The only time I ever had a bad trip was on dxm. Friends of mine in high school theater were into it. A few of them took it semi-regularly: I heard stories of dxm experiments conducted by their small group, in a secluded location, at a rural residence owned by someone's parents. Sometimes they videotaped the proceedings: in one instance, a boy felt himself transformed, under the influence of the drug, into a worm, and behaved like one while the others watched.

They explained the drug to me, its effects, and the proper method of extraction. Dextromethorphan. I repeated the name numerous times in my head, as if learning a foreign language. You had to extract it from cough syrup. Cough syrup, you see, had just a bit of DXM in it, and as well as a separate chemical called an expectorate, which made you throw up if you drank too much. The expectorate was a buffer against recreational abuse of the cough syrup, above all the trippy effects of dxm.

I was told that it was safe, and I counted those dxm experimenters as reliable friends. With a self-assured air, they told me that ten percent of the human population lacked the capacity to digest the chemical, and that ingesting it would in this case be hazardous. It quickly become clear, empirically clear, that I in fact belonged among these ten perecent: the experiment proved it.

We drove downtown, south from the suburbs, to the Rio Motel, where someone had rented a room. There was a small party, attended by degenerate teenagers like ourselves and recent high school graduates, and fuelled by drugs and alcohol, which had been obtained with much effort, and were now being trotted out steadily like prize game.

I don't remember taking the pill, which was said to contain the dxm you'd find in ten cough syrup bottles put together. I do remember being violently ill, incapacitated, heaving and vomiting, being in the bathroom, being in the front passenger seat of a large automobile full of partying teenagers, which had to be pulled over occasionally so that I could vomit again, and I remember convalescing, like the victim of some sudden, unpredictable, debilitating trauma, on a strange couch, the couch at a friend's parent's house. I asked that my parents be called and I felt in that moment that they were my only real source of refuge.

Once I was back into their care, I didn't hesitate to confess what I'd been up to: I knew they did not harbor any drive towards petty, uninformed moralizing, and cared only for my well-being. The letters DXM still hold for me a kind of rancid, toxic connotation, and a tinge of trauma passes through me when I read them, as if I am a small child, and happen to glance upon the stove where only yesterday I had placed an ignorant hand.

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