He hoisted the gasoline canister out from the old pickup truck and we walked towards the warehouse. It weighed heavy in his hand, liquid splashing like a sea wave with every step he took. I looked at the side of his face, the stubble of his beard, and watched breath rise from his soft lips. In the dark there were so many things to say, but I didn’t say any of them. We got to the door and I fished for the keys. One padlock, one entry code, and one stubborn handle. He stepped through and I tightly closed the door behind us.
The giant steel room was always warm, always felt familiar. Low lamps blazed and fans hummed around a garden that was never supposed to be there. Hundreds of budding plants stood in perfect rows; a jungle that we made with our own hands. He unscrewed the cap of the canister and walked down the aisles, watering, like he had done a thousand times. I plucked a soft green leaf and leaned against the wall, twirling it around and around as he moved quietly near me. I dropped the leaf to the floor as he handed me a cardboard box to tear. We kept ripping them and threw the pieces in a barrel in the open corner near the door. We stood by it and he pulled a joint from his shirt pocket.
“It’s only right,” he said, passing it to me.
So I lit the match. I took a long, slow drag and held it in my lungs until it burned. He took the joint from my mouth and I blew clouds into the humid air. We stood like this for some time. He took one last drag and then smiled at me, dropping the burning end into the barrel. He grabbed my hand and we ran, leaving the door open and shining soft light spilling onto the black ground.
The cold air cut my lungs as we ran back to the truck. The alarms screamed through the dark as we settled into the front seat. My skin was crawling and I couldn’t stop picking at my jeans. I didn’t realize until later that it was his leg I was cutting into, not mine. We were far enough away to watch everything unfold with patience. I could see the smoke, but I couldn’t feel the fire.
“It had to end eventually,” he said.
We watched everything we built leave with a fury and later a softness, as the flames went out and sweet grey smoke crawled towards the early sky.
© 2014 Stefanie Cochrane
Stefanie Cochrane is an eighth-year senior at the University of Colorado. She is a freelance writer and buffet enthusiast. Stefanie lives in Boulder with her soulmate, a dog named Sadie.