I’m at the corner of Bloor and Ossington and, all of a sudden, it's really hot. The sun is hitting me directly in the eyes. When I look up, all I see is the dullness of everything around me—the buildings, the sidewalk, the garbage cans. If this is what it’s like to come down, I have to get back up. I rest my head between my legs and for a second it feels good—until I remember I’m wearing a skirt. It’s 8:30 in the morning and my lace underwear is in full view of the intersection. My friend Tina, who is also in second year at York University, comes running out of an alley and the colours around her blur and she seems to be coming at me. If I didn’t know her, I swear, I'd scream "get the fuck away from me, asswipe!" I do know her though, so I say calm the fuck down, Teen. "Ok, beyotch," she says, slamming into my side. "I love you, Jenny."
Tina’s hungover too and throws up huge chunks of I-don’t-know-what on my favourite pair of Converse. It’s a smell I’ll never get rid of, no matter how many times I wash them. I ask her between heaves if she remembers any details. She shakes her head and is focused on her business. She remembers the first dealer, his house, and the creepy rail thin guy waiting out front. She remembers a rave, the fifteen-year-olds with their bright clothes and pacifiers. I only remember a girl we met, Jamie, and some of her friends she introduced us to. They were really nice—I mean, they gave us E—two pills each, and we didn’t even have to do anything.
There were two guys we went off with somewhere in Parkdale, screaming down the street at three in the morning. The rum and coke and lollipops from the club were the best tasting things on earth. I know we must have just come from a dealer’s because I don’t even have money left for a cab. I tell Tina "Next time, we should bring a camera!." She says "For the things we do we could charge a lotta money, honey!"
I take the subway down to my parents’ house in Yorkmills. I miss my stop twice. By the time I get there, it’s a quarter to ten and no one’s home. I make myself a glass of hot water with lemon and take the vitamins my mother left out for me on the counter. I take a bath and nearly fall asleep. I want to throw out my shoes, but realize my parents might see them in the garbage. I find a pair of grey pants, slacks really, very grown-up, and a white shirt that’s loose enough to be almost demure. Very Alicia Silverstone, you know, that scene in Clueless where she’s convinced her clothes will help her pass her driving test.
I have a test later in the afternoon. I grab my textbook, which has rested comfortably untouched on bathroom counter for two months, as I hit the door. I get to school with enough time for some cramming. I heard somewhere that if you cram it’s all short-term memory. I get there just in time to see people panicking outside the classroom, anxiously trying to cram for the two-essay, five-short-answer test worth thirty percent of our final mark in History.
My friend Sam, who I’ve known since high school, congratulates me: “You look confident,” she tells me, squeezing my arm just below my elbow.
“I am,” I tell her, smiling tightly. "I’m totally confident I don’t know the material!" I write the test in an hour and a half and hand it in. I don’t know how I did, but I won't be rushing to find out. I go to my next class, all the way across campus to the psychology building. We’re discussing Jung. By 7:30, Jung is done. I walk across campus towards a nearby restaurant. My mother calls me. Even though I have call display and don't want to talk to my mother, I pick it up, just to make it shut up.
I tell her "I’m fine, Mom; I aced my History test I’m going to have to spend another night at the library. Yeah, the reference library, downtown, yeah, the one near Yonge. Periodicals, you know. I’ll probably you in the morning." I hang up, feeling the satisfaction I imagine a man who's just successfully lied to his wife about being late at "the office" feels. I storm off into the bathroom, wash my hands, and call Tina.
She's there in fifteen minutes and I get in the car and we drive wherever she's going. I don't ask because I know it’s only a matter of time before I feel better. Tina asks what’s wrong, and so I just say "My mother!"
“Ah, Clarisse,” Tina says, imitating my mom’s voice. And Tina persists with wanting to know about my problems, and I get annoyed. “It is what it is, Teen-Queen,” I say through closed teeth.
I stare out the window. We pass restaurants and bars and people congregated in groups on the sidewalk at Queen and Spadina. We keep driving and I watch as the trees turn into poles covered in flyers about parties and the buildings at Bathurst turn into abandoned warehouses just made for raves.
We pick up two guys on the sidewalk who holler at us. They’re on their way downtown, near where our dealer, Andrew, lives. Andrew’s fine. He has long hair he wears twisted in dreads, but he’s too tall and gangly to be actually cool. He has an open smile that kind of reminds me of a kid’s- like the fact that he ended up dealing H for a living is something that happened to him by accident. He always tells me stories about his middle class childhood in Kingston. There’s something about him I trust.
