420

4-20

Since the twentieth of April is close, I thought I’d share a good 420 story.

This was back in 2015.  I had just made my way up to Belize from Honduras, where I had taken a course to receive my PADI Open Water scuba diving license.  I took a speed boat out to the Belizean island of Caye Caulker, excited and looking forward to my first real dive outside of a “class” setting.  I walked along the small island’s main road, stopping in all the dive shops that dotted the beachfront street, inquiring about prices and dive locations.

I finally decided on a small company, the shopfront an extension of the house out back.  The owner was tanned and burly. We hit it off immediately, and after asking me where I was from, in his smooth Caribbean accent, he told me that he was from Belize originally, but that he had spent some time living in New York, Brooklyn, and still had family there.  We chatted some more, and before I left I booked a dive to a nearby reef for the following day.

I arrived a bit early, refreshed by the hot sun and cool Caribbean breeze, keen for the dive.  When I walked in, the owner was readying the suits and double checking the equipment we’d be using.  He offered me a seat and we got to rapping. At some point in the conversation, the date came up.

“Ya know it fur-twenty, ya?” He said.

“Is it?” I said, not sure if that was the actual date, or if that was just his slick way of offering me weed using that classic stoner lingo.

Apparently, it was both.  “Ya smoke de herb?” He asked me.

 

I replied the way I always do whenever anyone offers me drugs whilst I’m traveling. “I don’t say no.” I told him.

“Well, me frind was just ere visitin from N. Y. and he brought me a couple a dem edibles.  Ya want tome?” He asked.

“Like I said, I won’t say no.” I replied.

He dipped out the back door to his house and returned after a few minutes with a metal tin about the size of a frisbee and the height of a soda can turned on it’s side. He opened it to reveal a collection of little chocolates and pastries.  

He offered me a chocolate about the size of a small snickers bar then took one out for himself.  The smell of the marijuana dripped off the sweets and filled the air like fresh morning dew on a new leaf.  We held the bars up to each other in a sort of salute, then devoured the goodies.

Now normally, I’m pretty cautious with edibles.  You never know exactly how much you’re getting with each batch, and I’ve personally had some serious mental bouts against myself, fighting off panic attacks after having one too many doobie snacks.  But this dude seemed so confident, I figured, if he was good, I’d be fine.

We continued to hang out and wait for the other divers that would be joining us.  We were a small group. It was me, an Australian couple, newlyweds on the beautiful island as part of their honeymoon, and a hardy blond woman on vacation from Michigan.  Once we were all assembled and ready with our gear, the owner walked us down the street to the dock where his boat was parked. Awaiting us were two, huge Belizean brothers that made the barrel chested shop owner look like Olivoil from the Popeye cartoons.


The owner introduced the two men as his employees, and after some short introductions we were in the boat and ready to go.  He untied the small passenger vessel and waved to us as he pushed us of.

“Have fun guys!” he said as one of the large brothers behind the wheel turned the key in the ignition, the boat roaring to life as we floated away.

“Wait, you’re not coming?” I asked over the low hum of the engine.  

He laughed and said, “No way man, me working in da shop today.  Ave a good time, and be careful, der sharks out der!” He snickered to himself as he turned and walked back to his shop from the dock.

…Fuck.

Anyone that knows edibles, knows that they take a while to kick in with their effects, about an hour or so.  I was now off to sea, geared up, with about a half hour fuse counting down to my plant induced blitzkrieg, on my way to spend close to an hour, 20 meters below the surface of the ocean with wild, possibly aggressive, potentially territorial, and almost certainly hungry sharks. I prayed he was joking.  There was no turning back now.


The boat ride out to the reef was an endeavor in itself.  We soared across the clear, blue-green water until we reached the outside of the break caused by the bed of jagged coral and rock just below the surface.  The white caps raised up violently, reaching to the height of two men, before crashing down in an envelope of foam and mist. The brother driving steadied the barge and aimed the stern straight for the wave.  He waited, poised with his massive hand on the throttle, and then with expert timing, he gunned the ship into the fray on top of the last fallen crest.

The second swell rose quickly behind it, lifting the nose of the boat sharply towards the sky.  Everything that wasn’t secured or tied down went flying out over the sides, as everyone onboard scrambled to grasp something to keep us from suffering the same fate.  We slammed down with a thud, whitewater and mist shooting everywhere around us and soaking the interior of the boat with a splash. The pilot readied himself again. One wrong move could land us broadside to the wave and capsize the boat, leaving us to be dragged and drowned on the craggy bottom.

