Seven years later
As always, the shock of entering the sauna was intense. A moment of near-panic; he had to fight the brief impulse to flee. The wall of dry heat folded around his naked body, like a hot cocoon. But that shock only lasted a second or two, as he climbed up onto the top bench and sat back leaning against the cedar walls, his legs sprawled out on the bench in front of him.
He dipped the wooden scoop in the bucket he had filled with water when he started the sauna heater, and cast the water onto the hot rocks covering the stove top. With a loud hiss, a cloud of steam rose off the rocks. He did this three times in succession, as the wave of loyly hit him like a solid wall, making him flinch momentarily. But he quickly overcame the initial shock and began to revel in the hot, damp steamy air, somewhere between gas and liquid. No choice but to relax into it. He lay back against the wall and closed his eyes.
After a few minutes he reached down and picked up the vapourizer from the bench below him. It was a small, portable model, fueled by butane gas. While getting ready for the sauna he had loaded the tiny chamber with a small dose of cannabis, just enough to enhance the sensual richness of the sauna. He snapped the igniter button, lighting the tiny flame that heated the chamber, which burned with a surprising loud hissing noise.
Presently the vape cycled off, and he took his first hit of the evening, sucking the vapour through the mouthpiece, inhaling deeply, and holding his breath for a few seconds to let the vapour be absorbed by his lungs. When he exhaled he could just barely see the light grey cloud of nearly odourless gas.
Mark’s re-discovery of cannabis was not a recent phenomenon: there had been the night of the ala-ta. But In recent years he had felt the need for some, no, any means to escape from the demands of his day-to-day existence. The constant, never-ending, godawful stress of dealing with Kevin, and the demands that put on his work, his marriage, his life. No way out: vacations with Kevin were worse than staying home. Escape into the outdoors, by canoe or ski, once such an important part of both their lives, was limited to a few hours now and then, snatched while Kevin was at school. No way out.
Some would have turned to alcohol, but for Mark that had never been an option. He liked the feeling it gave him, but any more than a drink or two made him sick, and the price was way too high. When it came to drinking, he was a lightweight.
He had run across the site while surfing the net: cannabis delivered to your door by mail. Discreet packaging, odour free. Send cash, no bank trail. Intrigued, Mark had given it a try, sending fifty bucks for 10 grams. The bubble-packed envelope had arrived a few days later, the little sack of weed double-bagged inside. Mark had opened the bag and sniffed it, inhaling the odour, so pungent and rich, on the verge of being offensive, but not quite so. Later in the day he had bought some rolling papers, and struggled to roll a thin, misshapen joint. He had never been good at that.
That evening, he had taken a sauna while Monica had stood watch over the ever-screaming Kevin. Once he had gotten comfortably hot, he had gone outside and parked himself in the chaise lounge in the back yard, taken out the joint and lighter secreted in his bathrobe pocket, and lit up for the first time in many years. The first puff had been so harsh, mostly paper smoke, and he had erupted into a coughing fit. Taking smaller tokes after that, he had managed to hold the smoke in, and soon he felt that warm surge, almost like being hugged, envelope his body. Finishing the joint, he had returned to the sauna, lying on his back on the top bench, letting the heat take him.
He found that every sensation was amplified, enhanced. The music, a playlist of some of his favourite bands, sounded...more punchy, melodic. He heard things in it he had never noticed before. The infrared waves coming off the heater had an almost physical weight to them. A thin stream of cool air came in the vent and flowed down the wall like water, splashing on his belly. He could feel every bristle of the brush as he rubbed it on his skin. The touch of icy water, dribbling off the brush after he dipped it into the bucket, set his skin to tingling. A sensual feast…
After the sauna, he had rolled another joint and presented it to Monica. He hadn’t told her about his experiment with illegal retail, so she was surprised. But intrigued: Monica had a richer history with cannabis than Mark, and had used it regularly through high school and university. Never a heavy toker, but a regular one. It was something she enjoyed. But neither of them had smoked more than a few times in the twenty-odd years they had been together. So she had been happy to share the joint with Mark, taking the larger share for herself, since he had already had some.
Their lovemaking that night had been nothing short of spectacular, and this was another revelation for Mark. Kevin finally asleep, they had gone to bed, both high and horny as hell. Mark had forgotten what a potent aphrodisiac cannabis was for him, and quite obviously for Monica too. Their sex life had taken a hit over the past several years, with Kevin sapping all their energy during the day and apparently needing little sleep himself. So many nights spent lying on the bed, wide awake as they listened the endless caterwauling and thumps as Kevin jumped on the bed or punched the walls. So many times, getting up to escort him back to bed as he ransacked the fridge.
But all that was forgotten: both of them felt like teenagers, flooded with hormones, desperate to fuck. It hadn’t been like this since the first few months after they met when, intoxicated by their new love, they had schooled each other in sex. It wasn’t just the excitement, the heightened desire: Mark felt like he could go on forever, just fucking, pleasuring Monica, reveling in what she did to him. He felt in control of his body, able to hold off, wanting to make it last. And his orgasm, when it finally came, was explosive, almost soul destroying. The radiant afterglow lingered for what seemed like hours. It was a revelation, and afterwards cannabis had become a potent ally in their life together.
Even so it was not without its costs. Mark had to be very careful with dosage, and that depended on the potency of the cannabis, which was quite variable. Too much, and he would wake up dopey and often with a headache. Pot hangover: not as bad as the one caused by alcohol, but unpleasant nonetheless. But it could be avoided by not imbibing too much, and using a vapourizer made it easy to calibrate the dose.
The vapourizer had also been a revelation for Mark. It was so much more pleasant than any form of smoking he had tried. No more coughing fits, irritated throat and that cloying smell of old pot smoke that was so hard to get rid of. That smell that invaded the furniture and let everyone know that a serious toker lived on the premises. And the weed lasted forever with a vape: a little went a long way.
He continued taking drags, sucking in the vapour after every time the vape cycled on. After half a dozen hits, he turned the vape off, and lay flat on his back, just enjoying the heat, letting the waves of relaxation seep through his body like a thick, viscous elixir. He loved getting high in the sauna, there was just nothing like it. The drug heightened his senses, letting him feel the way the heat seeped into his body, his sweat glands opening and a light sheen condensing on his skin. After a while he sat up and grabbed the long-handled brush from where it sat soaking in the bucket. He began stroking his skin with the wet brush, starting at his feet and working up his legs, once in a while dipping the brush back into the water. It felt wonderful! Everywhere the brush touched, it felt as if a stubborn itch was being finally relieved. His back was the best, and he used the brush to get to areas that he could not reach with his hands and therefore received little touch at other times. Circling his back with the brush, every nerve tingling, his skin starting to redden and feel hot, he existed only in an epiphany of raw sensation.