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I was nineteen the first time I smoked pot. Throughout high school, I inhaled mostly processed foods while avoiding anything harder. Not for lack of interest, but rather for lack of social invitation.
College, however, changed my situation by widening my social pool. I made friends early on with a fellow straight-lacer named Kate, who, despite her own conservatism toward drugs, had a boyfriend -- Howard -- who was markedly more liberal. Which is to say: markedly a pothead. Howard and I got along great –- the first time we met, we bonded over the inanity of people who claim not to like cheese -– so when he eventually offered me a joint, I decided to accept. I was in the market for an image change at this stage of my life, something to toughen me up and make me, well, cool.
I decided pot might be my inroad.
Having tried marijuana, I learned I was (in a word) susceptible to marijuana. I was (in a second word) sensitive. For I’d hallucinate when I smoked pot, a wide range of weird un-realities, including:
- That my throw pillow had come to life.
- That I was a duck.
- That I was on a boat decorated in an 18th century Baroque style.
These hallucinations were pleasant and entertaining, and though I lacked the confidence and dexterity to do what’s called “packing a bowl” or “rolling a joint,” as time went on I nonetheless called myself a pothead. I’d find myself in the path of one of Howard’s joints and I’d accept it saying, “Thanks. I’m such a pothead. I love a toke.”
“Do you mean ‘to’ toke?”
I knew I wasn’t a pothead, but I referred to myself as such in the hope that I might one day become one. Sadly, though, my relationship with marijuana ended exactly when it should have blossomed into more. Which is to say, it ended at a concert known as Lilith Fair.
I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college at my parents’ house in suburban Chicago. The only scheduled break in the routine was a visit from Howard and Kate, who’d been in the midst of a cross-country summer drive and had scheduled a Chicago stop so that the three of us could attend together the Illinois leg of the Lilith Fair tour.
Kate and Howard’s plan was to pick me up, drive straight to the concert, then sleep over at my parents’ house before leaving the following morning. Halfway to the concert venue, Howard pulled a bag of marijuana from his pocket.
“Ladies,” he said, “meet the Super Silver Haze.”
Although Howard wanted the three of us to smoke together, Kate adamantly refused. She was, as I said, conservative in her use of alcohol and drugs, and so when Howard said, “Ladies, meet the Super Silver Haze,” Kate responded, “I will not smoke pot that has a special name.”
With Kate down for the count, Howard focused his marijuana pitch on me.
“The Silver Purple Haze is a top notch product,” he explained. “It won first place at this year’s High Times Cannabis Cup.”
“What’s that?” I asked. “What’s it even mean?’
“That you will get high,” said Howard. “Like very, very high.”
Kate rolled her eyes. She said, “As someone who shares your sensitivity to marijuana, I don’t think you should smoke this.”
Howard scoffed. “Jesus. Chill,” he said. “Sara will be fine.”
“Yeah. Chill,” I repeated. “I will be fine.”
The word “chill” hadn’t previously appeared in my personal lexicon, but there I was on a madcap adventure in the fine state of Illinois. I figured I’d give it a whirl.
Here’s what I remember:
That after smoking the Silver Purple Haze my head felt fuzzy. I also recall that I was hungry for a hotdog. So I went to a nearby food vendor, and bought myself a jumbo hotdog, since being at a concert felt like a celebratory occasion. I remember eating the hotdog and thinking, “This is delicious.” I remember looking at my friends swaying in rhythm to Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone,” and thinking, “This is the life. This is the life.”
That whole scene took all of twenty minutes, at which point I remember feeling like a vice had been placed on my head. I’d returned to Kate and Howard by this point, and I remember saying, “Excuse me. I have to lie down.”
“Now?” Kate asked. “Are you sure? I mean, Paula Cole’s playing.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m sure.”
Here’s what I’ve been told happened next:
- That I passed out one-third of the way through the show.
- That I stayed unconscious only briefly, however, before getting up again and telling Kate, “I love you. If anyone is ever rude to you, I’ll break bottles on their heads.”
- That I hurtled the Snapple bottle I was holding at a nearby garbage can.
- That the Snapple bottle shattered -- and that after the Snapple bottle shattered, I did a series of seven deep lunges.
- That as I did each of these lunges, I yelled out one letter of the word “victory.”
- That once I’d spelled out all of the word “victory” I did a cartwheel-into-demi-split.
- That once I hit the demi-split, I yelled, “Oof! My thighs are tight!” and that this, finally, drew the attention of Lilith Fair security.
- That as security approached, I told them, “If you guys gotta problem, you can stick it where the sun don’t shine. Hey! Where the sun don’t shine means a butt!”
- That I was then dragged toward the exit.
- That Howard and Kate were given the choice to take me or leave me.
- That Howard was too high to offer an opinion. That Kate had to decide for herself.
- That Kate thought, “My night’s beyond repair,” and decided to drive us all home.
- That we all missed the rest of the show.
I regained consciousness during the night, and arrived to my parents’ kitchen the following morning to find Kate seated at the kitchen table. Howard sat beside her.
“Sit,” said Kate. “I’ve got shit I need to say. First: Do you remember what you did last night?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t.”
It was at this stage that Kate went on to explain my antics from the night before. She chastised Howard for providing the Super Silver Haze, and me for electing to smoke it. She explained, “Do you guys even know what I’ve dealt with this summer? I’ve watched my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s advance. I’ve watched my father sob in the face of my grandmother’s advancing Alzheimer’s."
She continued: "I’ve babysat my niece and nephew, and they are assholes, by the way, because my brother’s wife is two hundred pounds of bitterness and un-likeability, and she’s passed those qualities onto her kids. They’re ugly, too, although not overweight. Which is good. Anyway. The one thing I had to look forward to amidst it all was a road trip I thought would include Paula Cole. But, Sara, you collapsed during Paula Cole. And, Howard, you could not have been less of a help.”
“I’m sorry,” said Howard.
“Me, too,” I said.
And although I was sorry, I was not, like, crazy sorry. I thought Kate could’ve cut me more slack, seeing as how I’d said all that loving stuff about her while blacked out.
“The thing is, though,” I began, but Kate cut me off.
“No,” she said, “don’t even try to spin this shit. Just apologize.”
“Fine. Sorry. Like I said.”
“And promise you won’t do it again.”
“Fine. Promise. I won’t.”
True to my word, I did not. There was never another opportunity, because there was never another time I smoked pot. I had, I realized, been robbed of my sense of self-control, and that’s a thing I need to act my way around my honest self. That, the acting, is the thing I need to be cool.