I have someone I go to when I need answers about these things.
Everyone should, but since I do reporting in between jobs, it's vital for me to have a contact who can fill me in on the latest nano-trend before it's passe because a thirty-year-old like myself knows about it. Her name's Jenny, and she turned fifteen a few months ago.
I caught up with her at the schoolyard fence, passed her a coffee. She grimaced when she sipped at it.
"That one's gotta be yours." A few years ago, I started taking it black; Jenny drinks hers the way I did when I was fifteen: a hot milkshake of cream and sugar, with a little coffee in it. Fifteen was half my life ago, and I'm still coming to terms with that.
"Sorry." We exchanged cups and I wiped a smear of glossy black lipstick off mine.
She waved away the topic with spastic motions of her free hand, fingers splayed. " I need to show you this." She brought her face close to the fence, opened her eyes wide. "Wait." They looked like the same anime-heroine violet shade she'd had last month, when she got the dye injections for her irises.
Then blobs of hazel and grey floated up in the neon lavender of her eyes. Like a lava lamp, each eye different, the colors flowing around each other, immiscible.
"Cool," I said. "Very cool." And she could tell I meant it.
"They make a cooler one that costs more than a Versace pod bag -- it has different buckyballs in the moving goop that can take media display programming? You can billboard text across them or -- this is so cool -- if you've got the outplugs on your optic nerve you can turn the eyes into mirrors of what they're looking at right now, see..."
It took me about ten minutes to steer the conversation to the inhaler I found yesterday.
"So there were three hits in it."
"Yeah," she said, "and the first one was a cog. It's a Vasopressin replacement, I've used it." I had to remind myself that she'd done more cognitive enhancers and nootropics at fifteen than many PhD candidates I'd met at the University. I wondered how many other honor students were in the same boat, and I wondered how many of them admitted it openly the way she did, like a linebacker casually discussing steroids and muscle graft replacements.
"That's for recall, right?"
"Yeah, a memory booster. It goes nicely with the other two doses -- they were both Shiny Pretty M."
I gave her my usual stupid stare.
"Shiny Pretty? Memnosynapraxadil, something like that?" She wound a stray iridescent wire back into her braids. "Big drug with the club kids?"
"Please tell me it's new and I'm not more clueless than usual."
"It's been out for about two years," she chirped. Then: "but it used to be a cult favorite with stoners, the type who don't get out much. Club kids got into it big time only about a month or two back -- they use a higher dosage with some other stuff blended in for the temporary amnesia effect."
"Amnesia. You just lost me."
"It's for the terminally jaded. You know the type? Go clubbing every night so they can bitch about how 'there's nothing to do in this town?' They always get into these 'been-there-done-that' contests, one-upping each other about how something else is so much cooler than what they're doing now?"
"Ah. Believe it or not, Jenny, they had those back when I was a teenager. Cooler-than-thou assholes."
"Yeah. So they take Shiny Pretty, and the way it works it disconnects the memories of what you concentrate on when you're getting the initial headache, which I hear is over in five minutes if you're not allergic."
"Wait, they brainwash themselves?"
"No, no, it's like..." she chewed her lower lip and scratched between her shoulder blades absent-mindedly. "It unplugs the chain of memories of what you're thinking about, and coats them in something. It wears off in about a day, and the memories reconnect themselves. It's like, when you start reconnecting a few memories everything else connected to them plugs back in."
"I'm still missing it. Why take it?"
"Well, duh. You've been everywhere, done everything, need a new thrill? Just do the same old ones for the first time, again. Zap the memories of the club you're going to, and it's your first trip to the club. Zap the memories of clubbing in general, and you're a squeaky thirteen-year-old going out for her first trip to the scene. I hear couples take it --" she paused to contort her arms and scratch her back again. "Couples, they're all lovey-dovey, and they take it together so they can lose their virginity to each other, again and again. Not my thing, I'll stick with just having sex, thank you."
"That's why they call it Shiny Pretty, I guess. What if you accidentally think about breathing or keeping your heart beating?"
"You always go for the ultimate bad trip angle, don'tcha? I've never heard of that. And when they go clubbing, they can walk and dance and stuff, so it probably just messes with other sorts of memories. Like places you've been and all that."
Club kids with ennui undergoing voluntary temporary chemical brain damage. Nothing like youth culture weirding you out to make you feel like a relic, no sirree.
Jenny was scratching her back again. "I have to go back. They turn on the lojack crap after lunch to stop truancy."
"They put one of those locater systems in you? That sucks."
"Parents. I got a C+ in math because I didn't do the homework, and they freaked and had them tie the damn lojack into my bone marrow to stop me from cutting class. It hurts if I'm late from lunch." She rolled her eyes. "The minute I turn eighteen..."
"You'd better go. Thanks again."
"Hey, I've got nothing else to do today, other than surf for porn in computer class. And later today, I know a boy who says he can hack the lojack..." We shared a conspiratorial smirk, and she walked back over the school grounds to the first of the checkpoints to the inner campus.