The Tale of the Magic Green Lighter

The story that I tell you is less of a story and more of a legend. A fabled fairy tale similar to Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. The only difference is that this story is 100% true, and I am telling it only to put a message out to people who will hopefully experience the same glory I did.

My freshman year in high school, I was walking down the street with my friends back from soccer tryouts. We were exhausted from two-a-days and were anxious to get home to sleep and eat. My friend was playing with his new Zippo lighter, as pyromania had swept my social group. We would walk around, setting leaves on fire and seeing who could flip their lighter aflame cooler. Today, my friend was babbling about something dumb while fingering his lighter open and closed, when suddenly, out of the corner or my eye, I see something bright green laying on the curb.

I reach down, and pick up a mini lighter. These lighters are the cheap ones you buy at the convenience stores because they’re 69 cents opposed to the $2.50 ones, only to realize that they’re so small that they crumble under your goliath thumb. However, this lighter was different. It had a rubber casing around it, the same way they make foam casings for ice coffee or cold beer. The casing was a bright green and had rubber grip to ensure a steady flick.

My friend looked back at me scooping up the lighter and said “what’s that?”
“A lighter” I said.
“Yo that shit’s weak. I find lighters on the ground all the time and they never work, that’s why people throw them.”

I tested the lighter out, and within two flicks there was a solid flame burning. Without even thinking twice, I put the lighter in my pocket and continued home. When I got home, I emptied my pockets and put the lighter in the back of my desk drawer. My freshman year of high school I didn’t even think about drugs or cigarettes or anything, and there was no need for a lighter unless it was a Zippo you could suavely light with your jeans.

So for years the lighter stayed in my desk drawer. I would periodically take it out, light it, wave it around, and then put it back in my drawer. I never smoked cigarettes, and didn’t start steadily smoking weed until my junior year, so my lighter was without a job. However, every time I took the lighter out of my drawer, I had two rules.

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the green casing

To this day I couldn’t tell you the actual color of the lighter.

Two years later, it was the end of my sophomore year. I went to my friend’s house to smoke weed for the first time, and right before I left they asked “do you have a lighter?” Instinctively I said “no” but remembered my adopted mini lighter with the green jacket. I shoved it in my pocket and walked down to my friend’s house. They were amazed by the lighter, and inspected the green rubber. “I didn’t know they made those things for mini lighters,” I remember one of them saying. I told them I had found it two years ago on the street, and I warned them not to take it out of the casing and not to shake it. Sure enough, the lighter ignited the bowl, and we enjoyed the night.

Fast forward a few months to the beginning of summer. The lighter remained in my desk drawer, safe in its own corner, snuggled warm in its green jacket. My close friend and I finally decided to have sex after talking about it, and I had her over my empty house late one night. After the awkward first-time of sex, she pulled out a cigarette and asked if I had a lighter. I reached into the desk drawer, and pulled out my mini green lighter. She laughed, toyed with the lighter a bit, and we went outside to smoke. After lighting her cigarette she asked “where did you get that lighter?” I told her I found it in the case two years ago on the side of the road. “Wow,” she said, “I’m surprised it still lights after two years.” I told her the two rules I had told my friends a few months before:

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the green casing

She handed me back the lighter, and I slipped it into my pocket.

By my junior year, I was bringing the lighter with me wherever I went. I would stuff it in my pocket before running out the door, and whenever someone asked for a lighter I’d show them the piece of treasure I found three years ago. They would cradle the small lighter in their hands, light it, and pass it around. It was like they were sharing a joint. Flick Flick Pass. Flick Flick Pass. Every time I would remind the kids:

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the magic green casing

By the time the end of my senior year arrived, I had brought the lighter to countless parties, showed it to dozens of awestruck underclassmen, and created the legacy of the mini green-cased lighter. People would ask “has that lighter burned out yet?” or “do you still have that cool green lighter?” I would tell them yes, and show them if I had it on me. But before handing it over, I would lay the ground rules.

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the magic green casing

While they passed it around I would tell them the story how I found it on the street my freshman year.

The scene: Me and a group of friends had just finished smoking at his house, and were walking down the street to get something to eat. In the frantic rush to get out of his house, I had stuffed the green lighter into the pocket of my pullover sweatshirt that I was carrying in my arms. After a hundred yards of walking, I felt the cool of the night and put my sweatshirt on. I ran to catch up with my friends, and after a few more minutes of walking we reached another place to smoke before getting food. As the kid pulled out the joint, I went to grab for my lighter.

Oh no.

I searched my pockets. My front, my back. Nothing. I asked my friends if any of them had it, but they all agreed that I had it last. I was angry. I was furious. I was so sad. It was like the end of a friendship that ended too soon. It was like I had lost a family pet.

But part of me was happy. Hopeful. I realized that the lighter was more than just a flame. It was more than a mini lighter in a green rubber case. It was a nomad; a traveling salesman that went from smoker to smoker. And, furthermore, it was never mine. I was simply a bus stop on its long winding road.

Most importantly, I think, was the symbolism behind the lighter. If nothing else, high school is a slew of ever-changing fads and trends, a time when nothing is certain or guaranteed. And while my friends came and went, styles changed and altered, and my views on life each chiseled me into who I am today, I had one thing that was definite. I had my mini lighter with a green rubber case. In the four years of high school my rules and perspectives adjusted to my lifestyle, yet I still had two definite rules that never altered:

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the magic green casing

You could translate the symbolism of my magic green lighter a number of ways. You could take it as living life in the moment and never checking to the end of “the fluid” of life. You could see it as having a safety blanket of something consistent. You could even say that the lighter was the devil being present during all my times of sinning.

But I take the lighter as a lesson that there is always something bigger than you. The lighter was never mine. Before me it belonged to someone else who possibly fell in love with it for years. And as I dropped that lighter on the curb the end of my senior year, I like to think that it was found by a small timid freshman the next day. I like to think that he picked up the lighter, showed it to his friends, and put it in his pocket before hurrying home. I like to think that he naively called it his lighter. I like to think that he will carry the lighter to every party he goes to, telling the tale of the lighter that he found buried in leaves on a hot summer day. And most importantly, I like to think that as he passes the lighter around with his friends—as each of them inspects the rubber casing and ignites it—he lists two rules:

Never check the fluid
Never unpeel the magic green casing

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2 Comments

Filed under Personal

2 responses to “The Tale of the Magic Green Lighter

  1. Cali

    Wow…..love the story, you really are a good writer

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