I loved him before the drugs.
Sitting in the corner of Mr. Pierogie’s 9th grade, Honors English, we’d pass each other notes, handfuls of which I still have saved in a frayed, decades-old Victoria’s Secret box. There are the snarky one-liners about the class know-it-all; the fear we harbored for the wobbly barstool upon which our sweet, fat teacher would sit; the exchanges that said nothing and everything about life at 13.
When I try to pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with D, I return to that classroom. We had finished the first half of The Odyssey, and from his precarious perch, Mr. Pierogie asked us which of Odysseus’ challenges had been the most dangerous. “The Lotus Eaters,” D whispered to me. It seemed an odd choice, only a few small pages about a flower that forever trapped its willful victims, certainly less exotic or action-packed than some of the other stories in the epic, and my face must have reflected my bemusement. He smirked and added, “It’s the only one I actually read.”
When the know-it-all raised his hand to make the same argument—something about hopelessness, loss of willpower, how those who ate from the flower abandoned desire for all else—I fell madly in love with D’s smile, the free-of-arrogance, I-told-you-so expression that said, “So what if I got lucky? I’m right.”
Shortly after our initial drunken kiss some 11 years later, after we went from being friends to being more, I asked Mr. D if he, too, knew the moment he loved me. “We were in the cafeteria,” he said, going into explicit detail of watching me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as I devoured what must have been a very delicious popsicle. “That’s the girl I’m going to marry,” he joked, and we both cracked up.
We didn’t share another class until senior English, and our casual connection continued through college. We’d hit the bowl in his dorm, exhaling pot smoke into an empty water bottle filled with dryer sheets to mask the smell. Once, I accompanied him and his girlfriend on a blunt ride behind campus, grabbing the closest available beverage to soothe my throat, only to gag as the gin-laced juice seared its way to my stomach.
We went to parties in the seedier parts of the city. He taught me how to hock loogies and download songs off illegal websites. We took statistics sophomore year, our first shared class since high school, though he’d eventually fail the course and drop out altogether. After that, it was years before we saw each other again.
When we did, it was at my wedding. Newly single, D came alone and caught the bouquet. At 22, I had married a former pothead who smoked with me on our first date but never touched marijuana again. The sex was mediocre. When a friend once asked what it was that I saw in him, I apparently replied, “He has D’s sense of humor.” She’d remind me of that after the divorce, after D and I became “more,” after my corny remark of always loving him and after the chorus of duhs from our mutual friends.
We were potheads that first year, but D was more, and I didn’t realize just how debilitating more could be. D knew. He had called it eleven years before, in freshman English.