Stuck On the Other Side
I’m not saying weed is a good thing, but you might just end up realizing you’re gay and make out with a hot gothic chick on a Friday night.
Do you want a hit? Marco asked.
One question and suddenly I’m back to seventh grade health class listening to some middle-aged woman with an 80s haircut on the television tell me drugs are bad. But nothing about this moment felt bad. All I felt was an overwhelming urge to impress the dark-haired girl in the corner drawing hearts with a Sharpie on her black Converse. She was older, moody, and looked like she’d do just about anything to defy her parents. I loved it. I was fifteen and I didn’t know what liking girls meant. All I knew was I liked her. Marco was a nice enough guy. He didn’t try to put his hands on me when we were all drunk in the basement on Friday nights. That made him my favorite. He had greasy hair and bad acne breakouts, but he wasn’t ugly.
What? I asked. I knew exactly what he’d said, but asking again gave me more time to process. He handed me an old Pepsi bottle he had cut a hole out of and put a piece of metal through.
Just put your mouth on the top, light it, and inhale. Not too much though or you’ll get stupid high, he said.
Weed doesn’t smell like skunks to me like my mother used to always say when my brother stayed up late smoking in his room. I didn’t think of it as some “herbal remedy” either, like the tie-dye loving hippie kids at my school. All I knew was that there were six of us in this dingy basement blasting thrash metal, and this seemed like a good way to pass the time. So, I took the hit.
Oh fuck. I coughed until I thought I might throw up. For some reason, I instantly felt very embarrassed by the amount I was coughing.
No, that’s good! Coughing makes you sooo much higher, Marco said as he laid back on the couch and propped his feet up.
I felt very defiant at that moment. I had lied to my mom about where I was, gotten a bit tipsy, and took my first hit of weed. I didn’t know at the time why I had such an inclination to act out, but all I knew was, it felt good. My mother seemed so suffocating and invasive. It wasn’t until three years later when I was in handcuffs, I realized I was giving her good reason to be.
How do you feel? the dark-haired girl asked. She was seventeen, and it seemed like everything about her drew me in. She had jet black hair chopped off at her shoulders. Her black skinny jeans were ripped and shredded, and she had a black Slayer shirt on. Her skin was that rich deep tan that girls with German genes, like me, were never going to be able to obtain. Everything about her screamed, I’m so cool I don’t even have to try. She wasn’t the first girl I ever liked, but she was the turning point.
In third grade, there was a girl who always challenged me at basketball for recess. She was snarky and wore a lot of black. My mom had me wear bright-colored Bermuda shorts that were so ugly I wanted to rip holes in them. But this girl got to wear whatever she wanted. She had dark brown hair (apparently, I had a type even then) and read lots of Goosebumps books. She was unique, and I loved it. I never thought it wasn’t normal. I remember thinking that everyone felt this way, right? It wasn’t until this black-haired borderline gothic girl was asking me how high I was, that I realized shit, I’m gay.
I tried to think of a “cool” response, but all that came out was Good.
Give it five minutes, it’ll really hit you then, she said.
I was already feeling anxious and over-analyzing all of my conversations in my head, and now she’s telling me it gets worse? I got up and moved to the end of the couch where I figured I could sit for a while without anyone bothering me. Marco was already asleep next to me, and his shoe kept hitting my thigh as he tossed and turned. I realized that day that I am a get high and sit down for four hours type of person, whereas this girl was bouncing around under the florescent lights. She stood in front of me and played “Slow Ride” on Guitar Hero four times in a row. I still know every word to that damn song. She looked back every now and then to see my reaction, which I can only imagine was the same emotionless expression I’d had since I took the hit. As I watched her dance around on the carpet in front of me in her black fuzzy socks, it felt like my brain and my body had become two separate entities. My brain was mulling through a ridiculous amount of useless thoughts, while my body remained paralyzed against that scratchy old couch.
Are you okay? she turned around and asked. She had bent down and put her hands on my knees. You’re really pale.
That’s just my skin tone, I said. She laughed then, for what seemed like forever. I started laughing too. We couldn’t stop, and it physically started to hurt.
I can’t breathe! she choked and continued to flash me her bright white, perfectly straight teeth.
Finally, that ended and she looked around the room to find all of our friends passed out. Some of them even were asleep on the floor.
These guys are boring. Wanna go outside? she asked. Before I was able to mutter anything that even remotely sounded like a word, she had grabbed my hand and pulled me all the way up the stairs. Looking back now, I’m glad she did, because I was certain I had morphed into a part of that couch.
You wanna smoke? she asked, showing me her pack of Marlboro Menthols. I was so enamored with her, she could have asked me to do just about anything. She lit her cigarette and pressed the tip against mine. We sat on the front porch for what must have been two hours talking about our lives. Her abusive dad, obsessive ex-boyfriend, and her little sister’s death. All I had to offer was my drug-dealing, piece of shit boyfriend who would make me walk home alone at four in the morning if a deal went south.
You’re really easy to talk to, she said. We sat there for a minute looking at each other, our knees touching, before she grabbed my face and kissed me. Not like a sloppy, urgent, drug-dealing boyfriend type of kiss, but a gentle, strawberry-ChapStick-and-smokes-flavored kiss. I instantly froze, and I don’t think I said another word for the rest of the night.
C’mon, let’s go back in. I’m freezing! she said. Once again, she grabbed my hand and led me back inside to the guest bedroom, where we slept for the rest of the night. Well, she did. I faced the wall and pulled the covers up to my face. My hair was bitter with the smell of cigarette smoke. I heard her unbutton her pants and sloppily stomp out of them. Then, I heard the sound of more clothes hitting the floor. Her bra strap slapped against her skin as she struggled to get it off. I don’t know if it was the drugs, anxiety, or a combination between the two, but my heart began to hurt. I tried my best to pretend I was asleep while I listened to her skin against the sheets as she tried to get comfortable. It wasn’t long before I knew she was asleep. I don’t think I moved a muscle all night. When I woke up the next morning, she was gone. My body was rigid and sore. My brain felt like mush. I got up, went to the basement where everyone was still asleep, grabbed my shoes, and walked home. I had over a dozen missed calls from my mom, my eyeliner had smudged into dark circles under my eyes, and my legs felt like they were going to give out at any second, but I didn’t care. I was fifteen, and nothing felt real to me.