I removed my gear in the alley, lifted it onto my window’s balcony using the complex pulley system I’d specially crafted and installed to be hidden and handy all at once. Then, I carefully climbed up and into the house, catching the sparse handholds with strong, sure hands. I hadn’t done climbing at university for nothing! Sometimes, the lever to the system makes terrible creaking noises, but luckily, it functioned perfectly today. I’d been lucky to get the first floor flat with Jack, because despite my strong technical ability in climbing, my mild fear of heights had always held me back in the sport.
I slipped through the open window discretely, entering the half-empty room that I’ve called mine for the past few months. The room is usually decorated with clothes on the floor, sketches on the walls and my trusty old Mac on an otherwise clear desk. A small mattress lies on the floor, completely covered by a thick duvet. Three strong knocks suddenly rang on my bedroom door. It was Jack: “Hey Weedy! You up?” “Jack, it’s 4 a.m., for fuck’s sake!” I muttered sharply through the door, kicking the ball that was my costume under a pile of clothes.
The door opened before I could reach it, to reveal a man in his thirties, with a thin, mustache-clad face, wearing nothing but a pair of swimming trunks, flip flops and a large, contagious smile. “Christ, Jack, what is it now?” I asked my roommate somewhat testily, my heart beating from the rush of the evening and the feeling that I was hiding something from someone smarter than me. He chuckled and walked his smile into my room, dropping down onto my bed carefully so as not to spill the water in his bong. After taking a deep hit, he offered it to me. As usual, I shook my head nervously and looked away. He breathed out a long trail of white smoke and began talking about business, as he invariably does when I’m around.
“You know, Weedy, it’s messed up. You should see the dirty looks Mrs. Dennett throws my way anytime she sees me in town, and yet, every second Thursday, three p.m., regular as clockwork, there she is at the door, and she even makes me weigh it in front of her! I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m a venture capitalist, the supply to their demand.”
As usual, he either didn’t see or didn’t care that I’m uncomfortable when he talks “business”. It’s kind of what makes me love him. Besides, he’s not actually a real criminal, and pot is pretty much legal, even the cops will take it away from you to smoke it, he says.
“I mean, I supply the safest shit. I’m a, what’s the word, conscientious and customer-aware businessman.” At this point, he was pausing between words a lot. “Just because what I do is illegal in some states, my own customers treat me like trash. Is that fair, Weedy? Does it sound fair to you?” I know the plaintive mood well. He’d probably had a busy day, and only started smoking up in the last hour or so. He’d mellow out in a few minutes, after going through the sappy phase, so the trick was to commiserate with him. “That don’t sound fair to me, Jack. Not fair at all.” I replied, in a voice that I hope showed I was deploring the small social injustices that inevitably aggregate against freedom-loving americans. When I commiserate with Jack, I often feel like a fraud about to be caught in the act, so I tried not to be too obvious as I glanced towards him for any sign of disappointment.
“Good thing I got you, man. You always come back just when I need you, Weedy. You’re a true friend, and that’s rare these days”, he continued, stroking his chin in a caricature of wisdom. I smiled and blushed in the darkness, feeling somewhat guilty: Jack doesn’t know my secret. He tells me so many things, yet I’ve not entrusted him with the truth about me. He gave me the nickname, “Weedy”, which from anyone else would have been a bully’s taunt. The way he sees it, though, weeds are strong and beautiful. Somehow, I understand Jack.
He suddenly coughed :“Wow, this shit is strong.”. He blew a trail of smoke into my face, causing me to smile and echo his cough. Then, he closed his eyes and fell limp onto the bed. I put the bong away on the table, came here and locked myself in to record. Once I’m done with this new bedtime ritual, I’ll settle next to him on the duvet. As I lay there, I’ll harden my resolve to keep quiet. It took me three hard years to learn that trust is not telling your friends the truth. It’s something deeper than simple, dumb, inconsiderate honesty. Tonight, my heart will be heavy in my chest as I fall asleep, next to Jack, among the smoke.
I’d barely slept three hours, so I must not have looked great coming in to work. I started sweeping the floor, swaying slightly on my feet and pushing on the broom for support. Once I finished with that, I restocked some shelves and switched the door sign to “open”. Charles stood behind the counter for the duration, making no comment, not even a joke. I caught him looking at me once, his generally jovial, animated face like granite. It was awkward for a while, until Mr. Berrist came in for his weekly instant coffee. The old man goes through his coffee faster than Jack does a bowl of weed. Charles performed one of his many coffee puns for Mr Berrist — this week, it was “the coffee fee is four dollars nineteen, sir” — and once the customer had gone, he returned to his usual self.
Mrs. Miller came in, and I busied myself checking for out-of-date cans in our conserve section. Last Thursday she noticed me looking at her when she bent down to grab a cheese pack, and the glare she sent my way almost made me wet myself. It’s really not my fault, she’s young and attractive and wears camisoles that just encourage me. Either way, I’ve been avoiding her since. I’m sure she’s already forgotten about it.
She’s gone now, and Charles left me to mind the till and went upstairs. I swear, some days he spends more time in his apartment than in the shop below. He claims he’s working, designing some of his unusual and generally unpopular products, but who knows what he does once he’s up there. Well.
It took me a long time to notice what I could do. It all started when I came to work here. I’d drop a box, or the broom would slip from my hands, or I’d knock over a display, and Charles would barely notice. When he did, he’d tell me off and try to make a joke out of it, but sometimes he barely registered it happening. It’s a small shop, and it should probably have surprised me more than it did back then.
A month ago, I was restocking the “Smug Mug” collection that Charles had recently rolled out, and I dropped one. I’d been particularly clumsy that week, and I knew Charles was in a bad mood. I just started thinking, what if he fires me, and it terrified me. It’s as if time slowed, and I remembered those other incidents when Charles didn’t really hear my blunders, so I focused on the falling mug and begged it not to break in my head. It crashed onto the floor and split into three large pieces, but barely made a sound. After shooting a glance at an oblivious Charles over the shelving, I discreetly removed the evidence and tried to get my heart rate back to normal. I’d have to buy a mug and secretly replace it on the shelf in order to make the inventory match my story, but that didn’t matter. I’d just done the impossible. I’d affected the physical world with my mind. This was something I’d daydreamed about for years, and yet I was still completely unprepared when it actually happened. My imagination ran wild for a moment. I wasn’t a Superman, but if anything, this power was better. I would be invisible, and truly understand what I’m fighting. I would only take precise, decisive action, and strike from the shadows! It took me a few moments to rally, and I knew exactly what to do: train my power, keep it secret, and use it for good.
My training montage was really unimpressive, I was a bit disappointed. It amounted to me dropping things in my room and trying to muffle the sound. At first, it barely worked, and I got headaches that forced me to stop after a few minutes. I stuck to it, though, every evening when I got home from work, and two weeks later, I could shake a tic tac box silently. Once that was done… it was time to get to work. My power isn’t flashy or really very strong, but it allows me to investigate discreetly, and get to the root of crime. That’s why I go out at night. If I can just find a trail to follow, I’ll change the town for the better.