The anti-drug program targeted for kids known as D.A.R.E was purportedly a failure. Bullshit. They always terrified the crap out of me. It wasn’t the stories of people losing their friends and families and living on the streets that scared me. It wasn’t the addictive nature that scared me. It wasn’t even the stories of people over dosing and dying that scared me. It was the bad trips. The stories of guys taking too much LSD and thinking the devil was chasing them, or that there were millions of spiders and bugs crawling all over their skin. Fuck that.
The problem was, I didn’t know all the different street names. I must’ve been day dreaming about Kelly Kapowski or building up my massive Pog collection the moment they went over this. My friend Chris kept talking about “bud”. Chris was the kid all the teachers hated: He dressed like a thug, he listened to gangster rap albums with parental advisory stickers, and he viewed class and homework as “optional.” “It comes from the ground just like tobacco–you said you’ve smoked a cigar before right?” he asked. I busied myself with tightening the trucks on my skateboard before cautiously nodding. “Well, it’s the same shit, you smoke it and it gives you a little buzz for a while . . . no big deal,” he persisted. After twenty more minutes of discussion, I gave in.
First we needed to find the stuff. “There’s nickel-bags, dime-bags, and twenty-sacks” he explained, picking the lock to his parents bedroom where we could potentially get it for free. He returned empty handed after I nervously watched the front door for five minutes. “How much money do you have on you?” he asked. I ripped open my neon green velcro wallet and pulled out the ten dollar bill my parents gave me for washing dishes and picking up dog shit. ” That’s perfect, we can get a dime-bag.” He said, prying the money from my hand.
He popped up his skateboard Marty McFly style and hit the sidewalk. I followed. We stopped at the corner of a residential street facing a park. There were no kids on the playground, just a bunch of long-haired teenagers wearing Jnco jeans with belts dangling past their knees. A couple Mexican guys in collared shirts buttoned only at the top hunched over a portable radio, and towering behind them stood the biggest black guy I’d ever seen. “That’s the guy” Chris said, pointing to the monster from Space Jam smoking a tiny cigar that made his hands look like Shrek’s. “Just tell him you want a dime-bag,” he instructed, handing the ten dollar bill to me. “He’ll know what it means.”
I crossed the road, looking for cars in my peripheral vision but trying not to move my head so I wouldn’t look like a nerd that has to “check both ways before crossing the street”. When I got closer I recognized the Notorious B.I.G song “Hypnotize” playing and–with the black guy not seeing me yet– silently mouthed the lyrics. I meandered around a bit before approaching my target. “Can I have a dime-bag?” I blurted out in my squeaky voice that would often get mistaken as my Mom’s on the phone. He looked down at me standing a safe distance away, then nodded and reached into his shirt pocket, pulling out a little bag. I got closer, handed him the folded up bill from my sweaty hand, snatched the bag and got the fuck out of there.
We returned to Chris’s house where he took a pencil out of his Jansport backpack, grabbed an apple from his parents kitchen, then poked two holes in it. One was on top, the other on the side, creating an L shaped tunnel. We skated to the local elementary school where we crouched down in the back corner of a field next to a playground. I handed him the bag and he pulled out the contents. He placed a brownish green plant over the top hole and placed his mouth over the other. He lit the top with a stove lighter and made an exaggerated sucking sound before pulling the apple away and puffing out his cheeks. He exhaled a plume of smoke and coughed. I followed his example, even down to the loud inhaling sound and the puffed out cheeks. I blew out the smoke and handed him back the apple to pack again. I forgot about the coughing part. I fake coughed.
By the time I finished my seven hits (requested by him, just to be sure I “got the effects”) I started to panic. I felt a slow numbing of the senses that would suddenly disappear, leaving me with a similar sensation to the one you get when you wake up from an intense day dream. Before I could bring myself to understanding my state of being, another wave came over and lulled me back into the zombie-like state, and jolted me back to reality. Over and over again this cycle would repeat itself. Every two minutes I’d open my eyes as wide as they could get and look around, trying to remember where I was and what I was doing there.
We got back to his house where I laid down in his bed and closed my eyes, trying to escape the waves. Even in darkness I could feel it. I kept forgetting my thoughts as soon as I’d get them, then remember them, then forget, then remember. At this point I would’ve chosen the hallucination of a devil chasing me over the pounding waves of memory loss. At least I’d know what the fuck was going on. The devil is chasing me, I need to run. It’s simple, its clear, it’s focused.
