In the years before the pipe became her cradle, Ashley lived her life in Technicolor, wore baby doll dresses in turquoise and gold, puckered up in sparkly fuchsia lipstick, flirted with older boys in her innocent never-been-kissed-but-it’ll-happen-soon sort of way. She kept a diary, laughed and cried with her friends at her side, longed for greatness and lounged around on weekend mornings just like every other girl her age. Her pipe dream began one winter’s evening in the back seat of a silver sedan parked in an otherwise empty suburban lot. She wasn’t sure why she agreed to take that first hit; she hadn’t intended to become a slave to anything. It was just a matter of being in a particular place at a particular time, with these particular people whom she called friends.
Perhaps this was not so unlike the time in grade school when she’d been at her friend Polly’s house. Polly’s parents had owned a restaurant and their house was full of foods that seemed exotic Ashley. On this afternoon, Polly had offered her a chewy ginger dessert that looked altogether unlike anything she had ever tried before. It was cube-like, colored murky beige with a jelly-like consistency. The first bite was sweet and slimy on her tongue. Immediately, she spit the mouthful into a paper towel and felt her cheeks turn crimson. “I don’t like it,” she told Polly, feeling embarrassed because she knew how impolite this must have sounded. Polly had just shrugged and said, “No big deal.”
But now, five years later, in this darkened parking lot, Ashley knew there was no spitting this out. The hit had already filled her lungs with smoke that singed her throat, making her cough and sputter. Her eyes watered, and she felt herself slip into some rabbit hole on the time-space continuum. She was in her body and yet she was elsewhere, floating somewhere in the ethera, observing her own life from an outsider’s point of view.
When the high passed a few hours later, Ashley was left with a fuzzy sort of fatigue, like how she felt upon waking on lazy Saturday mornings after sleeping in too long. She didn’t think she’d do it again, nor did she think that she wouldn’t do it again. As before, she hadn’t meant to become enslaved to anything, least of all a dried green leaf that smelled like skunk. She saw this simply as an experiment, something she could check off her bucket list once all was said and done.
From then on, she spent weekend nights in smoky cars and basement bedrooms lit only by Christmas lights, whose walls were decorated with old movie posters. This is what the kids her age – the kids she knew best – were doing. Her other option was to stay at home with her bedroom door locked to give some semblance of privacy. She might take up a journal and scribble a few lines, only to have them come out sounding sappy and angst-ridden. Always, she found herself longing for her circle of friends puffing on cigarettes and pot, laughing and chatting, listening to their favorite albums on repeat.
Yes, Ashley had found her crew. Months passed, she did things she told herself she’d never do, things that would have made her eyes bulge at one point. As time passed, her Technicolor dreams turned the same shade of ash found at the bottom of the fimo pipe she now carried around with her everywhere. The fuzzy fatigue she had first felt coming down from that high three years ago was now a daily occurrence. Her formerly keen fashion sense was sloppy and haphazard, and her sparkly fuchsia lipstick had been replaced by plain old boring Chapstick. She went through the motions of her life, watching it as if from a distant vantage point, but never living it from within the confines of her own skin. She wondered how people lived lives without this stuff. Still, there was no need to concern herself with that now. She pulled out her marijuana satchel, unrolled it with the same care she’d once taken to pluck her eyebrows into perfect arches. She packed a bowl, lit it, observed the way the dried green leaves turned to a slate color at the bottom of the bowl. As her lungs burned with smoke, she felt herself being lifted up, up, away from this place, away from the teenage body tied to chains of its own making.