blood and brains

When the light turns green, you go. When the light turns red, you stop. But what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots? - Shel Silverstein


I was unsure about dosage, that was the first problem.

As prepared as I was - as I thought I was, rather - mentally, physically, logistically, I'd never actually handled LSD beyond purchasing it from Pinkman and stuffing it into the back of a drawer for safekeeping. I had two kinds: paper and liquid. Both were wrapped in small pieces of foil, presumably secure from the spoiling effects of air, heat, moisture. Really, I had no idea, because I'd never so much as looked at the stuff. I'd just bought it sight unseen, figuring when the time came I could consult my young provider for guidance. Which is exactly what I tried to do.

I texted Pinkman at 6:15 pm. Hey, got a sec? But Pinkman was busy doing whatever it is he does in between selling me psychoactive drugs. Terence and I were on our own.

We opted for the blotter paper, which was at least divided into obvious, square-shaped portions. (By contrast, the rubber band-thin "ten strip" of liquid acid had no delineating marks. Determining where one hit ended and the next started looked to be a matter of pure guesswork.) There were three squares of paper, which corresponded with my vague recollection of having bought that amount over a year earlier. Why I bought three instead of two or four or even just one, I have no idea. Maybe I thought I wanted a spare, in case I lost one? Without any further thought or discussion - we'd agreed earlier that I would take more than Terence, since it was my idea, my birthday wish, my funeral, etc - I tore the paper, handed my boyfriend one third of it and popped the other two thirds into my mouth.

It was awful. Terribly, startlingly bitter - how I imagine battery acid would taste. We winced, surprised at just how bad it was. Terence plucked the soggy square from his tongue after a few moments. "Nuah!" I barked, my mouth gone numb with chemical. "Youah haf to ret it dissov alla way!" The one thing I knew for sure is that the blotter paper must be allowed to disintegrate completely. Watching one another with eyes wide but lips pursed shut, we let the drug work its way into our blood and brains.

Still holding the softened squares on my tongue, I went to take a shower.

Intention. A big part of successful drug use is finding - feeling - good intention. That's what I focused on, as I washed the grime of the day's hiking from my hair. I felt one hundred percent sure that I was going to have a positive experience. That having controlled my "set and setting" (the who and where of tripping, said to be of tremendous importance), I was already ahead of the game. And maybe I would have been, if the game had been based in anything resembling reality. But it wasn't. And as I was about to learn, not only did I not know the rules or the objective of this game - for much of the next several hours, I wouldn't even understand I was playing it.

It set in quickly. Much, much more quickly than I'd been expecting. Showered and dressed, we'd decided to sit on the front stoop, take in the desert dusk, let things unfold organically. Hilariously, I'd put on my fuzzy bear hat. Not quite a spirit hood, but a close cousin. I guess I thought it would make me feel adventurous, or playful, or even animalistic. But within minutes I'd forgotten I was even wearing it. Within minutes the clothes on my body, so carefully considered when I packed, were comically unimportant.

An upright, oblong, ridged planter in the yard was a cockroach. The change wasn't sudden....because there wasn't any change at all. It had always been a cockroach. Segmented. Humanoid. Taunting. The spindly fauna that shot up from behind it formed perfect antenna. Again, this wasn't a matter of something becoming, or seeming to become different, in the way that psilocybin gently rolls out hallucinations. This was just fact. A new reality. There was a massive, live stone cockroach watching me, feet from where I stood, and there was no unseeing it. No unknowing it. 

I tried to shift my attention to the breeze rustling through the trees, to the dusty glow settling over the boulders that cradled the estate. But no matter where I redirected my thoughts, it was like grasping the shifting mechanism on an amusement park ride - like being granted the briefest glimpse of control before getting wrenched sharply back onto the track. No question: I was a passenger, not a driver. It was then that an inkling of what I was in for dawned on me. Big. This is bigger. Bigger than I. Wow. This is.  

I tried to play along. I walked over to the waist-high planter, smiling determinedly as I pointed the creature out to Terence. "Do you see it? It's a bug! Look, do you see it?" The question seemed stupid as I spoke it. Of course he saw it. He had to. It was as real and clear as the sky above. But Terence was already slipping down his own slide, and any intuition with which he might have soberly grasped my state of mind (i.e., Anxiety trying not to acknowledge Fear peering in the window) had melted away with his blotter paper.

"Do you like insects?" he replied, and to my already apprehensive self that was exactly the wrong question. It felt like a dare, or maybe a warning. Like he was purposefully trying to wedge open a window I didn't want opened. No I do not fucking like insects. All at once I was unbearably dizzy.

"I'm going inside," I announced, feeling defeated by my body load, disappointed at already having to forfeit the beauty of our surroundings. The whole point. Joshua Tree. Sunset's coming. The whole point was to. Terence offered to join me but I pointed at him severely, then swept my hand out in reference to the landscape around us. "No. You stay put. I just need a minute."

I shut the door behind me and took a few wobbly steps into an empty, silent house. It gave me all of ten seconds, I'd say, before beginning to breathe, bulge, pulse and twist in a way that made it clear any authority I'd had on psychedelics was about to be shred to bits. Colorful, beautiful, terrifying, wondrous, unforgettable bits.

to be continued