They went to an abandoned home to smoke weed. Inside, they found a tiger.
Strong bud. Mind-splitting, hydroponic, pure indica body-high, one-hit weed,
grown from Hawaiian seeds in a closet in a doublewide in Maine, up near Canada.
To say it unleashed the tiger is to say everything and nothing. To say that they had
failed to foresee the consequences of their actions is to be complicitly young.
Eve had the weed and Adam had the papers. And they’d been having sex, in fields
and organ lofts and in abandoned houses. Even so, you never forget your first tiger.
Nor had they dreamed it, like the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, who imagined
how it might be possible to share a living space with a wild creature, or, more
to the point how it would not be possible. What if the tiger claimed more and more
space until the house was split in half? The parlors and the dining room
and the foyer and the stairs would become the tiger’s, and the rest under threat,
cramped and, because the thermostat was in the half gone out of bounds, cold.
So here they were: the boy and the girl. And the weed, though they hadn’t
even gotten around to smoking it, when this sleek shimmer and ripple
of muscle entered the room. At first they were not afraid of it; rather they
fully expected that, wherever they went, extraordinary things would follow them,
and if that took the form of an emerald-eyed carnivore with a voice like a fault line,
then this was only different in degree and not in kind from what they had come
to feel was the new normal of their time together, both high and sober, either
in public, at the movies, under the Milky Way, in the bushes, or in the dark
secret confines of a house where no one had lived for years except a tiger.
There was nothing really strange about it, only that they began to fear for its
care over time: sweeping out the rooms, arranging for food and medicine
should the tiger fall ill with a viral infection or suppuration from an ingrown claw.
But wasn’t it their tiger? They had found it. My tiger is your tiger, she had told him.
“Finding a forever home for a tiger is not easy,” said the game warden, who took
the tiger in, bathed it and kept it in a cage, for future transfer to a willing zoo,
where its movements would be remarked on, the way that memories are,
at a distance, through wrought-iron bars, the tiger growing listless, eyes dimmed
except on those occasions when a pair of stoned kids, holding hands and pausing
before it, gaze in and recognize something familiar, and, full of mischief
and impunity, guided by a sense of natural law, whisper a secret plan to set it free.