I’sitting on the edge of this guy’s waterbed while he explains the belt drive on his record player. Or maybe his record player’s better because it doesn’t have a belt drive. I’m not sure. I haven’t been listening because I don’t give a shit. He says the waterbed’s vintage but I think I’ve got it beat. When did they start adding bookshelves to the headboards, mid-eighties? It doesn’t matter. The point is, I’m too fucking old to be sitting in this studio apartment, pretending to be impressed by his record collection. But this is what we do in states run by Evangelical zealots that won’t legalize marijuana.
I’m lucky this is my problem with buying drugs. There’s little chance I’ll get pulled over on the way home. If I do, it’s unlikely a cop will search me. If he searches me, and finds drugs, I probably won’t get worse than probation. I live in Austin, Texas. I’m white. I can scrape together enough for a lawyer. That doesn’t mean it’s not a pain in the ass to have to sit here in a cloud of patchouli listening to Kyle tell me I’ve never really heard Fleetwood Mac. I mean, really heard them, you know?
It’s always some guy named Kyle or Greg or Steve. This guy’s a Kyle. As far as Kyles go, he’s not the worst. Last Kyle I had was back in Maryland. He had a pet lizard and a lot of questions about my sex life. My next guy was Greg, who had a pet snake.
A good rule is if your new pot dealer has a pet snake, find a new pot dealer. He’s going to make you watch him feed the snake. It’s only a matter of time. But I had to keep going to Greg because he was my girlfriend’s buddy from back in high school.
He and my girlfriend talked once about how he’d make a great sperm donor. But he wanted to do it naturally. She never mentioned it to me. Greg made a point to fill me in while I watched his video game character bum rush another heavily armed soldier then teabag the corpse. The guy on the couch laughed.
A good rule is if your new pot dealer has a pet snake, find a new pot dealer.
There’s always a guy on the couch — shirt optional — smoking free pot. The couch guy rarely talks. He mostly sits there, breathing heavily, fondling the Xbox controller in his lap trying to hide the fact he’s in love with Kyle or Greg or Steve. When a couch guy does talk, I immediately miss the heavy breathing.
This couch guy was waiting for Greg to go into the bedroom and get the pot so he could ask me the next question on his list of shit douchebags on couches ask lesbians. “Like, if you’re using a dildo, what’s the difference anyway?” He’d have to wait until next time. Greg wanted me to watch a squeaking mouse drop to a certain death in a terrarium. I managed to leave with the bag before the snake felt hungry.
I was glad I was already stoned. Pot dealers like you to smoke on arrival. It makes them feel safe. It makes me feel a little less like screaming.
“Like, if you’re using a dildo, what’s the difference anyway?”
I was buying pot to numb the panic attacks. I didn’t know they were panic attacks then. I knew sometimes I couldn’t breathe and the world closed in around me. I knew a simple thing like a roommate playing the radio while cleaning the apartment or people talking over music at a house party could overwhelm me, cause my hands to shake and my skin to piss sweat. I knew a smell like patchouli or rotten leaves could make me hide in a bathroom to beat my fists against my legs and vomit. I knew if I smoked before I lost the ability to flick a lighter, I might be okay. I knew this all began after some drunk asshole raped me back when I was in the Air Force. I just didn’t like naming the problem. It felt like acceptance.
I was fine. I smoked a little pot. Who doesn’t.
The panic attacks were getting worse because I was working as a cable tech, walking into strangers’ houses, and all too often, completely at the mercy of some guy.
Having to then hang out in some guy’s patchouli-fumed living room, listening to guys talk over the rage rock playlist while a shirtless guy asked me questions about my sex life in order to get the drugs I needed to deal with some guy who’d copped a feel at work seemed a little fucking excessive. But there was no other fucking option. This was Northern Virginia, and pot wouldn’t be legal in DC for several years.
