I recall Alex Charvel, a friend of mine from high school. In the small town we grew up in, we were very close. We both found the need to escape our surroundings. I worked to get into an out of state college and escape that way. Alex got into drugs. At first it was small stuff, marijuana, occasionally stolen Ritalin. Then in progressed into coke, meth, heroin, and eventually to anything he could get his hands on. Despite our growing differences, we tried to stay close. Though it became harder to relate, the attempt was still made.
On one fateful night, he scored a couple doses of a new designer drug from a guy in a neighboring town. He brought two doses, and a casual acquaintance, who he knew through his drug usage, to a field around midnight one summer evening. He had never even heard of this new drug, ADH (Anhydrous Dimethyl Hexaphenylethylide-4). Nevertheless, the two partook of this substance.
The next day, about 3pm, Alex came to me to relate his experiences. He was pale and seemed exhausted. Instead of his usual excited regalings, he was collective and seemed pensive. He began by giving me the usual explanation of the trip, then seemed to pause.
"I love her," he blurted out. This took me by surprise, as I knew they had only known each other a short time, and I recalled him having expressed no or insignificant amounts of interest in this girl. Upon further questioning, he tried to explain how he had arrived at such a monumental conclusion. It was very difficult for him to put into words the feelings generated by the experience, but it seemed that the experience had briefly given him some sort of insight into the greater goodness contained in all. I envied him, but he seemed distraught.
He explained to me that he was utterly in love with this girl, and she him. He felt fulfilled and a constant satisfaction of everything in his life, but he questioned the origins of said feelings. When I saw them together they were the embodiment of love, happiness, and togetherness. There were not and still are not, two I know who were more in love than these two were. Nevertheless, he would come to me and pour his fear and doubt out to me. He was convinced that he was merely in love because of what the drug had done to him, and all that he felt was artificial ¹ . These were only rare lapses, and the rest of his time and thoughts were devoted to her, and he seemed so very happy.
I found myself unable to comfort him, having no understanding whatsoever of his situation. I, too, wondered how this had happened to him. It did seem to me that the drug had somehow opened a series of synapses and unleashed any number of chemicals that caused him to feel as he did. The thought of artificial feeling was a truly sad one. He thought of himself as less human, and incapable of real love.
I left a year later for Yale, and heard sometime my freshman year that Alex had committed suicide. I received a letter from him, post-mortem, a day later. The later was exquisite in its depth and emotion; the pages were stained and wrinkled by spilt tears. In it, he apologized to me and explained his rationalization for the decision. He had come to the conclusion that his love (or at least its dramatic extent) was solely the onus of the drug, and that his feelings were artificial, and therefore, inhuman. He was, for the most part, immeasurably happy, but he felt that his happiness was useless because of the false pretenses from which it was derived. For this reason, for the artificiality of his life, he had decided to take his own life, "Better to have no feelings at all than to have counterfeit ones" was his rationalization. I received word the next day that the girl (then his wife) had committed suicide as well.
I had never felt any connection to her, but for some reason, at hearing this, I broke into searing tears. Perhaps it was the thought that the purest love I had ever known had just shattered, and I thought that if their love had failed, what business did anyone else have trying to make their own pathetic cupidities succeed, what business did I have even dreaming of a love? This thought greatly disturbed me. Then, I thought of what Alex had said. Their love was purely artificial, the result of a few lines of a chemical compound, having no correlation to feeling, other than chemically. I was satisfied by this illation for a long time, many years, in fact.
Not too long ago, though, I reached a differing conclusion. On the anniversary of my dear friend's death, I sat and pondered what he had said. I was caught on one logical junction. He had said that his love was artificial because it was derived from a chemical source, in this case, a drug. But at the same time, he felt that his feelings were forfeit because love was not something that could be achieved chemically. It was something greater. This minute point, he had not addressed. It seemed strange to me that he could say that a drug was the source of his love, and simultaneously say that love could not come through mere chemical interaction.
It dawned upon me the fatal flaw in his logic. Love, as he and I both believed, was much more than chemical reaction and synapse firing and some such garbage. Love was a feeling dissociated from the physical realm, something of greater importance. I had seen his love, I knew it to be pure. So many years later I again felt the tears on my cheeks. Alex had felt a true love, and it had failed miserably. The tears grew hotter and more frequent as I returned to my belief that if his love was unsuccessful, the rest of us were doomed. I persisted in this train of thought, and the hopelessness was unbearable.
But Alex was wrong. The thoughts he had, his rationalizations, were misconceived. He had thrown away his love as false, when in fact it was true. If his feelings were chemically derived, there is no possible way he could have achieved the level of emotion he did. The only explanation is that the drug allowed him to see everything good this girl had to offer, all of her potential as a human being, allowed him to see only her beauty, allowed him to bypass any focus on the negative, surpass any fascination with fault, and instantaneously fall in love. In short, all aspects involved in falling in love condensed into a few moments.
My tears continued to roll earthward, but this time it was for the unfortunate perception, which bared poor Alex from a life fulfilled and a level of thought beyond what most people will ever achieve.
I at first found this absurd when originating from a regular drug user, but later understood that he held love to a different standard.