Updated: May 27
Downers and Road Trips Don’t Mix
Photo by Nathan J. Hilton on Pexels https://tinyurl.com/4wczbc45
During my drinking and drugging years, I engaged in a ton of dangerous behavior, and I risked death in many ways.
But there were some instances where my sense of self-preservation kicked in from out of nowhere.
I’m grateful for that, and I’m grateful that I’m here to tell this tale.
I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and I went to a fairly big high school. We lived close to the school, and I walked to it.
There were woods all over, so we had plenty of places to get high and have keg parties.
You wouldn’t have known it to look at me and my partying friends, but we were into some heavy drugs.
For example, when I took speed before school, I always knew I’d pick out another friend or two who’d taken speed. I’d see them cruising down the hallway between classes with that special wired-up look, the same one I had going.
We’d connect and hang out as much as possible throughout the day. Meet up in the smoking room between classes, skip a class and get high, that kind of thing.
One of my friends told us his dad had been prescribed some insanely heavy-duty pills, downers of some sort.
He proposed a plan. He would steal a few of the pills, and four of us would skip school and take these pills and drive up to Penn State.
This was a farkakte plan from the word go. Penn State was a three-hour drive, and we didn’t know anyone there. Being a weekday, classes would be in full session. We weren’t planning to stay overnight, so being on downers, drinking, and smoking weed while driving at least a six-hour round trip to basically nowhere was the essence of the plan.
But it sounded good to us.
I was to be the last one picked up.
I sat in the little brick shed at the end of my street near the school, smoking cigarettes and waiting.
Gorgeous, sunny day.
They pulled up, windows down. Smiles. “Let’s go, dude.”
I walked up to the car. I said, “I’m not going.” I don’t know where that came from.
Of course that was met with intense peer pressure. “Get in. We have a plan. You’re coming. Don’t give us this shit. Why?”
I said I didn’t have a good feeling. And that I had a test that day, and I should take it. That was true, but it’s not like I never blew off tests.
I was clear. And I walked off and down the hill to the school.
I went through my school day. I didn’t feel too guilty for skipping out on our stupid plan.
As the day went on, rumors started to fly that they’d gotten busted.
Johnny was in the hospital, and Bert was at the Police Station. There was a third guy with them, but I didn’t hear anything about him.
I was worried.
After school, I sat in the auditorium. I don’t remember if we had a rehearsal for a play that day, or if I was just hanging out for a while, which I sometimes did.
I was sitting by myself, fretting.
In walked Bert who came over and sat by me. He didn’t look good.
He was pale, pissed, and scared.
And I’m sure he had mixed feelings about me at that moment. He was probably jealous that I had the instinct to bail out at the same time as still being mad at me.
They barely got out of town before they realized the pills were hitting them hard, too hard. Johnny was in bad shape, so Bert took him to a hospital. He came clean to a doctor on what they’d taken and where they got it.
Our other friend didn’t take any of the pills, and he split when they pulled into the hospital.
Johnny went into convulsions on the way to the hospital. He chewed his tongue to shreds. Thank God he didn’t swallow it.
They got him through it alive and chastened.
He couldn’t eat food for weeks as his tongue healed. He took food through a straw, and he couldn’t talk. I stopped to see him, and he tried to talk, but it was pathetic. And funny. Not good to laugh at your friend, and not good to laugh with a fucked-up tongue. It was a short visit.
Bert was held at the hospital until the police came and picked him up.
He somehow escaped being charged with anything, but the cops brought him to the school, where he got a long suspension.
His biggest worry was his dad. I never knew the real dynamics of that family, but I know for sure that it was dysfunctional. I was around them just enough to know I didn’t want to spend time there.
From then on, the two of them were marked in our school as druggies. Teachers and administrators and parents kept a tight watch on them.
I was able to go on my merry way, skipping class and getting high, staying under the radar.
This didn’t mean I learned anything. It didn’t stop me from smoking opium and climbing fire escapes (that’ll be part of a different story), it didn’t stop me from driving while intoxicated, and it didn’t make me feel superior to them in any way.
I felt lucky. I was fortunate, and I knew it.
I passed the test that day. I played varsity football and did a bunch of plays during my time in high school.
I graduated with honors, and I left with a smile on my face and a monkey on my back. Only later did that monkey turn into a gorilla.