From The Junkie Stories: At The Starting Gate

After two hours, the effects from the mescaline failed to pull off its trick. The sun had already gone down. The summer was at its close and the lazy days were about to end. Soon enough, we would be in school. Soon enough, I would be faced with the classroom pressures and the emotional discomfort of an undiagnosed learning disability.

We gathered at the video arcade known as The Wiz in the shopping center on Front Street. By this time, most of the stores in the shopping center were about to close for the night. The pizza shop was still open. Pathmark was open as well and so were the liquor store, the Video Rental, and the Chinese food place.
The hardware store may have been open as well, but we never walked through that part of the strip mall. On occasion, we gathered behind the hardware store, but all that stopped when a local hoodlum decided to set the wood pallets on fire.

I was at the age of exploration. I was too young and stupid to understand the severity or the consequences of my behavior. I was a young teenager, anxious for an outlet, and eager to find a way to scream as loud as I could. I needed something to balance the scales and outweigh the weight of my insecurity.

Drinking helped . . .
Drinking allowed me the excuse to rage; it allowed me the opportunity to speak as I wanted to. I could speak without concern and behave as I chose to. Unfortunately, drinking came with a downside. I never knew where the line was between drinking and sickness. I never knew how to pace myself.
Instead, I drank full on. And I drank as much as I could, but not because I enjoyed the flavor of alcohol. I never cared for the taste of beer either. I drank for the effects. I drank for the excuses.
I drank to solve my discomfort and rationalize the symptoms of my behavior. I drank quickly to get passed the taste and reach that moment of truth. Only, the drunk would often turn as quickly as it came. The world would spin. The walls would fail to help my balance and the brief moment of bliss would swivel me down to my knees, retching as I emptied the contents of my stomach on the ground or in a toilet, and promising myself, “I swear I’ll never drink again.”
Drugs, on the other hand, were much easier. They may have been a bit less manageable, and they were certainly far from socially acceptable, but drugs never made me vomit—at  least not then..

I was on the verge of new experiments. I had already been introduced to the pot phase. I smoked often, and in fact, I intentionally grew my hair down passed my face to hide the color of my bloodshot eyes. I learned about hash. I tried opium a few times. Angel dust too. At this period in time, my favorite choices were any version of the psychedelics. I liked the long delirious hours of chaos and confusion. I enjoyed the unstoppable smile as well as the wild hallucinations.

By the time I arrived at The Wiz to meet up with the others, I already swallowed the last of my two hits of purple. We called them purple double barrels, which were good for an 8-hour trip of bizarre confusion.
There were other forms of mescaline, like the blue saucers, which were equally as good. These small pills were very effective. It was strange to me. Although both purples and blue saucers were small, the results were tremendous and powerful.

I heard imaginary sounds that rang in my head like they would if I was trapped on the inside of a pinball machine.
Voices echoed.
When I closed my eyes, I saw flashes of sparks and color—it was like watching fireworks explode on the movie screens behind the walls of my eyelids.

In short, I dosed myself to feel a temporary form of schizophrenia. I heard whispers (at least, I think I did.) I saw trails that lingered behind moving objects. I smiled and drooled. I laughed uncontrollably and I was free to scream as loud or act as wild as I possibly could.

To me, this adrenaline was the perfect counterweight to a voice that I could never otherwise use. It was safe to be crazy on drugs. I could easily excuse the things I said if I took too much.

But . . . I still had to be careful of my posture.
In my small and ignorant circle of friends, it was cool to be high, but how you handled the high is what made you cool. And me, I was never cool. I always took things a step too far. I never acted right.
I was always awkward and always trying to find a way to feel as if I fit in, which is why I enjoyed the long mental trips that came with drugs like LSD and mescaline.
If I dosed myself enough, I could forget that I felt like I never belonged. If the dose was weak, I could still feel the high, but the paranoia would often be overpowering, which is why I always took too much.

On this night, however, the mescaline failed me. I was less than 48 hours away from my previous trip. The two hits of purple were not effective because of a lingering tolerance. In order to trip consecutively, or to maintain this type of psychedelic high, I would need to at least double my previous dose. All I had left was two hits of purple. But I took three the day before.

I smoked pot with some of the others in my longhaired crew. We listened to angry and fast music. The arcade was only open until 11:00pm, but I seldom went inside. I rarely played any of the video games, and if memory serves (and it rarely does) I believe I was kicked out for vomiting between two of the three skee-ball machines.

We were the younger part of this scene. We hung around, but the older teenagers mostly ignored us. The older ones called us future burnouts. They laughed as we tried to be like them. We tried to act like the older crowd and talk like they did. We tried to act tough and we tried to be cool, but we were usually ignored.
On one occasion, an angry shopper yelled at me for something I had done. The shopper was a middle aged-man. He was not overly large in size, but he was certainly older and definitely larger than me or any of my friends.

One of the older boys noticed this. He quickly approached and shouted at the middle-aged man.
In a loud and crazy voice, the older boy asked, “You got a fuckin problem old man?”
The middle aged shopper quickly realized his surrounding and understood the number of longhaired teenage burnouts was increasing. Instead of arguing, the shopper left.

“Yeah, that’s what I fuckin thought,” said the older boy.
Then he spit on the ground.
“You fuckin pussy.”
This is why I wanted to be more like older boys.
It seemed to me as if they were feared.
I liked that.

