The Great Went by Matthew Dexter
I walked through the Newark International Airport metal detector with an ounce of marijuana in my jockstrap and two pellets of mescaline in my sock. I had removed the protective cup to provide more space and maneuverability for the plastic baggie, which I could smell, as I did my best to act nonchalant. This was four years before 19 al-Qaeda operatives boarded airliners with box cutters and smashed two planes into the World Trade Center. I was not yet eighteen. It was easier than stealing candy from a baby.
This was the end of the era of aerial freedom, before we were asked to remove our shoes and purchase crappy food that flight attendants zapped in the microwave. They did not take away our liquids, toenail clippers, or liberties. We did not notice nefarious faces waiting complacent in the aisle seats before takeoff.
Sitting in the plastic chairs that cup the ass cheeks in front of my gate, waiting for the boarding call, time stopped as the aroma exuded from my midsection. The difficult part was over, at least for now. I was free-balling with purpose, to sneak the substances to Logan International Airport in Boston. From there, a buddy would pick me up in his navy blue Volkswagen Jetta and we would drive to Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine, for The Great Went, a two-day music festival for a band called Phish, which took place on August 16 and 17, 1997.
The jet bridge was connected to the concourse like an obstinate accordion and each announcement of boarding calls was equivalent to having a screwdriver twisted into my ear canals. There was no turning back. This is what makes me. This is who I am. The inertia of being one step away from the airport jail was exhilarating, like being in Kona on the big island hitting the high notes after three joints with Whitney Houston.
The boarding call arrived and I shuffled into my window seat, wondering about the subtle differences between degenerates and felons. A middle-aged man sat next to me. We did not make eye contact. The aroma was so pungent I was convinced he could smell it. For all I knew the very fuselage smelled like a skunk. It was the longest flight of my life.
We landed in Boston not a second too soon. First thing I did upon hitting the terminal was pay a visit to the men’s room. In the stall I removed the jock strap and left it on the porcelain toilet under the handle as if Idaho Senator Larry Craig had just stopped by for some “cottaging.” Anonymous sex would have been less nerve-wracking. Nothing compared to the exhilaration of feeling the sun sucking me in and spitting me out.
When we arrived we were so close to Canada that we could smell the manure from the Mounties’ horses. It was the greatest aroma of the summer. Somewhere, on the other part of the country between freedom and terror, a man must have found my jockstrap and wondered what madness lurked within the elastic.
First published at Airplane Reading airplanereading.org