I had been out of cannabis for a day or so when, on Saturday, I drove to the Circle K a short distance from my apartment, checked the ATM and was happy to find that my check had finally gone through. After withdrawing some cash I called a friend I work with in the hopes of buying some plant-life, but after some time without a response, I texted Elizabeth and Jonas. They in turn got a hold of one of their cannabis contacts and said they would have him meet me at the fast food joint where Elizabeth and I work.
After spending a good deal of time waiting there, the guy still hadn’t showed and I was growing annoyed. This was taking longer than I’d hoped for. Did I really have to hang out at my shameful place of employment on one of my days off? Damn this place to their mythological hell for being a convenient halfway point between home and that goddamn college town. I texted Elizabeth. Her and Jonas weren’t able to get a hold of him, either, so they offered to let me hang out at their apartment until they could. If not, they knew another guy. While not a bad idea on the surface, my directional dyslexia made this quite a challenge in my mind. Yes, I had been to her apartment before, but it had been some time and I evidently cannot retain driving directions. Elizabeth asked if I remembered where Gabes was and I felt fairly certain I did — after all, it was on the same road as work was, albeit in the aforementioned college town.
Off I went.
Off my rocker, too, of course. Predictably, I couldn’t find the damned place. As I drove up and down the road, I almost wished that this was a foreign experience, though it was all too nauseatingly familiar.
My sense of direction:
a spinning compass
on a vessel
in the very heart
of the Bermuda Triangle.
On my fourth time pulling around, I think, I finally saw the sign, clear as day at a considerable distance. After pulling into the lot, I saw her car immediately, even before she flashed her lights, and parked so that our driver-side windows met. Thinking back to the text I sent her regarding how I knew where the place was, the first thing I said to her was a statement of the pathetically obvious: “So I guess I don’t know where Gabes is.” In response, she politely smiled. Elizabeth knows me well enough to have expected this, or at least that this ridiculous scenario of me getting lost was well within the realm of possibility, so I do have some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t surprised. Still, it was frustrating, embarrassing. I was ashamed of myself and I felt sorry that she was empathic enough to deal with my limitless shortcomings.
I followed her back to her apartment, parked in visitor parking, and then hopped into her car, after which she drove us to a spot closer to her apartment complex. All the while I was juggling between conversation and my self-loathing thoughts, already frustrated not only with myself but how the day was going in general. I just wanted to hide in my apartment until I had to work tomorrow and all I wanted was some pot to help me relax, maybe get some restful sleep, and shit just kept getting more drawn out and complicated. Now I was coming down slowly from my mild anxiety attack on the road.
Upstairs, I watched Jonas has he played some video game, shooting it out from the first person perspective in some battle on the television screen. I’m always kind of a lost voyeur when people play video games when I’m around — which isn’t an entirely bad thing all-around. Sometimes I’m awed by the graphics or by their proficiency in the game despite my entire lack of interest in the game itself. Personally, though? Full disclosure, I stopped following and playing video games back when Atari 2600 was top of the line, so I wasn’t about to ask if I could join him. It’s just not a desire. But watching him play — and watching him play that game in particular — made me wonder how I could ever make it out of such a battle alive, simulated or otherwise. If doomsday is ever upon us, I’m fucked. If my past life memories are true, it simply boggles my mind: how the bloody fuck could I have fought in a war, be it in an earthly jungle or an alien desert?
Absurdities atop absurdities.
We seemed to wait forever till the pot peddler finally got back to them. As it made little sense for me to follow or even accompany them, they left me behind to chain-smoke and watch Family Guy episodes only to return a short time later with a baggie for them and a baggie for me.
They said that the cops were everywhere; they’d passed at least two cars that had been pulled over. I worried about my taillight, which some random guy in my apartment complex told me was out and which I had yet to fix. I worried about getting lost on the way back to familiar territory. More importantly, perhaps, I worried about having this psychoactive bud-in-a-bag, which I could smell through the plastic at a good distance. And it smelled fucking great, but that was entirely beside the point. Elizabeth suggested I take her bag of Jolly Ranchers, bury the green sunshine beneath the candy, twist it like a motherfucker and fasten it with a hair tie. Or she told me that to some degree, anyway, for that is exactly what I did. I decided that once I got to the car I’d just toss it in my trunk for safety.
