never anything so

How thin and insecure is that little beach of white sand we call consciousness. - Athol Fugard

Life has many doors! - Pinkman


You have to start at the bottom, if they're going to appreciate what the top was like.

You have to describe that dark, ugly place. You have to be honest. Tell them about the three square feet of hallway between the bathroom and the living room. The space where, for several agonizing minutes (are you sure? are you sure it was only minutes?) you huddled, comatose with fear. Imprisoned by the certainty of insanity. Tell them about the taste of vomit in your mouth. About the spongy, putrid green loops of the bathmat inches from your face. How they quivered disgustingly, like fat, hairy caterpillars. How squashed and humiliated you felt, admitting to yourself that despite all your grand plans, you were having a bad trip.

Tell them how you prayed for it to be over. Oh god please, please just let this end. How you swore you'd never touch LSD again, and how you kept asking Terence why anyone would ever do this to themselves. How you made him swear that the two of you would never speak of it again. Okay? Promise?

I promise, baby. I promise. 

Not my drug you announced, with forced lightheartedness. It'll be okay, though. No big deal. And now I know. Not my drug. But even as you said all this, your heart was seizing up with dread, because you knew you'd only just stepped inside the funhouse. And the door was locking behind you. And the timer had just been set, with twelve. hours. to go.

Make sure they grasp the unspeakable terror. The wretched paranoia. The crushing hopelessness. All accompanied, of course, by the massive bewilderment that is LSD's perception mindfuck. Everything you think you know about the physical world, about yourself, about life itself - nope. That stuff isn't here right now, sorry. Please call again later. Don't forget to mention fractals, those collusions of blackness and color that swallowed you up the instant you closed your eyes. How suffocating they were, and how inescapable.

Okay. Now let that part go.

Now tell them about the rest.


I'm screaming.

I'm screaming and laughing at the same time. I've never made this sound before. Terence has never heard anyone make this sound before. There are tears running down my face, but they're not the sad kind. If you heard me from a room away, you'd probably think someone I love had died. There's a quality to my cries that I recognize, even as they pour out of me: inconsolableness. But what I'm actually experiencing is in fact profound acceptance. Inversely related cousins, if you think about it.

I'm in the throes of pure, psychological ecstasy - what I'll later call a consciousness-gasm, because that's the only way I can describe it. It's unlike anything I've ever known or dreamed of knowing. I'm crying out, because I can't keep it inside of me. Oh my god oh my god I cry, and I am wracked with disbelieving sobs. It's so beautiful! It' I know without a doubt that nothing in my life will ever compare to this moment. Nothing will ever be as true and perfect and sublime. I could live a hundred lifetimes and nothing I could ever see or feel could touch this. Wonderment. Discovery. Understanding. Validation. Love

I'm peaking.

Thunderbolts of revelation are slicing through me and sending out ripple after ripple of joy. It started with the realization of how lucky am, to have a friend to help me through this experience. Gratitude, but on a level that nearly devastates. The beautiful thing that is my friendship with Mason - it is blinding me with happiness, as my mind stretches to appreciate, in a split second's flash, nearly two decades of laughter and Platonic love.

For the first time ever I see the whole glorious arc of it, this friendship. The universe has few more precious gifts to offer, I understand that now. A hundred thousand moments that have led up to this one. Astoundingly, he seems to understand, too. I ask him if he sees it, and when he says he does, it's like we're reciting the lines of an ancient script. We're reenacting a story that has existed since long before we were ever born. And I know that if I die tomorrow, this amazing, precious friendship will stand as one of the most beautiful things I've ever made.

And this understanding ripples outward.

It ripples out to the bigger picture of my life, and who I am as a person. My very place in the universe. And oh my god, I see now. I see that I belong. I see that I what I have to give this world matters. I see that I have a purpose. My mind clears and a vision of myself emerges fr the void. Still I can see it perfectly. In this vision I'm beautiful in all the ways I've always wanted to be. A sort of spirit-self. I see myself laughing, my face in profile, as if looking at a loved one. In fact I know I'm surrounded by people who love me. I can feel all the ways that they appreciate me, that they see the good in me. It is a kind of validation, this vision, but more profound than anything I can try to relate with words, now. As if the universe pulled back a curtain, gave me just the tiniest, dazzling peek. Okay, Ellie. You want to know? You want to see? This is who you are.

