birthday trip (part two)

Saturday morning, and the heat is a blanket smothering the house. One hundred and three degrees. I never got used to temperatures like this, not in twenty years of living with them. Heat this intense flattens me, deadens my senses. I kick off the duvet, feeling dried out and puffy, cringe when the bedroom's floor mirror confirms my self-assessment, and wander barefoot around the property until I find Timo working at a table in the front yard. The archival-quality drawing pad he'd given me last night is flipped open, covered with a carefully squared grid and neat handwriting in various colors. The pencil set has apparently inspired him; he's been brainstorming for his next project. He holds the page up to show me, proud of the artwork but sheepish about working while on vacation. I've never seen this visually creative side to him, and comment that he must get it from his architect father.

Though we'd planned on hiking, we quickly dismiss that idea. Why exhaust and probably sunburn ourselves? Fuck it. Instead we spend the first part of our day lounging, cooking, snacking, talking, and exploring the grounds around the house.

In the kitchen we eat thick slabs of watermelon and drink melon punch Italian soda. We move to the living room, sitting across from one another in my favorite of the house's chairs: tufted electric blue leather armchairs, low-backed, with just enough seat depth to curl up in. We sip coffee and look over the bookshelves beside us. I'm chatty from the caffeine, telling personal anecdotes that the bookshelf's contents have triggered in me. Timo leaves to shower, and my phone lights up. Mason.

How's Joshua Tree?

Content rich. T-minus five hours until launch...

Is Timo excited for the journey?

He's just babysitting. He got me all this colorful bright stuff to play with. Though I'll probably end up drooling on the hammock for 12 hours...

I send him a pic of my current view, and he says it looks like Alexander Shulgin's house.

I shower after Timo, trying to make peace with the cramped and ugly bathroom, knowing there's a decent chance I'll spend some miserable minutes in here later if I don't. I've been trying to make peace with the house all day, to be honest. Not let it psych me out, on a day when my psychic mindset is more important than anything. I'm feeling more optimistic than last night, but I'm still not 100% sure I even want to take the acid after all. The heat and the house are warning me not to, as insistently as they can. We'll see.

We spend some time apart, him emptying his brain onto crisp white paper, me poking around the outskirts of the property in search of photo ops. The heat is menacing, like an animal threatening to hurt me. It doesn't surprise me when a pair of hawks track me from above, the cries they exchange sounding contemptuous, and aimed at me. Just die, already, won't you? Just drop dead and let us pick at your bones. From the ground they don't even look large enough to be predatory. But then what do I know about birds of prey? The intensity of their squawking and the closeness with which they follow start to scare me, and I hurry back to the house. It takes all my willpower not to call out for Timo, like a child.

In the cool of the bedroom, I look over my camera roll. None of the selfies I've taken are any good. The landscape is dull, uninspiring; I look pink and mottled and try hard. Defeated, I sprawl on the blissfully white and cloud-like bed. I roll this way and then that, letting the cotton draw the warmth from my skin.

Timo joins me, lazily stretching out on his side. Again we go over what he should expect tonight, in terms of my behavior. What he should say if I fall into a loop, or forget that I've even taken a drug. My stomach is in knots, though I don't confess to him that I'm close to backing out. All this preparation and planning, how can I?

I check the time. Five o'clock. I'd been shooting for five thirty. Better text Pinkman, check in with him about dosage one more time. I retrieve the black plastic film canister I've been storing the acid in from my backpack. Slide out the tiny baggie containing the white, unmarked blotting paper. Take a photo of it, send a text, and wait. All this Timo watches with interest, murmuring "Oh, wow" when he sees the LSD for the first time.

Remind me. Each square is two hits?

Yes

How much do you usually take?

Couple squares.

Four hits. What I'd been planning myself.

Ok, cool. Thank you!

Have fun!

Timo and I look at one another. I feel like I'm at the gate in an international airline terminal, about to say goodbye for a very, very long time. About to get a rather special passport stamp, too.

"There's a decent chance it's expired, anyway," I announce, unsure if this outcome would disappoint or relieve me. "You're supposed to keep it at a constant temperature but it's just sat in my desk through the heat and the cold. Who knows."

Pressing my body against my boyfriend once more before lift-off, a sudden surge of reckless confidence finds me. Life is not for shallow-enders. I may not have the means to travel the world right now, but there are wondrous places of unimaginable beauty I can go, anyway.

I don't even need to pack.