The first time I tried dried shrooms was fucking amazing. Last summer I had a job as a clerical in the Ram Van office. It consisted of staring into a screen, entering large amounts of data, answering dumb questions, making copies, and filing . . . endless filing. The day before, someone I knew had approached me and asked if I knew anyone who would want to buy shrooms. I immediately offered my name, and we made plans for me to pick up an eighth from him the next day. That morning I was so excited, it felt like Christmas morning when I was five! It ended up being one of the few days that I had a checklist in my mind, and I actually got it done:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Smoke some weed.
  3. Take an awesome shower.
  4. Order breakfast.
  5. Watch some TV while eating breakfast.
  6. Withdraw money from my account.
  7. Chill until work.

Later that day when he handed them to me, I surveyed the two small bags. They looked absolutely disgusting, like tiny dried pieces of poop.

That night, I sat there entering data next to a dispatcher that wouldn't stop playing either episodes of The Office or live Phish concert videos. I felt like shooting myself, but instead I chose to take a break and took my purse with me to the bathroom. I chewed up the contents of one bag into a paste with water of course and sauntered back into the office feeling very cool about myself. However, a moment after sitting down, I popped back up to my feet thinking, “Do I really want to experience the greatest thing on earth inside these yellow walls? While listening to Phish? . . . Fuck No!!”

I quickly gathered my things to take my hour-long break. I walked with purpose toward O'Hare's courtyard with my eyes to the sky, and my purse and bowl in tow. I found my way to a bench and as I sat there looking into dark, deadened windows, I realized that I felt totally normal. I thought to myself, “He must've actually sold me two bags full of bird shit!” But then I followed-up: “Hold your horses, girl; it's only been ten minutes. Wait a while longer and see what happens.” So I lit a cigarette and waited, taking anxious, short drags, then regular drags, then long, slow, lethargic drags. Before I knew it, the Newport hung limply from my lips. Something moved from the corners of my eye, and I realized that it was the ground!

Startled by this realization, I did the responsible thing and texted the dispatcher, because although I loathed him and his habits he had experienced this before. He didn't respond though. I guess he knew I didn't like him. So I settled into the bench, packed my bowl, and took a long hit (because weed makes everything better). This turned out to be the right choice, the effect of the shrooms was immediately amplified. I started to soar, floating effortlessly, snuggled in the cool night air. Winds blew through branches and I heard jazz music: slinking tenor saxophones, bold trumpets, Thelonious Monk's fingers trickling over ivory keys.

The trees were singing.

Before this, I hadn't understood jazz. I appreciated its rich history and the reasons it emerged. Nevertheless, for the most part I thought it had become something for bored white yuppies to listen to when they wanted to feel a little deeper than they actually were; but as the wind and the trees played their sonata, I swiftly understood.

And as I exhaled ghosts and THC, my thoughts went to the first time I'd smoked. I was in a summer program for scientific research. We were a group of ten students ranging in ages from eighteen (me) to twenty-four and we got along really well. Two of the students, Josh and Emily, became really close immediately. They would always be together; I didn't realize that they were stoner buddies. I didn't even know what weed smelled like. One day, out of the blue, Josh approached me and asked if I'd ever be interested in smoking weed.

“YES! I've always wanted to try it!” I replied with a crack in my voice.

He jumped back a little at my excitement, chuckled to himself, and said, “Okaaay.”

I thought I'd ruined my chances by being a geek! I was bummed. But a couple days later, Josh asked me to come out to the back of the house, and my eyes found Emily sitting there, holding a joint. I couldn't believe it! It felt like my birthday! This was my chance to finally become a social deviant! This was my chance to be cool and awesome and like all the other kids!

Up until that day, I'd been sober all my life, looking for relief in logic and ink. Obsessive over small details at the age of seven, I'd have to flick the bedroom light on and off three times with a steady hand and tap each post of my bed before I could sleep. I planned my escape in numbers and dollar bills and dreamed of one day being a doctor, living comfortably, making my own rules. In my dreams, I would slip out from under the oppressive pressure of family and culture and live a wild life as a physician and an artist. Failure wasn't an option; it was either success or death. Sometimes I favored the latter. I remember lying awake in bed while late night visits from my mother meant crying and praying above my head, covering my body in tears, spittle, and holy olive oil, fingers reminding me to stay a virgin.

In a meditative state, I'd imagine what I'd have to do to seduce a reaper: tasting the frost on its lips, caressing its bony figure, kissing its frame from phalanges to femur to humorous to vertebrae to every suture on its precious skull. I curled up with it, held it close to my chest and begged for it to swallow me whole. I'd envision letting him bend me back, singing songs in lingerie. But my reaper still denied me; my lines were too straight, my eyes too clear, I was too innocent, too crippled, too queer, too soft and too warm.

Emily lit the joint and passed it to Josh, who passed it to me. I coughed like a son of a bitch, but I didn't feel the high during the first session or the second. I kept at it though, determined to become the stoner I am today. It turned out to be an amazing summer. For one thing I had an exciting research project to keep my mind stimulated, and every time I got back to the house, someone would already be in the process of rolling a joint or blunt, or packing a bowl.

We'd smoke after work and talk about our days; we smoked and swam in the property's lake; we smoked and drove; we smoked and joked; we smoked and partied. I didn't regret a thing that summer.

French horns sounding through leaves drew me out of my reverie. After smoking five more cigs I started on my way back to work. Pupils dilated, steps deliberate, looking at the world around me with new eyes, telling myself to act sober every time I passed an adult.