I'm a writer, I'm gay, and I grew up near the coast--and most assumptions
you might make about me are true. I'm in college, I have sex a lot, those
kinds of things--but, at 20, I'd never been stoned.

My friends don't understand how this is possible. I don't quite understand
their disbelief. Pot makes me think of frozen dinners and afternoon TV and
fat people with back hair--and bands like Tool.

OK, maybe that's not fair.

Anyway, last week I told my friends Lynn and Elizabeth* that I'd never
tried the stuff, and that I'd like to. They planned it and said it was
going to be fun. We'd do it at Lynn's place, a total stoner pad--a whole
house, actually--on a quiet little street north of the city. Someone
brought several buds in a baggie and some wine. Elizabeth, who acts like
she's stoned even when she's not, brought her girlfriend. Later a fifth
girl joined us, one of Lynn's film industry friends from New York.

They had everything ready: the weed, red wine, Hostess Cupcakes. I didn't
know anything about intake options, or what was better than what. I had
figured we'd be rolling joints, but Lynn produced a pipe, which looked
nothing like a pipe, and held it close to my face, and I flinched.
Elizabeth said, "No, let me shotgun him!" which meant nothing to me. Then
Elizabeth's mouth was on mine, and she was breathing into my throat, and
Lynn was saying, "Suck it in!" and the other girls were squealing.

I held the smoke in my lungs. I was reminded of my first swimming lessons,
as a kid, and having my head pushed under the water before I was ready: The
sound of nothing. Head underwater. Being forced to stay down there.

"Hold it for as long as you can," Lynn said.

"You just let me kiss you," Elizabeth said. "You just made out with a
girl." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

I cracked up and some smoke got away.

"No, you have to let it out slowly," Lynn said. The bluish haze rose out of
my mouth. We were in the kitchen, under fluorescent panel lights, and it
was unnerving to see this cloud come out of me. I had a sip of red wine,
and Elizabeth shotgunned me again. I didn't feel much at all.

"Are you stoned?" someone asked.

I wasn't, but I was feeling a little rubbery, maybe from the wine. "Well,
then, let's get this going already," Lynn said. She forced the pipe between
my lips, a fresh pile of pot at the end of it. She flicked her lighter
alive, the flame close enough to singe my hair. The weed wilted and began
to burn. I started to inhale.

"There you go," Lynn said, "you're doing it." The flame from the lighter
reached back and curved into the pipe as I sucked in.

"Oh, I wanna get a picture!" Elizabeth said.

"Just keep going as much as you can and then hold it."

"Where's my camera?" Elizabeth wailed and dashed around to find it. I was
holding the smoke in my lungs.

"Are you holding it?"

I nodded. My eyes went blurry. A trail of smoke flowed back out of the
pipe. My throat was burning. Then I started coughing, a sick, wheezy cough,
and the smoke came puffing out. "I couldn't hold it any longer." I gasped
for fresh air, but my mouth and throat filled with fiery cotton. "I can't
breathe at all."

Someone said I should eat a cupcake, and the carpet got messy with
chocolate crumbs. Then I felt sick to my stomach, lightheaded, headachy,
and the muscles in my arms and legs started burning.

Three or four more times--well, who knows how many, I didn't count-- I
breathed in on the pipe, held it, and got glassy-eyed. After midnight, I
decided it wasn't working. Maybe I was trying too hard to feel the effects
and to get it right for the camera.

Or maybe it was working, and this was all there is to it: losing my place
in conversation and feeling stupid, short of breath. On my way home, I was
convinced the cab driver could smell the stuff on me. Then, after I got
out, I was convinced I'd overpaid him. (I hadn't.) I busted up laughing.

I told my boyfriend that it hadn't really worked on me, that I wasn't
paranoid, that I didn't even have the munchies. Five minutes later I was
making ravioli.

*Names have been changed.

Newshawk: Beth
Pubdate: Mon, 20 Aug 2001
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Issue: Aug 16-22, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Seattle Weekly
Author: Christopher Frizzelle
Note: Multi-part series