The evening sun poured down through the rain clouds over Miami like a neon waterfall. But if my insides were vibrating and my feet felt like they had little to do with the ground, it wasn't because of the weather. It wasn't the music - though that was heart-pounding.

No, I'd blame the Ecstasy. One down, and four more to go.

I'd tossed the first down in the car with a gulp of water. That was an hour ago. Normally I'd be feeling it more by this point. But thanks to the three scoops of coconut ice cream I'd gorged on before riding to downtown Miami's Bicentennial Park, my metabolism was sluggish.

photo by Nicole Safker

After the ice cream, the pill tasted bitter. But the payoff, I knew, would be sweet: Along with thousands of ravers, candy kids and technophiles, I was at Ultra Music Fest 2007. And, of course, I was rolling.

Few people at the two-day electronic music festival weren't. Sixteen-year-olds with pigtails and thigh-high striped socks pranced around in bikinis, pupils wide and glassy, while European men in their late 30s bobbed their heads - and their Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses - above their tight A/X T-shirts and sweaty, open-necked button-downs, their pockets bulging with Skittle-colored pills. Tanned Miami beach babes with streaked hair, low-cut shirts and pink aviators. Boys in baggy bondage pants whose straps whipped through the air as they thrashed about, flailing armfuls of beaded bracelets.

My jaw begin to clench in a way I could only control when I remembered - and since it didn't hurt, I didn't often remember. Gum helped. Cigarettes didn't.

They were probably spiked with heroin, my friend Rick had said the night before in the Holiday Inn room the five of us were sharing. Pills often were, he said. And since he usually knew what he was talking about, I trusted him.

"See those dark spots?" He pointed to a smattering of maroon and olive dots on the surface of the pink and neon-green pills. "Those were originally brown but were dyed over to make the pill. They cut Ecstasy with heroin a lot because it's cheap and it always makes you feel good."

I nodded dubiously but figured that because rolls were always spiked with heroin, and I'd never felt any crazy urge to accost the nearest bum and demand a dimebag of smack after any previous MDMA binges, I'd be fine this time. Theoretically.

And with drugs, what other kind of logic is there? The next pill could kill you ? but it probably won't. So what else can you do but swallow it?

I've never figured out a good answer.

But when night dropped and I exploded in a dance frenzy as Rabbit in the Moon hopped onto the main stage, I felt like I knew the answer to every question there is. Fireworks burst over Biscayne Bay in clown-colored dragon licks, and I knew everything - everything that mattered at least. And while what mattered may not have extended much beyond glow sticks and head massages and Vicks inhalers and cosmic bliss, that was enough.

I swallowed the second in a portable toilet, washing it down with a $4 bottle of water. The third and fourth I took in the crowd, my friends huddled around me to block the prying eyes of the security guards - who probably didn't care anyway. They knew what we were here for.

photo by Nicole Safker

I choked down the last hunched over on a log while Rick, Sara and Lucy finished a sloppily rolled joint they made with papers borrowed from a nearby cluster of smokers. Sara had smuggled the weed into the park in her bra, as I did with the Ecstasy.

That last pill took me by surprise.

"I'm so glad I didn't take the red one yet," I'd told my roommate, Carmella, five minutes earlier. I'd felt a strong gagging impulse grabbing me by the throat as I walked to the toilets with Carmella and a documentarist named Adam we'd met in the crowd. I didn't feel as though I'd really mind throwing up. However, I didn't want to lose the $60 of MDMA in my stomach, and I didn't want to have a seizure there on the muddy pavement.

But with Adam flourishing a pink glowstick in front of my face as he and Carmella towed me over to the toilets, I quickly forgot to care.

So when Rick pulled out his last pill after I'd gotten back to the smoke circle, I popped mine too. It gave me trouble. A mean acid reflux kicked in, and instead of bolting back neatly with my mouthful of flat Sprite, the pill spilled off my tongue to the hardscrabble dirt at my feet.

"Shit." I turned to Rick, my eyes nearly as wide and round as his glassy pupils. "Oh f---. Rick. Oh f---. I dropped it!"

"Here," he said and swooped in with his flickering Bic.

In a moment we had found it. I brushed it off and knocked it back, gulping fiercely.

My fingers thrumming, I lit another menthol Parliament. I felt as if some vague, unseen hand was pressing down on my nail beds. I leaned back against the post behind me. Floated.

The beat, the strobes, my pounding heart - they were one. Though I was there, I wasn't. I was everywhere, everything.

And to hell with the headache I'd have in the morning.


This story, originally titled "If the lights seem brighter, it may just be the drugs," was written by an anonymous reporter of the Independent Florida Alligator.

It details one user's experience with Ecstasy during the Ultra Music Festival 2007 weekend.

All names have been changed.