We had been on several really great dates before I realized he was keeping a secret. Whenever I complimented him on who he is, who we were together, or what I enjoyed about us, he responded with warning phrases like, “Withhold your judgment for now, sweetheart,” or “Be careful around me, darlin’. You don’t know all there is to know.” I have the tendencies of an incurable optimist and my love language is affirmation, so I ignored and glazed over his words and replaced them with my own. Maya Angelou once said, “When a person tells you who they are, believe them. The first time.” In her great wisdom, she was just so very, very right.
On the evening when he had met my children and my parents, two of the last laps in the race to my heart, he snuggled with me on the couch while my two boys slept upstairs. He braced me for a “very important conversation,” and he told me he had some pictures he wanted to show me on his phone. I was actually expecting him to show me a child of his he had failed to mention or something else life-altering and foundational to a dating relationship. But clearly, he had something to unveil.
He scrolled through one image after another of lush green plants with five points on their leaves. The pictures weren’t his children, but they were undoubtedly his pride and joy. I sat up on the couch to take his phone with both hands and look closely, but actually I just wanted to get myself out of his embrace. He said, “What do you think it is?”
“I know exactly what it is,” I said. “I want you to say it out loud.”
He said, “It’s marijuana. I’m a grower.”
I live in Colorado where the cannabis movement is legal, where quite unbelievably, the ratio of marijuana dispensaries to Starbucks locations is nearly 2:1. Everybody here knows where to get some, how to get some, and we all have the straight up ability to consume as we choose. But on that evening a few years ago, when he showed me these photos on his phone, the legalization of marijuana was but a twinkle in his eye. The law had not yet been passed, and the plants he tended in his garage were very much illegal.
He said, “It’s gonna be legal soon, Trish. It will be legal, and the opportunities will be endless. And I just don’t want to work for The Man my whole life. This is so much smarter than taking out a business loan.”
“If you think that’s true,” I responded, “then I think you have been poorly advised.”
He said, “I just wanted to be honest with you. Some people have a problem with something like this.”
“Yes, some people do.” I handed his phone back to him.
I thought of my boys, then five and six years old, upstairs in their bunkbeds. I have hopeful visions of them growing up to be strong, free, productive, and confident… not sedated on a couch, hallucinating with pinwheel eyes. Then I pictured an afternoon at this boyfriend’s home, and my needing to tell my little guys, Stay away from the people coming in and out of the garage, okay? Nope. There are some conversations I’m not interested in rushing.
“Listen, I’m not trying to judge this or you or any of it. But I’m not going to explain it to my children. I think you should go,” I said. Sometimes you have to make a decision, even though it means you watch your heart walk right out the door.
Well, fast forward a few years. I was in line at Starbucks for a meeting with my publicist, since caramel-colored beverages fuel the best things about a writing career. To my great surprise, in line before me was my old friend, the marijuana guy. We exchanged pleasantries, and there was that once-over moment when you see someone you’ve dated, when you each do a quick analysis of the other to see who has fared better, who won the breakup.
“How are you? What’s going on? How are your kids?” he asked with that same twinkle and charisma that caught my eye in the first place.
“Things are good with us — the boys are resilient and tall and courageous, and I’m raising boys and writing books. Just released the second one, actually. How about you?”
“Oh, man, business is so good. Let me buy your drink today,” he said, as he pulled out a profoundly thick wad of cash. That’s when I remembered: Oh, that’s right. Marijuana is legal here now.
He said, “We have a 500-square-foot greenhouse now, and production is coming along nicely. I’m in the sales division, and we will have our recreational license soon, so the opportunities are endless. Business is really booming.”
I thought to myself, Let’s not kid ourselves. What you just said, in laymen’s terms, is that you have a warehouse of drugs and you’re making a lot of money dealing it to people who just want to have a good time. But I only smiled and said, “Well, welcome to the life you’ve always wanted.”
The barista said, “Hey, where is your shop? When I turn twenty-one, I totally want to try it.”
He winked at her, flashing that charisma again, and he said, “I’ve got some samples in the car. For when you’re twenty-one.”
I know that this herbal therapy is really a tremendous benefit for the people who genuinely need it, for those with nothing to relieve their pain and offer palliative care for what they face. I get it, and I won’t stand between someone who literally and legitimately needs what those plants offer. But that is not what was happening before me, as evidenced by the samples for the barista. I have a friend who works in a mental health hospital, and he invests his life in fixing people who have tried such samples, thinking it was just a one-time gig. That’s a whole different something than “the legalization of marijuana for medical use.”
He gave a brief farewell tour before he left Starbucks, because he has a magnetic personality that draws people in. He had already made new friends in his short stint of waiting in line, and you never know who is a potential business contact when you’re “in the sales division.”
He flirted on out the door with helium in his bones and more cash than I’ve seen on one person. And I thought, I did the right thing all those years ago.
And then I thought, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m drinking a macchiato purchased with drug money.