They guys are yelling “Hey baby, wanna get down?” and “Nice legs,” when Tina stops the car and invites them to get in. Up close they’re not even cute, but she says she has a feeling about them. She’s always right. They’ve got the goods, even though I wish I didn’t have to touch them. They use too much hairspray, their shirts that are a little too tight. I don’t say anything and my body is really tense.
One guy introduces himself as "Tony" and he starts giving me a massage. The other guy says he’s "Johnny" and he slips something under my tongue. I wonder if Tina can see what I’m seeing: the seats start glowing and Tony or whoever has about nine hands and arms like a deformed octopus. Suddenly, I want him so badly, and I jump on him and stare into his eyes and at his mouth - which is shooting blood. The floor moves under my feet. Tina pulls over into a parking lot, swerving and barely missing the sidewalk. We park, I don’t know for how long, and I spend some time with the other guy. It’s really bad, the acid is wearing off, and all I want to do is cry. He reminds me of a doll my sister had as a kid: beady eyes, plastic cheeks. I kick the back door open and practically fall out of the car. I feel it coming up and soon I’m barfing, getting some on the seat, on my skirt, on my tights, and a whole lot on the sidewalk. My hair falls into my mouth, my hands are dirty, and I smell so bad. I want to fall down onto the concrete and lie there.
Tina gets out of the car, walks around, and helps me up. We head into what the guys call "an underground club" and from there, it's all just a blur. I kept at it for days, maybe weeks. I go to random clubs, hook up with guys whose faces I'll never recognize and go through thousands of dollars. Somehow I still get up, talk to people, and sometimes even made it to class.
I wake up one day to a phone call from my father. I don’t even know what day of the week it is. I think it’s Sunday because The Simpsons is on at eight. In a flat tone he tells me exactly how much money I’ve gone through. I actually give him some line about "new textbooks and library fines." I tell him I definitely needed new Converse shoes. "You’re nowhere near as smart as you think you are, Jennifer,” he says. “You need to find another man to provide for you—but that shouldn’t be too hard since you have such a hard time keeping your legs shut.” I want to tell him that the last place I want to be right now, or ever, is in school. I want to point out the number of psychology graduates who’ll probably end up driving taxis, but I tell him I’ll look for a job, and I find one by the end of the week.
I become a waitress at Crocodile Jay’s, a pool hall just off campus on Finch. $6.25 an hour plus tips is hardly enough to cover my expenses. One dose of E is at least ten bucks a pop. I quit after a week. Tina wants to celebrate my quitting with a trip to a new friend’s downtown apartment . By the time Andrew gets there—’cause, let’s face it, we have no actual friends—we spend my entire week's salary on coke. I'm happy about this: it’s like magic, fairy dust that goes straight from my nose to my brain. I feel it in my arms and legs, then I feel it in my veins. It makes me feel like the whole room is hugging me, wanting to come close, wanting to touch me. For some reason it always makes me think of the grade-ten definition I’d learned for the word “paradox”: every day of our lives we are one step closer to death.
“Don’t you want to be independent, get your own place, maybe drop out of school? ", Andrew asks. It all sounds so cool I don’t know what to say. My dealer is the one person looking out for me. He has my happiness all figured out. I tell him "I want more." Tina is passed out on his soft brown couch. Her body twitches lightly. He leads me into the next room, where there is no light except for a computer screen. "You could make a lot of money on the Internet " he says and I go back the next day, and the day after that. Webcam shows were quick and painless.
I bring a guy home and we smoke crack in my bedroom, rolling around, making out, and knocking things over. I’m having a pretty good time until we’re interrupted by my mother. I’m not that high, so I tell her to "Calm the fuck down!" So, my father picks me up by my jean jacket and throws me out. My head bangs against the wood, but I hardly feel it. I stand shivering in the driveway for ten minutes before I realize I have to find a pay phone to call a cab. I have no idea where Tina is, and the guy stands beside me dazed and useless. He reaches over to give me a hug, but his hand slips down onto my ass. He tries to grab it and I move away. “Babe,” he says.
I don’t officially drop out, I just stop going to class. Tina and I share an apartment. Tina’s strung out so often it’s like living alone. She has all these sexy clothes but she doesn’t even get dressed anymore. She just uses and works the webcam. She inserts anything. I once saw her stick a stiletto heel up there. She doesn’t talk to me anymore, doesn’t tell me anything. It really wasn't any more exciting than the dreary lectures on Jung. I get up and look at Andrew. First I smile, and then I’m laughing, thinking I could just walk away and get my Alicia Silverstone clothes back on, then Andrew tells me I should join an agency, where I could make up to $150 a pop.