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SLCC's Premiere Art & Literary Magazine

Low

Kendra Nuttall

1.

Nick sits in front of me and turns around, resting his elbows on my desk and perching his chin on his palms. "So, are you high right now?" He asks.

"No, but you are," I say, looking into his red eyes. He doesn't hide it very well; I can always tell. He stalks off at the beginning of class every day to go smoke somewhere and comes back an hour later with a Snoop Dogg wincing on the toilet expression. I think he joined the newspaper staff just so he'd have an excuse to smoke during school – after all – no one reads the paper, therefore we don't actually have to work during class.

"You act stoned though," Nick says. "You're always laughing at everything – stuff that's not even funny."

"I'm high off life." It's not true. The truth is, I'm pretty fucking low most of the time.

2.

It's senior year; Nick graduated and I quit newspaper. There's not much creative freedom when you're in a school full of rich, white, Mormon kids.

Today, I'm walking towards an abandoned running trail with Lucy and Kara. Lucy managed to procure some weed from a friend and somehow, she's talked me into trying it. I said I would do it, but I don't actually want to; there are too many risks. Okay, one risk. My parents; if they find out, they're going to kill me.

So I end up standing guard while Lucy and Kara fumble over figuring out how to roll a joint. I glance behind me after a while, and I see them laughing – I'm almost jealous. Why do I have to be so scared of what my parents think? They won't even find out. Nevertheless, I'm not trying weed today.

3.

I'm dating a stoner, but he doesn't look or act like one (thank god). His name is Vincent and I think he's perfect. I don't really care what my parents think about me anymore. I'm in college and I'm an adult, it's about time I start trying to make myself happy.

I'm going to smoke pot today and I'm not going to freak out.

Vincent demonstrates what to do, gives me words of advice, I take a deep breath, and-

It's awful. The taste is disgusting. The burning is painful. The cough is agonizing.

And the weed itself doesn't do a damn thing.

Better luck next time?

4.

It's been a month since my last date with Mary Jane. I've been wanting to try again, because I really wanna know what is so fucking great about marijuana. Everyone I know acts like it's the greatest blessing upon the world – they practically worship it. They say it calms anxiety, that it's soothing, that it will help me. I guess I need help.

Vincent says that this time it'll work for sure. He tells me that a lot of people don't feel anything the first time. I'm not too hopeful, but I take a hit from the bong anyway.

I immediately begin to cough and I don't stop until it feels like my throat and lungs are going to fall right out of my body. There isn't enough water in the world to rid me of this pain.

"Do you feel anything?" Vincent asks.

And this time, besides my Sahara desert throat, I do feel something. And it doesn't feel good. Time is moving too quickly. We're watching Star Trek, and before I know it, it's over, and I can't even remember what happened. Vincent is explaining the rules of a board game, but they won't stick in my mind. We're playing it, and I keep glancing at the couch; all I want to do is lie down and fall asleep and wake up when this is over.

5.

I've gone another couple of months without smoking again. I'm starting to think that it's just not for me.

Vincent and his friend are in the kitchen, about to smoke. Vincent always offers me weed, and up to this point I've just been saying no, but for some reason, the presence of another person compels me to say yes. It's not that I actually want to smoke, but I just don't want to feel left out.

This time is worse than last time. Vincent has said before that in order to maximize the chance of having a positive experience, I need to be as comfortable as possible; that means smoking with people I'm comfortable with. Vincent's friend is someone I am not comfortable with.

Overwhelming social anxiety settles within moments of smoke entering my body. Anxiety is something I'm used to, but right now, it's intense. It's amplified and I can hardly handle it. I become aware of every movement I make, every word I say, and it all feels wrong. I'm being annoying, I'm being too quiet, I'm crossing my legs weirdly, I'm touching my hair too much. Everything. I. Do. Is. Wrong.

Vincent's friend leaves to get beer, and when it's just Vincent and me in the apartment, I want to tell him I feel trapped. I'm on the verge of an anxiety attack, and the only reason I haven't fallen apart is because I'm afraid of what Vincent will think of me. He's never seen me cry, and I'm not ready for him to. "How are you feeling?" He asks, and I just say, "okay."

6.

I really wish I liked pot. If there was ever a time I needed it, it's now. My dad has just been diagnosed with cancer, and I haven't stopped crying for twenty-four hours. I'm sitting in the car with Vincent, quietly sobbing, and he doesn't say anything, but he has one hand squeezing my shoulder while the other is on the steering wheel.

