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Cross-Fade

Rolled-up by Emma


It's intriguing to watch a gambler play the slot machines. They sit in rows of chairs and continuously pull down a lever to watch little pictures spin around. But they don't give up after one loss or the next. They keep playing until all their money is gone, or they've won enough to justify leaving. 


If I were in their shoes, I would've left after losing the first time. 


"But what if the next one is a win?" I hear you. Maybe the next roll of the dice would've turned in my favour, and I would have won. That is the allure of the slot machine after all—the promise of a big win to the person who is dedicated enough to keep playing. But back then, I was a little more preoccupied with my own game I had going on. Whenever, wherever, and however I could, I was going to master the art of cross-fading. 


It takes only two ingredients to cross-fade, technically. Firstly, some form of alcohol, to target the central nervous system and actively decrease the body's processing abilities. Secondly, a joint of marijuana to relax cognitive processing. Together, the ethanol from the alcohol will increase the absorption rate of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the marijuana, resulting in what some have called a "euphoric high".


I said ‘technically’ before as there is a third ingredient required to cross-fade. Like slot machines and coins, the gambler is required to accept the possibility of losing big. It is the same in cross-fading. If you are going to do it, you must accept the possibility that the combination of these two substances will send you on a bad trip. 


When I was 19, during a house party, I had finished my third drink and went outside for some fresh air. A couple of my mates were smoking a joint and offered it up. I was excited because it was my first time getting cross-faded. I had witnessed others cross-fading and always felt excluded, left alone to fantasise about the fun they were having. So I took a single hit of the joint, found a comfortable place to sit and waited in anticipation for the good times to come. Suddenly, a strange chill rushed up from my feet and into my head, and I became hyper-conscious of my breathing. Was I being too loud? I closed my mouth, but my nostrils went crazy trying to breathe in air. Just calm down. My heart rate wouldn't listen, and it drummed so hard that my ears became blocked. I didn't want to seem lame in front of these cross-faders. But I was starting to panic.


So I decided to leave the party and go home before I made a fool of myself. I stumbled out of the door, violently vomited on someone's driveway, and blacked out in the Uber. The morning after, I woke up in cold flushes with a hangover like flesh-eating ants were living inside my brain. 


I had lost big time, had a bad trip, 'greened-out' as it is called. Mates came to me with stories about how I actually behaved during that night, how I was staggering down Cuba St, trying to enter bars but could barely string a sentence together, acting a little crazy and hammered. I still don't have the entire story, but back then, I made a promise to never cross-fade again. However, that didn't last long.


"Only newbies green-out,' a mate explained as they handed over a joint, "You'll get used to it." And that made sense to me. Like any other skill, you have to keep practising and not give up the first time you fall off the bike. How else are you supposed to master it? I could take it slow at first, test my boundaries, and find that sweet spot where a win is always guaranteed. Then I could finally join in with my mates as they got cross-faded, not sit on the sidelines but be in the exclusive club. I just had to get used to it. 


The funny thing about hindsight is how obvious cause and effect become. "Oh, when I started doing this, I also began to feel or act like this." I can see what happened as I began to cross-fade regularly.


Blacking out occurred more than usual whilst drinking, and I usually woke up on the floor in confusion. Throwing up during the night was accepted as the new normal. Panic attacks and paranoia were at an all-time high, and I found myself struggling to remain calm. I never slept properly, never woke up on time, and was always tired. I couldn't remember most of the nights, what I did, who I was with, where I went, the people I insulted or shouted at, the things I said … time passed without memory. 


I could mention the times where I successfully crossed-faded; it did happen. But I can barely recall those nights through the thick veil of bad trips I had to suffer through to get there. I can, however, remember the relief I felt when greening-out didn't happen. There was that moment of joy when my body didn't violently turn on me. And I would tell myself it was because I finally mastered the cross-fade. 


Then I would have another bad night. It went on and on, in a cycle of self-abuse, where I would curse myself for cross-fading and then convince myself that I was capable of doing it again. Was I really going to keep harming myself for the possibility that next time I would win? The bad trips didn't get any easier, and the mornings afterwards were always rough. But then someone would offer a joint at the party, and I would be back to square one, standing up to join them outside while praying to the Cross-Fade Gods that this time would be a good one. It's how I imagine gamblers justify their addiction to slot machines. "Oh, this was just a bad round. Next time, I'll win big." 


I haven't cross-faded for a while now, and I advise people against it. I wish I could have been the rare exception, the gambler who keeps winning. But I couldn't. Instead, I think about all that time I wasted away trying to win, and I mourn. And in that mourning, there is still that little voice tucked away in my mind that I know will come out the next time I'm offered a joint while drinking. And it might succeed in convincing me to take the chance once more, and that is what scares me the most.


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