My parents have no idea how good they had it. I was the lamest teenager on earth. There was never enough time to complete my homework to my preferred standard, which was perfection. I did manage to tear myself away from my schoolwork for Sylvia Plath books, show choir rehearsals, or the one male I truly cared about—my gay best friend, with whom the possibility of sex was nonexistent.
Drinking and doing drugs weren’t even on my radar. I always had enough trouble figuring out my brain and didn’t want to complicate things. I didn’t drink until I was 21, unless you count one half of a wine cooler sipped at length and warily, lest the 4% alcohol content FUCK MY SHIT TOTALLY UP.
A lot of young people go crazy after a childhood like that, but I didn’t. I went on to drink relatively little, and to never try any drugs other than weed. Even my prescription drugs were actually prescribed. I’ve pumped so much Zoloft through my liver over the years that I should probably own stock in Pfizer, but always under the care of a medical professional.
Which might be why I am a horrible stoner.
I tried weed for the first time when I was dating Hipsterdouche Ex, and I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Sure, I felt a little bit mellow, and once after smoking I spent an inordinately long time contemplating a piece of glitter on my thigh. But getting high didn’t reveal to me the secrets of the universe or even make me more creative. It just left me feeling listless and made my mouth taste like I had licked someone’s lawn. I wonder if this is what the inside of a cow’s mouth tastes like, I remember musing. Which perhaps means I was higher than I thought.
There are two possible reasons why those early weed-smoking experiences were unremarkable for me. For one, I wasn’t inhaling properly. As someone who never smoked cigarettes, I had to be taught how to smoke, and Hipsterdouche Ex wasn’t that great of a teacher. I just wanted to fit in and have the thing over with, so I always took one little puff and passed the pipe on. And for another, I suspect whatever we were smoking wasn’t particularly potent.
I know this because the day after Hipsterdouche Ex and I broke up, an exposure to some very, very potent weed proved just what a horrible stoner I was.
We all know I lived with my best friend and his partner at the time, but to protect their identities in this post, as they are both upstanding professionals, I shall refer to them as Ronaldo and Trent. It was the day after Christmas, and the three of us had just returned from a holy and noble quest to The Container Store, where Ronaldo and Trent had successfully engineered the perfect organizational system for their bedroom closet. To celebrate, they planned to languish in their hot tub and smoke some recently acquired weed. Still traumatized by a breakup not yet 24 hours old, I was along for the ride—organizational system, hot tub, weed and all.
If Hipsterdouche Ex was a terrible teacher, Trent was a taskmaster. “She better hold that shit in there,” he said to Ronaldo upon my first inhalation. “She doesn’t know how to smoke it and she’s gonna waste it!”
“I’m sitting right here,” I croaked, while I coughed, lungs burning. “And I do too know how to smoke it.”
I passed the pipe to Ronaldo and sank into a haze, watching steam rise into the cold winter night.
Suddenly, I felt weird.
“I don’t like this,” I said, and my voice sounded very far away. I felt like I was drowning. The water, the chlorine smell, the steam…it was all too much.
“I DON’T LIKE THIS!” I yelled hysterically. I reached for Ronaldo with a motion that I can only describe as “clawing.”
“Stop! Stop holding on to me like that!”
“Jesus Christ,” Trent said. “Let’s get her out of the tub.”
The two of them helped me get wrapped in a towel, sat me on the couch, and turned on “Miami Ink,” because apparently anxious, paranoid drug users are soothed by close-ups of needles puncturing people’s skin. What should have been a nice, relaxing evening had turned into a descent into terror and madness. My heart was racing. I couldn’t focus on anything and I had absolutely no sense of time.
I grabbed Ronaldo again. “When is this gonna be over? I don’t like this! I can’t tell the right order of things! Things happen but then I’m forgetting that they happened!”
“That’s called being high, dumbass,” said Trent in his snarkiest voice. “Remind me never to get high with her again. She is the worst. She is ruining it.”
“Abby, you need to let go of my arm. You’re actually hurting me,” said Ronaldo.
“Oh god, I forgot that we broke up! But we broke up, didn’t we? I just remembered it!”
The next hour progressed in a similar fashion. Every five minutes I would remember the breakup and start crying. Then I would ask how much longer I’d be high, to which Trent would roll his eyes and tell me I was “the worst.” In between, I’d listen to my two roommates talk with fascination, as commonplace words fell on my ear in completely new ways.
“You know what is a weird word? No. I have never noticed before what a really weird word that is.” I paused to write the word “no” on my list of Really Weird Words, which I had begun twenty minutes ago and then suddenly remembered. “Also, I see something when I hear it,” I said. “I see cookies. Gingersnaps. Falling.”
Being so high was heightening my synaesthesia. If you’ve never heard of it, synaesthesia is when (according to Wikipedia) “one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” For examples, some people associate letters or numbers with particular colors or words with particular tastes. I associate words I hear with certain images, most of which happen to be food-related. It’s relatively rare, but Nabokov was a synthaesthete, so I figure it can’t be all bad.
Trent just rolled his eyes as I pontificated on how his name reminded me of something fried in a heavy batter—perhaps fried shrimp.
All this is to say that for me, as I suspected in my youth, there’s really no point in using a substance that makes me both weirder and more anxious than I already am. So I suppose I’m just as fantastically lame as I was when I was younger. Only now, approaching 40, can I begin to settle into my lameness as one settles into an old shoe. One day I’ll be letting out a deep, life-long breath as my eighty-year-old body unites in perfect synchronicity with the old crone I’ve always been at heart. I like to imagine that when this happens, pure energy will pour out of every orifice and my bodily form will be dissolved in a chaos of light.
So I’m looking forward to that.