I’m not sure why I got into drugs; I smoked marijuana for the first time two or three weeks before my 15th birthday. I was with a girl who had taken my virginity two weeks earlier. Her name was Pam and she was young, unattractive, and had creepy black eyes. Some unappealing girls could be made pretty by their personality, but not Pam; her whiney, spoiled attitude made her even uglier. She was one of those girls one sees in commercials with Sally Struthers, “For less than a cup of coffee a day, this little girl could eat more than just ants and rice.” She was adopted by an unmarried Jewish couple from Teaneck, New Jersey who obviously felt they had to make up for the fact that they weren’t her real parents by buying her whatever she wanted. I let all this slide because it was outweighed by the fact that I was fourteen, desperate, and she seemed to like me.
Pam liked to hang out with older guys. They had cars and were probably sub-letting her vagina from me without my knowledge, but at the time I just went along with things. Deep down I knew about it, but was just happy to be getting some. In my fifteen years on planet earth I had drank twice, but never tried any illegal drugs. As far back as I was able to remember, I was deathly afraid of all drugs. I feared that one puff of a marijuana joint would lead to a life of crack addicted homelessness. It could have been all those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials or episodes of the Cosby Show that made me think that way. However, as my age increased, so did my curiosity and was I intrigued by the idea of not spending my whole life sober.
One hot and humid August day I was hanging out with Pam and two of her nineteen year old admirers- Eddie and Charles. Pam and I were in the backseat of a rusted out 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass that belonged to Eddie’s older brother. We would often hang out with Eddie and Charles; taking pointless drives throughout Bergen County. I could tell they didn’t like it when I was there, but I guess it was the price they had to pay to do whatever they did when I wasn’t around. This particular day we pulled down a dead end street which led to an old, non-working bridge next to some historic house where George Washington slept or kept his slaves or something. I had never been there, but knew from word of mouth that it was where kids still living with their parents went to perform illegal activities. It was a nice place to go because there was only one road leading to it and if police were spotted there was plenty of time to throw whatever you were smoking or drinking into the water or pull your pants up, and act like nothing was going on.
The four of us got out in silence, waited while Charles got a 40oz of Budweiser from his trunk, and proceeded to walk to the middle of the bridge. We were the only ones around, so we sat in a circle (Pam sitting with her legs slightly spread so we all got a view of her underwearless parts) and cracked open the 40. After it had been passed around once and was almost done, Eddie pulled out a pack of Marlboro reds from the pocket of his stonewashed jeans and removed a joint. Although I had never seen one in person before, I knew what it looked like because of the time Mr. Huxtable confronted Theo; joint in hand.
Despite being nervous, I felt like it was time to have my first drug experience. I wished I was with people I felt more comfortable around, but realized there wasn’t anyone who fit that description. I took a deep breath and watched Eddie spark it up; eyeing him while he inhaled; holding it in his lungs, and slowly blowing out a cloud of purple smoke. I watched Pam do the same, and when it got to me I simply copied what I saw; adding a coughing fit much to the amusement of the group.
When the joint was gone, the three of them lit up cigarettes and we started to drive back to Pam’s house. I felt the same as I had prior to ingesting the cannabis. Eddie and Charles didn’t seem to be doing anything weird, and Pam was acting a little on the strange side (pulling up her shirt and asking me to bite her nipples) but that was nothing out of the ordinary. No one was suggesting that we go rob a bank or beat up little kids and take their lunch money. No one pulled out any heroin or crack, and no one started freaking out about how they were going to get their next fix.
The rest of the summer passed with only one more smoking incident (although my drinking had increased) and I went back to school in September not sure how I felt about the whole drug culture.
On the second day of school I was on the bus home with a fellow student named Nick. I wasn’t in a normal high school and therefore rode a short yellow bus with only two other people on it. Because of this we got away with more, such as smoking cigarettes and throwing things at the windows into oncoming traffic. I had never spoken to Nick because he was a jock (or as much of a jock as one can be in a school with no sports teams) and I was whatever I was. He sat in the seat next to me, pulled out a pipe and began to smoke. After he had taken three or four hits, he refilled it and without a word passed it to me. We were almost at my stop, so I thanked Nick, took the bowl, and smoked the whole thing in less than 90 seconds.
