I think I may be the only person on earth to ever drown in a small bottle of orange juice.
I was seventeen and still living at home when I got a call one night from my school mate, Lonnie. There was something magical in his voice and I sensed it right away. This was no ordinary phone call, not like all the rest.
This phone call had his voice pitch elevated about three octaves above its normal tone, a decided freneticism with each word spoken. I always knew when Lonnie was excited about something, every time he’d speak his voice would crackle, much in the same manner as a pre-pubescent boy whose voice was on the verge of changing.
Most calls from Lonnie began with d-u-d-e, on this night it was, dude!
“Dude, my brother got a hold of some hash oil—meet me at the corner market in half an hour.” [squeak]
This was a school night, there was no way I was going out on a school night, wait, did he say hash oil?
Until that moment, the lore of hash oil was only a myth—something we thought may exist, but never actually had proof it did, nor did we know anyone who’d ever tried it. But we’d heard plenty of stories.
Like the one where this kid in a neighboring town got high on the stuff,
stole borrowed his dads car and drove it through the front window of a KFC in a frenzied munchy outing, later explaining to the police how he thought it was the drive-thru window.
And then there was the girl in our school who, on the bus ride to school one morning, took off all her clothes, cranked her boom box and danced melodically to Aqualung, the entire way to school!
Although, I always that that one might be a rumor—nobody dances to Jethro Tull for Christ’s sakes, and besides, anyone who’d ever told the story couldn’t recite her name. And that made no sense, because in our school, all a girl had to do to get a rumor started was to let her panties (sorry, I hate that word too) drag across her desk seat, producing a fart-like sound—she was doomed after that. Everyone knew her name.
“Alright, let me think up something to tell my parents, I’ll see you in a bit.”
I sat in front of the corner market waiting for Lonnie to show up, sipping orange juice and eating from a bag of cheesy puffs. I saw him coming.
Lonnie drove an old blue pickup truck, a camper shell attached to its bed which doubled as a nine-passenger limo on this night, because apparently, he’d called everyone he knew. As he pulled up, bodies began piling out of the camper in what seemed like a never-ending procession.
“Do you got the shit, lemme see it,” I asked impatiently.
And as promised, (by virtue of his boyish voice crackle) there it was, in all its glory—hash oil. It was beautiful—golden brown in color and remarkably similar to honey but with the consistency of tree sap.
“So how do we do this?” I asked.
“I dunno, I guess we just use the bong.” he responded, in an almost question-like manner.
And use the bong we did which, in retrospect, turned out to be an enormous mistake.
As hash oil novices, none of us were aware of its potency, or how it was the purest form of THC available, tipping the resin scale at just over 90 percent. Up until then, the only weed we had ever tried was so bad, you could get high on your school lunch break and still be able to function in 6th hour calculus, albeit, with a massive headache. So to inhale this stuff out of a device delivering ten times the punch as that of a small hash pipe, well, lets just say we fucked up monumentally.
A few minutes went by after I’d taken my first (and last) hit. I began to speak.
“Dude, I think I’m drowning.” I explained to the group calmly.
Everyone began laughing hysterically.
“No, dude, you don’t understand, I’m really drowning!” This time I announce it with a bit more conviction.
The laughing stopped as Lonnie, no doubt feeling responsible for my condition, rushed over to calm me down.
“Dude, you’re not drowning, there’s no water anywhere in sight, Ok?”
But I wasn’t ok. I had effectively, as a result of smoking this shit through a bong, managed to convince myself that the orange juice I was drinking had gone not down my esophagus, but directly into my lungs.
I was in fact, drowning.
“Dude, think about it, if you were drowning, you wouldn’t be able to speak.”
Lonnie was right. I wouldn’t be able to speak if I was actually drowning. How stupid was it to think I could actually pour OJ straight into my lungs? And yet I believed just that as I fixated on my soon-to-be, near death experience. I spoke up once again.
“Dude, I’m dying.” I proclaimed, with all the solemnity of a Buddhist Monk.
“Diego, you’re not dying, you just smoked some really good shit, that’s all.”
All of our friends were gathered around at that point, a hushed pall now replacing the laughter.
“Dude, is he going to be alright?” “Maybe we should take him to the hospital” one guy uttered.
“We’re not taking him to the hospital” I heard Lonnie say. “We’re taking him home.”
Did he just say home? Holy Fuck. I can’t go home like this. My parents will know I’m high for sure, and on a school night no less.
They’ll kill me.
“Dude, I can’t go home, I’ll blow it for sure— I told you, I’m really drowning.” this time very emphatically.
But that didn’t stop Lonnie. The next thing I know I was being shoved out of the camper shell right into my front yard, where from a timing perspective, things could not have worked out any worse.
My mother, who had chosen that exact moment to take her poodle outside to “do her business” (as she puts it), was standing there watching the entire fiasco.
She looked panicked as Lonnie and the gang sped off, dust and gravel slinging everywhere, as I laid there in a fetal heap. She knew something was up.
I slowly got up and staggered inside, my mom and the poodle following closely behind. I slipped past my dad who was reading the paper, and bounded directly for the safety of my bathroom, where I locked the door and hid.
Another huge mistake.
As I was hiding out in the bathroom, I brilliantly chose that particular moment to stare at myself in the mirror, fixating on my opened mouth which had just transformed into a gigantic, ever-widening black hole. My mouth agape, I watched (and hallucinated) in horror as my throat opened up, allowing me to peer directly into my lungs where I saw a big pool of orange juice sloshing around.
Fuck, I was most certainly drowning, there was no doubt about it this time. I unlocked the door to go find my parents and alert them of my drowning, but to my shock, they were both standing just outside the bathroom.
“Mom, Dad—I’m drowning!” I said calmly.
In hindsight, I should have said it in a more alarming manner since they both gave me a funny look, probably in disbelief that their honor student could say anything quite so stupid.
“I need to go to the hospital, NOW, I’m dying!” I had their attention this time.
My dad, immediately lurched at me and began shaking me violently.
“What was it son, speed, heroin, cocaine?” he asked, while rhythmically coordinating the pronunciation of each syllable with a violent back-and-forth body shake.
What the fuck? Heroin? Really? Even I was shocked at his line of questioning and here I was drowning in orange juice. I was an honor student for fuck’s sake, not a heroin addict!
“It was hash oil dad.” I managed to blurt out between shakes.
In an instant, Dad loaded me up into the car, and took me to the nearest emergency room where some night shift intern calmed both of us down, me with a shot of vitamin B-12, and my dad, a valium. I don’t remember much after that.
The next morning, and for many mornings afterward, I noticed how my breakfast place-setting was conspicuously missing the orange juice.
I never said a word.
Anyways, that’s why I’m writing you today.
I went to confession a few years back to get this one off my chest, but the priest began laughing and gave me the same penance he typically reserved for cursing, or having “impure” thoughts.
That’s why I thought it best to come to you directly.
I always thought he should have thrown in at least one ‘Act of Contrition’ given the whole bloody mess.
So, email me back and I’ll get started on my penance right away. Ok?
Drowning, but not in orange juice this time.