Look Both Ways...
If you’re under the age of 29, we’d like to take a few paragraphs for a short but informative history lesson:
Before weed came in colorful candy packaging available legally in 21 states, with nutrition facts and specific dosage amounts, a person who wanted to get high had to purchase actual marijuana. It’s a green plant that has to be harvested and dried. It stunk and it was hard to hide. You smoked it by lighting it on actual fire either in a joint that you had to physically roll yourself or in a glass pipe called a bowl. You could carve a hole in an apple if you were desperate or on a health kick. Also, if a friend made you brownies, you had no idea what was going to happen. This is a story about such an experiment.
A long, long time ago in 2008, in a land far away, known as the island of Manhattan, Jackie and Eddie’s friends threw them a goodbye party. They planned to pack up Eddie's ’01 Pathfinder and drive from New York to LA to try out beach living and career opportunities. The party was at Chad’s apartment downtown on Elizabeth street which is a block below Houston. Houston (How-ston) is a six—lane thoroughfare crossing from East to West of lower Manhattan. It’s how the area you may know as SoHo got it’s name (South of Houston.) Eddie lived three blocks away, North of Houston, in a small triangle of the city affectionately called NoHo. This is kind of important.
The invite instructed that the gathering was a costume party. It was not. Jackie and Eddie showed up at Chad’s loft in full Sandy and Danny from Grease get-ups and were only mildly annoyed at the joke when everyone else was dressed in their usual weekend clothes. There was an incredible spread for dinner as Chad fancied himself a bit of a foodie. On the counter with pastas and salads and other fabulous things was a plate of brownies made by Blake, the resident stoner of the friend group. Chad arranged the brownies on a white platter from Crate & Barrel with a sprig of mint for garnish. If memory serves, everyone had at least one. For reasons unclear to this writer, Jackie and Eddie each had two. The night had barely begun before it devolved. The timeline unfolded as such:
8:12pm: Jackie and Eddie arrive at Chad’s. They’re somewhat surprised to see that they are the only people in costume. They each have a whiskey and Blake offers them a weed brownie from the Michelin-star-looking platter.
8:37pm: The friend group settles in for dinner. There are a few toasts and roasts declaring Eddie and Jackie traitors for leaving New York for the West coast, making them feel both sad and loved.
9:19pm: Plates are cleared, arguments start concerning which club or bar makes the most sense for the large group. Jackie and Eddie contemplate removing their wigs and Halloween makeup for the outing but remember that they live in a city where no one cares if you look weird, especially not on a Saturday night.
9:21pm: Jackie tells Eddie that she’s beginning to feel the brownie. She reapplies her Sandy lipstick and faux mole. She stares at herself in the mirror for six minutes too long. She wonders if she still has all of her toes.
9:23pm: Afterparty spot is agreed upon and everyone gets ready to go out. Everyone, except for Jackie, who has found her way to the sofa. Eddie sits in an armchair next to her. He tells the crew that they need “just a minute.” Both of them feel tight in their leather pants. Jackie takes off her boots. She has all her toes.
9:42pm: Jackie and Eddie cannot stand up and it is not because of the pants. Jackie closes her eyes and falls down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. She does not like this. Eddie is deeply concerned that his heart has stopped beating. He grips the arms of the chair, feeling like this hair is blown back like the photograph of the man in front of the speaker. I’m dead. I’m dying. My heart has stopped. How will they find me? It beats. Oh my god, ok, great. I’m not dead. But what if it never beats again? It does. That could have been a fluke. It could still never- And his spiraling continues.
9:57pm: The friend group removes their coats, tries to help Eddie and Jackie out of their respective holes. Chad yells at Blake for trying to kill their friends and the party. Blake shrugs. Eddie waits impatiently for his next heart beat. Jackie feels her stomach drop and sees a white rabbit.
10:18pm: Eddie and Jackie somehow find the words to tell their friends to go. Eddie is sad, convinced that they will come home to find him dead. Jackie tries to warn Eddie of the Queen of Hearts but the words won’t come out.
10:22pm: The door closes and Eddie and Jackie are alone in the Elizabeth Street apartment.
10:22pm-1:49am: Jackie and Eddie are rendered utterly immobile and spend every breath trying not to die.
1:49pm: It works. Eddie is able to move a finger. Then his head. Jackie narrowly escapes the Cheshire Cat. Friends are still out.
2:09am: Eddie digs deep into his soul to find the words to suggest to Jackie that they walk back to his apartment, four blocks away, on the other side of Houston.
2:15am: Jackie agrees.
2:15am-2:33am: Eddie and Jackie get their coats on, find their way out of Chad’s apartment, down three flights of stairs, and half a block to the crosswalk at Houston.
2:34am: They press the walk signal button.
2:35am: The white light indicating the safety of pedestrian crossing blinks along with the beeping that accompanies the sign. There are no cars on the street. Eddie holds tightly onto Jackie’s arm and wills his vocal chords to cooperate. He looks at his girlfriend and soon to be cross-country companion, “I think we should wait for the next light.” Jackie vehemently agrees. Houston looks unbearably wide. The light changes. There are still no cars. Jackie presses the walk button.
2:38am: The lights turn red and the walk signal comes back on. Jackie and Eddie stare at the silhouette of the illuminated sign, so casually walking. This time Jackie turns to Eddie, “Let’s wait for the next one.” Eddie wholeheartedly agrees.
2:41am: The streetlight, again, switches, indicating right of way to any pedestrians looking to cross the boulevard. Jackie and Eddie do not trust it, “We should wait for the next one.”
2:41am - 5:17am: This routine repeats 42 times.
5:18am: The sun begins to rise. Jackie and Eddie slowly come out of their stupor, frozen solid after almost three hours waiting to cross a 40 foot street. The light blinks again. This time, in the early light of dawn, they find a courage they never thought they would know. They had each resigned themselves to spending the rest of their lives on this corner, watching their lives go by from the wrong side of the street. Now, in this moment, their lives were about to change. Jackie pushed the button again.
5:21am: The light blinks, the machine beeps, and a dozen cars stop at the light to allow the couple to cross. Eddie takes a deep breath and holds tightly to Jackie. They take one step, then another, and then another. Soon they are in the middle of Houston with every car laying on their horn. The light has turned to a red silhouette of a person no longer strutting across the street.
5:22am: Jackie and Eddie sprint across the last three lanes, racing to safety.
5:29am: Finally in Eddie’s apartment, they check the lock on the door 19 times and crawl into bed.
9:44am: Jackie and Eddie wake up to eleven texts messages, asking if they’re ok and how the rest of their night went. Eddie rolls over and puts his hand on Jackie’s cheek, “Let’s never tell anyone about this.” Jackie agrees.
14 Years Later: Jackie tells her story to an online publication for insomniacs after packing lunch for her and Eddie’s two daughters, laughing, but still a tiny bit afraid of crossing Houston.