When we were a block from my house I suddenly felt as though I could drink the entire Passaic River. ‘This must be what they mean by cottonmouth’ I thought to myself. When I stood up to get off the bus I was high as the Sears Tower. I finally understood what all the hype was about. That was the day I fell in love with Mary Jane.
When I was lying in bed that night, still feeling a little elevated, I began to question things. If my teachers, family, and other authority figures were lying about weed, where else had they led me astray? Were the other drugs not as bad as they said? How many other laws were inane? If I jaywalked, would I really do hard time?
Skip ahead six months and, although I wasn’t a raging crack addict, I was smoking weed almost every day. None of the bad stuff that was supposed to happen to me (according to TV and DARE) did; the only thing I didn’t like was having to spend money on it. My grades weren’t any lower than they had been pre-drugs, I wasn’t stealing from my parents, and I wasn’t sucking anyone’s dick for a bag. I was realizing that maybe weed wasn’t a gateway to other drugs, but instead to good friends and great fun.
The thing that had always pissed me off about most people (and kept me from having many friends) was groups. It seemed like everyone was exactly like all the people they hung out with and I couldn’t find anywhere I fit. When I started smoking weed I learned that getting high was the only thing we needed to have in common in order to have a good time. I learned that I could talk baseball with a jock, literature with a nerd, and music with the punks and metal heads. We were all just a bunch of kids getting high and going through the same things.
My social life was blooming, my sex life was great for a 15 year old, and my realm of consciousness was expanding by the minute; but not exactly everything was going well. I had always been prone to bouts of depression; I would often be kept awake late at night thinking about death. Everyone I knew was going to die and eventually so would I, but then what happens? Was it just a black hole? What was the point of living and working hard to achieve all sorts of goals, when it didn’t mean anything in the end? The more I thought about heaven, the more it seemed like it came straight out of a children’s story. Hell, to me, was just a way to scare people into not rebelling against the government and for churches to make money. When I tried to talk to my mother about these things, she would talk to me like I was a little kid because she didn’t have any answers. I didn’t bother talking to my father because on the rare occasion that I actually saw him, it was usually so he could lecture me about why I shouldn’t misbehave.
I didn’t feel like my friends would really understand me, so one day I decided to talk to the school counselor, Ms. Clark. I told her that I was depressed and it took a lot of effort just to get out of bed in the morning. I told her I didn’t see a point in life when it all just ends at some random time for some random reason. She asked me if I ever thought of suicide, I told her that although I would probably never do it, it sometimes crossed my mind. I thought she would have all the answers; she was a college educated adult whose job it was to guide and council kids like me. Instead she called the local mental institution to come pick me up.
At Sleepy Meadow, pale doctors in white lab coats asked me if I heard voices or saw things. I told them “only when people talk to me or walk through my range of vision.” Obviously they had no sense of humor, as they didn’t find me amusing. They asked me if I had any plans to kill myself and I told them no- just because I considered life meaningless didn’t mean I preferred the alternative. Clearly they just asked me these questions for bureaucratic reasons, because 10 minutes later I was officially under seventy two hour surveillance and without my belt and shoe laces.
Throughout my life I would get locked up plenty more times, but the first time is always the hardest; waking up in the morning surrounded by people I didn’t know, not being able to do what I wanted, only being able to see my loved ones during visiting hour, and – worst of all – being forced to take medication. I was there for twenty eight days; it seemed like twenty eight months. They knew after my initial 72 hour observation period that I was not a risk to myself or others, but I had good insurance so I was stuck.
Halfway through my stay I was rewarded with an overnight visit home. I had to sign a piece of paper stating that I wouldn’t run away, drink, or take any illegal drugs. I didn’t plan on running away.
