[Illustration by ALEX FINE]
BY STEPHANIE SAYES Considering the fact that I was blazed out of my MIND the first time I got high, it’s a wonder I remember anything at all. But I remember the details with crystal clarity. Probably because at the age of 17, I thought I was partaking in something so bad, so out of the realm of my sheltered world, that my first experience with marijuana, or any drug for that matter, has always lived in my mind as a magical memory.
I was visiting Philly for the first time. My then-boyfriend was a freshmen at the Wharton School of Law and a seasoned smoker. His large-ish income, which afforded him a comfortable lifestyle (and my plane ticket to Philly at that!), was sustained by selling weed to rich PENN kids. His apartment was a high traffic zone where the most eccentric and eclectic group of young folk would come through at all hours of the day to pick up herb, amongst other substances. It was a place where pre-med students came to mingle with West Philly locals to talk politics over spliffs and blunts. It was then that my curiosity got the best of me.
Probably because he was stoned, it never occurred to my boyfriend that his girl’s first marijuana experience would require some tact and maybe a little finesse. Instead, he took his three foot bong, Karl, (which I later became well acquainted with) and milked it for me. Because I had never used a bong before and terminology such “slides” and “bowl” were foreign to me, he thought he was doing me a favor when he filled Karl to the brim with thick, swirling smoke. I still remember being nervous. The swirls looked ominous through the clear, glass bong, and to be honest at the time the smell of marijuana reminded me of stale mold. It’s a smell I have come to love over the years, but back then, I was skeptical.
We were in the room alone together, me sitting on the bed. He passed me the bong with one hand over the mouth hole and said, “Here. Just suck.”
Doe-eyed and nervous, I wanted to perform like a champ. So I took in the biggest rip ever known to man. Immediately, I fell backwards on the bed, like a heavy brick on pillows, only it happened in slow motion like you see in the movies. I lay there clenching my neck with both hands, unable to speak.
The setting was typical of any stoner, college-style house — dirty and poorly lit. In his room Del the Funky Homosapien was playing in the background. The bed — really, just a mattress on the floor — was shabbily covered by bedsheets that had probably never been washed. His room was cluttered with typical college stuffs — dirty laundry, MLA handbook, poster of Albert Einstein, day old Chinese takeout. His room smelled of Nag Champa incense and general Tsao’s chicken.
The next thing I remember after opening my eyes was my boyfriend’s guilt stricken face hovering above me. “Shit, are you okay?! What happened?”
“Water. I need water,” is all I could say. I could barely speak. The pain of the smoke was burning a trail down my gullet to the pit of my stomach and I remember clinging to my throat with both hands as if I were choking on peroxide. Luckily, the room was was equipped with all the appropriate stoner necessities — water, soda, Starburst, Doritos — and thus he quickly grabbed anything around him that he felt might quell the discomfort I was feeling. That’s when I had my first sip of Arizona Ice Tea — ON WEED. It was the most delicious, sweet and soothing thing I had ever drank in my entire life and I sipped on it greedily, as if I’d just been rescued from a desert island. Next it was Coke. It tasted like viscous, gold chocolate, if there ever were such a drink. Then ice water, and even that tasted good! My boyfriend, worried sick about his unusually silent but thirsty girlfriend, was practically hand feeding me at this point in hopes to make the pain stop. It was then that I fully actualized the meaning of the word MUNCHIES. In the few months that followed, I gained 15 pounds.
In any case, I have to admit the first time hurt like a mother fucker. At the time, I had never even smoked a cigarette before, so the effects of that three foot bong really did a number on me. But it was worth it.
I was so consumed with the pain that it wasn’t until maybe two hours later that I stopped to notice my surroundings. It wasn’t until I stopped that I noticed I was, as they say on the West Coast, FADED! In layman’s terms that simply means suddenly, everything around me was different. My boyfriend, watching me curiously, continued to ask me questions.
But I wouldn’t talk. I was still in pain, so instead I enjoyed my heightened senses in silence. I was suddenly in awe of everything around me. The bedsheets felt softer. The colors through the window were prettier. The overhead lamp was too bright and hurt my eyes. And the Starbursts I sucked on tasted particularly juicy. I walked around his not very big room in circles, not saying a thing. I could tell my boyfriend was concerned, since I refused to talk. But I didn’t pay him any attention.
It sounds cliche, I know, but the truth is I was transfixed. I was like Daryl Hannah in Splash or Brenden Fraser in Encino Man who play characters whom are awaken from the norm of their everyday life and put in a world in which everything is foreign, exciting and delightful. My best memory of my first time has made me a devoted fan of Talking Heads for life. When I heard the sound of David Byrne singing “Burning Down the House” I literally froze, stopped everything I was doing, and ran to turn up the speakers. That voice, those drums, the lyrics — they were unlike anything I had ever heard before. Suddenly, I was up on my feet and I started to shuffle. I was dancing, for the first time, to Talking Heads, ON WEED. And I was having a marvelous time!
I didn’t talk for the rest of that night. I just kept on shuffling. And long story short, I’ve been shuffling ever since.
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