The thick sweet smell of marijuana filled Stacy’s patio and I grew more anxious as the distance between the joint and I grew smaller with each pass, person to person, around the circle. My options were slim and I panicked the moment it touched my fingers, slick with the saliva of the person to my right; I threw it as quickly as possible to my left and went inside to throw up. It was April 20, 1999 and when I walked out of the bathroom and looked at the television I saw, with horror, what the rest of the world was watching. There were dead bodies. In a high school. People running and screaming for their lives. I threw up again, this time on my shoes.
When they came looking for me I was standing there, vomit still soaking into my shoes and the carpet, and then they saw what I saw. A massacre. None of us understood what this would mean for the next four years of our own high school experiences, we certainly never imagined that one of us would be on the cover of TIME magazine the following year. What we did understand is that it was a half day and while what we saw on the screen was horrifying it was someone’s job to throw a party.
Eight hours later the party was over and I laid motionless in the street. When the ambulance came I later learned that it had been almost a full five minutes after the accident before anyone called 911. They had to hide the stash, they reasoned. I woke up in intensive care trauma center with doctors hovering around me, one of them with a scalpel raised, and then the slicing came sharply against my forehead. To relieve the pressure, he lectured to the residents circling the table, and then black. Consciousness escaped me for hours.
When I woke the next morning I reached up and touched my face. It didn’t feel like mine. Couldn’t possibly me mine. I began to cry as the attending came through calling rounds and announced my case to the residents. “I want to see… I want to see my face,” I managed to whisper. Immediately an eager to please resident held a mirror above me, and before anyone could stop her, before I could think better of it, I looked. But I wasn’t ready, couldn’t possibly have been ready for what I saw. And this time, there was nothing left to throw up.