A true life account of a life changing decision made one night so long ago...or was it?
| August of nineteen hundred and eighty-four. Month, year and that it happened on a weekend evening I'll never forget. And how could I? Hell, I remember as if it were only yesterday. It was on this weekend evening that I gave my soul away, that I invited a substance into my system that would prove to be so devastatingly powerful, it would alter the course of my life in ways I could not even imagine.
I'd been home only a short time from my short active enlistment in the USN and was now an active Navy reservist; not what I had expected to do with my life. My intentions upon enlistment were to see the world with the Navy but in my hurry to enlist I signed to be a reservist without knowing I'd done so, tricked by a quota-filling recruiter. A story perhaps for another day. At the ripe age of nineteen and unsure of what to do next, I took a job at the cheese factory where I so wanted never to work again. I'd worked there through high-school and enjoyed it enough but the hard work and the low pay taught me that it was something else I yearned for; something besides bagging and boxing cheese. Not much had changed, the plant was much the same as I'd left it less than one year before. This time I would work the night shift and was scheduled to work the evening that my life changed for ever. I arrived on time but left before my shift actually started. God, when I think about it, all I had to do was stay at work that night. Just that easy I think. Why in HELL did I have to leave work that night?
The plan for that weekend evening was to head out of town to Frank's house and spend some time there with my friend Dave before leaving for my shift at the plant. Dave was a high-school buddy home for the weekend, on leave from the Marine Corps. and Frank was his brother-in-law. Some other friends would be there too and I thought it a fine night to visit and catch up with those I'd not seen in months. And Frank's place was a great place to be. Frank was 'thewildone' who 'grewpotinhisbasement'. It was were we went to buy the 'goodgreen' and to allow Frank to entertain us in 'Frank's World". It would be a good night and was worth the long drive to be a part of it.
Before the Navy and while in high-school, I smoked pot and drank alcohol with many of my peers. I'm not advocating these substances here, but I decided then that these two were okay to use since they had caused me no noticable grief or discomfort other than an occasional hang-over. The pills, cocaine,heroin, and other hard drugs rang heavier bells within my internal alert system and I figured it best to leave these to the more daring. As a young fella, I witnessed a relative going through heroin withdrawal and decided I wanted none of that. Pot and booze were enough for me I thought. I'd never allow myself to get wrapped up in any of that other mess. It just wasn't worth the obvious consequences. At Frank's place I witnessed the use of other drugs from time to time such as LSD and cocaine. All of it was offered to me (in Friendship?) at one time or another but I systematically turned down any offer that wasn't green and leafy. Mostly, I was a responsible teen, keeping a steady job, working after school and during summer vacation to get the things and to do the things I wanted without taxing my parents' finances. I purchased my own cars, my own concert tickets and my own sacks of pot. Mostly, I'd kept on a fairly straight path. The use of harder drugs I knew, would change all of that.
When I got to Frank's house that night there were no cars in the driveway other than Dave's which I thought odd and wondered if I'd arrived too early or late. No matter really, Dave was here and we could catch up while we had a few beers and smoked some of Frank's pot before I would leave to work. Frank didn't have a car to spot in the driveway but Frank was always at home so I knew that he too would be inside. The music would be loud and the pot I knew would be as always; the finest around. The thought of seeing my friends for the first time in almost a year excited me as I approached the run-down little houses' side door which lead into Frank's World.
As I crossed the threshold into the house I noticed that the place seemed to have frozen in time. Not a thing inside had changed since I left for the Navy. After a quick pan of the familiar house, I spotted Dave at the kitchen table, beer in hand, animatedly talking to his sister. Frank was at the kitchen stove cooking something in a small sauce-pan and the whole place smelled wonderfully of his notorious meangreen. All three welcomed me with a wave and a holler as I walked toward Dave who stood up to greet me with a haven't-seen-you-in-some-time hug. Walking towards Dave I noticed two things. One; that the music sounded much better and was louder than it normally was. Two; Frank was boiling water in the sauce-pan on the stove in which he had a small jar, also filled with water. He was swirling the smaller vessel around in the water of the sauce-pan and I wondered what in hell could he be doing.
As the evening progressed, I learned that the high quality sound was being emitted from speakers made by 'Bose'; a brand that until now, I'd only read about in music magazines.. The pair of them sat on shelves hung from chain on either side of the fireplace in the sunken living room of Frank's World and were swinging back and forth, back and forth. It seemed that the more I smoked that evening, the better they sounded and the more they swung back and forth. And LOUD! So damned loud that we could'nt carry on a single conversation. Having no conversation to enjoy, I drank and smoked more than I'd intended since I had to go to work soon and knew it would be difficult to work my shift with this much pot and booze in my system. Drink, drink; puff puff.
Further into the evening I learned that the cooking Frank was up to was that which was required to turn cocaine into its' smokable form, then known as freebase. I'd known that Dave and Frank smoked freebase and also that they never had company while doing so. I never understood why they needed to be alone to do the stuff. I didn't know yet that they would become paranoid and that there was a certain amount of guilt associated with using the stuff. But I would learn. Oh would I.
