The year: 2001. I am 3 months away from my 20th birthday. It’s a cold February 2nd. As if there is any other kind of February morning. The day began simple enough. I went to class (I was still in college then) first thing in the morning. Then I cut my last class to go smoke a few joints with Matt Girard and this girl Amy. Matt was one of my closest friends. We grew up together. From the time we were 6 years old we were close.
So we finished smoking our joints. And let me say, we were supremely roasted. I mean, we were cooked. I was having trouble walking straight, that's how good it was. I ambled my way over to my car. Not being able to locate it for about an hour was kind of fun. I didn‘t so much find it as much as I finally stumbled upon it. But what was this? I couldn’t find my keys! What the fuck? “Dammit! They must have fallen out of my pocket in Matt’s car,” I said. He was long gone at this point. No doubt he and Amy were at his place by now, doing what college kids do: making macaroni and cheese and playing Playstation. “Ahh, macaroni and cheese,” I thought. I could go for some of that. Hey, I was stoned. What do you want from me?
It was at this point I began searching for someone, anyone to give me a ride to Matt’s so I could get my keys. “Simple enough,” I thought. “There has got to be someone I know coming out soon.” I waited for another hour. Not one god damn person I knew exited or entered the building. Finally, I realized my only option was to walk to Matt’s. It’s only 20 miles or so. How long could that take?
Quite a while, as it turns out. Especially when you are baked. “OK, good. This will give me time to think about some stuff I’ve needed to think about, but didn’t have the time. Or the will.” So I threw my book bag over my shoulder, and began the long journey to find my keys. The walk was nice. I needed a good walk. It reinvigorates the soul to go walking in the woods. I took the woods because it would cut maybe 3 miles off of the trip. But it was treacherous terrain. Rivers were my main enemy. And the C.H.U.D.s. But that in and of itself is another story entirely.
Three hours later, and I was sweating my balls off. And I was still 5 miles from his house. I began to wipe the sweat from my head. It’s not good to sweat when it’s cold out. You can get hypothermia. I took my hand and wiped it over my head from front to back. While rubbing the back of my neck, I noticed something. I felt what I had determined to be a lump on the back of my neck, just behind my right ear, at the base of my hairline.
I was paralyzed with fear. After a few minutes, I began walking again. Partly because I was freezing, partly because I had to do something. I was apoplectic. Cursing and shouting , I had no idea what to do. I just kept walking. Every few minutes I would feel back there, hoping it was just a knot in my neck that I could work out by rotating my head in circles. Doing this made me dizzy. So I found a log and I sat down. I don’t know how long I sat there. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 30. I was lost. Not in the physical sense of being lost. I was lost in my head. Telling myself that it’s nothing. That I’m just imagining it. That I’m dreaming. And any second I was going to wake up and laugh about how stupid I am to think that it was real.
I never woke up. I was stuck in this awful reality. I trudged the last few miles to Matt’s house. I banged on the door to tell him I would be going through his car to find my keys, and to see if he would give me a ride back to campus. I spent 10 minutes ripping apart the backseat of his car. Nothing. I literally pulled the backseats out. Nothing. Under the seats, glove box, the trunk. Nothing. What…..the…..fuck! Can anything go right for me today? Now, I really needed a fucking cigarette. Because nothing makes your lungs feel better after a 20 mile hike than the cool crisp flavor of a Parliament light. But don’t you know, the pack was empty. Jesus. “Anything else?” I shouted. Matt just stared at me, quizzically.
Luckily for me I kept a spare pack in my book bag at all times. I put the bag down, opened it up, and grabbed the unopened pack. And as I pulled it out of the bag, I heard a very faint jingling noise.
“You have got to be shitting me.” Sure enough, there were my keys. At the bottom of my bag. Right where I had put them before class. At this point, I was able to recall that perfectly. You have to remember, I was high when I was looking for them. One time, I looked for my keys for 5 minutes while I was high, only to find them…… in my hand.
I couldn’t help thinking that this was a sign. I’m not a religious man. Not by any means. In fact, I’m an Atheist. But deep inside of me, I couldn’t shake the possibility that there was some higher power that was guiding my actions that day.
I vacillated as to whether to go to the hospital or not. On the one hand, I wanted to know what it was. On the other hand, I didn't want to know what it was. Ultimately, I decided not to go.
I spent the better part of the next two years convincing myself that it was nothing. That I was alright. And if it was something, I didn't care. I've heard of far too many people living for years with tumors the size of grapefruits. It was only when they were told that they had the tumor that they began to get sick. The mind is a powerful thing. If they told me I had Cancer, I would have sunk into a horrific depression, and would have probably died within months of the diagnosis. But, after two years, I bit the bullet. I went in to find out what was in my head. I was scared shitless.
After all of my worrying and equivocating, the tests finally revealed that it was nothing. It was a slightly enlarged lymph node. Nothing to be too worried about. But in the course of the examination, I had some psychological tests done and a pet scan and a cat scan. And those tests helped to find another problem with me: I actually was sick. Just not from the lump. They told me that I have a chemical imbalance that was causing delusions and severe paranoia. I was prescribed several medications for it. And the meds helped, a little.
Honestly, I don’t usually like to discuss this with anyone. But I felt it was time to let my secret out. But please, don't make a big deal out of it. I told the story. The cat is out of the bag. I'm demented. Let's go about like it has always been common knowledge. Because in a way, it has. Come on. You didn't think that I was normal, did you? Be honest.
Now, I don't want sympathy. That wasn't my point here. I just wanted to tell a story. And I was thinking about this today because.... well, because tomorrow is the day it happened.
There is a moral to this story, though. It’s a good one, too. You ready? OK.
Pot is bad, yes. And I no longer smoke it. But if that day, I hadn’t been so high that I forgot where my keys were, then I wouldn’t have gone walking in the woods. And then I wouldn't have found the lump. And then I never would have gone to the hospital (eventually). And I wouldn't have been diagnosed. So kiddies, listen to your Uncle Adam: pot is good. It’s okay to smoke it. Just don’t abuse it to the point of delirium. (Some in the medical community have hypothesized that smoking it actually causes psychiatric problems. There is no definitive proof of this. Only conjecture.)
Well, how’s that for a moral? It’s nothing out of Grimm, to be sure. But it worked for me.