How I Paid My Rent By Smoking Weed In Harlem


Woke up at 10:30 a.m. to my phone ringing. It was an unknown 212 number. The lady said she was from a research study and wondering if I had 10 minutes for questions. I said ‘okay’. She asked me about my past drug use for about 5 minutes then asked me if I’d be interested in smoking weed, taking a variety of ‘FDA approved’ drugs and doing minor pain tests for seven hours, a couple different days, with a compensation of seven hundred dollars. I sat up in bed and asked her where I had to go.

The first time I went was the screener. They started by doing a physical. They put me in a room filled with vials of blood. A person came in and said his name was ‘Ben’. He seemed nice and put a needle my arm and filled up two vials of blood. He took me into another room and had me lie down on a table. He put 8-10 sensors on my chest, pushed a button on a machine then took the sensors off my chest. I was placed into another room and handed a stack of papers. There was a lot of paper work. I started to drift off while writing the same thing repeatedly and circling things. I handed in the paper work and went home.

About 2 days later I got a call back saying I was eligible for the study and they told me to come in Tuesday at 9 am. I was unemployed and felt glad to have somewhere to go. A job, it felt like a job.

After the 5th alarm clock went off on Tuesday morning I was awake. I got on the train and sat on it for 45 minutes until I was in Harlem. I walked into the hospital then over the bridge that adjoined the hospital with the psychiatric hospital. I sat in the waiting room. Ben came in and took me to room 201. This is the room where I would be spending 54 hours over the next month, sedated and bored.

The room had a large one way mirror, connected to an adjoining room for observation and another window overlooking New Jersey. There was a microwave, coffee maker, mini fridge, toaster and a desk.

Ben came in with my breakfast. A frozen bagel, cream cheese and coffee. I put the bagel in the toaster. He had me do a sobriety test. The sobriety test seemed unusually difficult. I sat down and consumed the breakfast.

Ben disappeared and reappeared. He gave me ‘the mystery pill of the day’. That’s what he called it every time. ‘The mystery pill of the day’. I swallowed the pill and started to read. I read a lot of books, there was so much time between everything that happened. I was asked to fill out a capsule rating form. On the top of the form it said ‘Subject 703’. Thought ‘I am subject 703’ while completing the form, unable to discern if I could feel any effects from pill I recently consumed.

Ben wheeled in two coolers containing water. He spent some time adjusting the temperatures of the water. He had me place my hand in the cooler on the left. It was warm and I sat there with my hand in the warm water for about three minutes. Then he had me put my hand in the other cooler. There were cubes of mostly melted ice floating at the top. He told me to say ‘pain’ when I felt pain and I could take my hand out when the pain became unbearable. I put my hand in the water, sat there for about a minute, said ‘pain’ and took my hand out of the water.

A doctor came in to give me the dose of marijuana. I was handed an ash tray, lighter and a joint with a pen cap attached to the end of the joint. The doctor went behind the one way mirror and started talking to me over the intercom. She instructed me to light the joint. She said ‘prepare’ and I put the joint closer to my face. Then she said ‘inhale’ and counted to 5 over the intercom. About 10 seconds passed with the smoke in my lungs until she said ‘exhale’. She instructed me how to smoke weed better over the intercom. How I should inhale slower at a more steady pace. There was a blue line near the bottom of the joint and she would sometimes ask me to hold to joint up to the glass so she could see it. I enjoyed smoking weed like this and as I continually smoked I became extremely high and aware that I was in a room by myself with someone instructing me how to smoke weed over an intercom. After I smoked it down to the blue line I was instructed to put it out and when the doctor came in to take the ashtray away we both said ‘thanks’ at the exact same time.

I looked at the iPod they provided. I saw it had ‘Lil Wayne’. I scrolled three more times and it still said ‘Lil Wayne’. There was so much Lil Wayne. I found The Rolling Stones and listened to ‘Shattered’ repeatedly until it was time for another pain test.

The pain tests seemed a little more annoying after the marijuana dose and on the pain rating form under the question that said ‘the pain is punishing / cruel’ I started rating it ‘extremely’. I repeatedly did 6 more pain tests about every 30 minutes occasionally losing circulation in my left arm. This was the most time consuming part of the study, maybe taking about 4 hours total.

After the last pain test I was handed a full page list containing food items. Ben said I could order what ever I wanted. I ordered 2x Hot Pockets, 2x Doritos, 1x Oreos, 1x Ginger Ale and 1x Bean Burrito. I prepared everything using the microwave while listening to Dr Dre.

After lunch they asked me if I wanted any additional puffs of marijuana. They said I could get a maximum of 3 and they cost $1 a puff. I asked for 3. They gave handed me some ‘monopoly’ style money to pay for the weed, stimulating a drug deal. The doctor handed me the joint then walked into the observation room and I smoked three more puffs with her over the intercom. This was basically the end of the first session and they told me I had to wait an hour before I was allowed to leave, which I assumed was my time to ‘sober up’ and the session ended with another sobriety test.

Each day I went was almost exactly the same. I had 6 more sessions after the first day. It started to have a ‘Groundhog Day’-type feeling after a while.

On last day I was handed $700 in cash. I said goodbye to Ben and the doctor and left the hospital. When I was on the train I thought about how I would sometimes get bored at the study and aimlessly wander around the hallways of the psychiatric hospital trying to get lost to pass the time. I immediately missed my life as ‘Subject 703’.

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image – PabloEvans