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13) Smoking base

In Ecuador I became a regular user of cocaine. But I remained a "weekend warrior," which is someone who parties hard all weekend and then refrains from drugs and alcohol during the week. I had begun drinking most weeknights though too, but my cocaine use was always restricted to the weekends. At some point, my boyfriend Pablo (all names have been changed), the rockstar, began smoking base. At first he hid it from me, it is so highly stigmatized. It carries the same weight as crack cocaine does in the United States. Crack is not mass produced in Ecuador. However, I smoked it several times in Quito, with people who had cooked batches for their own personal use. Base is the "crack" of Ecuador and the rest of Latin America. The resin of cocaine, it produces a similar high to crack as well--a much more intense high than cocaine, but much more fleeting. It is highly addictive. Even more addictive than cocaine. I'm not sure when Pablo began smoking base. He claimed that he had always dabbled in it. Pablo was not my only acquaintance who smoked base. I had other friends in my social group who were regular base smokers. For some, they reveled in engaging in a highly condemned act, which could ostracize them. It was the ultimate act of rebellion. Most of them were upper middle class or even wealthy and they smoked base as a "fuck you" to the establishment. They were practicing the social rites of the Ecuadorian poor, with the consumption of base as the quintessential "bad boy" act.

I began smoking base. The first time I tried it was long before Pablo came on the scene. An American friend and I had been out to a few bars and our favorite club, El Aguijon. We were stupidly wandering the streets of La Mariscal neighborhood (very) late at night, drunkenly stumbling from corner to corner, wondering if we should hop into taxis home or find another adventure. Another adventure found us as a couple people approached, equally intoxicated, and we began chatting and laughing together. One of the guys pulled out an apple and a little baggy filled with yellow paste. It was my first time actually seeing the drug, even though I knew Santiago, his partner Carolina, and plenty of my sex worker friends and acquaintances on the streets smoked it daily. This guy cut holes in the apple, turning it into a pipe. I had only done that with weed before. He stuffed one of holes with the golden paste and handed it to me to smoke. I didn't hesitate for a moment. He lit the apple and I took a deep inhale. As I exhaled, coughing, it felt like a train had powered through me. It stayed vibrating inside--it was the most exhilarating feeling I had ever experienced. I loved it. It lasted just a moment, before I was asking for more. We smoked all the base that guy had--we burned through it in minutes--and I still wanted more. We didn't get more though. My American friend and I went home to our separate houses and I smoked cigarettes until the sun came up. I probably wouldn't have slept for many hours, wired from the base. But it wasn't until I met Pablo that I became a regular base smoker. Much time passed between that first time trying it on the streets and doing it again. I finally understood the high that Santiago and my friends on the street were chasing. I had to admit, being around base smokers all day had made me curious. I knew it was a very dangerous drug, given how much I liked it, and how it made me feel. I tried to avoid it at all costs, I knew it would be my downfall...

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