The Tao of Hashish

“Throw it on the floor,” Sean said.


            “Hurry up, Nicky!”

            Everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t think straight. Roy pulled the Grateful Dead cassette out of the player.  I threw the hash down and kicked it under the seat.  Once again, I followed whatever the guys told me to do.  I was into the Tao back then and went with the flow of the universe even though it was headed in the wrong direction.

            “Holy crap, they have a police dog,” whispered Roy.

            Several state troopers approached us with a couple of pot-sniffing German Shepherds.  The dogs honed in us like two nuclear warheads about to hit their target.

            “Out of the car!” a wide-bodied New York state trooper shouted.

            The three of us stumbled out.  Whatever high we had dissipated quickly. My best friend, Sean, wearing his tie-dye shirt, Roy with his wire-rim Jerry Garcia glasses, and me gripping the Tao Te Ching waited for the inevitable at the New York state border that night.

            We had recently graduated from high school and were headed home from a two-week road trip to Canada.  We wanted to have an experience that we’d never forget before leaving for college. We went to Ottawa, Montreal, a part of Quebec called Hull, and camped out wherever we found a spot.  We had a roadmap, a tent, some food, and just enough pot.  It was our last chance at freedom before hitting the books and figuring out what to do with our lives.  But, seeing the snarl of the dogs and the law enforcement officers circling our car, I wondered if it was all worth it.

            The dogs smelled something right away.  They barked a couple of times to indicate where the hash was. The police pulled apart the inside of Roy’s Cutlass and found the little piece of dope rolled up in tin foil.  Suddenly, I was a criminal: a convict before I even started college.

            I stood shivering in my cut-off jeans and T-shirt wondering if I would ever get back home again. I wasn’t going to tell my parents, no matter what. They knew me as a good kid and never a troublemaker.  They’d have a coronary if they found out.

            The border patrol discovered not only the hash, but also several pipes full of resin and a pack of Zig-Zags.  “You have a right to remain silent,” the officer recited.

. The only thing I thought about was the old TV show, Dragnet, and Sargent Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

            The state trooper ordered us to get into the police van.  “We’re going to take you to the station and get you kids booked.”

            We reeked of BO as we drove to a sleepy little town in upstate New York.  Once inside the nondescript brick building, we took turns getting mugshots, fingerprints, and then sat alone in a dimly-lit room.

            Flashbacks of the road trip came to mind as I sat in the interrogation room.  I remembered those coquettish French girls in Montreal who made us believe that they didn’t speak English.  I thought of us camping under a full moon and eating raw hotdogs with cold baked beans as the morning sun rose.  I thought about all the people we met in Canada who ended their sentences with “Eh?”  And it made me smile temporarily to imagine being in the backseat of Roy’s car listening to Sugar Magnolia with a nice buzz, driving along a hilly countryside.

            “Pay attention, son!” the state trooper snapped, interrupting my reverie.  He informed us that we were going to have a hearing with the magistrate.  “I can assure you, he’s not going to be happy that you woke him up.”

            Thanks for the friendly warning, I muttered under my breath.  We were just some longhaired kids who loved rock music and possessed a smidgeon of hashish. We were trying to have some fun, but the state trooper made it sound like we were notorious felons.

            “Don’t you know we have drug-sniffing dogs here?!” the magistrate snarled. “I’ve seen dumb teenagers before, but this takes the cake.  You didn’t even have the sense to hide the damn thing.  And you punks are going to college?”

            He shook his big, block-shaped head and foamed at the mouth like he had rabies.

            We didn’t stand a chance.  Our court-appointed attorney was a wimp who told us to keep our mouths zipped. My stomach still churned from the cold hotdogs I ate that morning as I signed the legal papers.

            It was as if I were in the midst of a bad dream or a psychedelic trip gone awry.  My head spun as the magistrate barked at us like a mad dog; his veins bulged from his neck, and his bald head glowed like a Christmas bulb.

            “What a disgrace you kids are to your parents!” he shouted while pounding the gavel. “You’re lucky I don’t call them right now and tell them to pick up your asses.”

            “Thank you, your honor,” we said.  “We apologize, your honor.”

            Roy paid three-hundreddollars to get back his confiscated Cutlass.  He also dished out another hundred bucks apiece for “wasting the court’s time,” as the judge put it.  Roy paid all the fees since he was the only one with a checkbook.

            Roy kept nagging us about the money the whole way back to Philly, “When are you guys going to pay up?  I’m not a bank, you know.”

            I didn’t say a word.  We spent all our money on pot and the crummy food that we bought for the trip. Sean and I stared out the window in silence.  No music played.  It felt as depressing as a morgue.

            Roy eventually stopped hounding us for money and drove four-hundred miles without saying anything.  He just kept his eyes on the road and went as fast as the speed limit allowed.  Once home, he parked the car in the driveway and stomped into his house without a goodbye.

            “Nicky,” Sean said, seeing that I was bummed out, “I wouldn’t worry about the misdemeanor.  Our lawyer said that if we keep clean, not get into any more legal trouble in the next five years, then our records would be expunged.”

            I wished that Sean was right, but I knew better. He steered me down the wrong path once; I could never trust him again.  I had to follow my instinctsfor now on, no longer blindly going along with the flow, even if it meant having fewer friends.

            Over the next few years, Sean, Roy and I drifted apart.  Despite attending the same university, we succeeded in avoiding each other.  Sean majored in business and, after graduation, moved to New York City and opened up a fancy soft-serve yogurt store.  From what I heard, he made a small fortune and bought a slick apartment in Manhattan. Roy eventually got the hundred bucks that I owed him. He dropped out of college and took over his father’s manufacturing business. He traded in his Cutlass for a new Cadillac Eldorado.  As for me, I went on to earn a degree in psychology and a job as a guidance counselor at my old high school.  I haven’t touched the Tao Te Ching in years.