The Nitrous King

nitrous-kingHe had cases of Nitrous. Actual cases of the crackers, what looked like 20-packs. The cases’’ ends could be torn off along perforated edges to access the crackers, like those 12-packs of beer that were designed to be laid in refrigerators. And, oh, he had torn them. He was on box two when I saw him, throned-up in a high patio chair in the middle of the party, screwing cracker after innumerable cracker into a metal whipped goods dispenser, the kind you see in coffee shops. There was a certain affected & ritualized savviness to the way he screwed the canisters in. He would set the canister on the dispenser’s threads, then do a half screw. He’d then place his finger on the canister’s side and whip it back so that the canister twirled on the threads until it stopped, then two—exactly two—more screws with his fingertips. He’d then squeeze the dispenser’s trigger and shoot the nitrous into the empty canister until it filled, jetting the gas out of the spout and into his lungs.

He didn’t prepare for or focus on each individual hit, but instead treated it as a background activity, like smoking a cigarette. After he inhaled, he would just continue whatever conversation he was having as a cloud of the gas drained out of his mouth.

His eyes were getting crooked. They cocked inwards more intensely with each inhale, then slowly drifted toward their proper calibration until he inhaled again. This didn’t help his general level of attractiveness, which was low. He was in his late 30s and fat. His head was shaved to hide balding, and the rest of his face had a paunchy, unfinished quality to it, like God was hung over while making him. The one feature that stood out on his face was his nose, which was pointy and a little red at the end.

He was going through a cracker every couple minutes. After each cracker was kicked, he’d unscrew it with finesse, then flick it with two fingers on a growing mountain of its cashed brothers on the patio floor.

The gas wafted above and caught characters. A short black guy with a gold grill and a head erupting with neat dreads sidled up and waited by The Nitrous King’s shoulder until he was noticed.

“Hey…Domino…I know this guy.”

A few words were slung back and forth before the dispenser was offered. Domino shot a short spurt into his lungs, jerking his neck backwards as the gas hit the back of his throat. He raised his eyelids and forehead with the power of the hit, shook his head a little —damn—and then took a smaller hit before exhaling and handing the dispenser back.

The Nitrous King’s focus was on the younger girl sitting across from him, so he and Domino didn’t talk much afterwards, and he eventually sidled back away.

“…you can just get them at Party supply stores,” The Nitrous King was saying to the young lady. “The people selling the Nitrous…they might not know why people are always buying them, but the manufactures certainly do.” He blew a jet of Nitrous down his throat, then continued talking, blowing little puffs of white gas. “Just look at the packaging.”

I did. It said “Nitrous!” in large, enthusiastic bubble-letters. The type was set in the middle of a Technicolor explosion, like how ‘BAM’ would be written in a comic book.

The Nitrous King unscrewed the cashed canister and it chang’d as he flicked it into the pile. He was doing one a minute now, and a third case of crackers had emerged from somewhere on his person. He was trying to convince the girl to try it. I had noticed that of all the people he had given hits to, the only man had been Domino.

“…I mean, I’m not gonna lie and just say it’s good for you, but, no, it’s not that harmful.” His eyes were completely bent inwards at this point.

…but then the girl’s friend came along and said they had to leave so they did. The Nitrous King screwed in another canister. I noticed Domino was back, this time sidling up with a friend, a taller black guy with a black hoodie and a black ceramic mask on.

“Hey!…Domino!…” The Nitrous King immediately hoisted the canister in Domino’s direction and Domino raised it to his mouth. Immediately after Domino exhaled, grinning, the man in the black mask leaned towards The King.

“Yo…can I getta hitta that?”

“Why would I give you a hit?” The Nitrous King’s air was offended, maybe a little sad. “…I don’t even KNOW you.”

“Nah, Nah,” Domino coughed, “this my boy Derek. He jus be rude.”

“Oh, that’s your boy? Hey,” he stuck his hand out, “I’m [The Nitrous King].” They shook.

“Why don’t you just take off your mask and let me see who I’m talking to…you’ll be able to hit this then, too.”

Derek slid the mask up to his forehead. He took a hit and blew it out before continuing the conversation.

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