Feeling the way I did about alcohol, it will come as no surprise that I didn’t do drugs either. I had a number of friends that smoked out and often enough that I could tell the relative quality of the marijuana by how it smelled.

My fear of drugs… and it was a fear, consisted of:

Oh you never know. You never know what might happen. You never know what it’s going to do to you. Everything’s a gateway and it will destroy your life and everything you hold near and dear to your heart.

I never heard that from my parents. The most I heard from my parents was get your grades up. The really heavy important things, drugs and sex we didn’t hear a word about.

Here is the sex talk I got from my father. My father was preachy… picture Jessie Jackson giving a lecture.

My father came to me one day. “Remember when Conrad was tearing through the fence to get to that German Shepherd next door?”

I did. That day our calm dog was crazed. I’m yanking on his leash, while my dad was beating him with his belt like he was a slave… Yeah, I know, but that’s another story for.

“Okay well we need to go and get him neutered,” my father said.

On the way there I asked, “What’s neutered?”

“Oh boy well… um well. James… um, you see when a man and a woman… um, want to um, make a baby…”

At this point I start to smile a little bit and I could have let him off the hook, because I realized right then that I knew what neutered meant. I also knew what this talk was going to be about. The thing is I get so little contact from my father as it is that I am into it.

That being said, at this point I’m thirteen. I discovered dads playboys when I was eight, another story for another time, got caught with the neighbor’s daughter when I was nine, also another story, started watching the late night cable movies when I was ten, I had sex education at school and my mother gave birth to my sister, when I was eleven, and on top of all that Porky’s came out when I was twelve, so I tried to keep from laughing and let dad finish… telling me how to make a baby. At one point he caught me smiling.

“This um… this… isn’t… too much for you is it?” he asked.

“No?” I said.

“Okay then when you get home you can go tell your mother you just learned about the birds and the bees.”

Now I only tell you that to illustrate the Texas mentality on everything. There are numerous things about Texas and Texans in general that I cannot stand. Now I will pause for a moment and listen for anything that sounds like a rifle being cocked, but during the time I lived there they got a few things right.

Texas, in the eighties, started teaching sex education in fifth grade. They sort of grazed over it then started stuffing it down your throat in sixth with recaps in seventh and eighth. It stopped just short of having a visual demonstration brought in, and who knows that might have happened in high school, I wasn’t there.

Drugs was different. Texas realized that there was an issue. They found the grade that the issue existed in, then dropped the class three grades below in an effort to terrify the ever living shit out of you forever.

So I’m in sixth grade. Its PE class and we are informed that we are not dressing today. We instead are going to an assembly. The boys and girls were all led to the cafeteria, which was set up like a dystopian interrogation from a Kafka novel.

Everyone spoke in that southern I eat shit accent. The windows were all blacked out and twenty cops stood around the room looking pretty pissed off, along with the principle, the assistant principle, all the coaches and the school nurse. In the center of the room a large screen and a projector was set up. I swear all we needed was to be strapped down and have those hooks put on to hold our eyes open. It probably would have been safer for some of us.

“That’s right chillen we’s gonna have ourselves a discussion about drugs. Any you kids ever taken drugs?”

Over the next fifty minutes we were shown the most horrid, disgusting, and mind blowing photographs I had ever seen. The cops told stories, read suicide notes, and showed slides of the bodies that went along with the suicide notes.

This kid Brad, he was sitting in the front and just fucken passed out. I mean just went over face first into the floor. It sounded like a bowling ball. The nurse and an officer were there in a flash. They scooped him up and dashed out of the room. Another kid did the same thing and they took him out. Five kids went out like that. I didn’t pass out, but years later, the first time I was around drugs, all of those images came flooding back to me.

“This guy believed he was Jesus Christ.” The officer said. They showed a slide of a normal every day kid. “And thought he could walk on water.” They showed a slide of a lake. “And he thought that his body would rise again on the third day. Well… it did.” The slide they showed of the kid’s body was worse than any horror movie I have seen before then.

So knowing this, when my friend Sean approached and asked. “So what are the chances of you coming out and rolling with us?”

Rolling is a term used for dropping ecstasy. I said no initially because I had never done drugs and I didn’t believe my life was any less because of it. I received no pressure from Sean, but as time went on I wasn’t exposed to it as much as I was around conversations about it, what happened last weekend, and things of that nature.