I sat on one step of two which led from the kitchen and into the sunken living room. Buzzed from the pot and drunk from the beer, I watched as the three of them would take turns putting small pieces of hard, yellow/white stuff produced by Franks' culinary skills into the bowl of a big glass bong and heated it with the flame of a propane torch. The stuff would melt under the flame and they would chase what would drip down the neck of the bowl with the propane torch setting it aboil which in turn would emit white clouds of smoke. With every billowy, white cloud producing hit they took, the scene before me got stranger and stranger. Frank began to pace and to go in and out of his bedroom where I could see him peering out the window through the blinds, separating them only by an eyeballs' width. I'd never seen him act this way before and assumed it was the drug that led him to behave in such a fashion. Frank paced and peered while Dave and his sister talked incesstantly about everything and nothing. I don't think they ever finished one sentence before starting another. I was so buzzed from the beer and pot in my system that I could hardly do a thing besides notice their odd behavior, obviously produced by the peculiar, acrid smoke they inhaled/exhaled again and again and again.
And then the time came for me to say my goodbyes and go to work. Time for my shift at the cheese factory. Grateful the time had arrived for me to leave, I stood up slowly and wobbled a bit before gaining my feet. Dave saw me approaching him and stopped yapping with his sister long enough to bid me fairwell. Frank never did come out from the bedroom to say his goodbyes. I asked Dave if Frank was okay and he said yes, that he was. They had finished the cocaine for the night and were just going to drink for awhile he told me. It was still early in the evening; nine o'clock as I remember; my shift at the factory started at ten. I said goodbye again and walked out the door feeling somehow cheated out of a night spent with friends.
While driving to work I realized that the the factory was the last place on earth I wanted to be. I could not for even a moment, imagine a full night of hard work and sweat. I would just have to find a way to leave. And I did. My immediate supervisor; also a drinking buddy, would understand my dilemma. He would know that I had too much booze and pot and was practically incapable of having a responsible night at work. And he did. He said I could go and not to worry, that he would see me tomorrow. Drive safe and get my butt home, he suggested. But I didn't. I drove back to Frank's World, deciding that it was more beer and pot and to be in the company of friends again that I needed. It was okay to show up there again I surmised, the stuff they were doing earlier had run out and I'd get to have the evening with my friends that I'd looked forward to. Dave I was certain, would be glad to see me once more before his term of leave expired.
A huge, sweetly bitter cloud of smoke hung in the air of the house as I walked into Franks' World for the second time that evening. This wasn't the smoke of the meangreen, no sir; this was the stuff I'd seen and smelled earlier. Frank was acting stranger and was looking thinner somehow than just an hour before and didn't extend the same greeting as earlier. Dave and his sister were sitting at the table with the glass bong between them. They were silently taking turns on the bong, Dave would hit while his sister would hold the torch; she would in turn hit while Dave held the torch. Fire, melting, boiling. Big, billowing clouds of smoke. And without even a hello or a question as to why I'd returned, Dave says to me that I should try it, that I would like it. At that moment, Frank ran back into the bedroom and I remembered that it was taught to me (when? how?)that cocaine was non-addictive; the rich mans' high. Okay, here I go, and leaned in to position myself at the bong for a hit; for my first time. Dave held the torch while his sister chanted, her words insisting to inhale softly, that it's not pot I'm smoking now. Inhaling slowly, I watched as the smoke swirled into and filled the bowl of the bong and approached its' final passage into my mouth, I felt/tasted it's sweetness as it rolled over my tongue and down my throat. I felt it fill my lungs as I inhaled and noticed that the smoke did not burn my throat and lungs as the meangreen's smoke always did. When my lungs could pull in no more of the stuff I let go of the bong and leaned back into the chair and felt nothing more than a full set of lungs.
And then I exhaled. Calm, exciting warmth immediately enveloped me. The rush that followed was HUGE and INTENSE and it felt SO GOOD. Instantly It seemed, I'd discovered the answers to all of life's mysteries. I now knew the meaning of life; the hows and the whys of EVERYTHING and it was BEAUTIFUL and BIG and OH MY GOD IS THIS STUFF GREAT!! MORE! I want more. Can I do another? Can I have another hit? But it was gone. They had given me the last hit from the pile, Dave said ,and it was gone. Frank came rushing out of the bedroom and was on the phone talking furiously fast into the mouthpiece. He was making a call for more of the stuff. From what I overheard, they didn't have enough money to get more, they had spent all their money and I realized I didn't have much cash in my pocket. Mind racing, heart pumping, I volunteered to drive home to where my money was kept, to get cash, to get MORE but it was a long drive and everyone was slowly coming to their senses and advised me just to go home.
And I did. I drove home oblivious to the life that lay before me; completely unaware of the power possessed by that white/yellow crumble of shit they placed on that pipe for me. The course of my life was altered severely that night. Oh was it. How could I have known what twists and falls my life would take? How could I have possibly known what I'd gotten myself into? How I wish I had kept my ass at work and not gone back to that house. It was my first time that night; the first time I felt her caress and listened to her first lies. It wouldn't be even close to the last.
I've been given grace enough to be here on this green earth twenty-five years later. Somehow. And I recognize the grace and remember, mostly, to be grateful for it. But I sometimes still wish that wish. Oh God how I wish I'd stayed at work that night.