I did just what I always do when I am looking for inspiration. I went for a bike ride. You miss so much when you are traveling in a car. You can see big billboards or street signs, and maybe even a raving homeless person or two. But you don't get a chance to fully observe the smaller things, or hear just what that particular homeless person is raving about.
Well, just as I had hoped, my two-wheeled ambling jaunt gave me just what I needed. It came in the form of garbage. That's right, garbage. I saw a pile of refuse just off the sidewalk, and upon further inspection, it turned out to be a significant combination of items. There were three empty bottles of Robitussin and three half empty bottles of chocolate milk. They had been discarded in a small clearing amongst the bushes behind a Walgreens. It was obviously the site of a teenage party that was held the night before. I can only imagine how that party would have progressed.
As a married father of none, it has never been my inclination to worry about what “kids are doing these days.” My only glimpse into the shenanigans of today's youth are through the stories from my wife's work. She is a counselor for runaway and homeless kids. Her duty as a clinician is not to reveal names or explicit details about her clients, so I am forced to accept nameless generalities in lieu of the “real” story. It would only be through extensive Googling and taking grains of salt from Wikipedia that I would learn about why Robitussin is the drug of choice for middle class suburban tweens. I tried to find a connection to the chocolate milk, but alas, I think this particular sect of teenagers just had a random craving. Upon further reading, I came across the phenomenon known as “Robotripping.” I learned that it was predominantly groups of young females who partake in this activity. They do so with hopes of getting high and possibly even bringing on a hallucination or twelve. Knowledge is power, the internet is its outlet, and young minds are the blender where that knowledge gets made into a chocolate cough syrup smoothie.
I couldn't help but to picture three teenage girls sitting “Indian style” in that tiny clearing behind Walgreens. Each taking a turn guzzling the Robitussin first, then chasing it with the watered down chocolatey deliciousness. I assume they were kids that could have used a few more hugs in their earlier years, and are frequently seen at the mall perusing the latest fashions at Hot Topic. It was a misguided attempt to feel better about themselves, or just to feel something other than the pressure a teenager must endure every hormone laden day. Gone are the days where you can get a dime bag of pot in study hall, go back to your friend's house, saunter past his hippie parents, smoke a bowl, eat some generic brand iced fruit cookies, and laugh hysterically whilst playing Mario Kart until two in the morning. Here to stay are the days where the next generation huddles in bushes behind Walgreens, swilling cherry-flavored cough syrup, and sipping chocolate milk. I prefer the Eightfold Mario Kart path, but that's just me.
I was never a full-fledged stoner (although the details above were inspired by a true story), but I did not skip my teenage mistake making either. I have also done my share of over-the-counter drugs in my 30+ years on this earth, but only when I had a sore throat or stuffy nose. I also followed the recommended dosages. Even so, I have felt the side effects of those dosages. Many a sick day on the couch I have muttered odd things to my caretakers, and had many peculiar comments mumbled in my general direction as well. Whether it is the occasional “my face feels numb” or the once spoken “I feel like sunshine”, those things are to be expected when someone is under the influence of cough medicine. I can only imagine the nonsense that would ensue if someone (especially a young someone) were to consume an entire bottle of that powerful elixir in one cross-legged sitting.
I have heard the phrases “Out of the mouths of babes...” and “Kids say the darnedest things” applied to the random shit that young people say. What if those babes' mouths or kids' brains were under the influence of 4 ounces of dextromethorphan? I imagine they would emit some pretty crazy ramblings. An attempt to enter into the brain of a teenage girl is not taken lightly, mind you, but in the interest of science (and short story fiction) I delved deep. For the sake of flow and identification, I will refer to the three faceless females as Emily, Taylor and Hannah. Emily would be the leader of the pack, and that is only because I know and respect more adults named Emily than I do Taylors and Hannahs (sorry ladies).
Emily would arrive at the rendezvous point (a.k.a. the clearing in the bushes behind the Walgreens) with three recently stolen bottles of Robitussin. Taylor would bring the chocolate milk, because her mother believes it is never too early to start fighting the war against osteoporosis. Hannah would show up empty handed, because she is a useless human being. God, I hate Hannah already, and I just made her up.
From there, the night would go as planned. They would get really high, pretend to hallucinate, sweat profusely, vomit until their stomachs were empty, and go home to their respective homes only to realize the next side effect is violent diarrhea. It is not a fairy tale in the least, but possibly a cautionary one. Hannah would get the coup de grâce though. She didn't bring anything to the party, but she would leave with the knowledge that she was extremely lactose intolerant. The reaction to the Robitussin is one thing, but the ongoing pain and discomfort of having a pint of milk sloshing in her digestive tract is just what the karma doctor ordered.
The moral of the story is twofold. The first is for the kids themselves. Drugs are bad (m'kay), and no matter whether you buy it from the smelly kid in study hall or steal it from the shelf of your local pharmacy, you are in for a rude awakening (and a hurried trip to the bathroom). The second is for the parents. Don't name your kid Hannah. Seriously, you're just damning her (hopefully not him) to be the girl who shows up to the clearing in the bushes empty handed, and leaves with a terrible case of “the runs.”