Thursday, July 14, 2011


A policeman comes to my third grade classroom with a suitcase full of drugs. They aren't real drugs, just plastic ones to show us so we know what drugs look like if someone tries to give them to us. There's a big green leaf, pastel colored tablets, a sheet of paper all crisscrossed into squares and each square is printed with Mighty Mouse. He shows us capsules, baggies of powder, baggies of what looks like the oregano at the pizza place in town and all of these things seem so different, especially the needle that looks like the one my doctor uses to give me booster shots, that it seems weird to me that they can all be labeled under the same category, but they are all drugs.

I don't quite get what drugs are, just that they are bad. I'm uncertain what they do, but the policeman makes it clear that as we get bigger, and that's going to be pretty soon, there are going to be people he calls pushers and dealers and they're going to want us to do these drugs (how does someone do a leaf?). These people might want us to get other kids to do the drugs too and then the pushers might want us to sell drugs and give them all the money.

Never do this, the policeman tells us. If a pusher tries to talk to you, you just turn around and run as fast as you can in the other direction and tell a grown up.

I have nightmares about pushers and dealers. In my dreams they look like different kinds of monsters and just as the policeman told us, they are lurking around schools, slithering around the flagpole and clawing their way up the fence that surrounds my elementary. They try to make me do drugs. They're clutching my clothes and trying to shove fistfuls of caplets into my mouth and sticking me with needles. In the dreams, I always break free and run because I always do as I'm told.

I never forget what the policeman told me. Drugs are bad. Don't do drugs. Bad people do drugs. I listen to the cop.

My father tries to scare me before I visit my mother on the weekends. He warns me about her.

"She's a drug dealer," he says, "and so is her husband. You better be careful and never let her give you drugs. If she does drugs in front of you, you call home immediately because that's very dangerous."

This seems impossible. How can my mother be a drug dealer? My mother hangs around schools and tries to get kids -? No. It's absurd.

I never see my mother with any of the things in the suitcase the policeman brought to my classroom. I never see her around schoolyards. So why would my father say something like that?


I look of course, because that's the way I am. Cautious. But I never see any pushers around my school.

Maybe it happens in middle school I think, in fifth grade. I never see any pushers around my middle school either. I never hear of anyone being approached. I never hear about anybody trying to give a kid drugs. Nothing like this ever happens, so what was the police man talking about? Why would he try to scare little kids like that?


I know my mother isn't a drug dealer. When I'm eleven and I go to live with her in New York she's trying to start a cosmetic company. I tell her how my father tried to scare me and tried to tell me she was a drug dealer.

"I sold pot when I was younger," she says and I'm shocked. I know what pot is. Like cigarettes. That was the big green leaf in the suitcase and the oregano in the baggie.

"So it was true?"

"Yes, but that was a long time ago when you were really little and I did it because I was desperate until I got busted and went to jail."

I think about this for a long time and there is a lot I want to know.

"When you sold pot did you hang around schools and get little kids to do drugs?"

"What? What kind of question is that?"

I explain the policeman.

"That is ridiculous. I've never heard of anybody doing that. People just sell to grown-ups they know who want to do drugs. They don't try to recruit little kids. Maybe in Harlem in gangs or something, but not in Millpond. Please."


My mother tells me her stories. I'm a teenager now and she never hides anything from me. She also tells me that drugs are the worst things you can do.

"If I ever catch you doing drugs, I swear to God I will beat your ass. I will make you go to public school and I'll call the cops and make them take you to jail. Don't you ever do what I did. I made the worst mistakes of my life so I could spare you from having to make them yourself. People who do drugs are losers. Drugs will ruin your whole entire life."

"Would you stop it. I would never do drugs," I say.

I don't know anyone who does drugs. What kind of high school kids do drugs, I wonder. Why would my mom even think to say something like that to me? Only people in the inner cities do drugs. That's what that artist is spray painting "Crack Kills" all over the city. I see his murals on the way into the city when we go get Chinese on the weekends. The message definitely isn't meant for people like me.