There was a period after the breakup with Greg’s friend when I couldn’t find pot. And I was tired of smiling and pretending to be friends with a guy who’d eventually ask me “So who’s the man though, really.” I took my disinterest as a sign, along with the rest of my life falling apart, that I should try to get my shit together. Getting my shit together meant I started seeing a psychiatrist at the VA who promptly diagnosed me with PTSD and handed me the first of many bottles of correct, legal, get-your-shit-together drugs. Prozac didn’t work; so we tried Wellbutrin. When that didn’t work, we added Zoloft. Switch one out for Cymbalta. Let’s add trazodone. Still crazy? Okay, up the Wellbutrin but let’s switch to clonazepam. Have we tried citalopram yet? Let’s switch that to Paxil.
Here’s the thing. These drugs work miracles for most people. Maybe they did work for me as antidepressants. I don’t know if I felt depressed. I couldn’t feel anything at all. I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t cry. Nothing. I was trapped somewhere in my brain where I could no longer find myself. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I could think about wanting to die, but if I took enough trazodone or clonazepam or whatever they’d given me that week, I could fall asleep. Still, I dreaded waking up each morning to another day of nothing. Most days, I don’t remember at all. But I kept taking the pills.
I was raised by hippies who smeared my feet with chopped garlic to cure the measles. So I fucking believe in medicine. I believe in vaccines. I believed the doctors who told me they just needed to find the right combination.
Eventually, I started smoking pot again if only so that I could feel something, and to numb the pain in my bones from years of shitty jobs. Which meant I had to wait in Steve’s apartment watching his avatar wander around a map, picking up random shiny objects, until Steve felt like weighing out a bag. When Steve stopped answering my text messages, because that’s what pot dealers do, I tried another method.
I had to wait in Steve’s apartment watching his avatar wander around a map, picking up random shiny objects, until Steve felt like weighing out a bag.
This was after another breakup. I’d texted every known pot head in my phone but couldn’t find a hookup. What I had were concert tickets. Citizen Cope was sold out at the 9:30 Club and no one in my state needed to go see Citizen Cope. I’ve never liked crowds anyway. So I put an ad on craigslist. “Face value or whatever you have to start my bender.” Within an hour my inbox was a cornucopia of drugs.
I was proud of my ingenuity until the guy showed up. His polo shirt was tucked neatly into his dockers and his shoes had been shined. He looked like a cop. I told him so. He said, “Yeah, well, so do you.” He wasn’t wrong. I do look like that dyke cop who mocked you for crying about the speeding ticket. It’s the haircut, mostly.
Anyway, we were at an impasse. I couldn’t smoke in front of him to assuage his fears. He sure as fuck wasn’t going to smoke in front of someone who was definitely a cop. We probably stood there in my living room for a solid ten minutes trying to solve the problem when my sketchy roommate with the cock-ring gauges in their ears came up from the basement to ask me for a lighter. They saw him and startled, dropped the bowl, and dropped to their knees, picking at the carpet saying, “My drugs. Oh no. Not my drugs.”
When I finally left the DC area, I ended up in Portland. One day I had the sort of cramps that punish you for thinking motrin will help. So I thought I’d see what legal weed was like. It took three tries. The first two shops were manned by the sort of guys who keep reptiles as pets. But finally I found the right shop. Legal weed at the right shop meant a black woman with dreads could take one look at my pasty face and say, “Oh, honey. You need a good Indica.” Legal pot meant I could tell her sometimes I thought smoking might make the PTSD worse. I’d get paranoid. She showed me which strains to avoid. The next time, I asked her if she had something less intense, something I could use and be out in public. That week I attended a Trailblazers game in an arena packed with guys. And I had fun.
“My drugs. Oh no. Not my drugs.”
I’m in Austin now. Nothing’s exactly legal here. But I don’t have to see Kyle anymore. My dealer’s a drag queen with a horror movie collection I don’t have to pretend to care about. Her weed comes from Portland and Denver. She does have a lizard but I don’t think she’s interested in my sex life. At least, she’s never asked.