I stand in an alley — the epitome of sketchy. Weeds sprout out from cracks in the ground. Cigarette butts and trash are strewn about. A smell reminiscent of a skunk’s spray permeates the air.
A friend — no, an acquaintance — of mine stands beside me, eyes bloodshot, hair unkempt. A scraggly beard coats his cheeks. He wears a puffy jacket with a fur-collared hood. His name is Matthew — but he goes by Matt.
In one hand, Matt clutches a Bic lighter. In the other, a plastic bottle with a couple inches of water inside it. A thin metal pipe protrudes from a hole in the side of the bottle.
“Yo, ya wanna hit another?” Matt asks me, his lips curling in a devilish grin.
I don’t answer him right away. Instead, I stop and think. I’ve never taken more than two hits before…then again, I’ve never really gotten high.
“Sure,” I reply with a shrug, my curiosity outweighing my fear.
“Atta be kid.” Matt hands me the bottle. I crouch down low to the ground.
Matt flicks his lighter, shielding the top with his hand, brings the flickering flame towards the protruding end of the pipe. I wrap my lips around the mouth of the bottle, begin inhaling.
“Rip it, yo!” I hear Matt say, over the violent bubbling of the now green-tinged water and the crunching of the plastic in my hands.
As I continue to suck in, the bottle now cloudy, I can feel the hot smoke beginning to fill my lungs. At first, I don’t mind it — in fact, I sort of enjoy the warmth. But then suddenly, a fit of coughing seizes me, doubling me over, like a punch to the solar plexus.
“Ya okay, man?” Matt cackles like a hyena, as puff after puff of smoke burst forth from my lips.
“Yeah — I’m fine,” I manage, once my coughing has subsided.
“Aight yo, I’m gonna hit one more. Then we’ll grab some food.”
I give Matt a nod. He grabs the bottle from my hand.
I’m not sure how I end up there, but the next thing I know, I’m in a Pizza Pizza, sitting at a table. Matt sits across from me. I can’t seem to look away from his face. I’m transfixed.
“Ya feel it?” he asks with a smirk, a spacy look in his glazed-over eyes.
“I think so…” I drawl. “I’m not sure. What’s it supposed to feel like?”
Before he has a chance to reply, something happens. The world around me starts flashing and flickering — like a choppy stop motion animation, like a haunted house with blinking lights. Suddenly, I find it difficult to breathe. My heart feels like a bee trapped in a jar. Worries stampede through my head.
A dread-filled thought flashes across my mind: What the fuck’s going on right now?!
The next thing I know, I’m getting to my feet, rushing to the nearby door, exiting the store. As I cross the threshold, I start rubbing my eyes, praying that it will restore my vision to normal. It doesn’t. Neither does blinking — again and again. My pulse and my mind pick up their already frantic pace. Hot tears begin streaming down my cheeks.
With trembling hands, I fumble around inside my pocket, dig out my phone, somehow manage to dial a number. After several rings, I hear a grainy voice on the other end of the line.
“Matt? Is that you?” I ask, between snivels and sobs.
“Yeah, yo! Where the fuck’d ya go?”
“I’m walking home.” I draw a shuddering breath.
“Why, yo? Our pizzas are ready…”
“I don’t give a fuck about pizza! Everything around me is fucking flashing and blinking. What the fuck’s going on?”
I hear Matt cackle. “Relax, yo! You’re just trippin’ out, bro…”
“I’m scared. Like really fucking scared. How long is this fucking shit gonna last?”
“Not long, yo. Just come back. We can chill at my place.”
“No. No, I need to go home.” Suddenly, I realize something: my mouth is bone-dry. I feel absolutely parched. “Yo, my mouth is like really dry right now…”
“It’s just cottonmouth, yo. You just need to drink something.”
Frantically, I look around — the world still dancing about me — spot a convenience store. Hanging up the phone, I beeline it inside the shop.
I head straight to the nearest refrigerator, grab the first drink I see, down it, bring the empty up to the clerk. They ring me up. I go to pay, realize I don’t have any cash on me, grab my debit card. After a couple of nerve-racking failed attempts, my fumbling fingers miraculously manage to punch in the correct PIN.
I go to push through the pane glass door of the shop — freeze. Outside, the street is filled with cars…only none of them are moving and all are empty.
My heart sinks into my stomach.
Whirling, I discover a woman trying to get past me to leave the store. Dazed, I step aside, watch as she exits, gets into one of the motionless vacant cars, turns it on, and drives off.
A tidal wave of relief crashes over me. I’m staring at a parking lot…
Sighing, I exit the store, resume course back towards my house, trying my best to pretend that everything around me isn’t jumpy and jittery. My efforts are in vain. My panic intensifies — so strong now I feel almost paralyzed.
Nevertheless, my legs carry me onward. I pass a couple headed in the opposite direction. I can feel their eyes on me, their knowing looks. I don’t care if they know. I just want whatever’s happening to me right now to fucking stop!
But it doesn’t. My eyes continue to play cruel tricks. My mind is trapped inside a feedback loop of fear. My heart beats double-time. Every inch feels like a mile. Every second an eternity.
In the midst of all this panic, one thought pushes me onward: It’ll all be fine once you’re home…
With every fiber of my being, I focus on that thought, trying to drive everything else from my mind. I start mouthing the words to myself, over and over and over again.
“It’ll all be fine once your home…it’ll all be fine once your home…”
I have no idea how long I’ve been walking for, when all of a sudden, I glimpse my house just up ahead. At the sight, I break into a sprint — running as fast as my legs can carry me, propelled by the prospect of sweet relief. I feel like a lost traveller who’s happened upon an oasis after days of wandering a scorching desert.
As soon as I reach the door, I burst inside the house, never having felt happier to be home in my life. I kick off my shoes. Someone says, “Hello?” I don’t respond. I just head straight for the nearby staircase, take the steps two at a time, beeline it to my room, and then I collapse into my bed. I close my eyes, praying that sleep will take me far away from this terrifying nightmare, and that when I awake again, everything will be back to normal.
What a shitty trip…