When I was sixteen, I made a bet with my mother. I would not be caught smoking, drinking, or doing drugs between the time the bet was placed, and my twenty-firstbirthday. If I succeeded, she’d buy me my first used car.
Years later, I learned that the actual bet wasn’t that I wouldn’t get caught, but that I wouldn’t do any of those things. But by the time my mother passed this revelation on to me, I was already on my second car, and was in no financial position to reimburse her for the first one.
I have a very competitive nature. Not only was I fixated on winning the bet, but I also gauged my rate of drinking, smoking, and doing drugs against the rates of my friends. I figured, if I was smoking, drinking, and doing drugs less often than my friends, then I wouldn’t get caught, I would win my car, and I would have the satisfaction of being a better person.
While I did have a brief addiction to cigarettes when I was twenty-one, I generally only smoke a cigarette or two every six months, when I’m exceptionally stressed. I drink socially, and until I started spending time with Ben, I had been decidedly antisocial. I’ve also held true to my ideal of drug usage. I don’t pay for them. Ever. This way, I don’t run the risk of becoming addicted to them. I do drugs on a purely peer pressure basis. For the most part, I only smoke pot. And again, not very often. Apart from pot, and a few cups of mushroom tea when I lived in Burlington, Vermont, I’ve only ever done one drug, mescaline. I was sixteen, and my high school roommate (thank you, boarding school education), JBob, had bought some from another student. He’d never done it before, I’d certainly never done it before, so we decided we’d do it together, and invited our friend Matt to hang out with us so that we wouldn’t do anything stupider than the sort of things we usually did when we were together.
About an hour after we took it, we weren’t feeling anything. Neither of us had ever been buzzed from any of the pot we smoked, so we decided that our experiment with mescaline was a failure, and decided we would go into town and watch a movie. As luck would have it, there was a brand new movie out that all three of us (me, JBob, and Matt) wanted to see: Natural Born Killers.
Well, the mescaline kicked in at some point during the movie. I don’t know when. I don’t know what I hallucinated and what was actually in that fucked up movie. All I know is, I haven’t been able to watch the movie since. I also haven’t touched mescaline since.
“Have you ever done speed?” Ben asks. It’s Labor Day, and we’ve just finished an extra large pizza, a bottle of Jack Daniels, two liters of Coke, and four hours of watching the Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston reality show.
“Never.” I say.
“You’ve got to try it.” He says. “I got so much writing done when I was on speed. I mean, it was all terrible, but I used to get sooooo much accomplished. You’d love it. I mean, I’ve always been hyper. My mom used to say I was like a kid on speed, but the truth is I totally was a kid on speed.” Ben kicks his voice up an octave. “Look at my Lego castle. I used 2,458 pieces. The princess sleeps in this room. See the way the drawbridge works…” and he is talking a mile a second, and I am laughing too hard to keep up, because it isn’t that he was a kid on speed when he was a kid, he’s a kid on speed now, just without the actual speed...or the kiddiness.
He talks like this all the way to the bus stop, during the entire trip to his house, and most of the way to the grocery store where we are, for some reason, buying a coffee grinder, lemon juice, lemonade, apples, nectarines, and bananas.
“I haven’t had bananas in ages.” I say, setting him up for a gay joke.
“Why not?” He asks.
“I don’t know. I like them, but I mostly have apples when I’m feeling healthy. Apples are my favorite fruit.”
Ben smiles. “I thought I was your favorite fruit.”
When a cute guy walks by him in the cereal aisle, Ben’s eyes and body follow the cute guy to the left. I push his left shoulder and he turns to the right, toward me. “I wonder if that’s an instinct?” He asks of his newly discovered navigation control.
“I don’t know. But there are other portions of your body I’d like to press to find out what happens.”
He shakes his head. “Booooo.” And then, “Have you ever done opium?”
“No.” I’ve always been leery of opium. All those terrible TV spots tell you that marijuana is a gateway drug, but they never mention which drugs it opens the gate to. Opium, from all the Burroughs I’ve read, is the gateway drug to heroin. And while I have no fear of needles in doctors’ offices, I have no desire to start sticking them into my arm, taint, or spine on a regular basis. Plus, I’ve never been turned on by young Arab boys, or shooting a loved one in the face.
“It’s a really mellow high.” He says. “It’s like the anti-speed. Of course, it makes you really nauseous and shit, but that’s totally okay because when you do opium, you do opium with your friends, and puking is like conversation when everyone’s high.”
“I don’t think vomit is a language I want to speak.”
“You’ll love it.” He says. And on the way back from the grocery store, we stop at a florist, where we buy a dozen dried poppies.
While Ben grinds the poppies in his newly acquired coffee grinder, I check my e-mail. Note from my mom’s boyfriend letting me know that my mother may have cancer, porn spam, invitation to a lesbian wedding, Viagra spam, and an e-mail from Celeste:
Dude, my roommate was going through Craigslist looking for an apartment
for his new girlfriend, when he found this ad. Isn't that your room?