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I remember that first sweet joint. The very first blunt that touched my lips. The one that blew me back home in a fog and erased the bad, scary memories. When I exhaled, the scarred images that had been haunting me evaporated with the smoke. My brain was shiny and pink and clean, wiped away of worries of grades and money and college and a dead father. My tensions and muscles relaxed, and I smiled. This was bliss. A poisonous bliss, I knew, but bliss none the less.
The principal found my Ziploc baggy of weed in the back of my locker the next day. They squeezed me like a lemon, trying to drain the juicy facts out of me: How long had I been smoking marijuana? How long had I been planning on hiding it from my mother? Where did I get it from?
I told them it fell from the sky. I couldn't tell on Paul, though the line between friend and dealer had been smudged. After a zillion days in the juvenile center, they set me free to go back to school. That was half a year ago.
I'm half asleep in the back of Biology class, the hood of my jacket pulled over my eyes so I can rest. It’s getting harder to sleep at home, with Mom up all night in her robe with her coffee and calculator, frantically trying to pay the bills. When dad died last April, three months before I started getting high, finance became a carnivorous monster, ready to eat us alive.
God crackles over the intercom, "Ian Powell to the principal's office, please. I repeat, Ian Powell would you please come to the principal's office."
I feel the eyes of everyone in the room on me. I peer over to Mr. Quinn's desk, and he gives me the nod to go. I shove my hands in my pockets and shoulder the door open. They send me there every month now to check if I'm laying off the pot and the drinking.
I slouch in the metal folding chair in Principal Principal's office, eyes locked on the floor. Principal-Man sits in his swivel chair behind his desk, clicking his pen. Mom sits in the chair next to me, biting a hangnail on her pinky. She wants to be here about as much as I do. The guidance counselor is here too, a new addition to our happy little party. Her and Principal-Man are here to remind me that, “I lack efforts as a young adult with a student career to receive knowledge to graduate, and to gain life-long skills so I can positively influence myself and others to fulfill my duty as a citizen.”
Principal-Man clears his throat. “First of all, Ethan—“
“Ian,” My mother corrects him.
“Ian. Well, what can we say? Your grades are still all C’s and D’s, except an A in art, and there’s hardly any improvement in your behavior. Sixteen is way too old for these kinds of problems.” He says. The guidance counselor nods.
I am a menace in their perfect school. I am a crow in a flock of doves, a swear word in a Disney movie.
When they release me, I trudge down the hallway full of hollering, cursing, smiling teenagers. I hear slivers of conversations around me, slurred somewhere in between their mouths and my ear, the voices mixed with the scent of sweat and cafeteria food and people wearing too much cologne. We walk past eachother with blank, emotionless expressions. We are porcelain dolls with fake, painted mouths, trained to say only what the teachers want to hear. We are zombies with tired eyes, from staying up all night studying and playing Xbox. Our breath is stained with cigarette smoke/cavities/boyfriend or girlfriend saliva/swears/lies. We are each held together by a strand of thread: Let go, and we fall apart.
When I get home, I need that sweet smoke that used to fill up my lungs so perfectly, like two puzzle pieces. I need that very thing that destroys me, but holds me all together. But Mom already knows where my secret hiding spots for it are, so I have none. I instantly find in my drawer the only other thing that can cure this hunger, this desperate craving. I pull out the paint and brush and canvas, and fall lost into the wonderous colors that blind my sight from everything else around me. I fall into the darks and lights of the paint, my mind bursting.
Art is the escape. Art is the bliss. The only other thing to cure the crave.