The day before my visit I got a call on the payphone – shared with the other 22 inmates – from one of my closest friends Mable. Mable was a beautiful hippie-chick; she had the face of an angel with deep-set green eyes that were able to soothe a tiger. She had waist length light brown hair and was as skinny as a crack addict (which she would later become, but that’s a whole other story). Mable was the only friend I had who didn’t make me feel like an outsider; no matter what we were doing or who else was part of the group, I felt comfortable as long as she was there.
“I heard you’re getting an overnight pass,” her raspy voice said to me through the sticky earpiece.
“Yup, thank god. I get to get out of this shithole for twenty four hours.”
“I scored some acid if you want to come over and try it. It’s going to be me and Tracey.”
I had never even seen acid before, but boy had I heard of it. I had heard a rumor about a girl from my town who was perfectly normal in every sense of the word; she was a cheerleader with straight A’s who was dating the captain of the football team. She was friends with everyone and yet still had time to volunteer to help out the elderly and the mentally challenged. One night while attending a party, a friend of hers gave her a hit of acid. She had never even taken an aspirin, let alone a hard drug like LSD, but the friend pressured her and she gave in. Everybody reacts different to acid and there must have been something in the way her brain worked that made it extra potent for her. She had a very bad trip and now she’s locked up somewhere far away because she thinks she’s a glass of orange juice. Her life is ruined; she can’t even speak anymore, she lives her life as a glass of orange juice would- careful not to spill and constantly paranoid about someone trying to drink her. Tragic.
Everyone had heard this story yet no one actually knew the girl and no one was at the fateful party. All the first hand stories I had heard about acid had been ones of good times and exciting adventures. My two favorite bands at the time – The Doors and Pink Floyd – were heavily into acid in their heyday and neither Jim Morrison nor Roger Waters ever turned into any fruit juices (a dead fat guy in a bathtub in Paris sure, but not orange juice). Besides, I had heard a lot of bad things about pot and that had turned out just fine.
“I’ll be there, but I’ve never actually done it, so I might need you to walk me through it,” I told Mable.
“I’ll be glad to be your guide,” she assured me.
Ironically, when I went to school in my town none of my friends had been trouble makers, but as soon as I got sent to the “bad kid school” I started hanging out with the bad kids. My mother had met Mable before and was a little reluctant to let me hang out with her, but she knew I’d find a way whether she drove me or not, so she picked me up on her lunch break and brought me over to Mable’s house in Dumont.
Mable lived with her manic depressive, heavily medicated father who spent all day in his room watching Richard Bey and other lower echelon talk shows. Despite having been to the house at least a dozen times, I had never actually seen the man.
“Come on up,” Mable said, opening the screen door before the echo from the doorbell faded into eternity. She was dressed in typical hippie attire; a tie-dye shirt, bellbottom pants she had just gotten from the thrift store down the street, and bare feet. The smell of patchouli floated off her as I followed her tiny round butt up the stairs and into her incense filled room.
“Hey Trace,” I said to the freckle faced girl sitting Indian style against Mable’s unmade twin bed. Tracey was dressed in all black; jeans, a long sleeve blank shirt, and dirty torn Converse sneakers. Her brown hair was cut like a twelve year old boy. From her looks she seemed like a tough tomboy, but in reality she was just as pleasant as Mable.
“Hey Joe,” she said in her best Jimmy Hendrix voice. “You ready to go on a wild ride?”
“Damn straight I am.”
The plan was to walk the mile and a half to Tracey’s house in Bergenfield and hang out there until the trip was almost over because we didn’t want to interrupt Mable’s father. It was a few minutes passed noon and my mother was going to pick me up at eight. I would still be slightly tripping by that time, but not enough for her to know I was on acid. She would probably think that I was high on dope, which wasn’t that big of a deal in my family.
It was a beautiful spring day and it felt great to be alive. Tracey, Mable, and I walked hand in hand down Washington Ave, passing by all the people unlucky enough to be at work on such a fine day.
“That’s gonna be us one day,” Mable nodded her head towards the people behind the counter at Subway.
