I somehow never really outgrew that juvenile middle school mentality that drugs are cool. I thought that needing a klonopin before bed, ketamine for visits to the movie theater, adderall before the library, weed before class… made me more enlightened than my peers. I was hacking life. In reality, this didn’t make me interesting, or superior. It made me a person with a substance abuse problem and, truthfully, a little bit of an asshole. But, when I got to Princeton, I was immediately curious what I could find by way of drugs on campus. It was hard to gauge what the drug culture here was like. People looked at me like I was a crack addict, just for smoking a little pot. But then, I was regaled with promises of frat boys snorting coke, heavyweight rowers taking ketamine, and Terrace members tripping on salvia. I spent my nights on the street peeking around for the storied Ivy coke room or looking for a sweaty, wide-eyed stranger who would perhaps be feeling generous. I was hoping to uncover the Princeton drug scene, since nothing makes you feel more like an addict than snorting ketamine alone in the bathroom at a party. This attitude left me considering whether I should revisit the idea of finding an addict support group on campus, as my parents had suggested before I got to Princeton. Instead, I decided to make a far more mature choice: stick to weed and alcohol (except for on very special occasions) and avoid a stint in rehab. Perhaps not a historically successful approach, but definitely one more appealing than sobriety.

My plans to avoid all drugs other than weed failed a few months after I made them but, for once, not on purpose. As a freshman at Princeton, finding decent weed on campus felt impossible. Also impossible? Going to the street sober and having anything close to a good time. So, having smoked the ounce I’d brought from home at the beginning of the semester, and exhausted all my options by way of overpriced campus drug dealers and delta 8 from the kiosk, I gave in and messaged Dr. Feelgood (I changed his name, but picture something just as stupid). Dr. Feelgood had approached me on Nassau street a few weeks ago, promising me “the good shit” and handing me a business card with only his Snapchat username on it. I had always prided myself on only buying from top shelf dealers, who did their business exclusively on Signal and who’s bud menus promised every strain, tincture, and edible available on the continent. But, desperate times.

I rolled up a joint of Dr. Feelgood’s finest, smoked it, and took myself to the street, ready for a standard night of cigarettes on the patio, top 40 hits, and mingling with people that I don’t necessarily like. Once I got to Ivy, things started to feel a little less than standard. The banter from the bouncer felt threatening, not funny. The coat room felt more claustrophobic than usual. I couldn’t understand any of the words in the songs. I realized I was maybe a little more high than I intended to be and smiled to myself, deciding that maybe Dr. Feelgood really did have the good shit. Stepping onto the terrace, I ran into some girl who was in my writing seminar. Happy to see a familiar face, I lit a cigarette and started talking with her, but everything she said struck me as insane. She was telling me some story about going to an alpaca farm as a kid, and I really hated her story. Everytime I looked down at my cigarette, it was just as long as it had been the last time I checked. She then moved on to telling me about her internship. Normally, when people start talking about things that make me feel inferior, I immediately start thinking about how I’m actually so much better than them – sure, I knew I was lying to myself, but this method generally worked for warding off an existential crisis. My defense mechanism was a little harder to employ in my hazed state, and I was ready for the conversation to be over. And it felt like my cigarette would never be done. With every puff, I could feel the smoke seeping into my lungs and visions of myself in a hospital bed, pale and hooked up to a ventilator, danced in my mind. So, I committed a cardinal sin and put out my cigarette before having smoked all of it. After about five minutes of chatting, (which, in party time, is an eternity) I told her it had been nice talking to her and that I was going to find a drink. “Oh, I’m not interesting enough for you? You’re sick of me already?” I laughed, thinking she was making a joke, but she just glared at me. I felt sweaty under her gaze. Then, she smiled at me, and shoved me on the shoulder, I guess in a way that was meant to be friendly but the second she moved her arm towards me I recoiled from her touch, because why would I want this alpaca petting freak’s arm on me? I fell backwards, in the way that people in comics do when they slip on banana peels. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people, including a security guard. “Dude, if you’re too wasted, then leave,” an upperclassman I didn’t recognize said to me. 

My usual cure for being too high was to get a little drunk, but this case seemed far more dire than one that could be fixed with a few watered-down beers. The entire party was tilted on its side. Dance floor makeouts looked pornographic, and horrified me. The music felt oppressive, and the dancing cartoonish. I could see it all so clearly. Everyone’s auras were violently swirling around them. I was seeing every person for what they were. Insidious, robotic, needy, social climbing, lonely, embarrassing. I stared at the room, so clearly full of insecurities, lies, and tragedy. Being at Princeton, with all its bizarre social hierarchies, affiliations, and priorities that to me seemed entirely fucked-up, often left me wondering: is everyone around me crazy, or am I the crazy one? Neither option felt entirely promising but, early on into my time at Princeton, I decided it was the former. I walked around campus, convinced I was more enlightened than my peers, more interesting, more down to earth. I didn’t care which eating club I was in, or how I planned to spend my summer, nor did I compulsively check my LinkedIn. 

I went up to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My makeup clownish, my outfit tryhard. I couldn’t stop thinking of every interaction I’d had in my time at Princeton in which I’d been fake, doing anything to ingratiate myself with the people I thought were cool. Everytime I’d texted my one upperclassman friend asking for a list spot, or told acquaintances that I passed walking up Elm “we should get a meal!” a saccharine smile on my face. I felt like throwing up. I wasn’t above Princeton’s crazy, I was wholly immersed in it. 

Deciding that the mirror was too much for me, I went into a stall. I sat down and started peeing. Then, the door swung open and someone walked INTO the stall. I just kind of looked at this girl, and she looked at me and then stepped out. I lifted my leg to hold the door closed, and then realized something felt weird. I looked down and saw that I had forgotten to pull down my underwear and was peeing into my underwear. Okay, what the fuck was going on? I wasn’t some freak who performed pratfalls and pissed herself at parties, even when I got high. Washing my hands, I suddenly had the most genius-like moment I’ve ever experienced. I knew something was weird about that weed. Its smell and taste had felt familiar, but I hadn’t quite been able to place it. When had I smoked weed like this? Then, my brain got so big it filled the entirety of the bathroom and I realized: sophomore year of highschool, the dime bag from the park, the weed that tasted ever so-slightly like a baby’s diaper. The weed that had given me auditory hallucinations and had led me to throwing up into my best friend’s desk drawer. The weed we had concluded was laced. Fuck. 

It was time to go home. I went into one of the few unoccupied rooms at the party and sat on an armchair, waiting for my friend to take me home. I was ready to rip my own skin off. I sat, clutching the arms of the chair, afraid that if I let go, the fabric of the chair would peel off and the hundreds of ants I was sure were living in the chair would crawl out. As people walked in and out of the room and I sat there, picking at my skin and mumbling to myself, I realized maybe Princeton wasn’t crazy, but I was crazy. I felt stuck to the chair. 

The next morning, I woke up, and, to my horror, was still high. The writing sem girl had texted me: “that was fucked up.” What? I went to church and wondered what I would do if the high never wore off, but eventually it did. 

When I got home, I texted Dr. Feelgood – well, actually, I snapchatted him: “great bud, 10/10.” I still keep that Dr. Feelgood weed in my nightstand, should I ever need it. I guess the thought that I might one day need weed laced with bathsalts (or worse) is not a great one… probably one that I should introspect on, but I’d really rather not.

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