There was no hope for the mescaline, but someone mentioned something about cocaine. The drug was around, but mores so with the older crowd. At 14, no one was looking to make that kind of sale to me or any of my friends.
Yet somehow, we were able to make a score. The quality was not very good. The bags were $20 and cut with more additives than actual cocaine. The high was more speedy than numbing; however, the experience of the drug was more important than the actual quality itself.

Once the packages came, I left with a small crew of people and we found ourselves in a small clearing inside a series of bushes and trees in a vacant lot by Glenn Curtis Boulevard. There were more of us than there should have been. At best, it worked out to only two or three lines per person. It was late. We lit a small fire in the center of the clearing. The surrounding trees were lit from inside the circle and the green leaves took on an orange shade from the fiery light.
The reflection of the flames danced across our watery eyes, which were all halfway closed and bloodshot. We sat on old milk crates of buckets that were found throughout the vacant lot. Someone lit up a joint and passed that around to ease the tension. Meanwhile, someone else opened the packages of cocaine and began to chop the white, powdery substance into different lines.

All I remember being told was “Don’t do anything stupid like blow out through your nose.”
I was told, “If you waste it all you’re gonna get is your ass kicked.”
Trying to be cool, I said, “Shut up, I know what I’m doing!”
(But I really didn’t)

The circle of us was not very large. It seemed as if we were all huddled around the small fire. I could hear the summer wind blowing through the trees. My heart was beating fast and the pressure was intense. I was about to cross a line that I could never come back from. I was about to experience cocaine, which sadly, seemed as if it was a rite of passage. To us, this was ceremonial; we were moving up to the next level of drug use. We thought this made us cool. We thought this was tough like the older kids.

The vacant lot was bordered by three main roads near the edge of our town. The town was a good place. Middle-income homes lined middle income streets. We lived in the kind of town where there was still a residual of innocence. Our parents were good, for the most part. They worked and paid their taxes. This was the early 80’s. Fashion was terrible then, but gas prices and cigarette prices were low and cost less than half of what they are today.

Crack cocaine had yet to become the epidemic it was, but the drug was certainly on the way. The news often spoke about a man named Len Bias who reportedly died two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Bias died from a heart attack that came as a result of smoking free-base cocaine.

Yes, we knew the drug was dangerous.
However, it was the sharp edge of danger that made us feel so terribly alive.

The vacant lot was not far from my house. Inside my home, my Mother and The Old Man slept peacefully. They had no idea what I was doing. My parents did not expect anything like this could happen in our small town. They chose this neighborhood because they believed a suburban community was better for a family than any of the inner Burroughs of New York City

Many of the homes in my town had American Flags on their front lawns. There was still pride in our country and pride in our town. Homeowners worked hard for what they had and there was pride of ownership. Meanwhile, there was a sickness rolling through the youth of my community. This sickness was about to further degrade all that our parents had worked for. We were at the starting gate and about to take off.

When the small handheld mirror came to me, I can recall seeing my reflection above the two decently-sized lines. The powder was still a little chunky with crystal-like flakes scattered around the outside of the lines like tiny white crumbs. I could see the reflection of my eyes, which was slightly haunting to me.
I was afraid, but not too afraid to walk away. I was afraid of the unknown effects, which was more of an attraction than a distraction to me.
I could literally feel the last of my youthful innocence vanish as the mirror moved close to my face. I placed a white straw that was cut in half with a red line on either side in my right nostril. As someone else carefully took hold of the mirror. I pushed my left pointer finger against the left side of my nose, and snorting hard, I watched the evil magic of white crystals disappearing into the bottom of the straw.

I sniffed back one line. Then the other, and like the rest of the boys in the circle, I let out an exhale that sounded after my last snort and followed with a long and satisfied, “Ahhh.”

“I crossed the line,” I thought to myself.
“There’s no turning back now.”

I felt nothing at first. I only felt the numbness in my nose and the bitter cocaine flavor that fell behind the back of my throat. I was not sure what was on the way. Suddenly, the speediness and the mixture of the two hits of purple gave my night a new definition. I felt a coolness inside. It was fresh, like a beautiful winter snow beneath a bright blue sky.
I felt as if I could run around the world. My jaw became tight as I clenched my teeth shut. My heartbeat was loud inside my chest.
I was weightless . . .

I was in . . .

I was my own version of a rock star. I felt untouchable. I felt like I achieved something. There was no pain in this kind of atmosphere. There were no fears. I was not awkward or uncomfortable. I was invincible and above any kind destruction. I was alive in a completely new way. In a word, I was weightless.

The problem with this kind of feeling is there can never be anything as redeeming as that moment of euphoria. There is no close comparison to this form of justification. The world is suddenly rationalized and the discomfort and feelings of inferiority have all been euthanized and gently silenced.

This is why drugs are addicting. It felt so good that I began to forget myself. I forgot about the misfitting pieces of my life. I forgot about my learning disabilities and my bouts with social anxiety. I forgot about my anger. I forgot about the people that hated me and the ones I hated back.
I did not care if I was liked or disliked—cared for or forgotten. I was perfectly immune to the world around me.

I traded myself this night.
I gave myself away and tasted an amazing flavor that can never be forgotten.

When you get into the drug life, they always say, “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.”

That’s why the first hit is often free.

That’s how they get you

They give you a little piece, and then the next thing you know; your heart it pounding out of control, your mind is fooled, and your eyes look for an atmosphere where everything is weightless.

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