My own curiosity had me asking questions, and being a lover of science fiction well… You know dramas, demonize drugs, but I’ll tell you nothing glorifies drugs like science fiction.

I mean look at the facts. The worst thing that could happen is I go on a trip so far out that I believe I am in a science fiction movie. Best case senario… super powers… I’m just saying… drugs would be like the matrix or the hulk, both of which I’d be fine with.

Sean was excited when I said I wanted to try ecstasy. He was a wealth of information on the subject. He gave me a grocery list of what to eat and what not to eat during the day prior because certain enzymes in certain foods blocked the effects of the drug and so forth and so on.

It was a Friday night at a party behind a small art gallery. I was nervous about what was going to happen and it didn’t help that the voice of a big Texas cop still rang in my head.

“Everything’s a gateway drug and all drugs lead in three directions, stealing, prostitution and death. You gonna wind up homeless on the street doing god knows what for a hit of some smack in a place your momma won’t even come to get you! Is that what you want boy?”

After ingesting a drug it is a waiting game and a question of your metabolism as to when it’s going to kick in. During the first thirty minutes my fear sort of abated. It took so long that I began to wonder if it was going to work at all. Sean assured me that I would absolutely know when it happened.

I did…

Years later when I introduced a girlfriend to ecstasy for the first time her reaction went something like this.

“You know I don’t think that this stuff is what you think it… … … WOOOW!!!”

My own reaction was not quite so dramatic. The effects of ecstasy vary, but here is the sum of it.

There is a feeling you get when you’ve been busy and up for two days with no sleep and your body gives you that second wind. It’s a burst of energy and everything feels like it’s a dream, but you can go on. Then add the feeling that comes when you first meet someone and you don’t know if its love, but you are just happy at the world, and happy to see them, and just happy… I mean car accident, bird just shit on your head, no problem, happy! Your body temperature goes up about ten degrees as your heart rate increases.  Your muscles relax and your body becomes hyper sensitive.

Now take all that, and multiply it by ten or a hundred, and you are on ecstasy.

Wooow! Everything around me was fresh… and new… and beautiful. My pupils were the size of coffee cups and I could see everything. I stalked around the party smiling and greeting everyone. My inhibitions were gone, that is my fears. I realized this when a beautiful girl walked by and I just said, “Wow, you are really beautiful.” I walked away thinking, “What the hell was that?” It was the truth, I wanted to say it and I did. I had no expectations or fears, I didn’t care, I just said it.

Here is the bitch of it. Until that point in my life, that was the very first time I can remember that I ever spoke absolutely openly and honestly to someone without caring about what people might think about me. This fact fucked me up later.

Time ceased to exist, everything was happening now and I was a part of everything.

I have friends that say they never look at mirrors when they are on drugs, absolutely never. They are afraid of what they might see. That didn’t occur to me, but out of the corner of my eye I saw what I thought was a monster. I turned and was face to face with me, relaxed and in the moment and smiling from ear to ear.

I stared, examining my face and when the smile faded the monster came back. I laughed and realized how truly disarming my smile was, but that my straight face could be very negative.

It was three AM when we left the art gallery and drove to a house in Pasadena. I stepped out of the car and stepped right into Nightmare on Elm Street.

Wooow! Nooo, shiiittt. Pasadena has that look. In such an open state, it was virtually a given that I was going to freak myself out in some way and I did. I ran up the street looking for Freddy Krueger and I half expected to see Michael Meyers step out from behind one of the trees. I was in it and it was real.

Then I saw the cockroach.

There are two things in this world that bring the bitch right out of me. Rollercoasters and cockroaches. Now because of rollercoasters I know I’m a bitch, I don’t like falling, I don’t like being out of control and fifty stories in the sky in some rickety plastic shopping cart that’s hooked up to a pipe. Pipes burst! And they don’t tell you when they’re gonna burst. It just happens. And size doesn’t matter.

I got on this old squeaky thing at a carnival once. It took off and I was screaming as the thing went up and down and around, I was sixteen, and it was the kiddy coaster, but that’s not the point…

The point was I was a bitch and didn’t feel safe.

