PART A (The Psychologist) — 5

There was a man who would one day change his name to Bing.

So let’s call him Bing now.

Bing made plans to tell his boss and co-workers about something he would dub his “Yearly Medical Day.”

He intended the request and necessary conversations to include dapper explanations of how he would bust through all sorts of appointments with various specialists in a single day, getting it all out of the way at once.

It would be a lie, of course, and just as well…

For even after Bing had paced his office hallway like a pent-up swarm of bees to work up the nerve, all he could actually manage with his supervisor was: “Um, I gotta take Friday off for . . . doctors…?”

And with that, his real plan was underway.

Two anxious nights, a hundred-dollar bill unclipped from a wad, and a hurried dialogue later, and Bing had his prescription.

It was stamped, signed, folded four times, and tucked safely away in his wallet like a tool in Batman’s belt.

Driving to his next and final stop, he took a deep, slow breath.

He reached to press the volume button, causing his car radio to cough to life.

Chattering, distinguished voices cut through loose, gravelly speakers.

But he wasn’t listening.

Almost there.

Gingerly thumbing sleep from both eyes, Bing glanced down and across at his iun* resting open on the littered passenger seat. (*device)

The address was up, along with a little map, though he had memorized it all late the night before.

Reviewers of the place he was headed for had made a point of describing the way Suite F only appeared to face the street (“between a crappy head shop and nail salon”), but that the real entrance lay around back.

Nearly all the potential places Bing had come across in his almost-all-night search had been described in similarly off-putting ways: “up the second flight of stairs . . . watch for the guard to the left of the building . . . if you hit Dearhurst, you’ve gone too far.”

Apparently medical marijuana dispensaries weren’t the easiest places to reach.

A flush of tired nerves jolted Bing to life as he made his way around a quiet row of shops.

There at the back, he saw a makeshift metal guard shack next to a big door with a large F painted crude in green.

It was time.

This was the moment he had been both longing for and dreading for the past six months, ever since a work colleague had shown him how legal weed could be a real possibility.

Of course it was the details that made him nervous, like always . . . like reviewers of some dispensaries who described being given strains to sample right at the counter, “taking tokes” with their “budtenders.”

An offer like that would put Bing in an awkward spot for sure.

He couldn’t turn it down for fear of seeming rude or shy.

But the idea of being high around others, especially someone as experienced as a budtender…

Also, the listed pricing charts all seemed so confusing.

He hoped, more than anything, to avoid any sort of attention or drawn-out conversations in the unfamiliar environment he was about to be thrust into.

But there was no turning back.

His prescription had been paid for.

He was locked into his plan.

As midday heat beat down through grubby windows, Bing shoved his iun under the seat, withdrew his wallet, clasped his ID and prescription together in one hand, and slowly popped open his door as though easing into a freezing pool.

“Hey man,” spouted a skinny guard from the shack across the way. “Y’all got yo papers ready?”

“Yes,” stated Bing.

The guard bowed slightly, reaching to open the heavy door behind him.

Even before stepping through, Bing was overwhelmed by the smell that wafted out to greet him like an old friend.

It was that same familiar scent of pine, and skunk, and herbs, and something else all its own.

He found it to be both calming and alluring right away.

His rigid gate eased a notch.

He smiled.

Maybe these people would be cool.

Maybe they could be his friends.

“First time or returning?” asked a mechanical female voice from a box to Bing’s left.

He turned to glimpse two of the most alarmingly attractive young women he had ever seen seated behind a thick acrylic-glass window.

The one with darker skin and slightly more tattoos gave him a friendly smile and repeated into a microphone attached to her desk: “First time patient? Or returning?”

“I’m . . . first time,” said Bing.

“Got your rec and ID?”

Bing noticed the slot at the base of the window.

Without saying anything, he slid his license and prescription through.

“Thank you,” said the other girl. “Please sign in and fill out one of these…”

She slid a clipboard with a stack of stapled forms back through the slot.

Bing took the clipboard and lowered himself to a metal chair.

After signing and initialing a few dozen times, he glanced around to take in the waiting area.

It was quite bare except for a small wooden coffee table at the center.

On the table lay neat stacks of magazines with pictures of plants and paraphernalia.

The smell, and what that smell meant was waiting just beyond the next big door to his left, remained pleasantly bewildering.

He could hear faint fragments of talking taking place behind the door.

He took a deep breath, hoping again for a quick and smooth exchange.

His name was called like at a doctor’s office.

He rose, slipped the clipboard through to the smiling receptionists, pocketed his ID and rec, and pushed through as the handle buzzed to unlock.

The smell so intensified as he entered that innermost chamber (its source) it hit Bing hard like a massive wave.

It was the steam from cartoon pies that causes characters to lose their senses and float off the ground toward it, all drooling and fuzzy-headed.

He couldn’t decide which was more appealing as he inched across that pungent room . . . the rows upon rows of giant mason jars, all filled with more marijuana than he’d ever thought he’d see, or the team of tiny beauties behind the counter, all grinning at him.

But the idea of sampling a smoke with an unfamiliar hot girl seemed to Bing about as uncomfortable as being a eunuch at a peep show.

He imagined himself guffawing like Goofy, and felt his pulse quicken in his neck.

He sauntered instead to a small Asian man who stood almost unnoticeable amongst the rest behind the counter.

“Hi, Mr. Pugloci?” welcomed the young man in a quiet voice.

“Hi,” said Bing, his gaze lost in waves of green and other forest colors.

“Your first time here?”

“Y. . . yes. I just got my prescription today,” said Bing, immediately feeling a remarkably strong sense of calm and focus as he brought his eyes up to meet those of his first budtender.

“Wow!” said the peaceful voice. “That’s great. Well, I can walk you through everything you’ll need to know. My name is Ten, by the way.”