“Not me,” I countered. “I’ll never work for five bucks an hour making sandwiches for yuppie fucks in their $5,000 suits.”
“I totally agree,” Tracey added. “If this whole ‘being and artist’ thing doesn’t work out, I’m just gonna live in a garbage can. I’ll probably be happier that way.”
“At least you won’t be doing what the man tells you to. They make us go to school so we can learn their history and social studies and what not, we get shaped so we’re like everyone else and then we go out and work till we die. 95% of these people are probably working jobs that make them miserable.” I was getting fired up.
“How cute,” Mable said, somewhat condescendingly. “My little rebels don’t think they’ll ever have to grow up.”
Tracey’s dark blue eyes flashed fire and she stopped walking. “Come on Mable, are you really that brainwashed? Do you really think that getting a job that makes you miserable just so you can support a bunch of kids that you don’t want and pay the mortgage on some ugly, overpriced house equals adulthood?”
“No, but you can learn to love your job. You can’t decide not to take part in society just because you don’t like it. Whether you agree with it or not, we live in a capitalist country and you have to go along with that. It could be a lot worse; we could be communists.”
Things were getting a little heated; I was greatly disturbed that by best friend whom I respected a great deal could feel this way- hippie my ass. However, it was supposed to be a fun day (and I had no rebuttal), so I decided to make light of the situation.
“Calm down ladies, we can have a naked tickle fight when we get to Bergenfield.”
The ladies laughed and resumed their walking, but there was still some tension. I knew (as I’m sure they did) that they would work it out- they had been best friends since kindergarten and had gotten through many fights.
There was a slight breeze blowing from west to east – causing mini-tornados of leaves and refuse – as we continued our journey. We arrived at Tracey’s house a couple minutes before one. She lived in the only one family house on a block full of two and three family dwellings. Her grandfather had bought the residence fifty years previous – as a two family house – and through some reconstruction, transformed it. The house itself was nothing special, but the family had great pride in it; her father mowed the lawn every week – rain, sleet, hail, or snow – her brother trimmed all the trees and washed the driveway and sidewalk bi-weekly, her mother made sure they could eat off the floor, and Tracey was in charge of the interior decorating. They were the perfect suburban family living in the perfect suburban house (unless one dug to deep in which case they would discover heroin in her brothers closet, many occasions of unfaithfulness between her parents, and crooked toes on Tracey’s left foot.)
Tracey’s brother Marco was a senior in high school, worked at Baskin Robbins on the weekends, and rented out the basement apartment. Presently, he was in said basement with his girlfriend. Both of Tracey’s parents were at work for the day, so the whole above ground section of the house belonged to the three of us.
Once inside the house Tracey removed her long sleeve shirt to reveal two perfectly rounded teenage c-cups covered by a black and gold, very tight, L7 t-shirt. She reached her right hand up the front of her shirt (making my right hand jealous) and pulled out a baggie containing a cluster of little pieces of paper.
“Party in a bag,” she said, dropping the bag onto the antique oak coffee table.
I began to get a little nervous and let out a silent but deadly fart. I kept picturing a 6 foot tall 175 pound glass of orange juice walking around with a Mets hat on its straw. I guess the sweat dripping down the side of my acne stained face alerted Mable to my nerves.
“The key is keeping a positive mindset.” She was only fifteen, but already the resident drug expert of our school. I trusted her and took mental notes as she continued, “As long as you maintain control of your mind, everything will be fine.”
The nervousness that was going away suddenly reappeared. “What if I lose control?”
“Just don’t. If you feel yourself going somewhere you don’t want to, tell yourself it’s only a drug and you’re really on earth with your best friends, having a good time.”
‘Positive mindset. That’s the key. Just a drug,’ I kept repeating to myself.
Mable closed the three feet separating us and wrapped her long skinny arms around my neck. Tracey got up from dividing the tabs and joined us. There was nothing sexual about it and it made me feel safe; like they wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.