Same thing as cockroaches. They are disgusting and I don’t feel safe. They say the cockroach is the most adaptable insect on the planet. A cockroach is beyond nuclear. You know, you can’t even microwave a cockroach. Fuck that, that’s not natural, even Gremlins explode. Cockroaches, I don’t feel safe, simple as that.

And not the little ones, little ones are gross, but they look like silver fish. I can deal with silver fish, even if there’s a lot of them. The thing is, they say of you go camping and you see a bear cub you don’t mess with it. Why? It’s just a cute little bear cub, like a puppy with hands. Anyone know why?  Momma. Mommas gonna be coming home. Same thing with Cockroaches. You find a family of little suckers, number one… kill them all before they get big, number two… momma and daddy are big, and you’re fucked cause they got a lot of cousins.

My first apartment, the one I almost burned down with Bacardi, had a bit of a problem. Back then I slept on this shitty little futon that was right on the floor.

You know when something happens to you while you’re sleeping, not enough to wake you up, but just enough to affect your dreams? You know, you’re making out with someone and you get your pants down and wake up and it’s your dog. I’m not saying that happened to me, but… anyway, story for another time.

So someone touches my wrist. And I think someone is in bed with me. Then in that semiconscious dream state I wonder who’s in bed with me because I went to bed alone.

Then I’m instantly awake slapping at my wrist and jumping up in bed. My adrenaline and my heart rate are spiked. I flip on the light, grab my sword…

Yes, I know, a sword.

I start swinging for all I’m worth. In the corner on my bookshelf a fucking cockroach that is straight out of the mind of Stephen king.

I lay into the thing. It’s on its back, its legs are moving and I’m standing on my futon, kicking things out of the way, because this is obviously a giant evil ninja cockroach.

I knock away my books, my alarm clock, lotion… that’s a totally separate story… but in my adrenaline fueled fear I’m hacking and hacking and I chop the thing into three pieces.

But here’s the thing. It’s still fucking alive.

The legs are still going. It’s fucking three in the morning, I’ve broken a sweat and Cujo the cockroach is still alive right above where I lay my head.

So I do what any sane person would do in this situation. I close my bedroom up and I go sleep on the couch in the living room… AND I do not return to the bedroom without a bug bomb that I set off the next day. The room is the size of a closet, but I dedicate one bomb to it. One to the living room which is not much bigger, one to the kitchen and one to the bathroom.

Now here is the bitchiest part of my fear. I cannot pick up, go near, or sweep up a dead cockroach. No! Because you never know. Ever see a house fly play dead? Seriously! House flies will play dead. Don’t ask me where they learned this shit from, but I have seen it. Hit that sucker in the window and it drops. Then watch it. The first time I saw a fly do that I was like damnit I thought I had that thing. What pissed me off later was… I got out smarted by a house fly.

So you never know with insects and a cockroach is no ordinary bug. I do not get a paper towel. I do not get the broom and dustpan. I get out my shop vac. Not even a dust buster, too small. I get my big ass shop vac with the four foot stay the fuck away from me pole attachment and the five foot really stay the fuck away from me hose attachment and suck that bitch up. Then I have to run it for a while because the undead cockroach might… might land at the bottom of the eight gallon bucket, climb out, crawl along the nine foot hose attachment and enact its revenge on me.

This is who I was, but when you are on ecstasy, you don’t have fear like that. You are calm and clear and open to anything. So from the corner of my eye I see this cockroach moving on the sidewalk. In that instant I remember how I’m supposed to feel about it, but I don’t feel that way. I get right down on the ground and I watch it. I start to follow it and it’s not disgusting. All my rational and irrational thoughts are there, but they are buried in the back of my head. This thing is not concerned with me at all.

I had a bit of a revelation in that moment and a bit of breakthrough.

Eleven hours later the ecstasy wore off and what I was truly left with was that the experience was not unique. Everything I’d felt on ecstasy, were things I had felt before. It was a hundred times more intense and vivid, but I had felt all of those sensations before. And I wanted more of it. I wanted more of what was out there. I wanted to discover and experience. And that didn’t necessarily include drugs. What I realized was that for eleven hours I was absolutely in the magic and wonder of the moment and present to everything. I had touched something that was as close to science fiction as I had ever come and it was cool.

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate cockroaches. And they are still disgusting, but I no longer need swords and shop vacs to take care of them.

 

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