“Oh, dude!!! Duuuude….” Matt begins, his black eyes wide, straining to get the brilliant observation in his head down to his mouth to share with the world. I smile and stare down at the breathing grass in front of me. I wanna laugh, but this is Matt’s first trip, and I don’t want to send him in the wrong direction.
“Hahahaha, fuck, dude! Fuck! I completely forgot what I was gonna say!” Matt says.
“Hahaha, don’t worry about it man, it happens to everybody. I’ve started like a million sentences tripping and only finished like 10 of ‘em.” I tell him.
“Hahahahaha! Wow, dude… This is… This is really fuckin’ crazy, dude.”
“In a good way, right?”
The sky looks like an old screensaver, clouds slowly rolling through a backdrop that shifts slowly from pink, to blue, and back again.
Wow, man. Today has been fuckin’ weird….
“Yooo! Harry! I got shrooms, you tryna trip today?!?” Chris said as soon as I picked up the phone.
“Uhhh… Yeah! Fuck it, I’m down. $35 an eighth?” I asked.
“Word! So can we come scoop you in like ten minutes?”
“Yeah. But yo, how much for an 8th? I might have to go to an ATM and get the cash.”
“Oh, dude, fuck that, you’re good. It’s kind of a long story but I stole two zips from this kid’s dorm room when I was visiting my boy at UNH last night. So now I’m tripping everybody up and you just snagged the last spot in the whip.”
“Huh. Well thanks, man. Just text me when you’re at my house.”
That was two hours ago?! Shit, man…
Now I’m sitting on top of a big hill laughing at grass and talking about something I can’t quite remember but I’m sure was deep and very insightful…
“Yo…” Matt says, extending a packed bowl to me.
“Thanks man...” I reply.
After three nice rips from Matt’s bowl I’m feeling pretty god damn great. I zone out and look at the sky again until I realize there’s three other people here who have never tripped before. I turn around and see Nate and… Fuck. I think her name is Christine? Or was it Leandra? Who would even mix up those names? Well whatever the fuck her name is, she’s laughing, Nate’s laughing, all is right with the cosmos...
“You guys want some of this?” Matt calls to them.
Nate and whatsherface join us in the rotation. I wasn’t sure how it would be to trip with three people I’ve never met before, but so far so good. It’s mid-September, there’s clear skies, the weather’s perfect, makes me wonder if Chris checked the weather before he stole these…
“What do you guys think? Pretty fuckin’ cool, right?” I ask them.
Everyone nods, laughs, and says “Yeah.”
“The sky looks so fuckin’ crazy right now…” Nate says.
“Dude I know… It’s so weird because like, other people told me you can’t even like… Put this shit
into words. And like… That’s so true…” Matt says.
“Yeah…” Whatsherface says.
“Thank you, Chris…” I mumble to myself, which reminds me…
“Yo, where’d Chris go?” I ask.
“He probably went to take a piss down the trail or something.” Nate suggests.
“Yo, Chris!!” Nate shouts towards the trail at the bottom of the hill.
Silence. Of course the one kid here that I actually know wandered off. On shrooms. In a state park with plenty of rocks to slip on and heights to jump from. Oh fuck me, this is just an urban myth waiting to happen…
Slow footsteps from down the trail snap me out of yet another retarded day dream as Chris emerges from the wilderness and joins us on the hill. Immediately I can tell he’s not having a good time. I don’t wanna ask him if he’s alright and make him think he’s not alright and accidentally send him further into whatever it is he’s caught up in right now.
“What, were you taking a piss?” Nate asks him.
“Nah, I uhh… I dunno… I had to throw up….” Chris replies, aiming his empty stare at the grass in front of him.
“You hot? You want some water, man?” I offer.
I give Chris one of my obnoxiously large 711 water bottles and he drains half of it before he tries to hand it back to me.
“I got another one, dude. You can keep it. Anyone else need water?”
“No thanks dude. I like that you’re like… Prepared, though. You seem like you know what you’re doing with this shit.” Matt says.
