had more sense. Whether his neighbors were cool or not was not really the point; Derek was a private person and did not like to feel that his comings, goings, and doings were known to just anyone. Oddly enough, Derek could justify the volume of his music because it served to mask his personal actions. He looked at Arthur who was eyeing him, fists on hips, with a sardonic grin. Derek ignored it. "You want some?" he said.

It was more of a statement than a question; Arthur was an avid smoker of "the Herb". "Sure, if you haven't already smoked it all." Arthur was trying to joke, but Derek suddenly did not feel like responding. He was vaguely aware that he was not being very friendly, but Arthur's exhuberance was suddenly bothering him. Only a couple of minutes ago Derek felt excited about Arthur. But now Arthur's energy, as much of it as there was, seemed stale. Derek disappeared into his darkened bedroom and pretended to root around, trying to clear his head. I'm just being moody, he thought.

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I can't relate to him 'cause he's not stoned..yet! Derek soon emerged carrying a bag of green powder and a packet of rolling papers. He did not look at Arthur, but went into the livingroom and turned on the lamp in the corner. He left the candle burning and turned down the music a touch. Then he set about rolling a joint. Arthur surveyed Derek's livingroom with his permanently curious eye.

It was rather bare: there were only a few prints hanging up to take away the starkness of the white walls, and the furniture was limited to a coffee table, a few chairs and a beanbag scattered over the cheap indoor/outdoor carpeting on the floor. Hasn't changed since the last time I was here, he thought. Arthur liked to spend a lot of time making his place as homey as possible. When he saw the lighted candle, Arthur raised an eyebrow, and he began to wonder. To Arthur, the use of marijuana was a social thing, an experience to be shared with others. He did not understand how Derek could sit all by himself in the dark, alone with his swirling and scattered thoughts.

That was because, though he would never have admitted it, Arthur was afraid of his thoughts. Despite his boisterous, energetic and positive front, deep down Arthur did not trust himself, and his thoughts and desires often haunted him. He tried to drown them out with constant movement and action, and the idea that Derek was doing what he dared not do made him worried. He did not realize that Derek was even more uncomfortable among his peers, when stoned, than when he was alone. Arthur crossed the room and turned down the music so he could talk to his friend.

He was trying to think of what to say to get Derek to leave with him, to get out of these oppressive surroundings. "So what's new, Bud?" he asked. Derek did not look up from the floor where he was carefully rolling the joint. "Not much," he said in an uncommunicative tone. Derek held the joint up to the light and eyed his handiwork critically.

Satisfied, he set about rolling another. He was preparing to be in a better mood, but he wanted a few moments to think about something else entirely. Arthur, knowing his friend well, recognized this and kept silent. Scanning the room he noticed a pencil and notepad on the coffee table in front of him. Curious as always, Arthur reached for it and saw that it was covered with wandering doodles and almost illegible scrawls. Derek was aware of Arthur's movements.

He said nothing, but wondered what Arthur would say, and waited in anticipation. Often when high Derek would try to write down some of the random thoughts which occured to him, thoughts which at the time seemed like indisputable Truth. He took his time rolling the joint and cleaned up thoroughly afterwords. Then he carefully re-rolled his bag of pot and sat back watching Arthur's expressions as he read. Unfortunately for Derek, Arthur's face remained impassive and he finally threw the notepad down without a comment. Derek was disappointed and stared at his friend, feeling lost. He had thought that the few lines he had scrawled were quite good, and he wondered that Arthur could remain unmoved by them.

Not that this was anything new. Derek often felt frustrated by what he saw as the insensitivity of others to what he considered Truth. Statements like "The Oneness of All", were too easily seen as being corny, or even meaningless. But Derek thought he felt the full meaning of such a statement. Consider: your entire body replaces all the molecules in it about once every three months, then they become part of something else; the air you breathe today was breathed in Hong Kong a month ago; even the electrons around the atomic nucleus had only a given probability of being where they should be--they could be as far away as Pluto at any given moment. And there was more to it than that, something that Derek could not quite put his finger on, but felt in the depths of his soul.

So he was disappointed by Arthur's response. Arthur could sense Derek's frustration but he had no inclination to say anything and so avoided looking Derek in the eye. To Arthur it was all hogwash. Well, it might be true, but so what? To Arthur, philosophy (which is what he termed any intellectual speculation with which he was confronted) was for people who had too much time on their hands and could not face living in the real world. Although he would not have expressed his conception of his existence in this way, as far as he was concerned, he, Arthur, was a distinct entity coexisting, cooperating, and competing with other distinct entities. This he took for granted because his eyes and ears told him so.

How this was so, or why, did not concern him at all, although if pressed he might have conceeded that the responsibility probably rested with "God". Seeing Derek's feeble attempts at capturing something intangible made Arthur more worried. When he finally did look at Derek, his eyes and a twist of his mouth seemed to be making an apology. Derek stared at the wall, tapping his foot to the beat of the music, seemingly oblivious and content. He was wondering, however, why he continued to hang around with a guy like Arthur. It was so obvious that they were on completely different"wavelengths".

While they enjoyed doing similar things on a physical level, Derek and Arthur rarely communicated at a deep one. Derek supposed that it was because he had known Arthur for six or seven years that he continued to see Arthur at all. Arthur could not abide the silence any longer and he conquered it in his usual fashion. "So are you going to light that thing, or what?" he asked jovially, as if there was no tension between them. Derek had to laugh.

Arthur was just unquenchable, and suddenly the realization that Arthur was Arthur and Derek was Derek and neither had to change for the other made Derek feel warm inside. "Yes, I am," he said, smiling. "But be careful. This stuff will knock your socks off." "Right on." They smoked in silence, and Arthur, his lungs full and his cheeks puffed out, nodded his appreciation for the quality of the herb. Derek felt the familiar rush of sensation through his torso and down his legs, but it was not the same as before when he had been clear headed to begin with.

It was muddier, less intense and paralyzing, and he knew that the euphoria would be short- lived. The joint was finished and Derek popped the tar-blackened end into an old film canister--his "rainy day toke dump". They began an animated conversation, now and then bursting into hysterical laughter, sometimes for just any reason at all. After a while Arthur managed to convince Derek to get outside. "For some fresh air," he said.

They cruised around for a while in Arthur's big blue battered Plymouth, smoked the second joint, and eventually ended up at the local pool hall/video arcade. Arthur parked in the lane behind it, but Derek did not want to go in. "I don't feel like it," he said, not explaining why. "Fuck," said Arthur mentally rolling his eyes. Did this always have to be so hard? He continued, "Why not? There's a new high score on KILLER ROBOT SERENADE and I want to try to break it." "So try tomorrow. Why now?" "Because we're stoned, man.

We have the advantage of'heightened awarenesses', so let's make the best of it." "Well, that's exactly why I don't want to go in. I'm stoned. What if.." Derek trailed off, not wishing to admit that he was petrified at the thought of going inside and facing the cold perusal of the pool hall crowd. Everybody in there was"cool". They knew their places and they fit in. Derek, on the other hand, knew he wasn't "cool", did not have a place and knew that he did not fit in.

They'll see through me like Saran Wrap, he thought. If he had not been so high, Derek would probably have had the confidence to appear quite co ...