I was 18 the first time I got high. I remember it vividly, better than I remember pretty much everything else from high school, including, but not limited to: getting my driver's license, trying and miserably failing to date our high school's head cheerleader and almost getting beat up by the quarterback in the process, the time my soccer team lost the state championship because I collided with a kid and sent him to the hospital, which led to the other team getting so amped they mustered up a comeback, prom, getting accepted to college, graduation and, like, calculus being the fucking worst. Those were more important, sure, and definitely had more bearing on who I am as a human and a person, but, for whatever reason, I remember every single detail of smoking pot with five of my friends on a Thursday afternoon in June of 2007. This is the story of that.
It was a Thursday, just a few days short of my high school graduation. I can't remember how exactly we'd reached the decision to buy weed from a schizophrenic kid at the far end of our school's gravel parking lot on that particular day, but I recall it had something to do with the fact that it was a half-day, which would allow us to get stoned and then un-stoned without our parents finding out, and because the schizophrenic kid (who once admitted to me he'd spent the first four months of our friendship trying to tell me apart from the radio) was the only plug in school who wasn't too cool to talk to us. I gave him twenty bucks in exchange for a wadded up Ziplock bad of a gnarled, knotty plant that more or less resembled weed. As he handed it to me, the reality set in that I—an awkward kid, a nerdy kid, a kid who had something blow up in his face every time he broke a rule, a kid who desperately wanted to be cool, but who was painfully not cool and whose desperate desire to be cool made him painfully even less so—was about to commit the illegal act of purchasing drugs. A couple dudes on my golf team had been caught smoking on top of the mountain by a park ranger and I'd heard a rumor that they'd somehow been charged with tax evasion along with some heinous drug crime. I went flush in the sticky inferno that is the North Carolina summer like I was being punished for sins not yet committed. We then drove thirty minutes to my best friend's house in the middle of nowhere, where we realized that: 1. We didn’t have a lighter and 2. None of us had any idea how to actually smoke weed.
After rummaging around my best friend's kitchen for one of those long lighters that you use to set a grill on fire, we hollowed out a cigarette and crudely stuffed whole chunks of weed in it. We set this contraption on fire and took turns sucking on it. None of us—even those amongst us who'd actually smoked before—felt anything, so it was back to the drawing board, a drawing board that yielded an empty Sprite can we found in the recycling. We knocked a dent in our 12oz. chalice of destiny, carved a little hole out in the top and placed a nugget of weed in it. We took turns lighting our makeshift bowl for each other, inhaling, exhaling and waiting again to see if it worked. We ended up smoking the entire sack this way because we figured if they sold it in that amount, then that was the amount you were supposed to consume in one sitting.
Whenever I think about how I've matured over time, I think about afternoons like that, where something so commonplace and wholly uninteresting to me now was once a new, illicit, gargantuan threshold to cross.
Sure enough, through either the weed itself or the toxic fumes that come from melting an aluminum can with butane, we went from zero to real fucking high, real fucking quick. Everything felt like it was in slow motion even though, obviously, it wasn't. We tried playing basketball only to double over in laughter at the very idea of basketball. I became convinced that the neighbors could smell us smoking, which led to me freaking out, which led to me laughing at the idea of me freaking out, which led to me freaking out that I was laughing at the idea of me freaking out, et cetera et cetera et cetera and spiraling into some dumbass infinity. It soon subsided around the same time we realized we'd actually gotten the dog high from all the second-hand smoke.
Weirdly enough, this was one of the few times I never actually got in trouble for doing some dumb shit in high school (mom, if you're reading this, sorry). The rest of the day, after we'd stopped being stratospherically high, was super lame. We went and got Zaxby's fried chicken and then snuck it into a movie. We laughed slightly harder than normal at it probably because we wanted so badly to be higher than we actually were. Then, we all went home. Nobody died. Nobody got arrested.
These days, I go through streaks with smoking. There are months-long periods where I'll smoke weed every single day and then times when I don't smoke at all. Getting high serves a very different purpose for me than it once did: What was once an act of rebellion—a way to get fucked up and forget my town full of nothing—is now something that helps balance me out, calm me down when things get too hectic and clear my head from the noise that punctuates daily life in a big city. I, and I suspect the majority of adult smokers, don't identify at all with "stoner culture," however loose a term that may be. It's insane to me that what is totally a non-factor in my life was once taboo, the focal point of weeks of planning that culminated in an entire afternoon seven years ago. Whenever I think about how I've matured over time, I think about afternoons like that, where something so commonplace and wholly uninteresting to me now was once a new, illicit, gargantuan threshold to cross.
My generation is getting old enough to develop a sense of nostalgia, one that's become remarkably easy for others to commodify. Spider Mans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Planets of the Apes are swinging/crawling/uprising right out of our childhoods and into movie theaters for us to spend money on. Blink 182 and Taking Back Sunday have taken on a renewed sense of cultural significance, while the sounds of early-2000s hip-hop and R&B has become nearly fetishized by many of the hottest electronic producers working. The shit we wore in middle school—pastels, cargo pants, hats with bent bills—have suddenly become fashionable, blown up and tricked out for our updated bodies and spending power. Every day, there is a new BuzzFeed list tailored specifically for us—"20 Lisa Frank Designs Only People Who Were in First Grade in 1996 Will Remember!," "13 Memorable Zima Moments!," "69 Sloth Jokes OG Magnetic Fields Fans Will Love!"—and our ownership of our own histories is being replaced with recollections of our specious, poignant interactions with brands. The past is being repackaged and sold to us, to the point where most of our interactions with culture will be sullied by the knowledge that someone wants to make money off of our memories. Maybe this is why I remember that first afternoon I got high and did nothing so vividly. Because in a world where your memories are worth money to someone else, it's good to have a few so fucking dumb that they're all your own.