Voices: I’ve Never Been High And I Feel Like Magic
This is something that will probably never happen to you.
Hi, I’m 28 and I’ve never smoked weed. I inhaled for a split-second in tenth grade—in a playground one night with the president of the Drama Club—but I coughed it up and never tried again. I didn’t even know what weed smelled like until two years ago, when I finally used my powers of deduction to trace that peachy smell back to the slow-walking smiley guys on my block. And I swear I’m not weirdly religious or straight-edge or Republican or home-schooled or gangrenous or anything. I was just never appropriately peer pressured in high school, and I missed my moment.
Thing is, now, I can levitate.
You probably wouldn’t understand, because you’ve never spent your entire life stone cold sober. But if I close my eyes and focus on my sobriety with enough intensity, I can lift my body a centimeter off the ground. Sometimes a centimeter and a half. It feels a little like riding the world’s tiniest, soberest roller coaster.
It all started in the winter of my junior year in college. I was at a friend’s apartment in a suburb of Chicago, and we were procrastinating on finals by listening to Gwen Stefani, as one does (I’m 28, remember). Halfway through the night, everyone started making weedy eyes at each other to quietly assess the possibility of a mass exodus to the fire escape. Little exhales, nods, ticks of the head. One by one, my friends folded themselves in half and climbed out the window. I saw every butt crack vanish into the night.
When you’re sober for long enough, people assume it’s just who you are. They print it on your driver’s license. They stamp it on your passport. They turn it into a necklace and hang it from your neck. Soon, even you don’t question it. You are The One Who Never Gets Stoned. The “stable” one. The designated driver, tip-calculator, Seamlesser. The silent punchline at the end of every joke—you, standing in the corner, staring into everyone’s wide, pink eyes.
And that’s who I was that night, alone and gazing at the floor. I focused on a tiny whorl of wood. I basically threw my frontal lobe at it, remembering every time I’d chosen to stay inside while the rest of my demographic was fire-escaping from their own lives. How the whites of my eyes were pure white, my fine motor skills damn fine, and my appetite extraordinarily regular. How, likely, for the rest of my life, I’d watch stoned people from within my glass cage of sobriety, staring at them as they’d laugh at mediocre jokes and try to give me end-of-night hugs. How I’ll never have that blissed-out moment when the world comes together like the scarab beetle in Aladdin and things make weedy, wonderful sense.
As I thought these thoughts, I looked down at my toes. I was hovering a millimeter above the floor—me, the Only Sober Boy in Liberal Arts College. So sober I was, quite literally, high.
Higher than the floor of my friend’s second-floor walkup. Which is not that high, though it is higher than something.
Soon, in the moments of solitude when my friends escaped to roofs or spare bedrooms or centers of dark football fields, I discovered I had other powers, too. For example, I can boil tomato soup with my eyes. And I can time travel, but only during small talk and only forward or backward one topic of conversation. (It’s annoying, but what can you do, right?) I mean, I’ve been sober my entire life. These are my sober superpowers. Or, as we like to say in the sober community: my Soberpowers.
Everyone who has never been high shares these Soberpowers. And the first thing a person who has never been high will tell another person who has never been high is to never, under any circumstance, use your Soberpowers for evil. Subtext: Don’t boil people’s blood! Don’t levitate when you’re peeing in someone else’s home! It sounds like common sense, and most of the time it is.
Oh, I forgot—I can also fray the edge of a throw pillow by crinkling my nose.
My parents accept my Soberpowers. When I came home for Christmas after graduating college, I was so sober I floated straight into the Christmas tree. My parents were frightened; so I sat them down and calmly explained that I’ve never smoked weed, I’m incredibly sober, et cetera et cetera—and, in time, they came around. Nowadays, when I go home, I usually greet them by slowly time-traveling out of their questions about whether I’m dating anyone or when I’m going to buy warm winter boots. They don’t seem to mind.
Sometimes I wish I could live my life without wondering what it feels like to be actually high. Weed high. I think of exchanging these powers for a life of Navajo-pattern sweaters and minimalist bongs. I think of going back to that Chicago apartment and blazing the winter away, feeling the cold fire escape on the bottoms of my bare feet.