“All I know is that these things make me sweat balls.” I reply.
“No shit, huh?” Nate says, wiping his forehead.
“Everything OK, Chris?” Matt asks.
“The ground is like… Snakes…” He mumbles back. He’s got his knees to his chest He’s got his arms crossed on his knees and rests his head on top of them. I don’t think he’s blinked once since he got up to the hill.
“There’s no snakes here, dude. You’re just tripping, everything’s fine. Here, smoke some weed.” Matt says.
“Yo, why’d you take off your shirt? You get puke on it?” Nate asks Chris.
“No, I was just… Wicked fuckin’ hot, dude.” Chris replies. He takes a couple of rips off Matt’s bowl and puts his t-shirt back on over his beater. He’s still got that vacant, confused look on his face as he resumes his catatonic state. Watching Matt study his behavior while tripping too hard to address it in a constructive manner is pretty funny. I try to stifle my laughter which is hard enough for me in real life, let alone on a drug that makes literally everything hilarious.
“Kid’s cracking up over here.” Nate says.
“I don’t even know what the fuck I’m laughing at, ahhahaa..” I lie.
“I don’t know how you’re able to text right now, Kim.” Nate says to Whatsherface.
Kim? Fuck, I was way off. That doesn’t even sound like… Whatever I said her names were earlier…
“Neither do I… There! Finally.” Kim puts her phone back into her pocket and lights a cigarette.
“So would you guys wanna go walk around a little more…” Matt says when suddenly Chris jumps to his feet and walks over to a corner to puke again.
Matt mouths the words “Yikes! Guess that’s a no…” as he puts his weed back into his bag. It catches me off guard and I snap back into “Don’t laugh” mode. I look up to the sky to enjoy the view. As long as no dick shaped clouds float by I should retain my composure.
But of course, my fucking brain has other plans.
Inside my skull a projection reel is pulled down and a movie begins to play. Wait, not a movie, a memory. I’m suddenly in 7th grade again, Catholic school uniform and all. I’m in a packed auditorium, seated in alphabetical order next to Tim Matthews, one of the funniest kids in the class. As I look around at all the creepy decorations I realize I’m at a Lent assembly. Lent is a Catholic tradition in which you pick something you love and deprive yourself of it for 40 days and 40 nights because if Jesus is gonna get crucified nobody’s allowed to be in a good mood. You’re not allowed to eat meat that isn’t fish on Friday either, or it’s seven years bad luck. Our frigid bitch of a teacher Mrs. Carlisle sits behind Tim and I, mostly because of Tim.
We stand up for some reason. A short, fat, goofy looking Chinese 3rd grader with coke bottle glasses comes bobbling out onto the stage. I try and stare straight ahead, but in my peripheral I can see Tim’s face turn towards me, smiling and beet red from suppressing the millions of cruel jokes flowing through his head.
Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look... You suck at not laughing when you start laughing…
As the kid takes the podium and begins reading into the microphone it is revealed that he has a severe speech impediment and stutter. There’s no way the teacher didn’t pick him on purpose, no fucking way. I hear a noise to my right that sounds like someone blowing their nose as Tim finally breaks down into hysterical laughter.
“Don’t even think about it, Harry.” I hear Mrs. Carlisle growl behind me. But Tim has set off a chain reaction, and everyone joins in…
“You got a lighter, dude?” Matt asks, bringing me back to reality.
“Huhuh, oh, yeah, sorry…” I reply.
“Yo, Matt, would you be alright with bringing me home?” Chris asks.
“Are you ready to go home right now, dude?” Nate asks.
“Yeah dude I feel like shit. I’m fuckin’ tripping balls and my stomachs killing me… I didn’t wanna fuck it up for you guys but…”
“It’s OK, I was gonna ask Matt to drop me off at Alyssa’s house soon anyway.” Kim says.
“You guys are all tryna dip, huh?” Matt asks.
“Well if they wanna go you can drop me off at Danny Dank’s. I am not tryna talk to my parents right now, hahaha.” Nate says.