It's breathtaking. Self-love. Self-acceptance. A shell around my heart cracks, so it can grow a little bit bigger.

And then there is Terence.

Oh my god. I cannot. It will kill me, if I look it full in the face. His love. The sweetness. His purity and kindness. His peacefulness. It astonishes me, how evolved and good he is. There was never anything so. Never anything. 

All of this comes and goes in degrees of varying intensity for about an hour. It's coupled with the most exquisite sense of visual "blooming" imaginable. The pinks, blues, purples I mentioned before spread out behind Terence, a backdrop the beauty of which a poet gifted with the languages of a thousand worlds could not capture.

LSD: Justifying Hyperbole since 1943.

My song changes one last time.

"Mason! Mason!"
"Oh my god, do you see it? Do you see it?"
"It's so beautiful. It's perfect."
"Do I love LSD? Do I hate it?"
"This is changing my life."


At some point, Pinkman calls. Seeing his name infuses me with delight and gratitude. I realize he's calling to make sure I'm okay. He's gotten my text from earlier and probably remembered I was going to do LSD for my birthday, and is now checking in. My twenty-five year old drug dealer is a really good fucking guy.

Terence laughs as grinning, I grab up the phone. "Pinkman!" I cry. "Pinkman, are you there?!"

"Ellie, what up girl." I can hear he's grinning, too.

"Pinkman you have to write this down. Okay? This is very important. You have to get a pen. Do you have a pen?" He laughs and I hear shuffling. I've tipped my hand. He knows I'm flying. I laugh too and continue, my voice like a kid's on Christmas morning. "You. This! Pinkman I'm having the most incredible experience of my life. And you made it happen. You did this for me. And I will never forget it. LSD is the most. I can't. You did this!"

Pinkman is greatly amused, but I can tell he's really happy for me. "Awww, girl. I'm so glad you're having a good time. Enjoy!" I end the call and beam at Terence. This too is unbearably beautiful.

The next day Pinkman will text. Love you!

Dude, I answer. I had no idea. Life changing.

Life has many doors! he replies back, and I just smile.



A slow, gently rocking comedown. Hours have gone by. Lifetimes in each. We hold one another in the front room, watching the moonlit highway. Blues the likes of which I didn't know existed. Perception is still liquidy, still upended and murky...but the twists and turns have leveled off enough to bearable. Pretty. Playful. Unthreatening. This was an experience. This was not real life. I'm going to be myself again. Wow. I did it.

Terence slips outside to meditate under the stars. I lay shellshocked in the living room, gathering back into myself a billion slivers of wonder. I'm awed by how much I remember. In fact it's all wondrously vivid. I pledge to write as much as I can, as soon as I can. Even just loose notes. Charged with drug-induced hubris, I'm determined to get people closer to this experience than anyone else has so far. I'll write entire books if I have to. They need to know. But every minute that goes by I realize more and more that the magic box I've just been inside can only be understood by those who've climbed inside as well.

After Terence drifts off to sleep anxiety takes one last, fierce stab at me. Menacing shadows. Paranoia. Ready for it all to end, but the drug is lingering. I shed the last layers of fear over the next couple of hours while Terence dreams beside me. I put on headphones and listen to Sam Harris's essay on drugs again. I consider writing him a letter.

At sunrise, I go outside. The cool desert air hits my skin exactly like it did yesterday, but I feel reborn. I know I'll never be the same. I know that whatever I face, the rest of my life, I have this strength to call on. Staring down the demons that live inside of me, scraping myself along the edge of sanity inch by inch, hopeless and unsure what I was even fighting for. And then the reward. The secrets I was shown. The beauty I cannot reproduce for you here, on this page, even though I would give anything to. The glimpse of the world within, and what it holds for willing explorers.

Forty years. I know nothing.