This past summer, I was very bored. I was living in Downtown Los Angeles, near Bixel and Wilshire. In fall, I would be transferring to a university in Northern California. I had been a long term community college student, and I was excited to attend a real university.
I had two half-jobs. I taught writing to Korean children while taking any freelance public relations job I could find. My hours were irregular. I had a lot of time, and a lot of days on my hand to do whatever I wanted. I told myself that I was going to write all summer. I told myself all year that this summer was going to be my opportunity to be productive. I was going to publish articles, I was going to finish my novel, I was going to land an internet writing job.
Three days after I finished my last community college class, my friend Andrew texted me.
“What’re you doing today?”
Andrew was a friend from high school. I still talked to a lot of my friends from high school because I didn’t know how to make friends while working, or in community college. They were low-effort friends. We gossiped about who was doing what, who was a fuck-up, and who wasn’t. It was pathetic.
“Nothing,” I responded. He invited me to come to his apartment in South Central to hang out. To my friends, hanging out usually meant smoking weed and drinking. I figured that I could now do these things during the day, because I had just finished community college, and I had little work lined up for a while.
Andrew sent me another text,
“Do you have any drugs?”
I looked through my medicine cabinet and found two old, full bottles of generic Vicodin and half a bottle of Tramadol. One of the bottles of Vicodin was going to expire at the end of the summer. The formula, 7.5mg hydrocodone, 750mg acetaminophen, had been recently discontinued by the FDA because of the high risk of liver damage due to the large amount of acetaminophen. The large amount of acetaminophen had been originally intended by the pharmaceutical companies to curb recreational abuse of Vicodin. Many people instead had chose to poison their livers to get their desired amount of hydrocodone, not caring about the amount of acetaminophen they ingested. After many liver poisonings, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in Vicodin to 325mg. The second bottle of Vicodin I had was this new formula, 10mg hydrocodone, 325mg acetaminophen. Andrew and I referred to the bottles as “the sevens” and “the tens.”
When I got to Andrew’s apartment, off Vermont near USC, he let me in through the ten-foot iron fence that surrounded the perimeter of his building’s property. Andrew’s apartment was disgusting. He and his USC roommates piled trash up against all the walls of the living room. The two tables were both covered in trash – food wrappers, ash from joints, empty weed bottles from the clinic, leftover food, and dirty plates. It surprised me that three students who were paying $50,000 a year to attend a private university could live like that. I tried to find a spot on the floor that was clean enough to sit on. I would’ve left if I wasn’t so set on getting high.
Andrew and I tried to catch up on what were doing in our lives. He read a short story I had recently published and I read his rap lyrics and watched a skateboarding video he had just made. We really had nothing in common anymore but he was fun to get high with, and he never hesitated when I asked him to get high with me.
I rationalized that getting high with other people was less addict-y than getting high alone. When I got high alone, I tended to chide myself for it, which caused me to get anxious and depressed. When I got high with other people, we had a mutual acknowledgment that we were pieces of shit but because of the mutual understanding, we could get beyond that and just have fun.
We each took two of the sevens, and one of the tens. We smoked weed out of a broken bong and then sat on his dirty floor and listened to music. This is how I spent most of my summer.
Sometimes, we would meet in Placentia near his parent’s home in the back of a parking lot between a housing development and a office building. We would stand outside of our cars, take two Vicodin each, and smoke cigarettes. At one point in the summer, we started smoking hash oil out of a crack pipe. He would talk about his inability to make any sort of relationship beyond friendship with a woman, and my inability to be happy about anything. We would do this for hours at a time. Sometimes we invited other mutual high school friends to come smoke cigarettes with us.
One day in July, Andrew, his roommate Chris, and I took two sevens and two tens each. We smoked weed and watched Netflix until we were hungry. Chis suggested that we go out to a shabu-shabu restaurant in Little Tokyo. I was barely functional but I thought that food would be nice. Chris expertly fought through rush-hour traffic in Downtown.
We all ordered different meats and 32oz bottles of Sapporo. I was the first to finish my bottle, so I ordered another one. Andrew suggested we take more Vicodin. Since we were in the back of the restaurant, we took turns snorting it off the dinner table near our boiling food. We were loud, and happy. That moment, after insufflating a line of Vicodin near a boiling bowl of shabu-shabu, was probably the happiest I had been all summer. I felt like I had reached a certain numbness that I had been trying to achieve for years. I felt perfect.
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the bathroom, violently vomiting everything I had ate that day, along with my stomach lining. Once my stomach contained nothing, I dry heaved for ten minutes more. I cleaned my mouth, and went out through the front door to have a cigarette. I dry heaved outside of the restaurant on the crowded sidewalk for a few more minutes while I smoked my cigarette. I went back inside and resumed eating the shabu-shabu, like nothing had happened. I even finished my beer.
Reprinted with permission from Thought Catalog. Want more?