The Exorcist (Part One)
Chemma is poison the first time you try it. Well, actually, it’s always poison but it only really hurts the first time. And there’s solid chances you might bleed. Strangely similar to the effect of dizznicks on virgins. So anyway, the first time I tried chemma, I was just chillin on the block in Algiers. For a few days I’d been seeing the mandem putting something in their mouths, and I was dying to find out what it felt like.
Umm, let me rephrase that.
Or better yet, let’s just move on.
Curious about the effects of this chewing drug, I told Rachid I was going to try it. We asked one manz Khaled, who became our good friend subsequently, if he could hook us up. He warned me that it wasn’t going to be very pleasant, and the other mandem from the hood tried to talk me out of it. But soon enough they realized you couldn’t talk a tête de mouton out of anything.
So five of us sat down on the sidewalk next to the precinct. Rachid had already tried it, so he was immune by now. He said no anyway, because he hated the stuff. Khaled rolled me a small ball of chemma in a sheet of rolling paper and gave it to me. So I took it and put it in between my gum and my upper lip, on the right side (that’s the blood side). It stung really nice. I bet that’s what makes it really addictive, because otherwise it smells like cat piss mixed with Satan’s period blood.
Another one of our friends, who bears a striking resemblance to my favorite Iraqi singer (Hossam al-Rassam), told me what to do if I got too dizzy:
“Take it out, hold it in your hand, and relax a bit. When you feel better, keep going or just throw it away. It’s up to you.”
Chemma is some mystic shit. But you have to be in the right place. Algiers in summer is the right place, when the sun bounces off the white walls and blurs the horrors of the world until everything is bearable. With the ball of solid cat piss burning a hole in my gum, I let my head drop back and come to a stop against the wall behind me. I half-closed my eyes, so that the sun would come in through my eyelashes, and I forgot everything except for the white walls and blue windows in front of me.