It was 7 p.m. on a Saturday and Cinderella 99 Hospital was in a panic. The surgeon was late for surgery. To top it off, it was senior prom night, so I, the ER floor’s administrative assistant, anticipated an influx of MySpace drama that would need our full attention in the coming hours.

I spoke into my laced-finger intercom: “Dr. Snoop Marley, you motherfucker. It’s time to scrub up.” No response, so I yelled. “Dr. Snoop Marley, where ARE you?”

“I’m in the bathroom, freak,” the surgeon replied. I sat upright in the beanbag-chair waiting room, admiring her as she emerged, the preeminent blunt surgeon of South Jersey, all five-foot-one of her. She obtained her medical degree from Basement University, where she also completed many impressive nights of residency.

The creases of her carpet were branded to the side of her face from a much-needed pre-surgery nap.

“Surgeon! I’m so relieved to see you. This is an emergency.” Dr. Snoop “Jen” Marley rolled her eyes, swiping the grape-flavored blunt from my outstretched hands, and headed toward her desk—the surgical table.

“You need to take a drama class in college or something,” she said. “You’re not bad at theatrics.”

“Thank you, my superior. Can we get the ball—I mean, blunt—rolling?” I asked, receiving her alright-fine-I-have-to-laugh laughter (one of my favorites, right next to her that’s-the-shit-I-find-funny-too laughter).

I watched as she made a pristine slice down the length of the blunt, then discarded the guts. With deft fingers, she packed it with our special, $40 life-saving tonic and rolled it carefully. She fused the skin of it back together with her tongue, then the lighter. It was consummate, award-worthy. Like always.

“Time?!” I exclaimed.

“Time? The fuck are you talking about? That’s for death. This is a miracle.”

Just after surgery, she was at her most confident—and for good reason. I slunk back into my bean bag while she sat cross-legged in front of me and flicked the lighter. “So, pizza?” she asked after blowing her signature Os. “You down?”

I took the beautiful, brown object from her skilled, stubby fingers. Inhaled. Held it. Let it out. “Hell yeah. Putting down what you’re picking up.”

“Close, but no cigar—I mean, blunt!” the surgeon said pitch-perfectly in my voice, rolling like an egg onto her side. “Now where on God’s green-ass earth is my phone?”

“Wait a minute,” I said, my eyes becoming hot and pink. “What kind of psychopath doesn’t have their phone on them at all times?”

She sighed with her whole body, an impressive feat given how comfortable it was to not move so much as a toe. “Relax, surgeon. I’ll order the pizza,” I offered. Through her computer speakers, John Butler’s guitar radiated peace and purpose and ecstasy into our cozy ER floor—and greasy food was the only missing piece to perfection.

I suggested our old stomping grounds, Fiesta Pizza down the street, where we were so high once that the waiter had to return to our table and remind us that our food had, in fact, been placed down in front of us. Many minutes prior.

“What’s the script, surgeon?” I asked, although I already knew—one large pizza, half-cheese for me, half-pepperoni for her.

“Are we losers?”

“Excuse me, surgeon?”

She sat up and took a breath before hanging her head. Helpless, defeated. Like a cadaver or a roach. “I mean, am I a loser? Because I’m not at prom right now?”

I leaned forward and studied her, the never-has-a-date kind of girl who only cared behind closed doors. I looked at her Italian-hoagie-stained Sublime tee shirt that matched the poster above her bed, the one that halfheartedly glowed in the dark. Like it just didn’t really feel like it.

I glanced down at the peeled toenail tips around her legs, the markings of her anxiety, like trophies and medals in a gifted kid’s room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the disconnected landline phone she wouldn’t let her parents throw away, because of “memories or whatever.” I peered into her half-closed eyes and remembered a million funny things and burned CDs and the smell of Sonic tater tots and handwritten birthday cards that rivaled Salinger.

To me, she was the coolest person there ever was.

“No,” I said firmly. “I refuse any slander of the surgeon. That is strictly prohibited at Cinderella 99 Hospital. And culprits will face consequences.”

“I’m not sure if that’s what slander—”

“Don’t care. Not in this ER. Not ever.”

Still, I knew what was to come. The surgeon would decompress, guzzle some pizza, and fall asleep. Then she’d walk into school on Monday with her head held high and her heart sunk low.

But as the ER floor’s experienced administrative assistant—and most notably, Jen’s best friend—I knew that everything had to be taken one minute at a time. So why not make this minute theatrical?

I steeled my stoned self like a seasoned yogi and called Fiesta Pizza, dramatically stoic: “Hi. May I please order one large pizza, half-small, half-medium?”

Jen erupted.

Mouth agape. Tits clutched. Spittle strewn. That was her I’m-gonna-piss-my-pants laughter, and it always seemed to cure the world of its ills. “Uh… I don’t think we can do that,” the poor guy on the phone replied.

“Okay, that might be the one,” I said after correcting the order and hanging up. “That should be the story you tell your new stoner friends about me next year. It’s already a classic.”

“Oh. I’m gonna make you a legend,” she said. Then: “What’ll be the one you tell?”

I rummaged through our memory file in my brain for a good 30 seconds before I gave up—I couldn’t pick a definitive story of her. But we could create another one and see. “What would be funnier for you tonight, tattoo or nose ring? We’ll drive to Philly?”

The five-foot-one, preeminent blunt surgeon of South Jersey, Dr. Snoop “Jen” Marley, didn’t answer. Instead, she went to her desk drawer and dug out the plastic pot leaf necklace we bought at the mall as freshmen, wrapped it around my wrist like the world’s weirdest corsage, then said let’s go.