I don't go on my tenth grade class's overnight trip. They go river rafting and camping in the woods upstate and I don't want to go because I'm scared I'll get my period or that I'll have to poop in the woods and the boy I like will be there and I would die if I had to poop around him. I'd rather just stay home and read and my mother doesn't mind because she thinks river rafting is dangerous and camping is stupid.

When I get to school Monday morning after the trip something bad has happened. The administrators are all talking. They take all thirty of us tenth graders (it's a small school) out of class and make us sit silently in our homeroom. I ask the girl next to me what happened.

"A bunch of people got caught smoking pot on the trip and nobody will rat and say how many people were involved and who brought it," she whispers.

I am as shocked as if she had told me that on the school trip they all got naked in the woods and sacrificed a goat to the devil. A bunch of rich white kids from the suburbs smoking pot?

The entire class except for me and two other girls who are really nerdy and have no friends because all they do is play cello and go to math club get suspended for two days. They send everyone home.

Later it dawns on me that I've been naive. The cool girls sneak off campus at lunch. The prettiest girl in my class is named Alexia and she'll always smile a sly grin at her friends and tell them she's wearing green underwear today. Once I asked her what that was supposed to mean and they all laughed in my face.

Green underwear. Everyone in my class except me and the math club girls wore green underwear, right there, right under their clothes and I never even knew it.


I love David. I love him more than anything in the entire world and I am so lucky to finally have a boyfriend. He tells me he has smoked pot before.

"That's crazy," I say, "What's wrong with you? You'll ruin your whole life. I have an aunt who does it and she's a mess. A policeman came to school when I was little and told us all about drugs and you know what? I was smart and I listened to him. Drugs will kill you."

"You're such a goody goody. It's just pot. It's no big deal. It's not even as bad as getting drunk."

"I don't do that either," I say.

"Of course you don't goody goody." 


We move to Florida and David and I still love each other. We're still together. We talk as much as our parents will allow us to run up the long distance and I go from class to class at my new school filling notebooks with letters to him. I wonder if my teachers think I'm actually paying attention and taking notes. David writes me too and sends me sketches and paintings he does. He's going to be an artist.

"That's why I have to do acid," he tells me on the phone one night. 

It's the weekend and he's about to go to a party where he and his friends are going to trip.

Mighty Mouse, I remember. I beg him not to do it.

"My uncle did that and ended up running naked down the highway thinking he was Jesus and they had to put him in a mental institution. He's still crazy. That stuff's dangerous."

I know about acid, LSD from books. I read all the beats because it's cool and they all did drugs in the 60s. I even read Ken Kesey. I read a lot of Tom Robbins now too and all of his characters are always doing acid, but those books are so silly, like fairy tales. They aren't real and I know that. In real life, acid is a terrible thing. Terrible. I try to tell David stories about people whose minds get stuck that way but he laughs at me and I start to tell him a story about this guy who lived next to Aunt Kiki who did so much acid that his mind turned to hot, chewed bubblegum. He lived with his mother and had constant flashbacks so he never knew what was real and what wasn't. He once told me that Linda Evans was talking to him and telling him to travel to California to be with her on Dynasty. 

David doesn't want to listen to me and the next night he calls to tell me how wonderful the acid trip was.

"See, you were wrong. I didn't get stuck that way."

For Christmas I get a plane ticket to go back to New York to visit David. He's done acid a bunch of times, mushrooms too and he smokes pot a lot now when last summer he didn't.

"It's my senior year! I have to have fun!" he says.

He tells me all the time that I'm no fun at all. I'm no fun and I'm all the way in Florida now. He could forget me so easily. He could make me alone in an instant.

It snows on Christmas Eve and I want to cry because in a week I'll have to go back to Florida where it's flat, dry and hot.

David's friends pick us up. It's early evening and they want to get high before their parents make them go to family gatherings and midnight mass. The only place to go is the Grand Union parking lot, where they roll a joint because Jim can't find his pipe, but then he does and they pack a bowl too.

"I want you to smoke for me." David says.

I look out the car window at snow falling sideways through an orange shaft of streetlight.

"Please, come on. The snow is so pretty when you're stoned."

