09.22.2016
culture

The Day My Charming Drug Dealer Roommate Broke My Shroom Cherry

There's a first time for everything.

“I’m not a drug dealer,” Kevin explained the day after I moved in. He was sitting wide-legged on the couch in our living room, scissors in his hands, a coffee table covered with Brussels sprouts spread in front of him. He pressed the button to mute the UFC on the flat screen. I was Indian-style in the armchair, waiting for a friend to pick me up.

“I just don’t like the guys I buy from; so I get it in bulk. And then I sell it to my friends, or anyone who wants it.” Sure, this is the definition of a someone who sells drugs. Said in a distinctly Midwestern cadence by a baby-faced white man in his forties, though, it sounded remarkably innocent.

Kevin went about cutting the Brussels sprouts, which of course turned out to be weed, not Brussels sprouts. He’s a big, gentle guy who cooks his bacon for the week on Sundays and does Crossfit. He has a defenseless way about him, and I’m a socialized woman; so I pushed aside my questions and nodded okay.

I’d found the house through friends, and the house had found me at a low point in my life: My father was terminally ill, I was heartbroken at the demise of a relationship with the first man I ever truly wanted to marry, and a move across the country to be with that man had fallen through dramatically a few months before. At 34, I raised a lot of eyebrows by moving in with roommates, but the people who lived there were professionals, all older than me, and the house itself, a gorgeous Victorian on our small city’s park, was the nicest place I’d ever lived.

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The dealing revealed itself in harmless, comedic vignettes, the way it does when performed by white people in the movies: Kevin and an obese friend of mine went on a date and he brought her home afterward. She hung out in the kitchen while he baked his weekly batch of pot brownies. “How much do you weigh?” he asked her guilelessly. My roommates, sitting within earshot, almost spit out their drinks.

I arrived home one Tuesday night late to find the attic where Kevin slept hotboxed, a group of people in their forties stoned beyond speech.

I arrived home one Tuesday night late to find the attic where Kevin slept hotboxed, a group of people in their forties stoned beyond speech. A regular client, a father of two with Crohn’s, would chat with me about the science fiction novel he was writing while Kevin measured out his purchase and I ate dinner in my pajamas. My friends were thrilled to have a hook-up, tickled that I of all people, with my strict adherence to a two-drink limit, was the one to introduce them to a dealer. I’d bring them up to his attic, roll around on his foam roller while he separated pieces, weighed them, and finally accepted their fistful of cash.

It was fun, except when it wasn’t: Kevin threw a chair off our porch on the first night of spring, yelling at me to “stand in my power” and then later confessed that he’d been experimenting with micro-dosing mushrooms. Kevin, high and drunk one night, called a guy I’d been dating by America's most offensive racial epithet. Kevin high again the night I asked him to stop saying it.

Kevin high every night.

Kevin sat me down and explained he was going to begin growing and selling mushrooms, and these were both felonies, could I be cool about it?

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I could not.

I was raised in New Jersey in the 1980s where the threat of crack pulsed in bogeymen: A grown-up named Dougie turned into a shirtless zombie, roaming the streets of my otherwise idyllic blue-collar town; gangs running the drug just blocks away, nice older boys dropping out of school and months later, they’d be lost to the drug, their mothers aged decades, strung out with worry. The gangs and the drugs were forever associated, and the rumors about gangs were enough to turn a person off of them forever: Bloods snagged children to do their selling for them since kids wouldn’t get much time if they got caught; another gang made boys rape a girl at a party; their female counterparts made the girls submit to sex with a boy they didn’t know.

Enough to scare a kid straight, for sure. By the time I got to high school, though, the dealers were white kids with dreadlocks who wore the same hemp necklaces I did. They kissed with the passion of a Puritan. I couldn’t imagine them defending themselves in a fistfight, let alone manage a firearm, if called upon to do so. My friend Faye grew weed under her mother’s guidance in their spare bedroom. A friend of my brother’s drove up to North Jersey once a month and returned with a haul big enough to last our county months. These people were the opposite of scary.