The two shook hands.

“Bing,” said Bing.

“Well, Bing, basically how the dispensary works is you have your top-shelf strains…” Ten motioned to the jars Bing had just been ogling.

Each jar had a hand-written label with names like Moody OG, Kryptonite, Purple Princess…

“Then there are your medium and low-shelf,” continued Ten, pointing toward jars that sat, conveniently, on the two shelves below the top.

“Oh cool,” said Bing, eyeing jars through the glass.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” said Ten, “what’s your medical need? That way I can help you find the right strains for you. The ones you are looking at now would be good for things like insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety… Over here,” Ten continued, gliding in an arc around the counter’s sharp central corner, “we have strains known to get you up and moving. These are more energetic, and are said to help with creativity and mental stimulation, kind of like an energy drink. You might find them helpful for problems like depression or mood disorders.”

“I guess…” began Bing, trailing off.

“It’s okay,” assured Ten, “I know it can all be quite overwhelming at first. Trust me, in six months you’ll know all the different types of strains inside and out.”

Ten laughed, pronouncing each “ha” as though learned from a textbook.

“Here,” he breathed, arcing again at speed around and out from behind the counter, “these are edibles.”

Ten reached to open a refrigerator door just behind where Bing was standing.

Bing turned to see that the little fridge was packed full of chocolate bars, brownies, cookies, and bottles of lemonade and soda.

Some of the goodies had professional-looking labels.

Others were unmarked, in re-sealable zipper bags.

“Wow!” said Bing. “I’ve never had edibles before.”

“The key with these is moderation,” cautioned Ten, smiling humbly. “I mean, you only want to eat a little, and then wait about an hour or so. If you’re used to smoking, you might just keep eating and eating, and then…”

Ten let the consequences of his unfinished thought hang in Bing’s imagination like barbed wire.

“I smoke a little bit,” said Bing. “That’s why I wanted the prescription . . . so it could be legal or whatever. But yeah, I’ve been doing it off-and-on since high school.”

“Cool,” said Ten, his expression blank and tranquil. “You have probably just been smoking whatever you get, right . . . not really paying attention to different strains?”

“Right,” Bing confirmed.

“Well, now you can really keep track of how the different types affect you. Oh yeah, one more thing…” remembered Ten, navigating his way back behind the counter with the finesse of a predatory animal. “These are called concentrates…”

Looking to the small section where Ten was gesturing, Bing saw rows of tiny vials and tubes half-filled with oily liquids, as well as bottled pastes that looked like brown or yellow globs of dough.

“With these,” Ten said, “you only need a little bit to get the same effect.”

“Oh, so I should just get those then?” asked Bing, noticing the prices listed were about the same as the regular, non-concentrated marijuana in jars.

“Well, no,” said Ten, pausing, a slightly focused tinge to his expression suggesting the arrangement of his thoughts. “I see a lot of people will start medicating with mid- and top-shelf strains. Then they build up a tolerance and start using concentrates until those don’t even work anymore. You really don’t want to get to that point, right? I mean, it seems better to just ease off a little if you start to build up that kind of tolerance. That’s just my opinion, anyway. You want to make sure it keeps helping you medically. Again, just what I think.”

“Oh, okay,” said Bing. “Well, my main symptoms are anxiety, so…”

He trailed off again into silence, hoping not to have to continue.

“Okay,” beamed Ten at just the right time. “Then you’ll want to go with the first group of strains I showed you. They’re called Indicas. Great for anxiety.”

Ten was already lifting three of the mason jars to the countertop and unscrewing their steel lids in one fluid motion.

“Go ahead and take a closer look,” Ten suggested. “You can smell the flowers and get a sense of how each will taste. See the thick red hairs on this one?”

Bing lowered his face toward the jar labeled Abusive OG.

The dense clumps inside were so large the entire jar was made up of only about four massive buds, dark green, almost brown, and covered in a dense jungle of red.

“Is this one that you use?” Bing asked as he took in the musty smell, picking up a somehow pleasant hint of skunk.

“Me?” said Ten. “I haven’t medicated in about six months. And we just got this strain in last week. So, no.”

“Wow, six months?”

“Don’t tell him that!” called the squeaky voice of a female budtender waiting to work nearby.

Ten smiled politely, his eyes ever fixed in their impervious gaze.

“Yes,” Ten assured. “Like I was talking about, I had built up too much of a tolerance, so I decided not to medicate for a while.”

“You must be . . . desperate for it by now?” chuckled Bing, hoping to triangulate his way into a conversation with the nubile girl who had spoken.

Ten, or the place itself, had certainly seemed to set Bing more at ease.

“No,” said Ten simply.

“No?”

“It helps me in . . . certain ways,” Ten began, then paused. “When I want to, I’ll use it again. That might sound cryptic, I know.”

Bing nodded, thinking, and replied, “Actually, it reminds me of what the doctor I just met with was saying, right before I came here. I went to him because he writes these articles about weed and how the experience can be sort of . . . spiritual, in a way. Is that kind of what you’re talking about?”

“I think that’s something private for each person,” responded Ten. “Right?”

“I don’t know,” answered Bing, slightly disappointed, but still smiling wider than he had in longer than he could remember.

. . .

Bing completed his first medical marijuana purchase, exiting with a rich sample of strains and edibles to try.

As he left, he thanked Ten, the two receptionists, and the laidback guard outside, even treating each to a silly grin and wave.

The white paper bag folded neatly under his arm carried a hint of the captivating smell like a beacon back to its lair.

Shielding his eyes from the blinding sun as he strutted back to his car, Bing felt about as loose and relaxed as Ten had seemed.

He considered Ten’s comment about spiritual experiences.

Though Bing would never see Ten again, the small man’s calm words and demeanor would never be too far from his mind.

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