Burrito & Kate
By Gerard McKeown.
The park was empty from the rain and the evening. It would stay empty, except for the people I was meeting. The dope felt light in my pocket. I kept shaking it and asking myself if I’d believe it was an ounce, more a Milky Way than a Mars Bar. Waiting in a kids play park, ready to sell drugs, made me feel like a wanker, like I was in one of those awareness videos we used to make fun of at school.
I was meeting was a stoner called Burrito who was one of the many students returning home to the town during the summer. When he arrived Burrito had a girl with him called Kate. I didn’t know her. Kate was pretty, in that hippy sort of way. Her hair was braided with purple string, I’m not sure what it was supposed to do but it was hard to focus on anything else about her.
I had seventy pounds worth of dope on me but I was selling it to them for a hundred: it was amazing the expansion a block of dope underwent in half an hour in a hot oven. Burrito took the dope and shook it lightly in his hand, feeling the weight. He showed it to Kate who shrugged then nodded eagerly as if she didn’t care as long as she got a smoke soon. Burrito took five twenties out of his pocket and handed them to me. His dope shaking ritual revealed as the show it was.
“Split or choose?” he said turning to Kate.
“Choose,” she said.
Burrito split the dope into two equal sized blocks and Kate pocketed one, that she tucked into a gap in her twenty deck of Marlborogh Lights. Burrito slipped his half into his pocket.
“Do you fancy a smoke?” Kate asked me.
“We buy it from him and smoke it with him too?” Burrito muttered.
“Naw, you’re alright,” I said to Kate.
“Naw, go on, stay,” she insisted, pulling me by the arm.
We walked along a path that took us out into the country, stopping at a little wood that blocked out the wind and rain. It was only half seven but already starting to get dark. Fallen leaves provided a nice cushion for us to sit on.
Burrito let rip with an egg and mustard special, and looked around him like a dog that had pissed on the floor and didn’t understand why he was being put outside. This was the reason for his nickname; someone said he smelt like he’d been eating beany burritos. Burrito thought it was because he looked like Gram Parsons from The Flying Burrito Brothers; their only similarity was Burrito’s hair, which he had cut purposely, after getting the nickname, to copy Parsons’ shaggy longish look.
Kate sparked up the first spliff and Burrito the second. Burrito attempted to start a philosophical conversation that he’d no doubt pre-rehearsed in his head. He’d done this before, another time he’d a girl with him, and he knew that I didn’t know the names for any of the philosophers or their arguments or the movements they belonged to or how they tied together.
“What do you think death is like?” he asked looking directly at me.
I didn’t reply. Though part of me felt I should; it might stop him telling one of his stories. Burrito’s stories went like this: ‘I was at the park. It was a sunny day. I had a bag of weed.’ And there it would end. All Burrito’s stories ended with him having a bag of weed. There would be occasional variances on this theme: sometimes Burrito would roll a big joint but usually he just had a bag of weed. Maybe it was the same bag of weed every time, maybe that was why it was worth talking about, or so I’d thought, but now I dealt to him I realised this wasn’t the case, though the amount he smoked suggested why he thought these stories were worth telling.
“Do you know what happens when you die?” he asked.
I ignored him. I’d stopped looking at him, there was no reason to think his question was specifically for me. One of Burrito’s signature farts drifted up into my nostrils. Kate passed me the spliff.
“Do you think death is like going to sleep?” Burrito asked. There was something in his tone, like he was daring me to say yes. Kate stared at the ground, like she didn’t want to meet anyone’s eye, like she was embarrassed for him. She took out her dope and began rolling another spliff.
“I dunno,” I shrugged.
“I think Death is when there are an infinite number of yourself repeating the same action at the same time.”
Burrito was looking round, mainly at Kate, waiting for some sort of praise for his intelligence. She was trying hard not to look up, and stared at the spliff she was making with such intensity that if we’d just got up and left she wouldn’t have noticed. When she refused to acknowledge him Burrito gave me a look like I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand what he was saying. Kate must have felt his eyes leave her because she glanced up and shook her head at him when his back was turned.
Listening to Burrito make an arse out of himself was one thing but I had a home with munchies and music and big cups of sugary tea that were more appealing than competing against this prick for a girl who was looking more uncomfortable by the minute.
“Do you study philosophy?” I asked him.
“No I study Law,” he said and then paused for our awed silences. I seized the opportunity to turn the conversation to Kate.
“Are you a student too?” I asked her.
“Just finished my degree,” she said. “2:1.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“Pay off some debts,” she laughed, holding up her hands like claws “eighty words a minute.”
“You see most people think death is like a big sleep…” Burrito began, interrupting us.
My flat became more appealing with every rambling phrase that poured out of Burrito’s mouth. Every joint we smoked made listening to him more of a chore. The sky was growing that dark evening colour that gives everything a bluish look. The birds were twittering away in the trees and beside me Burrito was twittering away about philosophy, spoiling it all.
“I’m going to head,” I said standing up, passing the joint to Kate. “Have a good night.”
“If you’re going into the city centre we’ll come too,” she said.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Burrito offered, a little late.
Burrito tried to instigate philosophical debate the whole way back into town, but we weren’t interested. Kate was telling funny stories about people she’d gone to college with. One guy used to be a catalogue model and when he met his girlfriend’s mum for the first time the mum said he looked ‘really handsome, like someone you would see in Kays catalogue’, then he got paranoid that her mum might have seen him in a pair of y-fronts and dumped her.
It was interesting that Burrito wasn’t in any of her stories, or didn’t seem to have any stories of his own. He slowed down, dragging behind us most of the way.
Kate ignored him. She seemed really indifferent to him; I started to wonder how long he’d known her, or if he knew her that well at all.
“This is me here,” I said when we reached the edge of the pedestrian zone in the city centre; I wasn’t letting them see where I lived.
“See you,” Burrito said sulkily as he tried to lead Kate on.
Kate asked me for my number. Hopefully she would be without Burrito the next time we met.
She looked really pleased when I gave it to her and gave me one of those lingering looks before turning off and walking down the road with Burrito. He said something to her that I couldn’t hear; they burst out laughing and she pushed him. Then he looked back at me, laughing still. It struck me how friendly they looked together, and I wondered that he never spotted all the head shaking she did when he couldn’t see.
And as I stood there stoned, in the empty city centre, watching the two of them walk away with little more than fifty pounds worth of dope left between them: the fact that I had double that amount of their money in my pocket was little consolation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gerard McKeown is a writer living in London, originally from Ireland. He studied English at Queens University Belfast and Cumbria Institute of the Arts. In 2007 he was a runner up in the BBC Radio 4 UK Poetry Slam and in 2010 was featured as part of The Irish Pages: Up and Coming Writers showcase.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013.