Shaking in a Park

That time I got too high with a guy named Lake

by Lucinda Jaffe; illustration by James Bartels

Well, I kind of, sort of became a drug dealer.”

“You had it in you,” I say.

“How?” he says.

“You always mentioned drugs wistfully back in high school. Like when that guy Vinny Franco was reselling pet meds as ecstasy substitutes, you kind of admired him.”

“Dude, Vinny is the man. I saw him yesterday.”

“Tell me more.”

“It started when people at school told me they had no good weed. I mean, it was North Carolina. Then I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good California hookup.’ Before I knew it, I was getting boxes shipped in. But yeah, that’s kind of how I got straight Ds. I’m taking a year off Wake Forest to work on my fireworks business.” 

Lake and I talk about the fireworks business for a while, and he brags about all his romantic conquests, including one in which he made out with ten girls and five guys in one night. We walk on the beach near the power plant and talk about how we are so glad we have reconnected. He says, “Hey, want to get high as balls sometime?” I smoked cannabis sometimes my freshman year and enjoyed it, so I say, “Totally.”

We sit in his pickup truck in the Torrey Pines High School parking lot. With his long, gangly fingers, he shows me how much of the brownie I should eat.

“Eat the whole thing, and you’ll smell colors. Eat half, and you’ll be stoned out of your mind. A quarter, buzzed.”

“I’ll have an eighth,” I say. We partition it and I chew it down. It tastes like the smell of marijuana mixed with raw rosemary, caked in chocolate-flavored toothpaste.

“I always thought it would taste like a regular brownie,” I say, fumbling for my water bottle after I had swallowed.

“Not a chance,” he says.

The brownie takes an hour to kick in. It starts with a twitch in my right eye. Then I go from zero to ten in less than a second.

“I'm high,” I say as we drive along Torrey Pines Beach.


As we drive past the stop signs, they expand and flatten like pancakes.

“Is this really going to last six hours?” I ask, dread setting in.

“Hell yes,” Lake says. “Just relax and enjoy the ride. And I bet you can’t wait to try Molly—it’s like this, but ten times more intense.”

Sometimes I feel trapped in my city, as though there is nothing to do in San Diego. Sometimes I feel trapped in my house, with no car to drive me to the smoothie bar. Sometimes I feel trapped in my room, too lazy to get out of bed. Here, I am trapped in my consciousness. My eyeballs are on fire. We come to a stoplight and I look at my feet sprawled out on the floor of his huge truck; suddenly, everything seems blisteringly hot and I can only see one thing at a time. My body radiates with extreme displeasure and all I need is a way out of this madness, but this is my life, trapped between two flaming car windows, forever. This is how I die, I think. I’ve lived a decently exciting life filled with world travel and character development, all curling up and blinking away after entering this random nightmare.

I scream. I know other people at the stop light can hear me, but I am too endangered to care. I know I am humiliating myself in front of Lake, but all instinct to preserve reputation has been pushed aside because I am going to die. I always thought that if I was tripping, I would simply rationalize the experience and tell myself it will end soon. But now, there is no rational brain; a hand has drawn a black curtain and turned out the lights. Lake holds my hand. I feel closer to reality, but no safer.

“I can’t feel myself!” I squeal like a maniac.

“Can you feel me holding your hand?”

“I know you’re holding my hand, but I can’t feel it.” I reach down and dig for my phone in my backpack, but my fingers do not find the textured rubber of my OtterBox.

I tell him to drive me home, but he doesn’t, and I’m too far gone to notice. As we drive, I feel like I’m on a nightmare raft. The whir of his truck is singing a disgusting, melodic song. We get out of his truck, and he’s taken me to the park. Things seem more normal: Instead of believing I’m dead, now I’m just swimming in a dream. A terrible dream. The park is packed with little kids and parents. We sit on a bench, but I can’t relax because my fear returns. The negative feeling islike hundreds of ants are crawling all over my body. It is worse than the time I caught a parasite in Peru and had appendicitis-like symptoms for a month. It is worse than seeing the guy I like making out with another girl. The feeling is building up, and there is not enough room in my body for it. If there were a cliff in front of me, I would leap to my death. Instead, I begin shaking violently, like somebody pretending to be a ghost. I shake, vibrate, in a park, like a joke. It is the most humiliating moment of my life. I beg him for his phone so I can call my mom.

“You will regret this,” he says. “I can do everything for you that your mom can, and more.” This only affirms my desire to call. I think, “This is so bad that there is no way I could ever regret this.” 

The sight of my mom's white Mercedes SUV is the greatest thing I have ever seen. Soon, I am sitting at my kitchen table with my parents. “This is a normal reaction to too much THC,” says my mom. 

How could this be normal? I think as I look at her face, a floating head, while everything around her ripples into fractals.

My mom moves me to the couch. I try to close my eyes, but if I relax too much I am flung into a void where my body melts and is yanked into different dimensions. I see mathematical patterns, the kind you get when you plug random data into Mathematica. She turns on“Friends” and I feel like I am a stroke patient in the hospital.

My parents escort me into the downstairs bathroom, where I throw up for the first time in two years. I try opening my eyes, closing them, drifting off, being more aware, but each moment is torture. Every second is a bad second. There are no good seconds. I lay on the bathroom floor, unable to feel my body. I don’t care, throw up some more, and then fall asleep.

My parents wake me up and carry me to the guest bed, previous witness of high school makeout sessions. I see my sister’s eye, which I had photographed several days prior, and an abstract bird sculpture. I hear my trash compactor speaking to me in a deep, gravelly voice. When I try to speak, I find my vocabulary bank reduced to nothing: My brain makes up words like “ka-ha-rees-thinf,” and each word also becomes a purple centipede. I say my closest friend’s name to myself: Michael Massaro. Michael Massaro. He is 50 miles away, probably in his calculus class, but he is the only reality I know. Michael Massaro. Michael Massaro. Purple centipedes. Michael Massaro. Ka na, ree tee, dee do-pla na.