the space between us. It looks cold and small and sad in his fingers.

“No thanks,” I say instead, pushing myself off from the lawn chair. “I think I’m gonna head out.”

Josh looks suspicious for a second, his left eyebrow lifting slightly in his inimitable personal expression of confusion and/or challenge. “For sure, dude. But we’re cool though, right?” He gets up to meet me at eye level. I guess I never noticed it before, but his eyes only reach my nose.


He goes in for the high five thing I never mastered and I do the performance and say goodbye and open the screen door to the inside of his house, say goodbye to his mother nursing a glass of wine staring at the TV, open the massive front door and quickly close it behind me.

I get to my car and close the door and sit in the thick hotness for a bit.

I think about how I’m without a Group during the thick of the school year. But for some inexplicable reason, dread doesn’t wash over me. If anything, I feel…calm. Like the first time, my shoulders feel unburdened by a phantom weight.

I get a text from Josh: Oh hey im gonna need ur i.d. and gun too. sorry i forgot to mention that.

Oh yeah, I remember. I forgot about that, too. I text him that I’ll hand them in tomorrow to the higher-ups.

Ok thanks dude.

Then the gravity of the situation hits and a new weight settles all over my body. Now I’m going to die, gunned down by passersby in no man’s land. Alone.

High school is fucked.