Beads of sweat rolled down my small back, the sun’s flare was hot, but there was a fresh wind coming off the mountains. Summer in Alaska was nothing if not spectacular. After months of massive snow, followed by slush and silt, combined with the everlasting winter shadow, we welcomed the return of summer’s glory by being outside as much as possible. My cousin Sherri and I frequently bounced and bolted around her front and back yards playing childish games of joy.
But this one particular summer day was a significant milestone in my journey through life, especially for a five-year-old. My mother was at work and my aunt Gayle was watching us. Or maybe it was my uncle, Paul. Either way, at some point we were told to come inside.
“Sherri, Cameron, get in the house.” either aunt Gayle or uncle Paul said.
Our eyes widened, our hearts skipped a beat as our two little minds began to wonder what was happening.
“Could it be candy?” I said eagerly.
” A puppy!?”
“Sherri you have Muffy.”
We went inside with jubilance, waiting for our big surprise. It was bigger than anything we could have imagined. Huge! Aunt Gayle, or uncle Paul, had to run a quick errand. I wish I could say I remembered where, but I am sure it was important. However, their reason was nothing compared to our bliss. To be left alone with the responsibility to watch yourself, was something I remember longing after. Sherri was the most confident it would go well, she was six and rather tough for a little kid and entirely pragmatic. I was not so sure, despite my natural excitement, that we would be able to handle ourselves. Would we be safe? What if I burnt my hand on the stove again? What if someone killed us?! These sort of thoughts often ran through my creative little head.
“Stay inside and keep the doors locked, don’t answer for anyone but Pam or me.”
We nodded earnestly and shooed her or him out the door. We looked at each other; there were so many possibilities to explore.
“What do you want to play?”
“I know a secret,” Sherri smirked.
She walked across the living room to the couch. It had a velvety consistency, which I have always hated. I remember it being this mustard gold color that sheened in the light of the sun’s beams. Perhaps there were big flowers, possibly patterns of magnolias, splattered across it. But who knows, that’s just what I remember.
Sherri lifted up the middle cushion and taped underneath was a big fucking bag of weed. My brow furrowed and my stomach was a giant knot, but Sherri just smiled. Drugs were bad. That’s what mom told me. And though I did not know what pot was or looked like, I knew what was in that bag was for adults only. She lowered the cushion back down, hiding the pot once again.
“You smoke it, I’ve sneaked up on dad doing it.”
The idea seemed bizarre to me. But I followed as Sherri led me into the back sunroom, slash office space, that was attached to her parent’s bedroom. The room felt like an Easy Bake Oven. Sherri pushed a rolling chair to the closet and got up on it; she reached up onto the top shelf, stretching her arm as long as was necessary, and pulled down a little tiki-man bubbler. There was something inside, just some old bowl burned and ashy, but Sherri lit it and tried to hit it. Barely any smoke came out. Then she passed it to me. I hardly sucked, if at all. I don’t remember any smoke coming out.
Suddenly Sherri looked me dead square in the eyes. Our two pairs widened as she stared into my soul.
“Don’t tell anyone this, not even your mom. Promise?”
I promised. Sherri climbed back up the precarious perch she managed to stabilize with one hand while putting the tiki-man back up on the shelf with the other. But then, we heard a knock on the front door; in a flash, we were back in the living room being good little children. It was my mom there to pick me up. I was always excited to see her, but this time was especially comforting.
“How’s my little man?”
“Good,” she didn’t believe me, I could tell.
“Sherri, give us a second sweety, go play in your room.”
Sherri gave me the look of death while she did as she was told. My mother pressed slightly, and I exploded with information. I possibly cried, but I definitely broke my promise to Sherri never to tell anyone. A fact she still gives me shit for, and one that we laugh about, to this day.
This memory was my first encounter with a drug; I have had many more since this experience. My life has gone up and down and sometimes zig-zags in patterns of addiction. Whether this moment has been significant in my life’s drug use, or lack of use sometimes, I may never know or fully understand. But I trust I remember it for a very purposeful reason.
ATTENTION: No memories were harmed in the writing of this post, and hopefully no feelings either. All points of view are that of the writer’s, so they are as accurate as possible, which is very accurate. Lol.