Art and other drugs

All Growns Up

Xinyu Li/Senior Staff

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I’ve never done drugs. That statement actually surprises a lot of people. Maybe I have a certain look or maybe it’s because I went to an art school, but on average, the reaction I get when I tell people that I have never taken any form of recreational drug is complete surprise.

While I’ve never done any drugs, I have many friends who have. I’ve heard them talk about the experience of smoking weed, taking ecstasy or eating shrooms. They always talk about it in terms of seeing the world differently. Apparently when you’re high, you see things clearer, realize things about your life or are totally inspired by the most miniscule detail of some random thing.

One of my friends said she understood the song “Because” by the Beatles the first time she got high. I don’t believe this for a second, because that song is insane and no one understands it, but thinking you do must be an incredible feeling. So when people explain drug use in these terms, it makes total sense why they do it and why they can get so easily addicted.

I’ve never done drugs, but I am an addict. I’m not addicted to any substance. It’s not tangible, and it’s not harmful to my health. It’s not nearly as serious as real addiction.

I’m addicted to that feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach, that tight, gnawing, all-consuming sensation that spreads across your chest. We’ve all felt it. It creeps over us when we listen to a song with a mellifluous guitar lick or when we read a sentence that is painfully relatable.

The first time I can pinpoint feeling this, was when I listened to “Waltz #2 (XO)” by Elliott Smith for the first time. I laid in my bed, earplugs smashed deep because my ears are small, and I listened to it over and over again, eyes fixated on the ceiling. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. There was something I didn’t understand in his lyrics, in the gloomy guitar strums that buzzed in my ears, but I desperately loved whatever it was.

When I read the short story “The Offshore Pirate” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I was ruthlessly made fun of for reading what my brother saw as cheesy and self-indulgent white stories. But as I read the line, “It was with his glad sigh of relief when her watery laughter curled up the side of the cliff and into his anxious ears that he knew he loved her,” my heart sank into my chest. Those carefully chosen words, thoughtfully scrutinized over and picked out of the dirt, so beautifully described what I, one day, wanted to feel.

Yesterday was the first time I heard the song “I Need My Girl” by The National, and I felt this way with the first notes picked off the guitar strings. The song’s sentiment breathed out through a harmonious layer of symmetrical instrumental rhythm and the deep growling vocals lacing the track, hitting me like a ton of bricks. Instead of doing my homework, I listened to the song on repeat, staring at the optical illusion of the album cover, totally mesmerized.

It’s the feeling I got after I watched and read “Call Me By Your Name.”  The cerulean shots of the Italian coast married with clips of sloping statues and delicate intimacy fluttered across the screen, leaving me craving romance and travel alike. Mr. Perlman’s monologue, as poignant in the film as it is in the novel, left me sucking in air, choking on the brutal reality of love and the raw yet sweet lesson he so accurately explains. Now, staring at the striking blue novel perched on my bookshelf, I am overcome with the disappointing reality that I have read the book. I can’t read it for the first time again.

I’ve never done drugs, but I am an addict. The sensation that follows the consumption of good art, living in the pit of your stomach and staying with you for days, weeks and years to come, is something that I crave. It’s a feeling unlike any other, totally satisfying and completely fulfilling. It’s honestly what I imagine getting high would feel like, stars and constellations floating across my eyelids.

My life is lived in terms of this feeling. Everything I do is in search of that connection. I wake up in the dead of night, cold sweats down my back, looking for a fix. My drive to find this feeling is all-consuming. When I’m craving it, nothing else will suffice.

Sometimes, I can go forever without it, thinking I am past the urge. Then, it will hit me out of nowhere, sailing on the croon of some nondescript song, floating through distant speakers or arising from the pairing of two perfect words in a sentence.

Maisy Menzies writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on milestone moments experienced through art. Contact her at [email protected].