“What about you, Harry?” Matt asks.
“If you’re sure you’re good to drive…” I say as a last resort.
Matt thinks for a moment. “Yeah, I think I can pull it off.”
“Buckle up boys and girls…” Nate says as we walk down the hill.
I am in no condition to talk to my parents right now, so I frantically text Jack from the cramped back seat of Matt’s car, begging him to chill with me until I come down. Then I remember he’s at work right now, and his boss is a real cocksucker about texting on the job. All my other friends are away at college. I could take the subway into the city to see my friend Vince, but holy shit would that be awkward. His dorm room is so cramped, especially when you factor in all the awkward tension that I’ll be bringing with me. And I guarantee his cunty roommate is gonna be there making passive aggressive remarks about my situation. I can just hear him now. With that awful nasally voice of his…
“Your friend stole mushrooms? Why are you even friends with someone like that?”
“You know you’re giving yourself food poisoning when you eat those, right?”
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Watch out! There’s a dragon behind you! No, really!”
“Oh, you’re majoring in English? I was gonna do that but I can already read and write sooo…”
I blink the caricature of Vince’s roommate out of my head angrily. I’d rather my parents actually yell at me for being dumb and doing mushrooms than have Vince’s roommate do it with shitty jokes and what he thinks are thinly-veiled insults. I imagine him clumsily trying to get out of his top bunk bed to take a piss at night and cracking the back of his head open on the corner of a bureau while Vince snores so obnoxiously that it drowns out his cries for help. I guess I’ll just get on the subway and wander around the city until I’m sober enough to face my Mom.
Is that fucked up? Who cares.
For a brief moment I forget about the horrific bus and train ride ahead of me and the eternity of aimless, paranoid, wandering to follow that. Laughing, I look out at the window while the sky is still impressive to me.
“Yo Harry, are we just dropping you off at your house?” Chris asks me.
“Yeah.” I reply.
“Alright, so we’ll drop you off last. Alyssa’s house is the closest, so we can drop Kim off first, then Nate…” Chris trails off as the mushrooms take hold again.
“It’d be quicker to do it Alyssa, Danny, Chris, and this kid, I’m sorry dude I forgot your name.” Nate says.
“Harry.” I reply.
“Uhhh… OK, but Danny and Alyssa aren’t here, so…” Matt says awkwardly.
“DUDE YOU GOT A RED LIGHT...” Nate shouts. Matt screeches on the breaks and we stop halfway into a crosswalk.
“Kim is going to Alyssa’s house, and I’m going to Danny’s house. Remember?” Nate asks.
“Oh yeah, haha. Sorry…” Matt replies.
“Just try not to fuckin’ kill us and we’ll be cool.” Nate says.
We make it to Chris’ house and I hop up in the front seat. I struggle to read the bus schedule off of my phone as the text shifts and warps through my obnoxiously bright screen.
“Dude, I don’t know how he’s gonna go talk to his parents right now. Like I know he was sick or whatever, but I didn’t expect everyone to just dip after like two hours, y’know? I’m still tripping pretty hard. I mean it’s like more controllable now, but I wish we coulda stayed out there and really enjoyed it, y’know?” Matt says.
“Me too, dude. Any time I trip it’s like an all-day thing for me. Who the fuck does mushrooms for like two hours and then goes to hang out with normal people? That’d be so awkward…” I reply.
“So I’m just dropping you off to your parents right now? You’re more than welcome to chill with me, dude. We can go chill at my buddy Mark’s house. He was looking for a bag from me earlier anyway. He trips a lot too so it won’t be weird haha.”
“Yeah, sure, I’m down.”
“Cool. Let me just call Mark…”
Surprisingly, the addition of a phone call does little to improve Matt’s driving performance. Never one to quit, he calls his friend three times before giving up.
“Fuck it, dude. We can just go to his house, it’s Sunday, he’s not working.” Matt says with a surprising level of confidence.
“OK.” I reply.
