My first time trying pot was junior year of high school. A friend and I did it in a park, ironically called the Town Green, crouching in bushes. By the end of high school, I smoked regularly. I wasn’t a pothead. But I preferred being high to drunk and found it a good way to socialize. At the start of college, it seemed like everyone did it. The Princeton Review even ranked my school on its “reefer madness” list. After spring break, I was excited for April 20th, or 4/20, Weed Day. I just wasn’t expecting to do anything harder than pot.
My friend Lucy and I arranged to buy weed from a classmate named Anik. Ever since my first time, I had only bought from people I knew. There was Nick, the dealer who smokes with you right after making the sale. There was Mike, who met customers in parked cars in a supermarket lot. There was Noah, who kept a marijuana plant in his dorm room closet. I knew Anik only by reputation, including a rumor that drugs had left half his face paralyzed. Lucy and I reluctantly made the purchase.
Students gathered on Sunrise Hill. It was the most picturesque spot on campus, flanked by an orchard and overlooking a lake. Everyone sat on blankets with smoking paraphernalia — bongs and bowls, pipes and papers, and things I had never seen before. Lucy and I sat slightly removed from the group. She had baked her weed into brownies and had eaten one on the way to the hill. I pinched the green stuff from a plastic bag and packed it into my bowl. With my left hand, I brought the bowl to my mouth and with my right, flicked open the purple BIC lighter. I inhaled and let the smoke travel through my body. Then dizziness overcame me. I exhaled and pulled away the bowl in what felt like slow motion. The earth below me was shifting. I forgot who I was and why I was there. My heart raced as I squinted and tried to maintain control over my mind and body.
Lucy finished her second brownie and I regained composure. We sat watching the group, wisps of smoke escaping each mouth and forming a fog in the otherwise cloudless sky. “Tom,” Lucy said. “Something’s happening.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, but from her panicked eyes, I knew. The dizziness. The confusion. The paranoia. “Breathe,” I said. With one hand on the ground and one in mine, she tried to focus on her surroundings. But minutes later, she was crying and couldn’t speak. It had been so terrible for a short period of time that I couldn’t imagine what she was going through for longer. When we returned to the dorm, our Residential Advisor had campus security bring her to the hospital. They said I couldn’t go with them because I was on drugs.
Weeks later, I mentioned the experience to a friend. “Didn’t you hear?” he asked. “Anik’s weed was laced with heroin.”
At the time, pot was the only drug I had done. Everyone smoked pot and it seemed so friendly and natural. The day on the hill meant to celebrate that spirit. Instead, I had gotten a glimpse into a world much darker. Where did Anik get that stuff? Who laced it? What if I had liked it? I recalled movies like Requiem for a Dream and Trainspotting and imagined myself ditching Art History class to shoot up. Blowing my life savings. The college president staging an intervention. How many times did it take to get addicted?
It was years before I smoked again and even then, I could no longer get high.