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I didn’t always love Jesus.

But I always have loved being high. Always, since the first time I knew what it felt like. Since the party at L__ S______’s house with my neighbor who I don’t think I was dating yet but who I had the world’s largest crush on. I didn’t lie to my mom this day, didn’t have to. Mrs. S______ was my substitute teacher in junior high; Mom knew her from Parent-Teacher something or other. I said her name and it worked like a magic buzz word. I was in the clear, and Mrs. S______ wasn’t even home.

We laid around in the basement, piles of people on couches and chairs and each other. Most everyone was drinking. Everyone was underage. No one was doing anything worth writing home about. I don’t remember what I was doing. C____ was my neighbor, one of two twins, a year younger than me. My family had moved in something like a year ago from the neighborhood just east of this one. First, I liked his brother, the more popular, sporty, outgoing one of the pair. Then, I just switched my affinity. I was like that back then.

C____ took my hand and the rest of me outside. We sat in a car with too many people. I was on his lap in the front passenger’s seat, all the windows up. I didn’t know anything: the language, the paraphernalia, the patterns. I just sort of fit in. I wasn’t scared. C____ was a pretty well-known smoker, I suppose. I thought he was just a cute boy; a little jaded to the kind of drug circles I would see him run in.

It burned my throat the first time they passed the hitter to me. It looked like a big glass blown art project, the bowl did. I didn’t know how to light it and no one expected me to know a thing. C____ lit the leaves and motioned for me to inhale. I always had been pretty good at following directions.

It wasn’t like smoking a cigarette, although I hadn’t done that either, only been educated by the media and spontaneous modeling. The drag was a long drag, as much breath as I could suck in, which I soon found to be abbreviated because of the fire effect of the smoke inside of me. It was sharp and it hit the walls of my throat with a startling jolt, sitting uncomfortably in the crevices of my esophagus like embers. When I opened my mouth to speak, to ask for a water bottle to cool the flames, I found my vocal chords charred from their proximity to the heat and coughed instead, which hurt worse.

Soon, the inside of the car was filled with the haze of our exhale anyway. None of C____’s friends could see my watering eyes from my itchy throat. The hitter was making its way back around to the front seat and, again, to me. You would think, what with my first experience, I would politely decline but between pressure and youth, the decision was made. And so, against all of my honors student labels, in this clam-baked car with boys I hardly knew, the only question in the form of a weed-packed bowl handed my direction, I gripped it and raised it to my mouth even when all signs pointed to no.

When we got out of the car, I felt fine. The water bottle was empty, and I hadn’t shared. My throat still felt a bit raw from the whole smoke-of-burning-embers feeling. I even think Mrs. S______ was home by the time we went inside. The evidence was already inside of us, but I still didn’t feel a thing. Not until we drove home.

C____ drove me home, even dropped me off in the driveway, which was funny because he lived next door. Sitting in the passenger seat, I got my first feeling of being high. We were about halfway home from L__’s and I spun around in the seat with a sense of urgency, emergency. “What’s wrong?” C____ asked me from the driver’s seat. He was slowing down to make a left hand turn at a busy three-way intersection in our city, just past the church my parents took me to, nominally, when I was a kid. With failing words, I tried to explain the feeling that time has just passed in fast forward, that something had quickly happened but I’d missed it, that the present had folded and overlapped the past, that the last thirty seconds of our lives had been—deleted. Maybe we’d lost five minutes. Maybe more. How long had we been in the car?

He laughed and turned left at the light, unconcerned. He knew I was high knew it was for the first time. Up and down my amusement park high I worried about his driving, which is just like me, the stone straight sober variety. His driving was fine, or I don’t remember how it was, but we got home alright and he’d done this whole runaround hundreds of times. By my hundredth hit, I was bored sometimes; it wasn’t the same kind of high. But the first dozen or howevermany tens of times were like this just the same and I never wanted it to end.

I wanted to live in the gray forever. Once the smoke had faded into sky, disappeared into the air, the gray remained inside making fuzzy the lines between reality and something less or more. The game to find what was real exhilarated the curious little girl in me and I held tightly to the present which was often deleted minutes from the past, hanging inbetween a place I was and a place I shouldn’t have to be or shouldn’t have been, or just shouldn’t.

The whole world didn’t get high for the first time in L__ S______’s car, like catching their breath at the tops of ninety-mile per hour drops and hanging upside down without a harness. They weren’t driving home, crushing on their attractive neighbor at the height of teenage hormones, highly influential in a thousand ways. I know. We were kids, hiding our habits from overprotective upper-middle class parents in gated communities. We smoked in the basements, with wet towels stuffed in the spaces between doors and floors, incense burning like a séance, and fans at every window. Usually we smoked in the cold—airflow erased the evidence. All of it made a thin slice of this world gray with confusion and epic indecision. Responsibility lifted from my shoulders and I floated without care, laughing and alert, waiting for some kind of surprise.

I always have loved feeling high. Floating free in time, suspended between the now and the just was, guessing and grabbing playfully at what might be real—playing games with truth and life. But that was then.

I didn’t always love Jesus. But I love Him now. And playing with truth isn’t the same anymore. Some things are just better to sacrifice.

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