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 Chelsey Clammer
 Chelsey Clammer
by Chelsey Clammer  FollowFollow
Chelsey Clammer has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, The Water~Stone Review and Black Warrior Review (forthcoming) among many more She is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Clammer is also the Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown and Senior Creative Editor of Her first collection of essays, BodyHome, was released from Hopewell Publishing in Spring 2015. Her second collection of essays, There Is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub, Summer 2015. You can read more of her writing at:
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I used to drive around stoned with Stuart, and we would sing “Another One Bites the Dust” every time we passed a nursing home with an ambulance parked out front.
This was when we were in college in small-town Texas. It was a cow town, though our tiny Liberal Arts university sat in the middle of it. This was where I got my Feminist Studies degree. And because there aren't that many undergraduate colleges out there that even offer Feminist Studies classes, let alone entire degrees, the fact that I majored in feminism in small-town Texas is quite impressive. Half of the cow town consisted of farmers and a Liberal Arts university sitting in the middle of their pastures, and the other half of town consisted of a ritzy gated retirement community. Everyone there owned a golf cart so they could easily visit their neighbors down the street, or they drove themselves around one of the two golf courses in the gated community in order to chase after a little white ball they couldn't really see.
For the old people who lived in town and could not afford to live in the gated retirement community, they ended up in a nursing home where their body would eventually be picked up by an ambulance, and where “Another One Bites the Dust” would be serenaded to their dead body by two college kids who just happened to drive by at the right time while they were smoking a joint in between classes.
Stuart and I were in Genetics together, because this was when I was still delusional and thought I had to be a pre-med major, because that's what people do—they go to college and they become doctors. Stoned Stuart sat next to stoned me in class and was always drawing intricate designs with a black gel ink pen on his yellow legal pad. He never really paid attention, because he actually understood all of the genetics stuff. I always had no clue what was going on, and so I just tried to concentrate on not mimicking our professor's British accent when I asked her a question.
“The little buggers do what?”
Stuart had long black oily hair, strings of which were constantly in his thin, hollow face, and his thin hollow frame of a body was constantly in a Pink Floyd t-shirt. This was 2003. During this time I had short awkward hair that was in the process of growing out from the shaved head hairstyle I toted a year ago. This was when I would soon drop the pre-med major in order to go into Feminist Studies. I always liked learning about the body, which had always made me assume that I liked science. It took me three years in college to learn that what I wanted to think about were the social constructions of the body, not its intricate anatomy. One day when Stuart and I went on one of our many stoned drives together (we called them “rolls”), and after we were prompted by an ambulance to once again sing “Another One Bites the Dust”, I thought about doctors and how their line of work was to keep people from doing the natural thing of dying. I was more interested in what that dying body meant to the world, rather than how to keep it alive. This also helped me to see how I always wanted to talk about racism and sexuality, while Stuart just wanted to talk about the differences between RNA and DNA. It has something to do with proteins. I think.

