BY AARON STELLA My sheltered, cloistered-in-Christianity upbringing left many teenage temptations unbeknownst to me, particularly the culture of ganja. Had I not seen an episode Ghost Writer, I doubt I would have ever been able to recognize a joint. That is, until I smoked one. Needless to say, my lack of worldly exposure left me with no narcotic outlets (although in retrospect, those cathartic pubescent jerk-off sessions were so intense at times that they easily rivaled the sedation concomitant with the mightiest of bong rips. So life without marijuana was still peaceful—even with a chafed dick).
Fast forward to the first semester of my sophomore year in college. I just had a fight with my cousin and was in a very “fuck it” mood. Some friends of mine invited me along to a house party in Center City where quality bud was rumored to be in abundance. Upon entering the 10th floor apartment, I caught my first pleasurable whiff of marijuana smoke. It was a sweet aroma — like someone burning sugar cane — and I can still recall the thickness and allure. The party was peopled with glassy-eyed youths slumped on scattered couches jawing about this and that and passing a plastic bag engorged with candy bars from couch to couch. The dingy beige carpeting had been stained by upended beers, and pitted by the hot coals of cigarette cherries carelessly flicked a little too hard in the general direction of an ashtray. A familiar scene, yet I remained skeptical in sampling the source of everyone’s delight.
Eventually, I stopped fuming about the fight I had earlier. I pulled up to the antique coffee table upon which my one friend was sprinkling bits of luminous greenery onto a scab of flattened cigar paper. I watched him casually — until, as he was finishing dabbing his saliva to the massive cylinder, he told me to step into the neighboring room. Once inside, we were joined by another friend and the three of us huddled in a circle with the damp weed-dog in hand. My friend sparked his lighter and waved it under the blunt, letting the flames lick the paper much in the same way he had licked it with his tongue, but with the inverse effect. He then handed me the droopy roll and insisted in no uncertain terms that I smoke it.
Enthusiasm for lighting this foreign substance welled up in me with the unexpectedness of an orgasm in a wet dream. Completely inexplicable, but urgent nonetheless. So I lit the twisted end of the blunt, inhaling slowly, and hacked till I was blue in the face, but my recovery was, breezy, like waking in hazy midday light, when all is fresh after a thunderstorm. Luckily I was already sitting down. My vision slowly cleared and I could make out my friends passing the blunt, pulling on it like it was the last breath they’d ever take. Listening to the blunt crackle and hiss as they pulled smoke through it for some reason brought me forward from my chair back and into the circle for another go. A second puff. The chasm in my mind widened to accommodate higher surfs of thought, that, and it felt like a thousand tiny fingers were massaging my head at once.
“Oh snap! Stella’s high!” my friend suddenly realized, shaking my shoulders with his hands.
“How do you feel, man?” another chirped.
“Kinda crazy. I mean, long john crazy—oh man,” I said, palming my forehead, laughing.
My friends seconded the motion with greater vigor. And we all walked back into the warm, smokey living room.
Our mirth gelled with the extant company. Settled in on the couches, we conversed merrily. Then I spied the plastic bag of confections. My first munchies. Really greedy munchies. One bar wouldn’t sate me. Stealthily snatching up the bag, I attempted to sneak several bars into the crevice in the couch—but to avail. A vigilant other caught me, kept silent, pilfered my fresh cache of bars without my noticing, and then publicly arraigned me by whacking me over the head with one of the larger, harder candy bars. Silence, then hysterical laughter. Thank god. New to this state, paranoia was strangling me. Maybe it was the derelict surroundings. If I had been in a dale of lavenders and purple thistles, I might had been calmer. Who wouldn’t? But no dale. No sun either. Just marred, white walls and sagging couches. Blunts later, I couldn’t feel feelings anymore.
Lying in my bed that night, my thoughts were ferried far off on the sounds of the city. I liked this. And there supine, I puffed a cloud of smoke, gray and ashy. It spun and billowed upward into obscurity; and I with it, to sleep.
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