"All right chief, puff, puff, pass!"
This reminder of smoker’s etiquette attempts to rise from the back seat, but the bumping speakers drown it out. I am in the driver’s seat of my car, floating on a thick cloud of music and smoke. My eyes close, my lungs fill, my head nods and becomes lost inside a hip-hop haze of bass, high hats, and trumpets. Just before Big Boi introduces his “Spottieottiedopaliscious Angel” a hand cuts through the smoke and whacks me in the back of the head. Leaving the music, I turn around, take a huge toke, give the middle finger (all in good fun), and pass the joint to the backseat. For the next twenty minutes my friends and I sit in my car, parked, windows up, seats laid back, and fill every crack and crevice with the sweet smell of marijuana smoke. We aren’t drug dealers or dope fiends. We are just four high school seniors getting prepared for class.
Even though this ritual had been a part of our mornings since sophomore year, it became easier to carry out when the school selected us for the aptly named Joint Enrollment program (some might say we took the name a little too literally). On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings we attended an English class at the local college before going to school. Our Tuesday and Thursday mornings were completely open. Even the days we had Joint Enrollment allowed us forty minutes of free-time before second period.
The clock flashed 9:20 and three doors promptly opened. Smoke billowed from the car like a shelled out bomb crater. Everyone went to their cars and the caravan to second period commenced. Rubbing my eyes, I turned the ignition, falling into the back of the line.
I came around the curve and pulled into the turning lane leading to school. Quickly I hit my brakes. The red lights screamed at me as my friends slammed their brakes and slowly crept toward the front gate. Curious, I looked up at the building and suddenly my heart stopped. My muscles contracted and my nerves sent a violent quake through my body. I didn’t notice the dropped cigarette that was burning a hole in my pants. Finally, the pain bit me. I grabbed the cigarette, throwing it out the window while almost swerving off the road. After regaining control, I closed my eyes and reopened them to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating; I wasn‘t. Ten police cars sat in front of the school, all in a perfect line with their drivers standing close-by. I contemplated driving off but it was too late. We had already been spotted.
As my car climbed the hill, my heart sunk into my stomach. I parked as far away from my friends as I could and quickly exited the car, not once looking at them. Now it was every man for himself. Emerging into the open air, I suddenly became aware of myself. I could feel my puffy, blood-shot eyes. My palms became slimy. My fingers clinched into a fist and my nails dug into my skin. My sight blurred and my tunnel of vision tried to focus on the front door. Every step seemed more...