Long ago, I was one of the privileged, unsupervised, suburban teenagers who had infinite access to marijuana and unlimited opportunities to smoke it. Someone, somewhere grew it, harvested it and shipped it our way, and closer to home, someone sold it and someone bought it, but all I knew was that it was everywhere: at school, at parties, at the bus stop.
If an adult asked, we lied about smoking, of course, but we weren't asked often. It was probably inconceivable to our parents that nice kids like us would do anything that wacky. Outside of the occasional art or philosophy teacher, we didn't expect adults to understand, and we viewed their naivete with condescension. We were sure our thoughts, our very existence, were deeper and more profound than their pointless lives of chores and obligations.
Some of us continued smoking weed into adulthood, but most of us left it behind, along with our tie-dye and free time. We had more interesting things to think about, it made us feel worse rather than better and it was illegal.
Several decades passed, and along came news of marijuana as a panacea for pain relief, insomnia, anxiety, ailments that were irrelevant to us when we were kids. Friends got medical marijuana cards and touted its post-chemo, anti-nausea benefits, its appetite-stimulating powers for those on AIDS drugs, its ability to salve the pain of persistent bursitis or sciatica.
I began to wonder. The arthritis in my fingers makes it hard to sit at the keyboard as long as I'd like. Heck, sitting itself is an issue. We used to tell our bodies what to do, now our bodies tell us. My concentration has gone entirely to hell. Would weed help?
I no longer have kids to pick up at school or drive to baseball practice. I don't go into an office that requires me to maintain productivity, concentration or demeanor. I have come out the other side of my own chore-filled era of obligation, and once again, I have a lot of unsupervised time. No one is watching, judging.
But I'd heard marijuana was way stronger than it used to be — nothing like the giggly, navel-gazing weed of my youth — and that one hit would knock my socks off.
The first time I smoked again, I coughed so hard I vomited spectacularly into the garden. I tried a marijuana cookie next and became so nearly paralyzed that I had to remind myself to breathe. But the weed wasn't the only thing that had changed. As a teenager, I would have been terrified if my autonomic nervous system had stopped functioning. Now, paralysis — and mortality — are more melancholy than scary. I know I'll have to step out of this life eventually, and I am mostly sorry to have to leave so soon.
I persisted. With a smaller dose, the simple things in life came into new focus. As a stoned teen, I'd been blown away by the engineering of my hands; now I look at the same hands with fondness and gratitude, touched by all they have done for me. My fingers will never again be strong or straight, but even with swollen knuckles, they are marvels.
Tending the garden, buzzed, takes on a new poignancy; I am sometimes brought nearly to tears by the cycle of life. The sun feels wonderful on my stiff shoulders. Now I over-include the pets in my conversation, until they make it clear they'd prefer to stick to our long-established relationship boundaries. My oatmeal is unusually delicious, and I crack myself up.
I don't answer the phone when I'm high. I don't drive, and when I read about the rules in effect since Jan. 1, I'm not dismayed by any of the ones that seek to curtail my ability to indulge. Legal or not, I'm still a little embarrassed by my new pot hobby. I don't consider that my existence is deeper or more profound than anyone else's these days.
But this will stay the same: If anyone — the kids? — should stop by and ask why I'm acting oddly, I'll lie.
Amy Koss writes young adult fiction.