I think of the policeman. The pushers never showed up around any school I went to. Nothing was how he said it was. What if smoking pot really was no big deal?

Everyone in the car is laughing. Santa is ringing his bell in front of the automatic doors of the grocery store.

"We can go look at Christmas lights," David says.

"You don't even get high your first time anyway," Scott mentions from the front seat.

"You'll feel so amazingly connected," Jim adds.

"I want you to smoke for me as my Christmas present," David says.

"Ok!!" I say and I sound unusually enthusiastic, "Yes! Merry Christmas, I'll do it!"

I feel like an idiot holding the joint. I never even tried a cigarette, so how do you hold the thing? Like a cigarette? In movies people smoking pot kind of pinch the end of it between their thumb and index finger. Do I do it like that? I feel stupid.

"I'll shotgun you," David says, pushing his mouth over mine and smoking pot is like a long, acrid kiss.


After I quit school, I spend that spring living at David's house. His parents don't care. His dad spends most of his time at an apartment he has in Florida and his mom is a nurse who works late anyway. They aren't strict about anything and David's dad, I find out, used to traffic marijuana all over the world. When David was little he played soccer in Jamaica with Bob Marley's kids. That's the kind of dealer his dad was.

So we smoke. It's easy to fake if I don't feel like it but sure, sometimes I inhale too. I'll cough because it burns so bad and feel lightheaded and hungry. Sometimes we'll get stoned and paint and I like that. David says it makes him creative. I don't feel like it makes me anything.

He wants to do acid again and he wants me to do it too but I draw the line there. When Jim's parents go out of town and we plan an acid party there, I refuse and then I get the goody goody lecture again, but I don't give in and while they trip I make food and watch videos of old Twilight Zones until I fall asleep.


"But we have our own house now," David tells me.

We're sprawled out naked on our mattress and I'm face down because the green light is on and I still feel shy around him sometimes. 

"I'm scared though," I say, "I don't know what it'll do to me."

"It'll make you feel good and open up your mind. You're so scared of everything and close minded. You need it."

Jim has managed to score some red mesc down in Hollywood at a bar where a Grateful Dead cover band plays and David wants us all to do it.

"It's like acid right?" I ask.

"Yeah. But it makes you laugh more. You're so sad. It'll make you happy."

"My parents would kill me."

"You don't need your parents controlling you any more. You're sixteen years old and we live on our own, at least for the summer and no one can tell you what to do."

I don't tell him that this isn't exactly true.

We smoke a joint. I think this might appease him, but he keeps on saying we have to trip together if we're in love.

"I'm going to get it and you're going to take it and afterwards you're going to thank me so much and we're going to have so much fun. I'm so excited!" David practically squeals.

It dissolves so fast that I don't have time to spit it out when I change my mind and David says something about a rabbit hole that even then strikes me as cliche, but it's too late to get annoyed.

David takes two and as he reaches into the bag I notice that the little balls of mescaline look like exactly like Nerds.

I think of the policeman.

"Some drugs look like candy. The pushers'll try to trick you and tell you it is. It's just candy, they'll say. But it isn't and you need to say no and run as fast as you can in the other direction."


Head Ant said...

So many things come disguised as a teenaged boy.

Did you ever get your RSS working?

Kerry said...

I was a goody-goody, too. Never got drunk until I graduated high school. Didn't have sex until then, either.

I guess I knew people were into drugs in high school, but I never saw it, and that was just fine with me. Our biggest rule-breaking, me and my friends, was being in the park after dark, when it was closed.

It's not so bad to be a goody-two-shoes. :) Other people try to make you feel bad about it, but I think they know it's not right.

Anonymous said...

that ending is so sad to me. well-written personal essay, victoria.


Venus Flytrap, Inc. said...

Omg. Wait! Is there more?

Emily said...

I was the same goody-goody as Kerry, but I never though of myself as "good"... I just wasn't "bad".

It just breaks my heart to see someone so emotionally manipulated. I clung to my first teenage boy long past his "nice person" expiration date. I never met an overt pusher until the final year of university, and even then I feel for it... only at first, luckily. Never again.

Anonymous said...

You know about this, right? ... Papatya

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