The hug broke up after about ten seconds, and the tabs were passed out. Later on in life, I would learn that not only was the size of these particular tabs abnormally large, but it really wasn’t necessary to take the four that Tracey handed me. However, this day I was a virgin.
“Put them on your tongue and let them dissolve,” Mable told me, with excitement written all over her face.
I opened, inserted, and waited. Tracey put a documentary about the mating habits of whales in the VCR and we watched intently.
“They should take twenty minutes to a half hour to begin kicking in,” Professor Mable said.
Fifteen minutes later the room suddenly became extremely hot. My skin began to hurt and though I was still sweating, I got the chills. I found it hard to swallow and wanted to run a mile and go to sleep at the same time. I wasn’t liking it. Mable must have read my mind, “the speed usually kicks in first, but give it a few more minutes and the fun will start.” Her teeth were grinding and I could see beads of sweat forming on her makeupless forehead.
Ten minutes passed and once again Mable was correct; the temperature in the room became just to my liking and I calmed down. I was able to feel each breath reverberate throughout my entire body, my heart was keeping perfect rhythm to the beat of the air, and everything seemed a bit more colorful than previously.
“I think I like this,” I said. At least I think I said it, but no one else seemed to hear me. We watched the rest of the documentary in complete silence, sans the squeaking of my eye balls from time to time. Whales, I discovered, were the most beautiful creatures on the face of the earth and I understood exactly what it was like to be one.
“How amazing would it be if we could move to the bottom of the ocean,” Mable said, like it had always been a dream of hers, but she was just realizing.
“That would be the life,” I said without moving my lips. “Everyone gets along and you can just swim around all day, eating your neighbors.”
Although I didn’t realize it as it came out of my mouth, the previous statement might have been the funniest thing I had ever said up to that point in my life (and I was a pretty funny guy; class clown two years running). I let out a little chuckle, which led to a hearty laugh, and finally to complete hysterics. Every part of my body, from the tip of my army style brown hair to the bottom of my pigeon-toed feet was laughing. Mable and Tracey, who were sitting to either side of me on Tracey’s red and green plaid couch; they looked at each other then at me with their constantly shape-changing faces and simultaneously joined the laugh parade.
We laughed for a certain amount of time– somewhere between ten seconds and an hour. It was interrupted by a barely audible ‘shhh,’ from the mouth of the dinosaur half way up the plain white wall. The laughing stopped and my body was as sore as if I had just run a marathon. The dinosaur wasn’t moving and didn’t tell me anything after the shhh. He was a beautiful dinosaur; about a foot tall and two feet wide, with a magnificent rainbow surrounding him. I didn’t remember it being there when I arrived. ‘This must be what she meant by keeping it all in my head,’ I thought.
“What? Are you having visuals?” Mable asked me jealously. I must have said my thought out loud.
“No. Just a walled dinosaur in my mind.”
“Those are the best kind.”
I couldn’t tell if the conversation was actually taking place or we were reading each others minds. Either way, it was shaping up to be a wonderful afternoon; much better than it would have been at the mental hospital. For the first time in my life, I could truly feel myself. I had obviously lived my whole life as myself in my body, but for the first time soul and body were different. I was still physically Joe Parmelee, but I didn’t feel like I was my outer shell – the skin, organs, and bones – anymore. I was just an orb inside of this costume that I was forced to spend my life in.
I opened my rubber mouth to try and explain my new revelation to the girls, when I noticed they were no longer paying attention to either the dinosaur or me. Once again, I didn’t know how much time had passed, but the TV was off and they were both standing up and talking to Marco on the other side of the room.
Marco was your basic Northern New Jersey meathead; he had dark black hair, a smooth daily shaved face (which he doused with after shave), he got his entire body below the neck waxed periodically, and kept his shirt open at least three buttons; revealing his gold chain complete with crucifix. The only thing that separated Marco from 99% of the other meatheads was instead of spending all his money going to clubs every Friday and Saturday, he spent it on heroin. He wasn’t a full on heroin addict yet, but he was well on the way.
