“Do you want some water?”
I paused to think about the answer like I was on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and Craig was Regis Philbin, like it was a trick question. I considered using a lifeline or opening the car door, jumping out at the next light, and making a break for it.
Could I really trust Craig? He was my roommate sure, but the kid is shady. I had to play it coy and get some more information out of him.
“Maybe,” I said.
The ball was in his court.
He half chuckled, put the bottle between us and said, “Well, it’s here if you need it.”
Now certain of his indifference as to whether or not I took a drink, I did. If he was really up to something he would have been more persistent. Or would he? I second guessed myself as I brought the bottle to my mouth, but it was too late. Once I felt the wet plastic on my lips and the refreshing fluid within touch my tongue, I didn’t care anymore. I even forgot what I was wondering about in the first place.
The water reintroduced the sensation of moisture to my parched, disgustingly dry mouth, washing the taste of smoke out, as it cooled its way down my throat. I needed that. My eyes were dried out too, probably bloodshot, but that didn’t bother me so much. It’s not like I was going to have to talk to my parents or the police or anything.
It was 2:00am on a Wednesday, technically Thursday I guess, and it was just me and Craig cruising down I-95 at just under 80mph. We wanted to get to the University and back as quickly and efficiently as we could. After all, we had class the next morning and this wasn’t exactly conducive to the process of higher education. We were going there to buy drugs, large quantities of them, with the intent to then sell. Now, don’t get the wrong idea about us, we’re not drug dealers. We’re just college kids with alcohol fines and no money to pay them with.
It just so happened that Craig’s brother knew a kid at the University who would front Craig an ounce of weed, which he could divide into eighths, or grams, or whatever other denomination people wanted to buy it in, and then sell. Once this was done, he would have to return, give our source his share of the profit, and pick up the next batch. It was a flawless system.
Where do I come in?
Well, he’s my friend, and I guess trafficking drugs across state lines is what I get for being the only friend of his with a car. Plus, I had sex with his sister, and I guess I felt kind of bad about it. This made us even.
“Now my helmet’s on, you can’t tell me I’m not in space
With the National Guard United States Enterprise
Diplomat of swing with aliens at my feet
Comin’ down the rampart through beam on the street
Obsolete computes, compounds, and dead sounds
As I locate intricately independent
Economic rhymer got savory store food
In Capsule D my program is ability
For a reaction and response to a no-one
Identification Code: Unidentified
I got cosmophonic, pressed a button, changed my face
You recognized, so what? I turned invisible
Made myself clear, reappeared to you visual
Disappear again, zapped like a android
Face the fact, I fly on planets every day
My nucleus friend, prepare, I return again
My 7XL is not yet invented”
That’s Dr. Octagon, our music of choice when taking part in this kind of activity. It may not look like much to you, but it made a hell of a lot of sense to me at the time. I consider Dr. Octagon part of my college education, perhaps even one of my professors – though I don’t think he really has a doctorate. If he did though, it would be in the same field I’m majoring in, Perceptual Experimentation and Perpetual Escape, I call it.
That is, drugs have always been a way for me to escape. Escape from my petty problems, anxiety, and even society as a whole. I don’t get along particularly well with any of those things, and while I know that drugs aren’t a solution to those particular ailments (if such a thing even exists), what they do give me is a freedom from them – albeit a temporary one.
Now, I don’t know Dr. Octagon personally. I don’t know what kind of drugs he does or what kind of world he’s escaping into, but it sure sounds like he’s having a hell of a time, and that’s something I can relate to.
We got to the university somewhere around 2:45… I think. I am frequently reminded of just how nice my own college’s dorms are when I visit other schools. I wouldn’t say they were like tenements, because that kind of irresponsible hyperbole would exaggerate the claim unnecessarily. But at the very least, I was glad to not be living in them.
The building most resembled an old run down hotel. In fact, it resembled one so much I thought it might actually be one. The carpet in the hallway was red with a kind of pedestrian series of green and gold tessellations. The walls were off-white, and by “off-white” I mean had at one point actually been white, but were now layered with filth and dirt. It was eerie, and not just because we were there to tend to such shady business, but because it was the kind of dirty and quiet atmosphere that make cop movies so suspenseful.
There were pipes running along the ceiling exposed, and thick doors on all the rooms. I felt like had I approached any one of them and executed the secret knock, I would have been let into a room with sordid men betting cocaine, alcohol, and underage sex slaves in poker games. Like there would be a gauntlet of crack whores guarding the door, each one missing a different tooth, and haggling over who could give me fellatio for a cheaper rate. You may think this an exaggeration, but I’d be willing to bet that something to that effect was going on in at least one of the rooms. It had to be.
We went to the room our connection called home. He opened the door and led us to the back. He looked pretty average, but not like a kid I’d fuck with. Just imagine an average sized 21 year-old with a shaved head, moderate build, and a tattoo. It doesn’t matter what kind of tattoo. I don’t remember what his was, but it was more likely generic and typical, rather than, say, an angry red demon riding a raging bull with bloody horns dragging the souls of the damned behind them on a leash. I would have remembered if it was something like that.
There seemed to be a lot going on in the main room. At the same time, though, there was nothing much going on at all. There were maybe eight to ten people in there, most sitting on couches looking pretty high. They were all drinking what was likely the cheapest beer on the market, but none of them really seemed to be having that good of a time.