So was Kevin.

We would go to a Trump rally, and I would be high on mushrooms.

I found myself tiptoeing around his schedule of getting high by maximizing time with him in the morning. We’d eat our eggs at opposite ends of the table and chat benignly about grammar mistakes in the newspaper or the upcoming primary election.

Why didn’t I move out?

I was still in debt from moving a few months earlier. The idea of finding a new place exhausted me. And also, why is the sky blue? Why is water wet?

Winter in the Midwest gives you a space for grief, holds hands with it, and I snuggled in between their fingers with my father’s illness and my broken heart. I got high on the pain of my own life and stopped making decisions in my own best interest.

We hatched a plan over breakfast one morning in mid-March, the hoods of our sweatshirts pulled up, frost on the windows. We would go to a Trump rally, and I would be high on mushrooms. The experience would be risky, could produce a fascinating literary essay. I write fiction primarily, but we live in an influential swing state, and Kevin would supply the mushrooms and keep me safe. He repeated this over and over, as he stood up to bring his dishes to the sink, as we walked up the stairs to go to our respective bedrooms to get dressed for the day. I remember what he was wearing: White scrubs and a gray sweatshirt. I remember the exact words that he said. “I’ll protect you.” “I’ll keep you safe.” “Don’t worry, I have a conceal and carry.” I remember because this is where it began.

Kevin, who’d promised me he’d be sober for the duration of my trip, showed up at my house with his eyes bloodshot and a weed brownie in his hand.

The way he stroked our roommates’ cat’s face while he was chatting, the feeling I got when I would stand next to him and inhale his pot brownie instead of partaking—I was in the process of quitting sugar, and he, generous as any drug dealer I’ve ever known, would always, always offer. The memory of him throwing the chair off the porch would play on loop in my head as I lay in bed listening to his footsteps above me—he had thrown the chair, after all, to make room for me.

I was falling in love with him.

Of course the dealing existed like an extra limb I assumed he’d lose once he realized he didn’t need it anymore.

Of course he didn’t lose it.

Of course the other stuff added up: After the racist expletives, I didn’t feel comfortable bringing black friends over. The TV was on a lot. Spring broke like a sweat and without winter, my grief lost its punch. My living situation started to feel like nonsense, and I moved out in May.

We stayed friends. I could not be cool enough to live with a person who is selling mushrooms, you see, but I was cool enough to try them. We tried to stick with the plan of finding a Trump rally, but they give you little notice; so we decided I would do them on Fourth of July instead.

Kevin, who’d promised me he’d be sober for the duration of my trip, showed up at my house with his eyes bloodshot and a weed brownie in his hand.

Fellas, if you’re looking to kill a lady’s emotional boner, this is a great way to do it.

I closed my eyes to go to sleep and saw devils, red but otherwise a clichéd pair of leprechauns, dance on my eyelids.

I ate the mushrooms, the amount Kevin had insisted was right, but something about either this batch or my constitution made it so I had a mild trip. I delighted in squeaky clean jokes to myself: I made a can-can joke with the ruffles on my shirt, propped my glasses up in front of my cup of water and regarded them as a serious British gentleman. My babysitter tried to get in on the jokes, but I was in an exclusive relationship with my serotonin; I’d lost interest in everybody who wasn’t me, including Kevin, dozing on my couch with his hand down his pants.

We made our way to the park to watch the fireworks and then laid in the grass after everybody had left to look at the stars. I felt sober, was completely in control of my person, but I swore I could see inside them. Passing planes, too. They took on a translucent quality and, while I couldn’t describe what I saw, I knew I was looking inside. Kevin corroborated this.

The park cleared out, we got chilly, and we didn’t know what to do. Kevin suggested a bar; I was still feeling antisocial. We went back to my apartment, where we fell asleep separately, him on the couch, me in my armchair.

The rest of the night was unremarkable, except when I closed my eyes to go to sleep and saw devils, red but otherwise a clichéd pair of leprechauns, dance on my eyelids.

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