Presently Marco’s head was on fire, but instead of orange flames sending off heat, there were purple diamonds producing Arabic letters, bouncing around for my amusement.
“…Downstairs…we…,” was the only thing coming out of Marco’s mouth I was able to understand, but he started walking down the stairs towards the basement. The two girls, leaving matching rainbow trails in their path, followed him and I decided I would too.
The underground basement land was not the same as the regular world. Things were darker, shadows were everywhere, and I couldn’t tell what I was walking on, but it didn’t seem kosher. Marco, Tracey, and Mable were part of one big swirl of colors and were just beyond my reach. The closer I came, the smaller the swirl got. I didn’t want to ruin it for them, so I kept my distance. They went through a hole in the wall and, once again I followed.
The bad basement land vibe was lifted when I entered what appeared to be Marco’s bedroom. Looking back, I don’t remember anything really special about it, but the general atmosphere was soothing. Marco sat down on his king size water bed, next to his surprisingly ugly girlfriend Lisa. I sat on a swivel chair in the corner where a baby blue wall met with a cardboard covered wall (the other two walls where just as mismatched- one was covered with lime green wallpaper while the fourth had caveman like drawings done in pencil in front of a light white background.) Mable and Tracey sat hippie style, once again on either side of me like bodyguards.
I couldn’t get my mind working on the right level for conversation, so I sat back and just watched; ignoring everyone who tried to talk to me. Even though I had been one of them for my whole life, I didn’t like being around people that weren’t tripping; it was like they were on a different planet. Mable was talking to Lisa and Marco about her dreams of one day living under the sea, while Tracey was tracing the scar on the top of my left foot with her pointer finger. It didn’t feel very good, but she seemed to be having a really good time, so I didn’t stop her.
Suddenly I had a feeling like we were being watched. Mable had already explained to me the phenomenon that whatever you saw happening out of the corner of your eye probably wasn’t, but that wasn’t it. It seemed like there were people – lots of people – behind the walls, watching us. My fears proved real when Lisa tried to get up, bumped her head on the bookcase next to the bed, and fell back down. It was funny, so Mable, Tracey, Marco, and I all laughed. That wasn’t what bugged me out though; what bugged me out was when the clandestine studio audience followed our lead and also laughed.
No one else seemed to notice, so I decided to test things out and see if I was going crazy. “Why can black people jump so high?” I asked the walls.
The group looked at me and the word why flew through the air at me in big purple block letters, nearly knocking me off my seat. I said, “Because they’re knee grows.”
The four of them looked stumped for a moment (it’s a thinker) and then laughed one at a time as if the joke slowly made its way around the room, tapping each one of them on the shoulder. I wasn’t concerned with their reaction though; it was when I heard boos coming from behind the wall – with a few laughs mixed in – that I knew once and for all we were being watched; by a politically correct audience nonetheless.
The dinosaur on the wall and the various trails I saw coming off of people and objects were easy to separate from reality; I just told myself it wasn’t real, it was just the acid, and everything was fine. However, I was having trouble doing that with the studio audience. I kept trying to tell myself there was no one there, but I could hear them.
The nail in the coffin was when Tracey and Marco’s mother came in to bring them their mail. I had met Mrs. McDougal before and she was a cool lady, but nothing special. This particular day however, when she opened the door everything stopped for a moment, as the studio audience cheered loudly for her; apparently she was a special guest star. The battle in my head between real world and acid world wasn’t going very well. The acid had staged an offensive and sanity put up the white flag. I was in a 3 by 5 cage; a prisoner of war in the battle for my sanity. I joined the studio audience and gave Mrs. McDougal a standing ovation.
Mrs. McDougal’s reaction wasn’t one of gratitude, but instead of shock and anger. It was decided in a group vote, after Mrs. McDougal had accused all of us of being ‘on drugs’, that Mable, Tracey, and I should leave. My mother would soon be waiting for us anyhow.