I didn’t want to stay much longer. I was tired from lack of sleep and from freaking out on the road, but I felt it would be rude to just grab the bag and go, so I announced that I’d have one more cigarette before taking off. In the midst of my smoke Jonas kindly asked if I wanted to toke a bit of herbal remedy before my launch, but I thought it would be ill-advised. When he then offered me one hit off their relatively new bong, I hemmed and hawed, however, but before I had consciously decided either way I found bong and lighter in hand and this growing gurgling filling my ears.
For some time I’ve been aware that I have an issue with taking monstrous hits in general — even off my cigarettes — and to make matters worse I honestly don’t remember the last time I took a hit off a bong. Or a hit that big. I coughed, it seemed, for a solid minute, during which time Jonas told me my face was the color of the red flannel I was wearing. He thought I might puke. For a moment I did as well.
Before I was even done choking I knew that I was high as fuckity-fuck and that this had been a poor decision on my part. Instantly I was reminded of a Louis CK bit in which he explained how he smoked some pot with some kids after a show. When he realized how high he was and that he had to drive back to his hotel, he was struck with a dismal revelation.
“Oh. Shit,” he thought. “This is an ordeal now.”
To be honest, his bit as a whole was fitting as fuck. I was embarrassed, tortured by shame that I was so helplessly, hopelessly stoned after a single, solitary hit. Had I been home and alone this would have been relaxing, but: I was not, and this sure as hell was not.
I was fucked.
Elizabeth offered some Doritos, which at first sounded great — not only were they tasty, they would help me sober up — but after grabbing the bag she passed to me and shoveling two of its contents between my lips, any remaining moisture in my mouth was simply gone. I was cradling a lump of sand behind my teeth. Sipping from the cup of coffee I had gotten from work, java which had long since grown cold, utterly failed to remedy the dry mouth, but I could finally swallow the flavorful sand, in the very least. I only hoped the caffeine wouldn’t exacerbate my anxiety.
I focused on belly breathing, trying to relax and focus. My cigarette, long since out. Watching Family Guy as Jonas played on his phone, I felt like I was overstaying my welcome now. I was beginning to feel awkward. Belly breathe, I told myself. Relax. From the book of Dream With the Fishes, fuck the Water-Rat. Be the Buddha Rat. Summon sobriety. Conjure confidence. Go the distance.
“All right,” I said aloud, though in retrospect it seemed as though I was telling myself more than them, “I think I’m going to try and drive home.”
If I was a religious person, this is where I would start praying, but I denied myself the comfort of that illusion a long time ago.
Jonas put his number in my phone. After I promised to call him if I got lost and text him after safely arriving home, I exited the door. As I began walking, I told myself that it wasn’t too late to turn around, knock on their door and confess to somehow still being so stoned off a solo hit from their bong that I could hardly think straight, much less drive.
Hopeless. Powerless. Confused as fuck.
And: I’m ba-ack.
There was no way I was doing that to them unless I absolutely had to.
In the midst of thinking this I realized that I was already walking down the hallway in a probability-wave-collapsing direction. Even if I turned around I wouldn’t know the right apartment door — I wouldn’t know it if I walked my stupid cranium right smack into it. So I kept walking. Kept pushing through. One foot in front of the other. There was this vague sense that I might have turned out of their door and down the hall in the wrong direction, but I heard someone walking behind me and I was too nervous to turn around and seem foolish in the eyes of a stranger or, for all I knew, an officer of the law. So I kept walking.
“Are you going through hell? Keep going…”
If I found an exit at the opposite end of the building that only meant that I would have to walk all the way around the building. No big deal. No problem. I’ve done this countless times at malls, at Walmart. It might take a shamefully long time, but I would find my car. I could not be so dumb and blind as to pass by it.
All would be well. No worries.
Lost in thought, it comes to my attention as I’m walking down my umpteenth flight of stairs that I had taken the elevators up to their apartment. This suggested that I must be heading towards an exit at the other end of the building. I may have turned around after hitting the bottom floor, but I am fairly certain that I ended up exiting the doors Elizabeth and I had entered. In the end, to be honest, it made no difference.