“That’s just what weed does man. Try and relax” Chris said, attempting to calm me down. “Weed!” I exclaimed, popping up out of the bed. “You mean I smoked weed! Weed, like the shit those gangster guys smoke in that movie Friday! Weed, like the stuff Snoop Dogg and and Dr Dre. smoke!? Oh god . . . oh shit . . . oh fuck.” He laughed and went into the kitchen to find food. “I thought you knew it was marijuana.” He shouted from across the room. Everything went black for a split second. I almost passed out. I put the palm of my hand on to my forehead and lifted up the skin around my eyebrows to open my eyelids even wider. My thoughts raced. “Weed was bad enough, but marijuana! Marijuana was the shit they talked about in D.A.R.E. This was D.A.R.E. shit! I’m on drugs! I’m on fucking drugs! Holy shit I’m on drugs. How did I not know bud and weed and marijuana were all the same thing?” I felt about as stupid as the kid in The Sandlot when he found out the Sultan of Swat and the Great Bambino and Babe Ruth were all the same guy.
I poured myself a tall glass of water from the kitchen sink, struggling to focus on the simple task. I made the treacherous walk back to his room and shut the door, worried his parents might come home at any minute. Nightfall approached. I peeked through the blinds every time I heard the sound of a car engine in the distance. I gulped down my water and put the empty glass on his dresser, too scared to return to the kitchen. I started giving myself mental tasks to stay alert. I’d take an object in the room and deeply study it. “This is a book shelf. It stores books. Any kind of books: text books, comic books, coloring books. You have one too, in your room. Yours is white and blue and you got it from Ikea. This one is wooden and old and it has circular shaped stains on the top from people not using coasters. Yours has a bunch of Goosebumps books. One was about a kid that turned into a bee and on the cover was a bee kid. It was a good book.”
Chris returned with a home made quesadilla and offered a piece. I begged him to get me more water from the kitchen, explaining that I couldn’t make the distant journey back. “This quesadilla is the bomb dude, you gotta try it.” he mumbled, ignoring my request. I shut him out and moved my thoughts from the bookshelf onto the phone. He headed for the door.
“Chris! Where are you going? Are you going back to the kitchen? Can you pllleeeasse get me a glass of water. I can’t go back out there.”
“Do you need some Visine? Just use this and you’ll be cool.”
“I don’t need Visine I need a glass of water and I need to stay here, I need to stay here and drink a glass of water. Here.”
I moved from the phone to the lamp. He sighed, reluctantly grabbing the empty glass and returning with a full one after what felt like hours. I chugged it down and moved to the closet. Bored with the useless organism that was his friend, Chris went into the living room to watch TV. The living room – as in the first room his parents would walk through once they entered the house. I made sure his door was shut and went back to my studies, quickly running out of objects.
I remained trapped inside for an hour until the waves started to subside and my game grew boring. I no longer struggled to concentrate. I stopped forgetting where I was. I was in Chris’s room, sitting on his bed, starring at his wall. Suddenly I felt stupid. I walked down the dimly lit hall that once looked so dark and ominous. I stood in the living room next to the front door, something inconceivable just hours ago. “I gotta go.” I said, grabbing my board and heading for the door, relieved his parents never returned. I skated home, went straight to my room, and concentrated deeply on my bed, and it’s pillows, and it’s big heavy blanket that shuts out all the light when you pull it over your face.
Like a traumatized rape victim, I avoided any and all drugs throughout high school and most of college. After building up a reputation amongst my friends as the-guy-who-never-smokes-pot, I finally caved in to their relentless nagging and tried it again, nine years later. At first I panicked. The waves returned and I was trapped inside Chris’s room again. Then, suddenly, my worries inexplicably disappeared. The only side effect now was uncontrollable laughter. After a few more attempts (some good, some like the first time) I learned to control my anxieties and enjoy the experience. I finally conquered the drug that haunted me for nearly a decade. I no longer feared the boogie man known as Bud, or Pot, or Weed, or Grass, or Herb, or whatever you fucking call the shit.
p.s. I just got my medical marijuana card. 420 bitches.