“Yo, so why do you think Chris had such a bad trip? I could tell dude, it was way more than just his stomach. He smoked way too much of my weed to have a fuckin’ stomach ache.”
“Well it’s hard to say ‘cause I barely know Chris. I mean we’re cool and we talk at work but the only times I’ve ever hung out with him outside of work is to split a bag and smoke a blunt. He might not have been ready for it. If you’re going through shit in your life or you’re depressed the last thing you wanna do is trip off anything. Shrooms especially. My guess would be he underestimated them and tried to fight the trip. That’s like the worst thing you can do.”
“Yeah I was hoping to like, learn something from it. But so much for that… Alright this is his street…”
Mark’s driveway is deserted and he’s yet to return any of Matt’s calls. He calls him again and it doesn’t even ring. I couldn’t give a shit either way. I’m just trying to kill time.
“Fuck, dude. Sorry. I can’t just sit out in his driveway, you know?” Matt says.
“No big deal.” I reply.
“There is one other place we can chill…” Matt says ominously as we pull out of Mark’s driveway.
Matt brings me to a town I had heard many a racist joke about from my uncle. The shrooms make this gloomy neighborhood even drearier as we pass Rottweilers and overgrown lawn after overgrown lawn. We pull into the driveway of what appears to be a haunted house, complete with castle-esque design and a creepy rusted swing set in the backyard that I guarantee can move by itself. Matt waves and smiles up at a girl sitting in the second floor window smoking a cigarette. It’s difficult for me to see, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t wave or smile back. The way she’s smoking that cigarette, glaring down at us with her head on her hand, ashing rather aggressively, gives no indication that she’s happy to see either of us.
“This is my girlfriend’s house, her name’s Heleen. Like Helen and Eileen together.” Matt says as he opens a broken screen door and an arguably broken regular door that uses shoulders instead of keys. The kitchen is dingy and the counter is completely covered in random shit. Nothing edible, though. The shrooms make me feel like I’m exploring an abandoned home in one of the Fallout games. Matt leads me to the living room, which isn’t as dirty or creepy as the kitchen, but equally depressing. There’s furniture but it’s dusty and old, leading me to wonder what tragedy befell the previous tenants that left it in control of two 18 year olds.
We go upstairs, which appears to be under construction. There’s two bedrooms with doors halfway open, both pitch black inside. I’m ready for Matt to say “Hey gang, let’s split up and search for clues.” When he opens the door to his girlfriend’s room.
Oh, fuck, light! I remember light!
I squint as I step into the bedroom. Immediately I’m overwhelmed. There is shit written and drawn all over the walls, which are painted green. Shit is chaotically strewn around a mattress on the floor. It’s like Matt’s girlfriend was possessed and they locked her in here while they called a priest. There’s gotta be at least one Exorcist reference among the hate speech, inside jokes, and lewd doodles that decorate the walls. It’s like she bought a roll of “dive bar men’s room stall” themed wall paper. I can’t help but get caught up in reading them all. I have so many questions. Like who really owns this place and where are they buried?
“Heleen, this is my friend Harry…” Matt says, his tone like that of a man trying to calm an angry pitbull.
“Hey, nice to meet you.” I say awkwardly.
Heleen ignores me and puts her cigarette out. The only chair in the room is the one she’s sitting in. She turns towards Matt, who doesn’t seem to share my nervousness, and kneels down by a bookcase to pack a dirty bong with weed. There’s a window to my left that I’m highly tempted to jump out of. If I die at least I’ll have other ghosts to chill with.
“You fucking tripped without me!?!?!” Heleen shouts abruptly.
Matt jumps and knocks over the bong he was packing. “Heleen!?! What the fuck!?!”
“WHAT THE FUCK!?? I SHOULD BE ASKIN’ YOU THE SAME QUESTION! YOU FUCKIN’ DID MUSHROOMS WITHOUT ME!?”
“Calm the fuck down, Jesus! You’re really gonna do this in front of my friend?”
“WHO’S FUCKIN HOUSE IS THIS, MATT, HUH!? I’LL DO WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT.”
