All the Llywelyn children reacted differently to our father leaving. I thank whatever power I have that I didn’t have the immediate reaction to go out and get pregnant like my sister did. I could have. And wouldn’t that have been a story. But it wasn’t my way. Out of all of us, I guess I had the healthiest reaction, locking myself in my room for days and weeks, reading and trying to come to grips with the new reality.
My brother has never had my introspection.
Both my older siblings always needed outside validation of some kind or other. They needed people to talk to, friends that they could pretend they were close with. Problem was, they also didn’t know how to actually talk about it. Aly got herself pregnant.
Jasper started doing drugs.
I might be over-simplifying here, for the sake of the narrative as I saw it. To be honest, Jasper’s kind of always been the kind of kid who would grow up to do drugs. You didn’t have to be psychic. You could just tell. I’m sorry to put it like that, but there’s a certain kind of prankster-jokester mesh that you just know is going to be trouble—first and foremost for himself.
Part of me wishes I could blame Tommy for this one, too. It would make my life so much easier if it was just one guy fucking up all of my characters, you know? But Tommy wasn’t anywhere nearby, wasn’t even part of the equation.
The guy who chained my brother to the gateway was a guy called Pete, and Jasper never saw him again, ‘cept maybe in passing. He was passing through. Not sure why. Their age. He shared his joint with them. That’s the fundamental difference between smoking cigarettes and smoking pot. Smokers ask “You got a light?” or even “You got a cigarette?” Pot-smokers ask “Hey, man, you wanna smoke up?” and then they exhale and usually cough, in my experience.
He’d already smoked a bit—tobacco is the real gateway drug. How many junkies are there out there who didn’t start on nicotine? That’s the one that teaches you about chemical dependency. But pot was the kicker for him. Not because of the fictitious addiction, but because of the danger of it. What would happen if he got caught.
Marijuana is easy to justify. There aren’t a lot of physical drawbacks—can’t OD, not “physically addictive, whatever that means, and studies show it might actually cure cancer. Not to mention a cultural message of “it’s not like other drugs” that competes with legal definitions.
But once you’re on that path…
I know that my brother wouldn’t have gone any farther if our dad hadn’t bailed. I know it ‘cause I’ve seen it, sort of, but more importantly, I know because I know Declan. I know their relationship. I know that Declan, underneath his carefully cultivated fuck-you-I’m-a-rockstar exterior, is highly disciplined. He would’ve rolled his eyes and peer-pressured him out of it. And Jasper would’ve gone with that, too; he respected Declan, his opinion of him was important. That’s probably why he didn’t tell him what he was doing, that he was “experimenting” with trying to “open his mind, man!”
Declan found out anyway, of course. People who do drugs tend to get stupid—sometimes hilariously so, but sometimes it’s inconvenient for your band-mates when they have to wait for you for two hours, trying to practice around your shitty “lead” guitar and wondering if this means you’ll be like this when you start booking gigs (if you ever start booking gigs, at this rate) and then when you do finally stumble in, blood-shot, bleary, almost bloated, you act like it’s no big deal.
“You’re on drugs,” my brother’s friend tells him, and when he’s through tryikng to deny it, Declan lies and says “Well, I just wish you’d invited me.” But maybe it isn’t a lie, because Declan does wish that Jasper had come to him, had trusted him as a friend (let him talk him out of it), even if there wasn’t anything else that he could do other than just, I don’t know, listen. The usual. Like they were just shootin’ the shit.
Declan would do drugs eventually, of course, he was a rock-star, but when he did, he would do it for about the same reasons that Kyle did when he did them, which turned out to be the same reasons why my brother thought and pretended he was doing them.
He needed to experiment. He had to know, he figured. How the fuck can you ever expect to be a great artist if you don’t know, if you haven’t experienced, if you haven’t been…
“Don’t do it, man,” Jasper would tell his friend, then, too late, after he’d already taken it. “Don’t go down that road,” and he would remind him of the intervention Declan and the others had to throw for him, finally, keeping it secret from our mom.
“I’m okay,” Declan will tell him, addressing the neon snake snatching at fireflies with its tongue, across the room. “This isn’t like that, this is…”
I’ve never done drugs, myself. Not any of the ones that matter, anyway.
I’ve never had to. Not knowing people like these.