We were led into the bedroom that was decorated with posters fully endorsing marijuana as a way of life. One depicted a group of happy elves merrily collecting cannabis in wheel barrows and sacks they had slung over their shoulders, like trick-or-treaters on a particularly prosperous Halloween night. All of their eyes were red and bloodshot like mine probably were. I had trouble imagining how a bunch of elves, blessed with such a fruitful bounty of weed and clearly high all of the time, could summon the initiative to harvest it so diligently. I wondered if they actually tended to the plants, but I got the impression that they were growing organically, without the intervention of elves.
A kid I hadn’t seen when I came in, interrupted my thought process by coming into the room, making sure to close the door behind him. He was holding a can of whipped cream.
“You guys wanna do some whip-its?” he asked.
By whip-its, he meant put our mouths on the nozzle (Yes, the same nozzle everyone else had obviously used) tilt our heads back and inhale the gas propelled by the aerosol can. That explained the glazed over, catatonic expressions on everyone’s face when Craig and I walked in, as well as their indifference to our presence. In seven minutes they wouldn’t have any recollection of us whatsoever. We politely declined, and the guy left to rejoin his friends. They, unlike the elves, were not being productive during the course of their highness.
We made the transaction pretty quickly. Often when marijuana is purchased it’s customary to smoke some of it as an expression of good faith and gratitude. This, however, was understood to be a business transaction – one which was to be done with haste and just as quickly forgotten about. Craig and I would smoke on the ride home. It had been an hour and a half of highway driving since we last got lit and it was damn near time to re-up during the long drive home. Craig packed a small bowl while navigating me back to the highway.
Back on I-95 I got in the right lane, set the car on cruise control, and held the wheel with my knees while I smoked, constantly glancing up to make sure I wasn’t going to rear-end anyone and that I was at least somewhere between the lines. I was getting a nice buzz going. I didn’t even notice the cop car pull up behind me, not until he put his lights on, anyway. Then I took notice.
It’s tough to explain how I felt at that moment, high, driving a car full of weed, and now being pulled over by the police. All I could see was my entire life spiraling out of control. I was mortified by the idea of my car being impounded, having to somehow explain all of this to my parents, and the end of my life as I knew it. I couldn’t breathe, but somehow this situation needed to be dealt with. I quickly tried to reassure and compose myself. The last thing I could do was look scared or guilty; cops can smell fear.
I slowed down so the officer would think I was immediately complying but I wasn’t even thinking about stopping yet. Craig quickly stashed our pipe in my center console. Luckily, I had had the window cracked, I don’t like to bake out my car for a variety of reasons, this being one of them. Craig and I both put our windows down all the way. We were lucky it was spring and having our windows down was legitimate. Had it been winter, we really would have been fucked.
Still slowly decreasing my speed, I coasted off to the shoulder of the road. Now it was time to put my game face on.
He took a few minutes, probably running my plates through the computer, and then he began the walk up to my window. I could do nothing but bear witness to the slow approach of my imminent doom through my side view mirror.
“Alright, I need your license, registration and insurance, please.”
I know it sounds cliché but that’s really what cops say. I had the documents ready for him, and he examined them with his flashlight, then a black light, and then his flashlight again. Then he shined his light on me and I winced, closing my eyes as if I had just seen a solar flare. “What are you guys doing out this late?”
“Honeymoon,” I said. It was bold, and slightly aggressive, but tactical. I’d rather the officer think me an asshole than high or drunk. Also, my experience has led me to believe that police aren’t robots, no matter how much they want you to think they are, and most all of them are insecure. That’s why they took the job in the first place. If you make a bold move it can throw them off balance. And it did, but he was hardly amused. I hesitated and then smirked, as a strategic retreat, then I gave him the real answer as a truce. “We were visiting some friends at the University of Delaware.” He said something like “Alright,” and went back to his car, leaving Craig and I to writhe in agony and contemplate the pending tailspin our lives were sure to take.
The officer came back.
“Have you been drinking tonight?”
“God no.” I said it with authority and conviction. Like the concept was ludicrous. That would be crazy. What kind of lunatic would drive under the influence, putting people at such unnecessary risk? And really it was true. I hadn’t been drinking.
He accepted my response. “Well you were going 75.”
That was when I realized that this was about me speeding, not, strangely enough, about me smoking weed while driving with my legs. If I handled this calmly I could escape with a fine.
“Well it’s just that it’s late and we have class tomorrow. I just kind of set the cruise control. It’s late you know, no one else is really on the road.”
I was starting to talk too much, but I didn’t mind looking guilty… guilty of speeding. I could put myself at his mercy and maybe get some sympathy. Yeah officer, you got me. I broke the law.
“Alright that’s fine,” he said. “Just slow down and don’t let me catch you out here again.” I put the car in drive and he watched me take off. And that was the end of it.
Craig and I were shocked. We didn’t laugh, we didn’t speak, we didn’t make a sound. We just finished the drive in complete and utter silence.
I was talking earlier about escape, and in my opinion this was certainly a daring one. We were two kids who took a chance doing something dangerous and got away with it. In the end, there was no penalty and I have the luxury of looking back on an interesting experience that bore no unwanted consequences.
I won’t forget that there may have been though. Just like I won’t forget the difference between being home free and getting caught. I might say that smoking a bowl while speeding down a highway with my best friend is as close a thing to free as I’ll ever feel. I just hope I don’t get caught, not by the police, but by the idea of freedom being defined as doing whip-its in my drug dealer’s dingy apartment. At least after a while, the police let you go.