Hey, You Don’t Have To Think Today: A Short Story
While they cut up the Molly, I grew very conscious of my own hand grasping my own cigarette for mental balance. The surrounding blast of electronic music didn’t help anything. Every time the bass “dropped” everyone seemed to recharge, but I just felt like lying down. I reminded myself that it had been my decision to come to this music festival. I had knowingly committed to three days of dubstep shows, emaciated girls accessorized with furry boots and hula-hoops, and the ever-present opium, sass, and roxycodone. There were so many words to add to my vocabulary, so many substances available to me, and from what I’d heard, so many trips to the hospital in the last few hours.
The drugs were mostly circulated by blonde boys with splotchy faces and dead eyes, walking around the campgrounds in rags, casually announcing their product: “Got what you need, ten dollars a bar, got what you need…” Their voices floated above each other, above tents and canopies, producing a soundtrack of evil voices that whispered to each other and never ceased. We were only one day in, and I was already exhausted and so, so dirty. The festival had unexpectedly sold too many tickets, so instead of sleeping in grassy knolls like 5,000 other people, I was sleeping in the parking lot of the upstate New York festival grounds. The lines for the showers were forty long, and mostly just served as a space for people to f*ck in. The day before, in an attempt to wash, Shanan poured what he thought was water from a Poland Spring bottle onto his head, only to realize the contents were actually vodka. The acidic liquid had bitten at his face and squeezed his skin, but when our friends laughed, I laughed with them. It was funny! It was funny that he was miserable, and it was funny that I was at this festival. It was the last place I would had expected myself to be.
I watched Eliza, her head bent over crushed brown powder, metrocard in hand, methodical in her process. She must have felt my stare, because she looked up and caught my eye. Eliza, with her tan skin and freckles and hair that functioned perfectly through rainy days, cigarette smoke and the absence of a brush—F*cking bitch, I thought.
“What’s up? You’re thinking about something—I can never tell what you’re thinking about, but you’re always thinking something.”
“I’m thinking about how annoying it is that you look so good.”
Eliza laughed lightheartedly, like attractive people do. “You look fine,” she said, as she wiped her hands on her jean shorts. “I’m done, let’s get ready to go and then we can take this.”
Getting up to change, she looked back over her shoulder at me– “Do you want to snort it or dip it, by the way?”
My stomach lurched. “Oh, you know, whatever you guys want to do.”
Eliza grinned again. It was going to be my second time taking Molly—that time in Montreal didn’t count, since the MDMA was so heavily cut with speed. This time, we bought it from a reliable source (or so Owen said), so hopefully I’d actually roll. This time, I’d grow the magical dancing powers that everyone else somehow naturally inherited. I wouldn’t be awkward at the concerts. I’d know when to raise my arms. I’d be comfortable alone, yet so connected to everyone around me. Most importantly, I’d know when I was happy. Everybody else seemed to know when they were happy or sad, but I felt I’d only ever walked around in a dull limbo between the two, not knowing the difference in the first place.
I walked back to our tent, spotting Danny on his way in. He looked disheveled and lost.
“Tripping, bro?” I slapped him on the back.
“Not yet,” He told me, while his eyeballs floated in different directions. “You sure you don’t want a tab?”
“So sure,” I unzipped the tent cover. “You know me, how I get in my head too much. I’d probably be that person who thought they were an orange and tried to peel themselves—”
Danny started to respond, but a teenager in a headdress walked by, winning his attention. I took the opportunity to change my clothes, outfitting myself in navy blue rainboots that chafed my shins and a ratty grey t-shirt. In a compact mirror, I likened my reflection to a warrior preparing for battle.
When I came out, the sun was setting on the tent city. Burning cigarette cherries punctured the darkness. The smell of hamburgers and sweat suffocated me. Girls sauntered by, neon body paint covering their dark pretty bodies, decorated in bikini tops and french braids. Boys in wifebeaters packed bowls. Rusko sounded from car speakers, accompanying me to lawn chairs where the squad was sitting in a deep, intellectual conversation.
