College Diaries: On Mushrooms and Memory

I have been issued a challenge of sorts in the comments, to write more about drinking, drugs and parties.  The problem with writing on those topics is that, well, the partaking in the aforementioned tends to erode the memory.  Also, you might find, the humor associated with those situations tends to evaporate with the high.  Still!  I’m game, I guess.

Awhile ago I was out with a friend visiting from California.  He is in possession a medical marijuana prescription and can, as he put it, charge weed to his credit card.  It is his one remaining vice, as nicotine and spirits are mine.  We’ve both winnowed down our particular youthful appetites for the headier substances.  Later on in the night, when lamenting the psychedelics we used to do, and the parties we used to do them at, he asked if I’d tried salvia.  (Remember when for awhile salvia videos were going around the internet?) I said I had not, and after hearing his account definitely will not even consider it.  He said he took the first hit and was near-instantly stripped of all sense of self, of ego, of him-ness for lack of a better word, and was seemingly flung in his mind to some sort of pre-time primordial ooze, where he like hyperwarp evolved, millions of years at a time, back to the present, at which point he’d regained enough sense to ask himself, “did I ingest some sort of drug?” He looked at the pipe in his hand and turned to the person he was with to ask how long he was “out of it.”  The reply:  “three and a half minutes.”  So, yeah, none of that.  I’m too fragile for that kind of psychic dismantling.  My personal infrastructure is held together at this point by duct tape, spit and a vague existential despair.  It did remind me of the time, however, when I too peeked through a psychedelic window to marvel at an evolutionary hallucination.

When we were living in The House, across the way was a friendly, if rednecky, guy we’ll call Jake.  Jake was a few years younger than my roommates and me, not going to college, just working.  He lived with his mother and his much younger sibling, and toiled I think as a waiter.  He drove a blue Ford Mustang, and would often be out in his dirt driveway washing the car down, shirtless.

When we first moved in I was excited by the idea of having someone new to hang out with, someone that wasn’t embroiled in the petty quotidian dramas that existed in my current circle of friends.  Being in a highly competitive and rigorous program, we were all so trapped in our little bubble.  This neighbor, he was someone new.  Nice.  Normal.  Straight.  Or, so I thought.  Then he began to drop some strange hints.  And once when we were over at his house, no one else was home and he had to retrieve a thing from his room, he had left open on his computer, I’m sure for the benefit of me and my roommate Jay, a gay porn website.  This, to my mind, was not how I’d wanted the neighbor scenario to play out.  Outwardly I was a happy-go-lucky pansexual libertine, but inwardly I was panicky about my sexuality.  Panicky about my own worth, attractiveness, about labeling myself or being labeled.  It was like this gauntlet had been thrown down by this blonde ne’er-do-well.  Petty as it was, I thought then I’d be in competition with Jay.  For one of us would have to make out with/grope/sleep with this wild, tacky, ecstasy-abusing ruffian, would we not?   It turned out not (though there were some aborted attempts at parties), and towards the end of our occupancy at the Pink House I’d soured on Jake as he’d borrowed a handful of my cds, returning them to me scratched and unplayable. And so I found, if I may insert the lesson into the middle of the story, that when one is ingesting, as many of us were at that time in that house, a fair amount of mind-altering substances, one finds judgments can be clouded, minor slights blown way out of proportion.  The body language and covert signals you are certain your personal antenna is receiving, they are not real.  I’d concocted and let myself get wrapped up in a fantasy.  To adapt a saying:  Sometimes a blunt is just a blunt. Anyway!  Carrying on.

Down the street from our little rural bungalow was a pasture.  We had once gone out hunting for mushrooms, which Jake confirmed did indeed sprout there, in the ripe cow patties.  It was a night following a rainstorm that the roommates and I, dressed in black, gathered our flashlights and under a starry sky stalked through the damp grass hunting our bounty:  it felt a bit like capture the flag, only the prize was not another team’s scrap of cloth but hallucinogens.  We were not successful but a short time after that, Jake and some of his neighborhood cohorts, scrubby delinquents who could not have been more than sixteen or seventeen, showed up at our door one Saturday bearing a plastic pitcher of  “shroom tea,”  made with grape Kool-Aid.  I want to say it was around eleven in the morning, and I ‘d just finished a bowl of cereal.  (Cheerios?  Special K?)  That I had hardly rinsed the bowl out in the sink and was about, after a mere half-second of deciding, to drink a cup of funky shroom juice gives me pause now.  But that is what I did, gulped it down, all slimy and with little fungusy bits of flotsam bobbing at the rim of the glass.  Of course the series of events that follow are if not outright lost then muddled beyond piecing together, save one.  I had an anxious need, about an hour into the trip, to get out of the house.  Jukie had not partaken in the day’s festivities, so she agreed to drive me, in my banged up white Honda Civic, to the 7-11.  I desperately wanted, desperately desired, a Coke Slurpee.  I remember Jukie standing in front of me, in her gray hoodie, gesturing for me to follow her out the door.  But when I looked at her, it was as if I saw her entire evolutionary make-up, from monkey ancestor to twentieth century college gal, her whole genetic lineage shifting and swirling like a vivid diorama.  I apparently asked her repeatedly if she was indeed she, and to her credit she gamely assured me she was indeed my friend, occupying the temporal space of the right now, which was the driver’s seat of my car.  At the convenience store I know I managed to pour my Slurpee, but when I got to the counter I froze.  I tried to hand the man his payment but I’d forgotten the concept of money.  I had these coins, and these slips of paper, and they might as well have been wampum.  Jukie, trying to keep up appearances, prodded me to hand the man my money.  I just shrugged, agape.  Lost under the harsh florescent lights of the store.  Finally Jukie snatched a bill from my hand, thrust it at the guy behind the counter, retrieved my change and hustled me back to the car.  I pestered here the entire short drive back again to confirm if she was indeed my friend, or an evolutionary counterpart somehow shifted here through space/time.

I’m not sure if it was this time or another that when I urinated a Technicolor rainbow rose from the toilet bowl, like a choreographed water fountain show.  I know that the neighborhood kids had since left, along with Jake, and after a few hours the shimmery tendrils of the trip receded.  It was by then late afternoon, blustery, the sky purple and yellow like a bruise.  The house had begun to fill up with a bunch of our other friends for round two, the night’s revels.  They were smoking weed, oblivious to the psychedelic delusions that’d gripped the early part of the day.  I took  a hit or two to take the edge off.  By the time we left the place, to see a terrible Doors cover band (Called I think Crystal Ship?  Also apropos in retrospect!)–not my choice but then sometimes you made the choice, like to ingest shrooms before noon, and sometimes you let others, for the sake of community, dictate the entertainment for the day–I was only a little stoned.  And firmly in the present.

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2 Responses to College Diaries: On Mushrooms and Memory

  1. Jason Moyer says:

    Ah, Jake- he once walked in on me as I was, well, um…having some alone time. Didn’t seem phased at all. Then a few weeks later, he kissed me in my car (just to see what it was like).

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