“Calm down, listen to me! I had no fucking idea I was even gonna be doing shrooms today until this morning, when you were at work. Chris Clinton ended up with a bunch of ‘em and he gave me a free 8th if I drove everybody. The car was full, you were at work, I wouldn’t even have money for shrooms anyway…”
“BULLSHIT! AND YOU TOOK ALL THE FUCKIN’ WEED WITH YOU, TOO. I WOULDVE PAID FOR SOME FOR US TO DO, YOU TOLD ME YOU’D DO THEM WITH ME. THEN I GOTTA COME HOME AND FIND OUT YOU’RE OUT THERE HIGH ON FUCKIN’ MUSHROOMS, WITHOUT ME, AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF, YOU WERE FUCKIN DRIVING?!!?”
“Baby, please stop yelling. I’m sorry. Chris has plenty more, I’ll buy some for us and we can do them together, just me and you. It actually kinda sucked, didn’t it Harry?”
“Yeah, it uh… They weren’t that good.” I say nervously.
“Oh, alright! Why didn’t ya just say so?! FUCK YOU, MATT! Ya use my house to sell weed, you come and go whenever the fuck you want, I’m so done with you and your fuckin’ bullshit…”
“Harry can you uh, wait outside for a second?” Matt says.
“Sure. Sorry…” I say, ready to run through the wall and leave my silhouette like a Loony Tunes character.
The door closes, but Heleen makes up for it by screaming even louder at Matt. I’m standing in this poorly lit leftover set piece from Trainspotting on mushrooms listening to a screaming match through a bedroom door. Boy oh boy, does this bring back memories. Me and my sister being shoo’d upstairs, nauseous and afraid, gathering ‘round the bannister to hear Mom and Dad do such classic duets as “YOU SAID YOU WERE OFF THAT SHIT”, “CUNT”, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT”, “SHUT THE FUCK UP BEFORE YOU WAKE THE KIDS”, and “FOR THE LAST FUCKING TIME, I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION FOR ALL OF THOSE!” Their voicebox sound system was so powerful I heard each one crystal clear through my bedroom door with a pillow over each ear. Every now and then the police would do back-up on “YOU’RE GONNA GET OUR FUCKIN’ DOOR KICKED IN DOIN’ THAT. THINK ABOUT THE FUCKIN’ KIDS!”
Thanks mushrooms, I had almost forgotten about all that stuff. Funny how things come full circle, huh?
I rub my eyes and collect myself. You’re making something out of nothing. You gonna cry about that shit forever? How about you move on already? You’re on fuckin’ mushrooms, relax, it’s not even comparable to what…
Then, a beacon of hope.
“WELL THEN IF I’M SO FUCKIN’ RUDE, HOW’S THIS?! GET THAT FUCKIN KID OUTTA MY HOUSE.”
“Holy shit, alright!” Matt says as he shuts the door.
“Dude… I don’t even know what to say… She… Sorry you had to hear that. Let’s go.”
“It’s alright, man…” I lie as I walk down the stairs.
As we get into the kitchen we hear a door swing open upstairs.
“ARE YOU SERIOUSLY GONNA FUCKING DRIVE RIGHT NOW?!?!” Heleen screams
downstairs before slamming the door.
“Just go, dude, I’m sorry…” Matt says as he opens the door.
“I feel so bad that you had to sit through that shit, dude, for real. She’s usually not like that, don’t take it personally. Here…” Matt says as he hands me a dub of weed.
“You sure? I got a $20 I can give you.” I reply.
“Yeah dude, take it.”
“Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
“No problem. We should trip for real sometime. And if you like that bud I got plenty more, take down my number…”
“Alright, word. I’ll definitely be hitting you up then, man. Thanks for ride.”
“No problem man, peace.”
I sit at my desk and listen to music. A letter from my father from prison sits at the far end of my desk, where it's been for weeks now. I don't know why I can't throw it away. I don't know why I can't read it.
"Fuck it..." I whisper, and cover it with a magazine.