It wasn’t romantic or sexy. It was a sad cliché slapped on top of a boring teenage sob story. And there I was, in the McDonald’s bathroom, snorting crystal meth off the back of the toilet.
I had a party to go to that night. I knew the boy that had broken my heart was going to be there, and he would be nice to me but distant and I knew if I got drunk I would still be the same person, but if I did drugs, if I did crystal meth, I would be different. And I wanted him to prove to him that I was different. That I Had. Moved. On. And the thing that I had moved on to was something so much bigger than him. And better. And I was better.
June and Emma were my best friends in the world that summer. I could feel them slipping away. They had been acting strangely, disappearing into bathrooms, leaving parties and coming back like they had just shared the best secret. I asked them what was going on and they would tell me not to worry about it. “God, it’s nothing, stop being so crazy.” They would say it really fast.
We were sitting in McDonald’s that summer night waiting for Emma’s boyfriend to get off work. Emma didn’t want to go to the party because she hated everyone. June didn’t care where we went as long as it involved drinking and having fun and not watching The Doors for the 50 millionth time. I told them I wanted to go because I figured he would be there. That’s when they told me that while he was definitely going to be there, he was going to be there with someone else.
“He’s been with her since you left for camp.”
“Since before, actually.”
Every muscle in my abdomen was knotted up. All the blood in my body had mysteriously disappeared and been replaced by air. I would have cried, but I couldn’t figure out where my feelings went. I was absent from the room. My body was there, but the rest of me was somewhere else. June and Emma told me to come with them to the bathroom, they had something to tell me.
We walked into the bathroom and they locked the door. June hopped up on the sink and swang her long legs back and forth. She was wearing cut off jeans. She was a gazelle.
Emma stood at the mirror and looked at her perfect bangs and eyelashes. Her pale skin was flawless and her brown hair so straight.
“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”
I couldn’t imagine what they had in store.
Emma held up a tiny bag with dusty yellow smudges and wicked looking clumps.
I looked at June. She was staring at me.
“I don’t want to shoot up.”
June burst out laughing. Her laugh was infectious. It felt like a playful tug on your pony tail. She hopped off the sink and hugged me.
“Don’t worry, dude, we just snort it.”
“Do you want to do a line?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how.”
“We’ll show you.”
Of all the things we do as humans, of all our rituals and addictions - the uncorking of a bottle of wine, the crackle of tobacco when lighting a cigarette, the long stretched out moment before a man puts his hand on your neck and pulls you in for that first kiss - nothing quite compares to the way it feels to prepare a line and feel it go up your nose and burn a path down your throat.
I became that ritual and it became me. I still catch a whiff of the familiar smell every now and then when I open my glove box. It is my phantom leg, my dead spouse, the imaginary friend who felt so real.
So that night, I did a line and saw the boy. I tried to make him realize that he had made a mistake. That he was missing out on all this - spreading my arms out wide - but he didn’t care. And I got hooked on the feeling. The feeling that I didn’t care that he didn’t care.
So it began.