The last time I was at Southwest Organic Producers was the first time I'd ever set foot in a dispensary. I'd grinned through gritted teeth the entire drive there, a hum in my ear slowly escalating into a static whine. On legs of sludge and sand I tumbled into the waiting room.
I was feeling a new delight—one experienced by most cannabis patients, but rarely articulated for obvious reasons: I no longer had to worry about going to jail. This proved far more significant than I'd anticipated and unexpected tremors ran through my body. My tongue was numb and limp. My hands shook as I signed the new patient forms.
Delight is all well and good, but it's only about two paces from caustic tension. They're neighbors. They often loan and borrow sugar or what have you. One drunken night, they fell asleep in the backyard (neither remembers which) while laying in the grass and describing places neither had actually been.
What I'm getting at is: I was losing my footing quickly. My lips were numb and there was a tunnel. On the other end was a friendly budtender. He emanated consummate professionalism, but it was like a two-dimensional face on a movie screen. Sex through a sock.
I might have nodded.
All that was left of the visit were impressions—memories of memories. (And memories are barely tissue paper as it is.) But they are funny things. Thanks to the treachery of memory (and the apparent strength of tissue paper), walking in the second time felt like the first—somewhere between dizzy and dead. Very exciting business.
This time I could stop and shake my head, remind myself that I'm a damn professional. Tricks of smell and sight just slide off my Teflon hide. And besides, the wench is dead. I managed fine, I suppose. It was just a cannabis store after all.
There were far less colors than I'd recalled. My memory had painted the cream walls green and purple and orange and yellow. The floor also appeared less rubbery. The most noticeable difference was the tensile strength of my legs—like two pylons in the desert. A few easy steps dispelled the distant memories and everything collapsed back into a normal moment.
I sat down with the crowd in the waiting room and stared at the menu without reading it.
When I got to the showroom, the budtender stood at attention, like a cordial waiter from the finest Parisian restaurant. I straightened my back a bit and started asking about random products in my line of sight. I still hadn't actually looked at the menu. His answers were precise and at-hand before I'd finished asking the questions—the words of a man who's said it all before. No hemming or hawing.
I hemmed and hawed plenty enough for the both of us. I finally settled on a gram of Cat Piss Romulan (THC: 18.8%—$10/gram). The 'tender's voice was always at least a few decibels lower than mine, and I found myself quietly lowering to a whisper by the end of the transaction. It was like a magic trick.
I was blinking calmly in the parking lot and wondering about smells and memory when a faintly familiar man in a sun-bleached tee shirt asked me for a cigarette. “I don't smoke,” I told him. (I do like smelling errant secondhand from time to time, though. It's a weird guilty pleasure. I didn't share it with him.) He shook my hand anyway and jogged off to the next parking lot on the list.
Back home I unbuttoned my collar and put a Devo record on. I'd picked an indica strain because I felt all tooth and fingernail. I needed to get slow, and I needed to get weird, so I cracked open the Cat Piss Romulan. Don't let the name fool you. This smooth and buttery strain smelled like Christmas in the Rockies and tasted like lemon meringue pie. It hardly even tickled the throat …
I'm just foolin'. It tasted exactly like fresh cat piss and made me cough out half my lung. (I was once adopted by a neighborhood tom with jowls like tennis balls and a knotty lace of fight scars between his ears. After months of courting, I decided to let him in during a vicious Houston thunderstorm. He rubbed his fucked-up face against my legs, purring like a fire engine. He then promptly walked over to the wall, pointed his ass at it and let loose a foul mist of urine while making eye contact with me.
(This bud was nowhere near as unpleasant as that.)
The effects were slow to come on. I knew it was working when I caught myself looking deeply into a corner of the room with my lips slightly parted. My eyes had completely stopped transmitting information to my brain. I was sinking into the couch. My teeth were dull. My fingernails clipped. The whine of the world had ebbed to a hum again.
My mouth tasted like cat urine.