I’m sitting in a holding cell. In jail. I was arrested a few hours ago, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me.
And I’m shaking with happiness. This is the best day of my life.
Four hours earlier:
The bong was beautiful.
It was strong, with an intricate glass heart coming out of its side.
I thought about all the money I had spent on it - my money - made from selling to dorm-mates, friends, and anyone that heard about me.
I was celebrating my new purchase with my dorm friends in my room. One friend, a girl, who I had been close with since freshman year. My other friend, a dude. And my roommate who didn’t smoke pot, for some reason, was there. He was nervous and twitching. I told him he could leave but he shook his head, he wanted to hang out, he said.
The room filled with smoke. Each rip sent another huge plume into the air of the tiny area.
We were getting lost, floating.
And as this plume of smoke grew and grew, we coughed, coughed, and smiled, smiled.
And then came a knock on the door.
We all jumped in our seats.
We did the standard pot-smoker’s move of rushing around quietly as possible while hiding everything in a mad panic. I took the Febreze and sprayed it around the room for a full minute.
How much Febreze do you need for huge plumes of smoke that have been exhaled over 2 hours?
When everything was hidden, I whispered to everyone, “Just be quiet. Pretend no one’s here.”
We sat in silence now, no one making a move. Hardly breathing. Hardly blinking.
Whoever it was hadn’t left.
My roommate got nervous. He started scratching his neck and fidgeting. I gave him a look that said, “Chill, bro, chill.”
But he didn’t.
And now he was out of his chair, and for some reason I will never understand, he pushed the blinds a bit aside and looked outside.
The rest of us, the three of us, let out this collective gasp.
I let out a sigh, gave my friend one last glaring look, and stood up.
I went to the door. I opened it.
There were five cops in front of me. I gulped. I heard a gasp from behind me.
“Can I help you?” I asked, acting like they were solicitors or something, and pretending that I didn’t have a scale and four ounces of pot. Or that you’re considered a drug dealer in Arizona if caught with that haul. It was like looking prison time in the face.
“Oh yes, I think you can help me,” the taller, bigger cop in front said. “You been up to anything tonight, son?”
I shook my head and shrugged, as if that was a personally normal question for a policeman with four others behind him at 11 pm to ask a dude in a dorm room.
He stuck his head in my door, gave me this sly sort of smile and said, “Doesn’t smell like nothing.”
I could feel my whole body shrivel up when he said that. The room behind me was completely silent. My poor friends.
I grasped at the last straw of an opportunity. Something I remembered one of my stoner friends tell me to say when things got real: “Technically I don’t have to let you in here, do I?”
“You’re absolutely right, son, absolutely right,” he said with this kind sort of smile, ”But honestly, I don’t think you want that. Things will be a lot harder for both of us that way. Trust me, you want it like this.”
He had a voice like a silky businessman, knowing he had already made the sale. And he was right.
I turned around, looked at my friends. Their faces were ashen. They were all sober too. What a waste.
I turned back around and let out a heavy sigh.
“Okay, come in.”
And all five cops came in and proceeded to look through all my things.
The main cop asked me what I had in the room. I didn’t see any more reason to fight it now.
I just wanted it over with. So I listed everything. Told him that I had four ounces of pot. The utensils. All that good stuff.
And then I proceeded to watch them find those things, one by one.
The first thing they grabbed was the bong. The beautiful bong with the heart. Another cop found my pipe.
As I watched them take these things, I felt like I was watching my life get actively destroyed in front of my eyes. This was it. Prison. I was going. There was no way out.
They found my scale. They found my mini-bong. They found everything.
Except… they kept looking… what was happening? What was missing?
They were starting to get frustrated. Looking deeper and deeper. Five cops, and none of them could find two big bags of pot.
The cop asked me where it was. I looked at him, and I told him the G-d’s honest truth: “I don’t know.”
I was so high and so scared when we were madly hiding everything that I totally forgot where I had thrown the stash.
And so they kept looking.
And the funny thing was, the funny thing was that inside, as this was going on, I knew that I should feel scared. Freaked out. In the corner, my friends were shriveling in fear. Looking outside, I could see students peeking out of their rooms and looking at me. All of them knew me.
But I didn’t care. In fact, the more the cops searched, the more this weird sort of joy crept over me. This certainty that they wouldn’t find anything. This belief that I was okay.
I even started to joke with the boss cop. He asked me if I was sure there were four ounces of pot in my room.
I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. I said yes. He actually laughed back.
Soon, I got bored. I said, “Let me help.”
And there I was. Searching my own room with four other cops for the pot that would land me in prison for who knows how long.