I looked around at the other passengers.  The girls were stuck, wrapped to the closest poles attached to the interior sides of the vessel.  The newlywed man was looking faint and pale, as he clung to the aluminum frame that connected the canopy of the boat to the body.  He was already complaining about being seasick before we go out to the break. I’ve never seen so much fear in a man’s eyes. I glanced at the other brother.  His form sat stoically, his giant mitts attached underneath his seat as he swayed with the motions of our environment.

Again, without warning, our driver shot us into the next wave.  We tumbled over and came slamming down on the other side. We sat and endured this chaotic dance for what seemed like an eternity, first bobbing and rocking, then, like a rocket, blasting into the next peak and hurdling over the brink.  And then, all of a sudden, calm swept over us. We had reached the outside. We were now sitting on a clear glassy shelf, a stark contrast to belligerent thrashing just behind us. I looked again at the Australian man and thought he might be crying.  I wondered if it was from fear or relief.

With that out of the way, we were ready for our dive.  We suited up with our tanks and masks, slipped our fins on and started one by one to hop off the boat.  

Real quick, here I’d like to explain why I love scuba diving:
It’s the closest thing you can get to a psychedelic trip while remaining sober.  It is a truly spiritual experience. Once you step off that boat you are literally in a new world, full of colors, geometric patterns and crazy stunning lifeforms.  Everything around you is moving and vibrating with the natural rhythms of the deep. You’re alone with nothing but your breath in your ears, using it to control your maneuvers as you soar, ascending and plunging at will with each controlled in and exhale.  The hundreds of pounds of water enveloping all around force you to float at a crawl, putting you in tune with every movement. It’s simply amazing.

It’s around this time that the edible started to kick in.  I was the first one in the water. Once I did my safety check and tested my gear, I cleared my face mask and applied my snorkel while I waited for the others to enter the water. I took a deep breath and looked down, and there, directly under me, were 3 reef sharks swimming in a tight circle with me at the center.  I quickly popped my head up and yelled to the stoic brother. He was to be our dive master while his brother stayed with the boat.

I said “Hey man, there’s sharks down there!”

He chuckled as he helped the Australian with his gear and said, “Ya.” as if I just told him the sky was up.  I guess I was just acting like a bitch on the count I was now STONED OUT OF MY MIND!!!

 

Once we were all in the water it was time to dive.  We lifted our arms up, the standard safety practice for the descent of a dive, and sunk down toward the dreamy ocean floor.  Looking back now, considering how high and paranoid I was, the dive couldn’t have gone better. The sharks that were circling me were reef sharks, each about 6 feet (roughly 2 meters) long.  They followed our little group curiously the whole time, the tiny pilot fish moving in unison with them in the shadow of their bellies.

At one point I saw a shadow, a small, murky triangle off in the distance of the deep blue.  I watched as it slowly got bigger with its approach. The image quickly took form, revealing itself to be a massive bull shark 12-13 feet in length (about 4 meters).  It swam straight for me. In my hazy mind’s eye I saw the beast propel itself forward and open its powerful jaws to chomp me in half effortlessly. But just when I thought I was about to be lunch, the merciful scaled demon cruised right over my feeble carcass.  That happened 2 or 3 more times, and I never quite relaxed.

At one point I found a sea turtle in an underwater cave. She swam right up to me and peered at me with her deep, wise gaze, as if there was some urgent, ancient secret she’d been dying to share.  We floated there with our eyes locked for a long moment, then after she had transmitted her cosmic message to me, she tilted herself up and slowly paddled towards the surface. I watched her go in awe of her majesty.  She waded at the top, her head breaching the surface. A spec from the depths in search of a breath.

We finished our dive and ascended, and like clockwork, there was the giant man at the helm, waiting to pick us up.  We all clambered aboard and shared our individual experiences as we removed our flippers and gear. The ride back out of the reef was the polar opposite to the rocky entry.  Our driver, obviously a seasoned vet, timed the throttle again, this time going with the waves. He perched us right on top of one of the white crowns and we sailed all the way out on it with ease.

We motored back, and once on land I marched straight to the dive shop.  The owner was there waiting, his glazed eyes shimmering crimson in the humid afternoon sun light.  He greeted me with a lazy smile.

 

“How it wuz mon?” He asked me in his Pidgeon English.

 

“What the fuck bro?! You dosed me, then sent me out to the sharks?”

 

He laughed and said “Yea mon, I was tinkin dat. Me been ere all day fucked up and I was wonderin ow you were gettin on.  Well yur back now in one piece anyway. Wut ya say we have a smok, on me.” I took him up on the offer and we chilled together in the back of the shop and laughed about the whole ordeal over a spliff.

 

Now I’m not going to say that that was the highest I’ve ever been, but it was definitely the highest I’ve ever been when I was that low…Happy 420!!

 

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