There were a lot of realizations I had while rolling along the county roads. Once when I was sitting in the backseat of my friend's sedan, she turned onto Highway 29 (which isn't actually a highway, but just the road in town with the highest speed limit, that being 45mph) but my friend didn't see the car barreling down the road towards us. As we turned onto the road, the car almost smashed into the back of us, because soon there were breaks squealing and headlights flooding the inside of our car with white. When I saw everything in the car aflame with white light, I swore we got hit by that car and that I had died. Everything from that point on was just my post-death dream. Perhaps my body really did just died in that moment, and now everything that was continuing to happen was just my soul dreaming those things. As we continued to drive, I came up with another realization, which was that perhaps life was just a dream, and that when we eventually died in that dream, we would wake up from it and discover that we had a whole other life, that what we had known to be our lives was in fact just a complicated dream. I sat in the back seat staring up at the stars through the window and wondered if this was my real life, or if I was just dreaming and at some point I was going to wake up from it.
Another thing I realized on one of the rolls was that I wanted to be a photographer. And while that is not my career, I did end up taking a photography class. For my assignments, I brought my camera with me on rolls and stopped every quarter of a mile or so to take pictures. I soon started to carry my camera with me on every roll, not with the intention of taking pictures, but, were a cop to ever pull me over, I would then have an excuse as to why I was slowly driving around the county roads. If you have a camera, then people automatically assume that any weird thing you do is for the sake of your photography—that you are not driving around a lonely county road at 15mph in the middle of the day to get stoned, but that what you are obviously doing is taking “artistic” photos for an assignment for one of your classes at that weird hippie Liberal Arts university in the middle of town.
I also realized that although up to that point in my life I had only ever dated and slept with women, I was oddly becoming attracted to a man. It wasn't Stuart, though it was another man whose name started with an S. When I had this realization about my crush on Spencer (who just happened to be one of my roommates) it was at night and I was sitting in the back of a friend's Rav 4, a friend who just happened to be Spencer's girlfriend and my best friend (I had a crush on her, too). When one of the women in the car turned on Radiohead's “Fake Plastic Trees” the quiet melody of it mixed with the scenery of stars and huge empty fields all got me to start thinking about the ebb and flow of desire, how I had been wanting to kiss Spencer more than my girlfriend lately, which was weird because he was a dude and I was a lesbian. But perhaps my desire could be as fluid as the sounds in that song were. As we rolled up a hill, the emotional music perfectly swelled with the upward curve of the road (because when you're stoned any music sounds like it's a perfectly synced-up soundtrack to everything), and I thought about that man, about the apex of my desire, about how I was finally realizing he was more than just a friend, but someone I wanted. After the women and I got home from our roll, and for the nine years proceeding it, I did nothing about this desire. A few years later and we graduate and Spencer and I drifted away from each other. For four years we stopped talking. And then nine years after my stoned realization, Spencer and I started connecting with each other again. Seven months after that re-connection we got married. We did not play “Fake Plastic Trees” at our wedding, though I was tempted. His ex-girlfriend/my best friend came to the wedding and couldn't stop giggling over how things had turned out. She wasn't stoned at the wedding, but another college friend who attended it in order to take pictures for us was. That woman was also in the Rav 4 when I had my sexual realization, had in fact been the woman who turned Radiohead on in the car.
So while I did have some fantastic thoughts while rolling, I have to admit that most of them consisted of “look—pretty tree.” Or there was that one time when Stuart and I got a flat tire next to a cow pasture, and one of the cows walked over to us from across the field and just stared at us as we tried to change the tire. The task took three times as long as it should have, because we could not stop giggling about this cow with its large dark eyes standing three feet away from us, staring. We were certain the cow was stoned, too.
When I wasn't rolling with Stuart, I was usually going on rolls in a car full of women in which we took off our shirts and let our nipples sparkle in the sunlight.
We would roll in the afternoon. We would roll at night. And one time when I was on an early morning long run, my friends drove by me. It was 6:30am and they honked at me and shouted out their windows at me asking if I wanted a hit. I said no thanks, and they slowly rolled away either finishing off their night or starting their day. I could not tell which.
I liked night time rolls, because then people who you might pass could not see into your car. And while it was rare that you passed another car on the farm roads, I always felt a little tinge of paranoia whenever I was stoned and thus preferred to roll when we couldn't be seen. Though day time rolling had its own perks. The view, mostly. All of the fields and trees and cows and quirky lawn ornaments that the farmers had put out (gnomes, fake deer, a big Texas pride star statue, and the old-school ironic pink flamingo) were amazing. I loved seeing all of these things, loved how every sight seemed to slowly sink into my stoned brain.
I could never decide which I liked more—daytime rolling or nighttime rolling. Because night rolling had some draw backs. There was the one night/early morning when my friends Sabrina, Nicole and I were rolling in my small pickup truck, and Nicole asked “Dude, what would you do if, like, a person with blood all over him jumped into the middle of the road and was holding an ax?” It was 1am and dark when she asked this and the truck went eerily silent. I shook my head of the alarming images, and not more than a few seconds after Sabrina and I told Nicole to shut up because we were stoned and now paranoid about running into a serial killer, we pulled around a corner through a thick forest of cedar trees and saw a pickup truck sitting on the other side of the road. It was facing us, and there was a large tree branch on its hood. As we approached the truck we saw there was no one sitting in it.
We. Freaked.
I slammed on the accelerator, but as I peeled away I said that I felt like we should do something. What if someone was being killed by a serial killer right now? Shouldn't we help them? Once we cleared the forest, I pulled over and we all locked our doors and I called the police.
“Yeah, my friends and I are on County Road 152 near Farm Road 971, and we just passed a truck that looks like a huge branch fell on it and no one is inside it.” The dispatch woman told us to stay at the scene until the police could get there.
Three obviously stoned young women crowded in the cab of a small truck with scared looks in their red eyes is what the police saw when they got there. We had thrown the joint far into the brush and chain-smoked cigarettes until the cops arrived in order to cover up the pot smell.
When the cops got there fifteen minutes after the phone call, we answered a few questions about what we did or did not see. They thankfully did not ask what we were doing out on that county road at 1:00 A.M. This was before I started carrying my camera around with me everywhere. Once we were gone from the cops and the creepy empty truck, we nervously giggled ourselves home.
After that, my enjoyment in smoking pot or going on rolls decreased, because I would always get so paranoid. One night I thought I was going to die, and freaked out about the fact that my friends would have to sing “Another One Bites the Dust” to my body. I was so stoned I felt like my heart had stopped beating, which then made me have a panic attack about the certainty of my death. The anxiety raised my heartbeat, and so then I was worried I was going to die because my heart was beating too fast. I eventually went into Spencer's room where him and his girlfriend/my best friend were hanging out. I anxiously asked them to feel my pulse, as I was sure my blood was about to pop out of my veins. They said my pulse felt fine and that I should drink some water and go to sleep. I said okay and hugged both of them goodbye and wished I could one day get up the guts to kiss both of them.
This paranoid experience created a shift.
I eventually decreased my rolling time and increased my studying time as I enrolled in more Feminist Studies classes. I was finally understanding what the professors were talking about, and so I wanted to spend my free time actually doing the readings. Plus, I didn't like the paranoia, and did not like the thought of dying and then being ironically serenaded by my friends. So my pot intake decreased and I finally stopped rolling on the county roads. And while I do not really miss the pot, I miss my country roads, miss the cows, the fields. When I moved out of the cow town after graduation, I drove by one of the nursing homes, hoping I could sing that song one last time, also hoping that I wasn't biting the dust by driving away, that I wasn't killing off the youthful road-meandering part of myself in order to enter into the real world, a world in which people who carry cameras around actually use them, a world in which people use “roll” as a verb, not a noun.

Also by Chelsey Clammer



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