We were sitting at the kitchen table when the kid asked me, "Have you ever been stoned?"
"Huh?" I replied.
"Have you ever been stoned?"
"No. I never fooled around with drugs," I said.
"How about alcohol?"
" Yeah. But not in a very long time."
He put the question to his Mom. Her response was the same.
One never knows what is percolating around in a teenager's brain. Maybe he confused my laconic aura and red eyes with some form of intoxication. I have a defense. I was tired from running around for 8 hours with the Miracle League kids and I had forgotten to put in my new eyedrops, which judging from the price, are made from water hauled in from the Shrine at Lourdes. Secondly, it was 8:30 at his mother's house. We were having a glass of wine. C'mon.
Maybe he just wanted to talk. He just turned 14, I am pretty sure. 14 or 15. That's certainly an age where one is typically first confronted with certain temptations with which we all contend with varying degrees of success for the rest of our lives. Better he get his information from adults than from one of his knucklehead associates.
God knows I have had the "good time fun" in the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie. But after awhile, once you start accumulating a few objects you start to make the risk calculation. My friends and I talk all the time about how we are generally at home by 9 or so. About how it's not worth it. We have all become what we once would have derided as "no fun." And that's OK. As one of my buddies once said, "The people that still party hearty in their late forties and fifties are referred to as alcoholics." As for me, God in His unquestioned wisdom granted unto me a fail-safe device.
I get tired pretty easily nowadays. And thank God for that. And as for street drugs, I wouldn't begin to know where to obtain them if I were so inclined.
I hardly would call my friends a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud. But I scarcely know anybody who smokes cigarettes. I discovered a cigarette butt in the empty base of a flower pot on my front porch. I had to think long and hard before deducing that it was most likely left there by a lady friend who has taken up the infernal habit once again while she is going through many troubles. Which was the reason she presented herself at my little house in the first place. And once her life settles down, I suspect she will kick it once again with renewed vigor.
H.L. Mencken once said something along the lines of "Vice is too dangerous to be left in the hands of the virtuous. It should only be dabbled in by the sinful who know when to fool with it and when to let it alone."
I've been lucky in that regard. For the most part I've known when to fool with it and when to let it alone. And the older I get the more I let it alone. My Uncle Howard no longer partakes in the amber liquid. This is an outcome as unlikely to me as his not breathing oxygen. But he said he just wasn't interested in it anymore. He just lets it alone.
The kid didn't ask anymore questions or let us know what caused him to broach the subject. Maybe it just popped into his head. He's a kid. There's not much of a filter between his brain and his mouth.
Like all of us, he will have to make his own choices and choose his own path. And he's a really good kid. I just hope that he learns to make an accommodation with trouble. And that he learns when to fool with it and when to let it alone.