She’s five – I thought. I also thought things like: She must have seen cable at Uncle Brian’s house. Now we’ll have to move. I never liked Uncle Brian much anyway. Maybe Becky’s having an affair with a pot head when I’m out of town. Or a drug lord from Nicaragua. Maybe Becky’s dealing. Maybe Uncle Brian’s her supplier. Maybe he’s a drug lord from Nicaragua.
Things like that. Normal rational things like that. Then I took a deep breath and feigned calm.
“A doobie is like a cigarette. People smoke it. Ok?” I pulled out my chair and she pulled out hers.
“If you smoke cigarettes you die,” she stated with the confidence of a Surgeon General.
“Yea, pretty much. I guess that’s true. If you smoke long enough you get sick and some people even die.”
“Mommy says you die.”
“Yea…So do you understand what a doobie is now?” I spilled a box of crayons onto the kitchen table and handed her a stack of construction paper hoping the interrogation was over and we could draw together instead or at least have some normal little people conversation about, I don’t know, colors of finger nail polish she’s into this week or how to make a fart sound with your armpit. Anything.
“Can you take me to see them make doobie?”
“Well, it’s not like shovels or pencils. I mean, they don’t make them in a big factory somewhere like that. I don’t think.”
I imagined a steel box miles wide and long. Inside, union members pull levers and pack joints in printed cartons and head back to their homes in the suburbs when the whistle blows at five o’clock. “They grow plants. Then they cut the plants down and dry them out in the sun. And then they crunch up the plants when they’re dry and roll them up in a little piece of paper. And that’s how you make a doobie – how THEY make a doobie. But we can’t go see them do that.”
“Then they make it on fire like a cigarette and they breath it and die,” she continued matter-of-factly while adding a red smile to the yellow sun beaming down from the upper right corner of her paper.
“Pretty much.” My page was still blank. Suddenly realizing how dry my mouth was, I stood to get a glass of water. “Do want anything to drink?”
“No. Why can’t we see them make it?”
“Doobie? I mean doobies? Well, it’s against the rules to make doobies, Sweety. Doobies are drugs. Some drugs are good for your body like cold medicine and stomach ache medicine, you know, and some drugs are bad for you. If you use drugs that are bad for you or hang out with people who take drugs that are bad the police can write you a ticket.”
“And go to jail.” Tiny pink billowy flowers bloomed from the end of her crayon along the bottom of her paper.
“Yea, sometimes.” I swallowed mouthfuls of cold water and prayed there were no more questions. When did my little girl become an expert on our criminal justice system?
“Why do people smoke doobies? They’re gonna go to jail.”
“You know how when you get scared at night you like Mommy to come sit with you? And when I get sad I like to make music or color with you?”
“Some people are really sad or really scared and they think if they use bad drugs they’ll be happy, I guess.”
“But they get dead.” And with that she slid down from her chair and posted her work on the refrigerator with a magnet and a look of satisfaction.
“Yea, they, um, get dead,” I stammered. “So if anyone ever talks to you about trying drugs you need to come tell Mommy or Daddy or Uncle Brian or Aunt Amy, ok? So we can tell you if it’s a good drug that will make your body well or a bad drug. Will you do that? Ok?”
“Yea.” She removed another page from the stack in front of her and gripped a black crayon in her fingers. “I’m making a farm.”
“Ok, well is that all you wanted to know about doobies then?”
I drank another glass of water. She drew a cow and a farmer and a barn. I drew a factory with odd smelling smoke coming from its chimneys.
I couldn’t stand it any more.
“Where’d you hear about doobies, Gabriella?”
“On the radio they sing, ‘doobie doobie doo doo.’”
“Oh.” And I pinned my drawing to the refrigerator alongside her smiling sunshine and pink flowers.