“Finally!” Owen yelled at me directly, throwing me a can of beer. I caught it, and started to open the Budweiser when Paulina started:
“Let’s just take the Molly now! I want to be rolling when Dillon Francis goes on!”
I could have screamed. Instead, I lit a cigarette.
“Yeah, let’s. I don’t want to have to be dipping when a million other people are around me.”
A.J. took out his key and measured out a bump. “You first—you’ve never snorted anything before, right?”
I shook my head and leaned forward, covering one nostril with a finger. The powder stung my nose and my eyes watered. I clenched my fists and leaned back, while A.J. dug the key back into the baggie, pulling out some more.
“I’m proud of you. Each of us gets one point. Finish this and see how you feel before doing any more.”
I smiled weakly, then finished the next bump. He was proud of me. A.J., who sat on his couch all day long, with nothing to boast of except for his low-level drug dealing, was proud of me.
“If only I’d known this was all it took to impress you,” I mumbled, my throat choking on a sour taste. I tried to level with his eyes, with his logic, but it didn’t matter anymore. My sarcasm and my valid perspective have just disappeared up my nose, I thought.
We took turns blowing bumps. I watched eyes roll into the back of heads and listened to deep breathing. When they finished, we chugged beers and lit cigarettes, starting the walk to the main stage. Our feet crunched the gravel and I noticed everyone’s dirty toenails. Owen’s big toenail was cracked through the middle. My own looked pretty yellow. When I looked back up, I noticed a girl squatted a few feet away, taking a shit in the grass. We made eye contact, and I looked away quickly. No one else seemed to notice.
“Okay, so first Dillon Francis, and then Pretty Lights. Their light show is crazy—” Owen had been to the festival the year before. I ground my teeth together a few times to see if it felt good. It sort of did. Soon enough, we reached the packed festival grounds, where the show had already started. Thousands of people cheered for the small man on the faraway stage, but I wanted something else.
“I love you, Shanan. I love being here with you.”
He stopped dancing for a minute.
“You too, baby. I’m glad you’re having fun.”
He started dancing again, in a far-away place.
I looked at him again, pleading for reassurance, knowing there was none to be found. He took my hand, but I couldn’t reciprocate for long. My fingers started to roll into themselves as the music got louder. Glares of phosphorescence began to heat me up from the top of my head. I started to sweat. I licked the sides of my lips to taste the salt. The wind breezed through the spaces between my teeth, oxygen particles resting on my mouth like glitter. I couldn’t resist the feeling of my tongue on my own gums.
Somewhere outside of myself, Eliza screamed, “Take your shirt off, bitch!” and shoved a light-up pacifier into my mouth. She laughed, all the way into her dilated pupils. “There’s Ecstacy leftover on that! Enjoy!” She danced away into the crowd, a mythical being of the drug trade. I chewed the rubber, feeling the mild shocks running back into my throat. Eliza’s right, I thought, I should take my shirt off. With the shirt on the floor, I could lift my arms above my head and rub my palms together. Suddenly, the taste of bile released into my throat. Panicked, I considered the possibility that I was acting like a f*cking weirdo—but when I looked around, I only saw smiles. The music grew louder, and the screen began to play a series of visuals: one hundred ducks, quacking in different directions faded in and out, giving way to bright lightning bolts.
This feels, I thought, so good. It’s so good, I thought, how I feel. My face hurt from smiling and I bumped my knees together to distract my face from grinding my teeth. I was a dinosaur skeleton, extinct and alone, from a place where no one could ever understand my species. Shut up, I told myself. Charlie passed me a joint, and I inhaled deeply. Where is my boyfriend? I reached over to Shanan, pulling him towards me with his belt loop.
“C’mere, let me give you a serotonin push,” He shoved me in front of him, digging his thumb and forefinger into the back of my neck. He drooled a bit on my skin. “How good does that feel?” I hated him a little bit for touching me. I pulled away, worried he’d realize, but he didn’t. He never really knew how I felt. I can’t blame him. I didn’t either.
“Let me make you feel better. I’ve got something for everything,”—he searched inside his pockets, so I spread open my lips and stuck out my tongue.