Outside, it was dark. For what seemed like forty-five minutes I walked around that building over and over, fixed in my frantic orbit, determined but increasingly clearly unable to locate my car. On countless occasions I became convinced the search was over only to find, a foot from the car in question, that it was not my own after all. At least twice it was the same car that I had mistaken for my own.
This could go on forever.
Embarrassed, I felt sure that the college kids were watching from their dorm windows, transfixed on this creepy, 38-year-old guy with a handlebar mustache circling their apartment complex endlessly, clearly on drugs, holding his car keys, cup of cold coffee and his cannabis coffin, a bag of jolly ranchers, as he stared anxiously at all the parked cars. I feared this was the kind of suspicious activity that was likely to attract the cops, which didn’t help my confused and hopelessly paranoid state of mind.
Around and ’round and ’round: I was getting dizzy and angry.
Finally it hits me. I suddenly see it for what it is. There is another parking lot. It is right beside the parking lot around the apartment complex — the one which I have been revolving for a seeming eternity. It is a lone, large compartmentalized sector off this main lot, connected by a branching road to this lot and the exit, and so presumably used for this building, too. Which is to say: it suddenly hits me that this might just be the visitor parking area. I mean, it made sense that I would have parked here, in an area removed from the building itself, given that I am a visitor.
Hopeful, I walked down to it and almost immediately saw my car — or what I mindlessly presumed to be my car. “That’s not it,” I said aloud in frustration, ready to freak out. I then spun around. “But that is!”
This time, it actually was my car, and I was relieved — though irritation was still the predominant emotion. Wasting no time, I opened the door, stuck the Jolly Rancher bag behind the front passenger seat (I was too eager to get home and paranoid that I was being watched to even take the time to pop my trunk, much less bury the fruity weed coffin in there) and almost left my cup of cold coffee on top of the fucking car. While I still had light, I took a look at the directions I wrote on my cigarette pack:
Left out of parking lot.
Right at the light until you make it home.
I rolled down both my driver and passenger windows. It would not only air out the car but help me sober up as I drove, for even after all that walking around, I still felt stoned out of my stupid, hypersensitive mind. This was rather bothersome, as I had to go through the heart of the college town and then pass through the degenerate town I work in so as to reach the long, dark stretch of road that would bring me to my safe, comfy, warm fucking apartment. As I drove totally stoned I worried that I was weaving. That I was hugging the yellow line. Or the white line. That there was no possible way that I was not going to get pulled over.
And then I saw it. Those flashing red and blue lights reflecting off my dash.
Fuck. Fuckity fuckballs.
In that moment I knew it was all over. I was going to jail. They would pull me over, have me step out of the car. They would surely smell the weed on me, see it in the bursting read veins surely bursting like cracks in the desert in my eyes. Suspicious, they would search my car. They would find the bag of Jolly Ranchers in which my bag of sunshine was gestating. But no. No, it was actually a cop car somewhere far behind me who had pulled someone else over.
Keep driving. Stay the limit. Relax as you focus, focus.
I finally made it out of the college town, passed the fast food joint I basically lived in, and forward, through the five-way intersection and into the darkness beyond. Shortly thereafter I noted the quality of my vision and the third-person sense of perspective. The vision itself seemed to be of a widescreen, high-definition quality that made me think of my memories of the alien, desert world for the second time in a single evening. In the midst of this, eager to get home, I attempted to measure how much longer it might be until I got there and reasoned that I had driven halfway home from the starting point of the five-way intersection.
Then? Then I saw the stop sign in the distance. This stop sign is a very short distance, certainly less than a minute, passed the aforementioned five-way. Though the air was taken out of me with respect to how much farther I had to travel until approaching my lair of leisure, I was nonetheless amazed at how warped my time perception had become. At the sight of that stop sign I knew damned well that this meant that I still had a twenty minute journey ahead of me, however, and there were certainly fears that, at least in an experiential sense, this journey might very well take forever.
Once home, try as I might, I still didn’t relax. Even so, I kept my promise. I texted Jonas:
The Eagle has landed.
I kindly omitted the fact that the bald, featherbrained motherfucker had not landed so gracefully.