By Annabeth Leong
There was a time in my life when I often found myself at parties, driven there by an itch for adventure. My favorite sorts of adventures were the kind that happen with other people. On any given night, I was at least curious about hooking up with someone. If that happened in some sort of interesting configuration, location, or manner, even better.
The rest of party culture was a bit of a tiresome exercise it seemed I had to go through to get to the good stuff. I would get drunk and play truth or dare, gladly, if that was the excuse the rest of you people needed to start making out. I would get stoned and gradually edge toward each other until we started cuddling and making out, but for the love of God, don’t get all philosophical and contemplative on me. If, on the other hand, you wanted to show up and start making out immediately while we were all still sober, that worked, too. I didn’t have much in the way of inhibition. I remember getting teased once for walking into a place and taking my clothes off literally before saying hello to anyone.
I know now that what I really wanted was to go to sex parties, but back then I didn’t know about those, so any party would have to do. Still, sex was self-evidently the purpose of going to a party as far as I was concerned, and it was hard for me to imagine or understand any other motivation.
Drugs were a useful excuse for pleasures I was already happy to indulge, and maybe at times an interesting enhancement for them.
So when I found out that one of my friends had gotten hold of a bunch of ecstasy and was having a party, I thought I was on the way to getting laid, and well. I’d tried X a couple times before (these days, everyone seems to call it E or Molly, but I’m going to be true to place and time and use the slang common in my circle). My previous experiences had become a threesome and a foursome, respectively. I’d heard of people who used the drug and danced, but I wasn’t interested in that at all. “I’ll take option A, please.”
These friends, though, had an even weirder (to me) view of the drug. Apparently, there was a story going around that MDMA was originally developed for use in talk therapy because the feelings of emotional warmth it produced enabled people to be more honest with each other than they otherwise would. (I did some cursory research to find out whether this is true, and the drug does seem to have some proposed therapeutic uses, though there doesn’t seem to be a governmentally approved avenue for any of that at this point in the U.S.). Anyway, I got to this party and found out that this group of people looked forward to getting together, taking X, and talking to each other. Ugh.
(As I write this, the memories are striking me as weird, because at this point in my life, my favorite thing to do is get together with people and have intense one-on-one conversations. I keep wondering if I’m lying or exaggerating when I write about my past disgust with talking. However, it’s still true that this isn’t my idea of a fun time at a sex party, and I can still get rather, um, focused on the urge to make out. I’m pretty sure my representation of my past self’s disgust with anything off-mission is accurate.)
I promptly began seeking something more interesting to do than chat about my feelings. Different drugs? The right conversation?
It didn’t take long. B had apparently known I would be at this party and had been looking forward to talking to me there, once she got loosened up with the X. She had a confession she wanted to get off her chest. She’d always found me fascinating. Mostly, she identified as straight, but she wanted to see what it would be like to make out with another girl, me specifically.
Awesome, I thought. I have mixed feelings now about serving as someone’s experiment, but back then I was first in line to volunteer. I was more than ready to let her satisfy her curiosity with my mouth.
Just as she leaned in for the kiss, E came into the room, indicating something he had hidden in his hand. “Anyone want to try some Special K?” He was new to dealing, and K was new to our group. He was like an overeager Avon salesman, looking to make some money off his friends, anxious to demonstrate his wares, not the person you wanted to see coming.
Normally, I was of the swallow-first-ask-questions-later school of drug use. This particular time, maybe because I was annoyed that he’d interrupted just as I’d been about to make out with B, I didn’t want to get involved in any unknowns. I had the hookup right in front of me, so what would have been the point of any drugs? They’d only get in the way. “Nah, man, not now,” I said. “I’ll see how people like it and maybe try some later.”
I turned expectantly back to B. Unfortunately for me, she was interested in the K. “I’m going to go try this,” she said. “And when I get back, I’m going to kiss you.”
I forced a smile. “Great.”
E took several girls into a back bedroom to administer the K. I waited on the floor, massaging my own calves and playing with the carpet shag. The relentless sensuality I felt when I was on X had hold of me, and I was anxious for B to get back as soon as possible.
I waited and waited. Time can be weird when you’re on drugs, but I waited for what felt like an extraordinarily long time. I drank water. I lingered awkwardly.
Then the door to the back bedroom opened and out came one of the other girls who’d gone off with E. She was sobbing and staggering and generally looked like hell. “What’s going on with her?” I asked somebody.
“K-hole,” they answered.
“It’s what happens when you’re on K.”
“And it feels like that?”
“So tell me the good part of taking K?”
My interlocutor only shrugged. I comforted myself with the idea that I was only seeing one person’s reaction to Special K. Hopefully B was having a great time and would shortly be ready for sexy makeouts.
However, one girl after another emerged from that room in a sobbing, panicked state. More and more, I worried that the kiss B had promised me was not coming after all. More and more, I was relieved I’d been too focused on making out with her to try the apparently horrible ketamine I’d been offered, which I certainly would have done if I’d still been bored and frustrated with talking when E appeared.
Eventually, I went in to check on B. She’d fallen into the K-hole, too, possibly worst of anyone, and was lying on the bed with tears running down the sides of her face. “I’m so sorry,” she told me. “I don’t think I can kiss you after all.”
“It’s really okay,” I told her, though I was sort of lying. Honestly, I was angry with E for introducing such an un-fun element to the party and a little annoyed with her for wanting to try the drug right when we were about to kiss. Still, I stayed long enough to reassure her that I wasn’t mad and that we could maybe kiss another time if she still wanted to. We didn’t actually know each other very well, though, so it got awkward fairly quickly and I left her to the care of better friends and wandered off looking for a different hookup.
I feel bad in retrospect, writing this, because I think if this happened today I’d feel more responsibility to look out for her, and I also hope I’d have a less selfish attitude. I was so focused on getting laid that the compassion I was able to show was mostly a performance, and that isn’t cool. I’m shocked at my younger self’s cavalier attitude. I benefited from aspects of it, because I think people found me charismatic, but it doesn’t represent the person I want to be. B deserved better, and I probably didn’t deserve to kiss her if I was going to be so cold about it.
The evening was ultimately a success for me, though. I found another girl, A, who had spiked pink hair and wanted to kiss and massage each other. I caught glimpses of B occasionally for the rest of the party, still dealing with the after-effects of the K, and each time I paused briefly to recognize the close call. But for a few seconds, she might have been the one in my arms instead of A. But for a few circumstances, I might have been the one hobbled, weeping, in the grip of a terrible drug.