We walked up the stairs and out the front door; back into the real world. I had one arm around each girl; I had never loved anyone in my life as much as I loved them at that moment. Maybe love isn’t even the right word- I felt like we were one organism occupying three separate bodies. Unfortunately, my body must have gotten sick of being occupied, because it kicked me out. Time skipped and suddenly Tracey, Mable, and Joe were walking down the street as I floated twenty feet above, observing.
Let me stop right here and explain something. While this particular antidote tells the story of the first time I did acid, over the ensuing decade I did enough for an entire tribe. During those scores of trips, I have had many a fun and frightening experience, but never have I left my body. Also, there was never a time where I couldn’t tell whether something was factual or imagined. Looking back, the ‘studio audience’ part of the day didn’t happen; but this out of body occurrence and everything thereafter still seems very real.
Back to the story: Tracey, Mable, and Joe were walking down the street close as peas in a pod. Nothing else existed- no sidewalk, no grass, no cars in the street, and no street for the cars had they been there. Nothing. Nothing but the three of us/them surrounded by white- a very intense, blinding white.
“Are you OK, Joe,” Mable asked my body. She seemed to have genuine concern in her voice.
I was a thoughtless fly on a nonexistent wall. I watched my body walk like a drunkard, hoping nothing bad was about to happen.
I heard my body shout, “Am I OK? I’m better than OK, I’m the best I’ve ever been in my life. I can see back in time. I know what it was like when we were monkeys, hanging from the branches. WE WERE MONKEYS GODDAMMIT! What the fuck happened? How did we end up here?”
The surroundings came back; I could see the tops of all the other people walking down Washington St on their way home from work or running various errands. I saw the tops of the cars driving by filled with people who had no idea what it was like where I was. I could see Tracey and Mable begin to laugh as my body began to act like a monkey. It was making monkey sounds, scraping its knuckles on the concrete, running rampant through the tangle of yuppies, and trying to find a good tree to climb. I saw the girls start to act like monkeys. It was beautiful; three monkeys terrorizing Bergenfield, New Jersey during Thursday rush hour.
We came to a bench on the Bergenfield-Dumont border and the girls sat while my body continued to stand.
“I think I figured out why this shit is illegal,” my body revealed to my fellow monkeypeople. “The government doesn’t want us to be free; they don’t even want us to know what it was like to be free. Try to transport your minds back to before all this civilization started- that was total freedom. Sure, they had some sort of government and regulations, but they didn’t have fascist police riding around protecting 5% of the population. There were no rich or poor, smart or dumb; everyone was truly equal. They hunted deer and wild boar, and fished for salmon that they needed for food- not as some sick game like we do. They built enough places of residence so everyone stayed warm and dry. Most importantly, they had a lot of free time to love and think and just live the way we were meant to.
“Then the civilized people came and destroyed it all. Why? There were no real wars. There was no oppression or starvation. There was no rape, no murder, no holocausts, no prejudice.”
People were looking at my body and rolling their eyes or sucking their teeth as they walked by.
“Look at these people. They’re so brainwashed into thinking that this is the only way. They wake up every morning and go to work so they can make a shit load of money for some faceless corporation that doesn’t give a fuck about them or their family, and pays them just enough to survive. The ones that earn more money for even bigger companies get to drive nicer cars and live in bigger houses which they think makes them successful. They think that just because they aren’t physically chained to the wall that they’re free.”
Mable was looking at me like I was crazy. Not Tracey though, Tracey understood.
“You’re so fucking right man. Just because the government doesn’t kill everyone who disagrees anymore, they think everything is fine. They think the man gave up on trying to control us, when in reality he just found different, sneakier means. You try to tell someone about something like anarchism and they look at you like you have two heads; they picture a bunch of naked people running around pillaging because there’s no one there to enforce laws. What about all the people that were here before us? How come there way of life – in essence, anarchism – isn’t in our history books? What about the animals? They don’t have a government or a police force and they get along just fine- except for when us humans go around slaughtering them. Imagine we learned this shit in school? Capitalism would crash faster than you can say ‘propaganda.’”
“Isn’t your mom waiting for us?” Mable irritatedly directed at my body.