"I love you," he says after a silent drive.

"I love you too." I cry again and drown my sorrows in beer and making out.

I watch Vincent light up, and I envy him.

7.

Vincent is being evicted for smoking pot.

It was a beautiful apartment.

Oh well.

8.

Vincent's been living with his friend for a few weeks, searching for a new place to live. The place is a gross mess, but I can't complain about that. This is just a temporary situation, and at least Vincent keeps his own room clean. There is something I want to complain about though.

Ever since Vincent has moved in here, I've seen him smoking a lot more than usual. I've always considered myself 420 friendly, but I've also always been anti anything in excess. I'm starting to worry about him. Is he depressed? Does he even realize how much he's been smoking? Does he care?

I know smoking weed is safer than smoking tobacco, but I also know smoke of any kind is dangerous for the lungs. I can't help but think that Vincent is damaging his body, that he's putting himself at a greater risk for lung cancer than he has before. I'm going to lose my dad to cancer, I don't want to lose my boyfriend too.

9.

Mary Jane is Vincent's other girlfriend. And right now, I think he loves her more than he loves me.

I'm worrying more than ever and I know I shouldn't. I'm overreacting. Even if Vincent gets lung cancer, it'll be decades from now, probably when we're both old and ready to die anyway. Besides, he's been smoking for years, damage has already been done whether I like it or not. And why am I not freaking about all the junk food and soda he consumes? That stuff is just as bad, and yet I'm not losing sleep over it.

But I can't stop worrying. I can't keep looking at the pipe sitting on the table or I'm going to fling it out the window. I can't keep sitting alone while Vincent and his friend get stoned. I can't keep pretending that I'm okay with this.

It may be that I'm afraid of the health hazards, but I know there's a part of me that's jealous. Part of me still wishes I liked weed. It's been a few months since the last time I tried it, maybe it's time to try again. One last time. Maybe.

10.

I'm at Vincent's mom's house. Did I mention she smokes weed and cigarettes? Anyway, Vincent is loading up her fancy bong, and I'm sitting on the couch like I usually do, when he asks me if I would like to smoke. He gave up offering weed to me a long time ago, after the near anxiety attack, so I didn't expect him to offer today.

"There's too much for just one person," he says.

I've been wanting to try again, but I've also been wanting him to cut back. I hesitate, but finally decide that I may as well go for it. I've been feeling shitty lately, and this can't make me feel shittier, right? Except this time, I don't even get high, I fuck it up before smoke even hits me. A splash of water falls on the ground and I'm terribly embarrassed.

"You can try again," Vincent says, but I just shake my head.

"It's okay, it's okay, I don't want to." I feel extra shitty.

"You can try vaping," Vincent says. "It's easier, you won't mess it up, I promise."

Stupid me decides to give marijuana yet another chance.

11.

Vincent hands me the vaporizer, and once I've inhaled, I immediately notice how much better it feels than smoking. I'm not coughing up my lungs. It doesn't even taste that bad; it's actually clean. But these positive aspects aren't enough to make up for the rush of anxiety that nearly makes me collapse.

I begin to cry – this is an anxiety attack – a full-blown – nearly unbearable – attack. Vincent holds me. "You don't have to keep trying," he says. "If it makes you feel like this, don't do it again."

12.

The anxiety attack was a few weeks ago. Since then, I haven't even thought about trying weed again. I don't ever want to feel those effects again. I honestly don't even want to look at the stuff.

Vincent's new roommate just brought home a plate of pot brownies. He holds one out to me and I don't contemplate taking it. "No thanks."

"More for us then," the roommate says, and I watch as he and Vincent take bites.

I disappear into my room alone.
Laughter floats down the hallway and no one hears me scream.

13.

The floor is filled with the shattered remains of a glass pipe and traces of green and brown flakes. Plops of blood drip from my hands as I pick at the embedded shards in my skin. I hurriedly scrub the carpet, like a murderer erasing a crime. Within minutes, there is no evidence except my wounded hands.

When Vincent comes home, I tell him I tripped down the stairs.

"Where's my pipe?" He asks.

"I don't know."

"Where's my weed?"

"I don't know."

"Why are you lying?"

"I don't know."

I don't know.