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The One About Friend Grief (part 2)
Sinking deeper into the womb.
(This is part 2 in an ongoing series. You can read part 1 here.)
That year, we kept going deeper.
On the night of my 19th birthday, I smoked pot for the first time. It was N and M and I in their cramped dorm room across the hall from mine (room 420!) whose every surface was cluttered with energy drink cans still holding the dregs. It didn’t really feel like getting high. We were always already hysterical—now there was a filter over it. Laughing and shoving each other under a warm, clean sheet. At one point, I was hungry and one of them slipped out of the room to procure some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos from the vending machine. They were sweet like that. I don’t remember asking for much, there was just this free-flowing, simple kindness. At least in the beginning.
I’d somehow survived high school without most of the stereotypical teenage rebellion. I never drank, never smoked, never quite followed through on all of the other things I desperately wanted to do and wasn’t supposed to. Hot with desire and afraid of it. But it was beginning to make sense, now: I had to run away from those things then so I could have them now, so when I drank for the first time I could be in their apartment drunk on their attention, so I when I smoked for the first time I could nestle in the linen-like haze of our laughter in this dirty room that smelled like $2 yakisoba.
Feeling loved makes me narrativize everything. I'm aware of it now in a way I wasn't back then. Not that it changes anything—just means that while I'm watching someone watch me watch them love me, retroactively justifying this moment right now where I'm prostrating myself on broken glass for a crumb of attention, I'm somewhere in there begging myself to come back down to Earth before it's too late, and not listening.
I didn't realize any of that at 18—or 19, now, I guess—so every experience I had with them felt preordained. There were no coincidences. They lived in room 420 because I was supposed to smoke pot there for the first time. I lived across from them because they were supposed to find me. I was supposed to play my keyboard in my room that day so N could overhear and slide a note under the door, so I could come over and listen to jazz and say I wasn't going to fall asleep in his bed and then fall asleep in his bed. All of that so I could meet M, who would wax poetic about psychedelics one night at a 90's themed party to a room full of jocks, who forgot that night two days after it happened, and me, who never did.
Deeper and deeper and deeper, each so-called coincidence a new layer of silt obscuring the bottom. My idea of love is being suspended in tar so thick I can barely move and there's no difference when I close my eyes. Curled up in a nutrient-dense sludge like a fetus. Total engulfment, and then one day I can't breathe and I freak out.
But even knowing what I know now, the memory is still like something out of a movie. I was sitting on a couch by a window. White Venetian blinds. M was commanding the room, telling these western PA sports guys about the time he ate a shroom chocolate and suddenly understood everything, realized he didn't have to focus so much on school, on being perfect, on being logical. Like an android finally shown love. And drawing. And laughter. He told a story of sitting up against a wall laughing hysterically with a guy named Charlie who I hadn't met. I had trouble imagining a version of M even steadier and more type-A than the one standing in front of me, the one who brought his laptop with him everywhere because there was always work to be done, the one who often passed out in jeans on his twin-XL bed because he was unable to tear himself away from the song he was composing. Who took drugs like a scholar, discussing dosages and LD50s and reading all the Erowid reports.
The story he told was enticing. You eat this fungus, swallow this little strip of paper, and unlock a new personality, untethered to the neuroses that were once your calling cards. I wanted to transform like him. Watching him address the room, I felt a twinge of envy—not for M, but for the other guy in the story, Charlie, who got to laugh with him sitting up against a wall somewhere in West Virginia. I wanted to sit up against that wall, laugh that laughter. I wanted M to myself. It would be another few months before we tripped together, but that night, the seed was planted. That night, I sunk deeper into the womb.