Although she was a party pooper she was right, so we began walking towards her house. We made a right on to Johnson St and saw my mother’s light green 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix idling on top of the hill, right where she said she would be.
My soul started floating slowly towards my body as my body began swerving towards the car. My body reached the front bumper when my soul was mere feet away. From just above my body, I saw the look of utter horror on my mother’s stress-worn face. My body leapt and my soul reentered a millisecond before landing against – and cracking – the windshield of the Grand Prix.
I was technically back in my body, but still had absolutely no control over any of my movements as I rolled off the car and spattered on to the hard pavement of the street. My mother rushed to my side, joining Tracey and Mable who were staring at me in disbelief. I felt the lower half of my body get warm as my bladder emptied. Everything went dark.
I woke up. I had no idea how I arrived in the room I was standing in. It was damp like a cavern and the light was very dim; something between fog and smoke was floating in the air and through it I was barely able to make out hospital beds lined up on either side of me. I saw the outline of bodies under the bleached white sheets that covered the beds. As I made my way down the rows, stories would pop into my head; John was 22 and died in a drunk driving accident when his father hit a guardrail doing 110. Mary was 48 and died of a stroke after finding out that her husband of 25 years had been having an affair with their daughter. Julius was 34 and was shot twice in the head, execution style for testifying against a local drug kingpin…
On and on the stories went. I knew it had to be a dream, and yet it was so real. I saw a shape in the distance blocking my path, so I walked to it. It was a white man, a little taller and skinnier than me, with pointy black hair and a black soul patch. Although his lips weren’t moving I could hear him speak. I couldn’t tell what he said; it seemed to be in a foreign tongue.
I woke up again- this time in mid-puke. I had a tube down my throat, another in my penis, and two more going into the veins of my left arm. I was lying on a metal table with a white cloth draped over it, a doctor on either side of me- one pushing buttons on a machine and the other adjusting something behind my head.
“What did you take, son,” said the doctor who was pushing the buttons.
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. My head was mush and I couldn’t seem to form complete thoughts. The doctor who had just spoken to me turned to his left and whispered to a black woman in a nurse’s uniform. She nodded and left the room.
Slowly, my thoughts started to make sense, but I couldn’t remember much of what had happened and told the doctor as much. He didn’t seem too happy.
“We need to know what you took so we can make you better,” he said, not looking me in the eyes. “We also need to know where you got it.”
Although my thoughts weren’t completely back to their normal level, I knew enough to know that I shouldn’t answer. Where I got it from had nothing to do with how they were going to fix me. I told him that the last thing I remembered was waking up that morning Sleepy Meadows, getting ready to go on my visit. He sighed and left the room.
I was only in the ER for a couple more hours. The same nurse who had been whispered to by the doctor earlier came back in to remove the tubes. She told me,
“It doesn’t matter whether you tell on your so-called friends. Jesus saw everything and he knows what to do. Do you know that you were legally dead for 48 seconds?”
“No.” That scared me.
“Well you were. I suspect you’ll never do drugs again.”
“No ma’am,” I told her, unsure of whether I was telling the truth or not.
I finished the two weeks I had left at Sleepy Meadows and was then forced (by my parents) to go to a rehab in western New Jersey for 28 more days. During those many hours of boredom, I got a lot of thinking done and most of the trip came back to me. Swearing off drugs seemed like the wrong answer the more I thought about it.
When I got out of rehab it was mid-summer and my parents sent me to visit an uncle in northern California. As I was sitting in his backyard one day, overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountains and thumbing through the local newspaper, I came upon the quote that left no doubt in my head as to whether I would ever drop acid again:
“In this country people are rarely imprisoned for their ideas because they’re already imprisoned by their ideas. The wage-slaves of today aren’t ripe for revolt because they don’t know that they’re slaves and no more free than the slaves of yore, despite the fact that they think so… You can’t get rid of slave culture until the slaves know that they are slaves, and are proud of the historical responsibility it gives them to be the agent of social change.”