I held her hand as her body mimicked violent and weird forms. She called for me, I called back and told her to hold on, just for a little longer.
“It’ll be okay” I said, trying to convince her while my eyes said otherwise.
What the fuck did Alex take? I wondered. Her body continued to flail, shifting off the bed. I held her and straightened her legs, “is this normal?!” I yelled to the paramedic. They tamed me like the panicked, bedside visitor I had become and neglected to provide any commentary on the situation. I started to mentally flip through all my health lecture lessons for answers — nothing. She called my name again with a look so scared, a scared I couldn’t aid.
We grew up together, I lived a few houses down from hers. We hadn’t become estranged or anything, we just drifted throughout the years. But this isn’t one of those prodigal son stories where one friend strays, takes a trip down a bad path, and ultimately comes back for redemption. Neither of us really left, I think we just gradually let space wedge itself softly between us, but not so much that we lost sight of each other. In fact, it was such a great reunion every time we reconnected.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those times.
Rewind to the start of an EDM festival three years ago in Toronto, my first EDM festival actually. A time when I thought it was mandatory to wear a flower crown and American Apparel shorts that jammed themselves far up my ass cheeks. I went because of good ol’ peer pressure; everyone was going and I couldn’t deal with FOMO yet at 21 years old. Now, at 24? I’m more than happy to sit these out.
Deadmau5 started the show and I’ll admit I had fun for the first little while. People started buying their beers, snapping their selfies and taking their pills. I’m no straight edge when it comes to drugs, it’s not that I oppose a sober lifestyle or anything, I’ve actually had some of my best moments without being intoxicated, but I’m just not into festival drugs (or injectable drugs, or snortable drugs, or…you get it). Maybe it’s hypocritical of me to admit that I smoke the occasional joint or pop some Ritalin when I can’t focus my thoughts, but I’ve always kind of been that girl who prides herself on never having tried festival drugs like molly (or whatever the youth’s calling it now).
I drank my beers and watched some of my friends swallow the pills they got from some guy’s friend of a friend’s cousin. Our dance circle consisted of my best friends, my okay friends, and friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, friends like Alex. My festival experience lasted about an hour until someone nudged my arm, “I heard Alex is in the cooling station, she wasn’t feeling well” they said. I don’t know why I was the first person to receive this message but I didn’t have time to ponder that. I hadn’t been to this type of thing before but it was a breezy, chilled, Canadian summer night and I knew she didn’t need to ‘cool down’.
I pushed through the manic and wild people and ran across the field until I reached the cooling station. I entered what seem to be a conspiracy of fake fun. While there were people dancing and happily loving life outside by the stage, intoxicated zombies filled this dungeon of a ‘cooling station’. This station was actually a large room dedicated to drug overdoses. I walked through the war room of bodies, some limp and pale, others red and hysterical. I saw Alex, her body moving violently to its own beat and I knelt down beside her.
“Family?” Asked the nurse?
“Yes” I lied.
Alex gripped my hand and amongst the gibberish she was mumbling (through what looked like lockjaw) she managed to utter my name. With her pupils dilated and her limbs ticking to a rhythm much like the music outside, she stared so hard at me. I knew she wasn’t able to speak the way she was intending to so I hushed her.
The crowd around her now consisted of her close friends, closer than I, and people that would have been more suitable for this bedside role I had taken. But something deep inside her consumed all my empathy and I knew for whatever reason I was meant to stay by her side.
The paramedic explained that a ‘bad batch’ of molly had gone around hence the mass amounts distraught, semi-alive corpses lying around us. Alex began to seize, her eyes rolling back but still, she held my hand with a force as persistent as her appetite to live.
A few people died that night as a result of tainted drugs, luckily Alex wasn’t one of them. After several hours of calming and comforting her, the convulsions stopped, her ticks went away and she gained the ability to speak again. We picked her up and brought her back to the hotel some of my friends and I were staying at. We had all seen too much and felt more than the drugs intended that night. “I will never ever take drugs again” Alex said, as though we were in a cheesy Just Say No commercial. I will never try drugs ever I thought to myself.
Of course, this isn’t a ‘fuck you’ to music festivals or drugs, to each their own, however I will assert that these events, DJs and songs should be able to make you feel euphoric and stimulated without drugs. And I think they can if we just let them. I get it, everyone’s busy being uncomfortable with their sober selves.
We’re all seeking an immediate rush of fraudulent elation and when we fail to produce those feelings naturally, we resort to shit like MDMA to kickstart it all. And what happens when you don’t feel a buzz in a few minutes? Pop another one, right? Hope for the best I guess. Again I’m no saint and I’m not trying to sway anyone it’s just that in our culture of immediate gratification I fear we’re missing out on natural happiness, organic bodily chills, and childlike excitement. Maybe I’m just nostalgic like that, I don’t know.