My very first toke on a joint was when I was the ripe old age of 15. I had a childhood friend who lived in Florida. I was living in Pittsburgh at the time, but spent summers at my uncle’s house in Hallandale, Florida. I spent most of my days with my aunt helping her--usually under protest--clean the house and tidying up while my uncle and cousins, who were a few years older than me, went out into the working world.
I remember one day my aunt and I were visiting a family friend, and I became bored. I asked my aunt if I could walk over to my old friend Karen’s house and hang out with her for awhile. I grew up next door to Karen, and we were the best of friends until I eventually moved away after fifth grade.
My aunt agreed to let me go, and off I went. It was a long, hot walk, but well worth getting away from two gossipy women sipping lemonade and talking about things I had absolutely no interest in.
It was late morning, and I got to Karen’s just as she was getting ready to go run some errands. She had her driver’s license, something I wouldn’t get for another couple of years, and she had a cute little VW bug. I know, so cliché, but honestly, she did, and she asked if I’d like to ride along.
“You bet I would!” I hurriedly answered. So, errands weren’t like the coolest thing to do, but having a friend who drove when you were still yearning to, well, that was close enough to the real thing for me.
Karen was cute, really cute, surfer Florida girl cute. She had long wavy blonde hair, a perpetual tan, and a perfect body. I was more curvy than Karen. She could wear the gypsy skirt, peasant blouse look well, I couldn’t. But I looked alright in a pair of shorts and sleeveless blouse, and while my hair was dark, long and wavy, not at all looking like the surfer Florida girl, I did have plenty of freckles.
Together, we were ok to look at and driving around town, well, we got some honks and some stares and I remember feeling so much freedom that day. No worries, just riding around town, hitting the store, the bank, doing odds and ends, grown up stuff when I hadn’t really realized that, in fact, it was about time I started acting more grown up.
When we were on our way home, Karen asked, “Have you ever smoked a joint before?” I wanted to act all cool and say yeah, but truth is, I never had, and since Karen and I went way back, she’d know I was lying anyways, so I told the truth. She pulled out a joint.
“Well, now you can see what it’s all about,” she told me, and she lit it up. My first drag on it was awful, I remember. The smoke really hurt my lungs. I had already tried cigarettes, but I wasn’t anything near being a smoker.
We passed the joint between us as she maneuvered in and out of traffic, and me? I kept my eyes out for the cops. I kept waiting for something magical to happen but the most I can honestly say I felt was maybe a bit happier, but high like I’d heard about from all the propaganda being thrown at us? No. I wasn’t high. I “wanted” to get high, to honestly feel how Karen was feeling, but never really did. I envied her. She had a car, she was cute as hell, had a boyfriend already, was entrenched in the hippie lifestyle, and she was high. I was none of those things.
Karen told me it was ok, my not feeling high right off the bat, that it happened to lots of people the first time cause they didn’t know what to expect. We got back to her house, and it was time for me to start walking back home to my uncle’s house. She told me to wait a minute, went into the house and came back out with a small joint.
“Here, for later. Maybe the second time will be better for you.”
It was at that precise moment I went from being an innocent onlooker to a part of the hippie generation. I was officially on the road to turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. I stuck the joint in my bra (Karen said it was the best place to hide it), and I set off toward my uncle’s house.
Maybe I did feel something after all. I sure as hell wasn’t the same girl that had made the trip to Karen’s house a few hours earlier. I had matured somehow. I had become one of “them.” The cool people. I never felt guilty, never felt like I was doing anything remotely wrong, and I never, ever wanted to look back.