Still, no one could find the pot. No one remembered where it went. My friends had no clue.
Even my sober roommate.
And then I reached for my desk drawer… and an image flashed across my mind. My hands with two big bags of pot. Throwing open my desk drawer and stuffing them madly inside.
I looked down at my hand. It was touching the handle.
I let go. I felt some sort of divine hand guiding me. I was laughing inside and out. I was free, and I knew it.
I moved away.
And I started looking in the trash can. I looked under my mattress.
I started pointing the cops to different places, asking them if they had checked any part of my room besides the desk drawer. They looked everywhere I told them to look. I was their boss. It was divine.
With each move, with each misdirection and signal to the cops, I felt like I was fulfilling a will bigger than mine.
I remember the cops starting to look down dejectedly, starting to look up at the ceiling, as if they’d find something there. They were giving up... I was so close.
Finally, the boss cop said, “Okay, guys. Let’s wrap this up.”
They all turned around and looked at him. He asked one of them for a list of everything they found. He nodded. They spoke a bit more.
Boss Cop asked me to come outside with him.
As I stepped outside, I could see all the students in my dorm peaking out their doors or windows.
Furtive eyes. Some of whom I had sold to.
“Now, son, I need you to tell me whose pot, whose things these are,” the cop said.
I knew what to do. I took one look at my friends, who were still in the corner, looking like scared squirrels surrounded by foxes.
“It’s all mine. I take full responsibility. They knew nothing, didn’t do anything, didn’t touch or smoke anything.”
The cop nodded, didn’t ask any questions. Instead, he read me my Miranda Rights and slapped some handcuffs on me.
It was the first and only time I was arrested. The first and only time I would feel cold metal against my wrists. And yet, I was happy. They hadn't found the pot. I wasn’t going to prison.
Jail... but not prison.
My friends looked at me with this look of just total gratitude. I smiled at them.
The cops led me down the stairs of the dorm, out the door. Into the courtyard. The group of us passed students who were coming home from partying or hanging outside to smoke cigarettes.
They all stared at us.
I felt like a star.
They took me out the gate, where there was a car with flashing lights waiting for me. My chariot.
A moment before they stuck me in the back, I looked up. A guy was standing in his window, smiling at me. He stuck his fist in the air in solidarity and gave me a big grin.
And as they stuck me into the back of the car, I laughed.
The experience of being in the holding cell was nothing like I had seen in the movies. I wasn’t put in a room with bars and ten drunk dudes. Instead, I was in a room made all of steel. Alone.
There was a toilet made of steel in the corner. A bed made of steel sticking out the wall.
I was all alone.
This was one of the defining spiritual moments of my life. Part of an awakening; a metamorphosis. A piece of a larger journey that meant falling deep but also preparing for the rise that would follow. The rise that would come from looking back and realizing that this had all happened for a reason. This was a note in the symphony that I was only beginning to listen to.
I meditated as I sat in there. I meditated and thought about all that had just happened. I tried to calculate what the chances of four policemen searching my room and not looking in the one area of it that would destroy my life was.
I had a feeling it was low. I had a feeling this was a miracle.
Each moment that passed in those hours took my heart deeper and deeper into a part of my soul
I had been avoiding for too long.
I had been avoiding my life, my parents, my purpose. I had been avoiding thinking about how far
I was falling. And this moment, this moment was a break; a brief reminder that my life mattered.
That I was meant for something bigger than being a pot dealer who was failing school. That all the emotional issues I had been facing weren’t empty moments, but a part of a bigger picture.
And, most importantly, that somebody, or something, was watching over me.
And I remember how they opened the holding cell and told me I could go home now. They asked if I wanted to call a cab. I told them I lived close by and I would be fine walking.
They opened the door and they let me out. The warm air of an Arizona night slapped me in the face.
I literally skipped home. I danced. My knees hit the air like I was a gymnast. I flew home on a cloud of faith and belief.
The next day, I got all my friends together, put my four ounces of pot on the table, and said,
“We’re not leaving until this is all gone.”
We smoked the day away, partying. They were partying because there was four ounces of pot to smoke. I was partying because I knew I mattered. I was partying because I knew I would never sell this pot again, no matter how addicted I got, no matter how bad my life got. I was partying because I knew that the cops would drop the case. That I wasn’t going to get in any trouble.
Deep in my heart I knew. Because something was looking out for me.
And I was right.
Elad Nehorai is the creator of Pop Chassid, a blog whose goal is to bring out the creative energy of the Jewish world and the larger world as well. He is also the CMO of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits.
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