We had to get out of Philly. We were at each others throats. I’d thrown a chair at Dave, and to his credit he’d been a gentleman about it. He’s said: now if we’re gonna be together you can’t throw chairs at me. We were living on 16th and Lombard.
We’d been fighting about staying out late, exactly what a person does when they stay out late, who they might be screwing, what they might be drinking, when they stay out all night and stumble home barely able to mount the stairs in the morning. Accusations were flying. And then came the chair. We were both guilty of refusing to hold ourselves accountable to each other, refusing to even admit that was what we wanted. But I was the only one guilty of attempted assault.
We had a friend who was driving north that weekend, so we asked if we could grab a lift. He was leaving imminently. We packed nearly nothing. He picked us up. He was heading to RI with his ex to check out some new art. We’d been invited by a friend at Wesleyan to come up for Homecoming, a campus-wide weekend of drug fueled mayhem.
W had been a year below us in the prep school we went to. He was a pretty interesting guy, made all the more interesting because I didn’t know him that well, at least not outside of choir, which we all did together. He’d invited us up, but we hadn’t planned on going, not until staying where we were became impossible.
We got dropped off in New York I think. Or maybe Stamford. We took the Metro-North to New Haven and W picked us up and took us to Middletown. When we got to campus it was still light out, a pretty fall day, so W gave us the tour.
We saw the football field, complete with game in progress. I’d never seen one before, and I disdained it and the people who were in there watching. We all did. We pushed the mind, not the body, we believed in the mind/body split, and we were squarely in favor of mental energy over physical.
W showed us the House of the Mystical Seven, which had recently burned down. “They didn’t see that coming,” quipped Dave. He and I couldn’t stop laughing, but W was a little insulted.
“I think he has school spirit,” I whispered to Dave. Dave was surprised, this was a novel concept. We decided it must be ironic school spirit. And we kept on laughing. Perhaps we’d dropped on the train and were making asses of ourselves. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Back in W’s room we discussed the options.
“40’s?” suggested another girl from our prep school, who I hadn’t realized was there before.
“I’m in the mood for something classy,” W said, with sophistication.
I heard all this from far away, across a dimensional shift. The drugs were making a mottled mess of my perceptions. I steeled my nerves and looked around.
It was a classic moment of indecision, of being unable to choose one course of action over another. Whether brought on by the bounty of options or by the unsuitability of those options, it’s the moment indecision before a course of action is embarked upon that holds the greatest potentiality. And the kids in the room were taking their sweet time. I was offered a vote on the 40’s v wine referendum, but I passed. I would not be drinking.
I’d made all my choices already, and now I couldn’t get my head out from between my knees. We’d taken substantially more of whatever we were taking, or perhaps just added ecstasy to the lsd. Dave was smoking. Dave voted 40’s. Typical.
W’s room was at the back of the house, with a door that led right out into the backyard. The door was open, the cool fall air breezed in. I had a paranoid sensation that I was tripping way harder than everyone else. Dave assured me that was not so, but he would have assured me it was not so whether it was so or not. Dave was less of a believer in reality than I was. His theory: when reality only serves to isolate you or your situation, or shows your stark, depraved reality in relief to that which is perceived and experienced by the most people: ignore it, reshape it, retell it, remake it. Dave will not let himself be hindered by anything so base as reality.
More people arrived, people I knew from prep school, friend’s of W’s, people I knew less well. L had come up from Philly with her girlfriend D, and they were gonna give us a ride home. It’s always good to know when you’re leaving a party, and we had our escape planned: in L’s car, whenever she wanted to go. We didn’t care, and we had no cash to get back.
A little voice emerged from the back door, a little voice in the back yard. A little face poked in. A little black girl looked in at our over-educated group, sitting patiently as we were, on the verge of depravity.
“You got any bottles and cans?” she asked.
Maybe she was 12 years old, maybe younger, maybe older and just short. The light of the room was harsh on her face and she squinted into it. I squinted into it too, emerging from the darkness between my knees to the harshness of the situation.
She repeated herself a thousand times in my head, and I looked around the room somewhat frantically for these bottles and cans. I didn’t see any. I suddenly thought we should get 40’s so she could come back later and take the bottles.
W sighed. He’d seen this before. Somehow this situation was familiar to him. Somehow he had developed the emotional, mental, and practical tools to deal with the fact that a child was begging at his back door, not for money, which obviously someone in the student housing at Wesleyan on homecoming weekend had in spades, but for bottles and cans. She was asking for our recycling.
Suddenly I felt that my own personal reality had altered far beyond the acceptable realm of altered states. It was not just the drug, I’d set sail upon a sea of oddity and I had to find a way back. Children begging for recycling at back doors, prep school kids feeling classy, unreliable modes of transit, and a the mind-body merging brought on by a head full of acid and a body full of e.
W went to the door. “We don’t have anything, no, go away, I told you before,” he said.
He closed the door. “It was getting a little chilly anyway,” he said.
Dave smoked. “Are you okay?” he asked.
But something is going wrong. I start to feel like I am the something going wrong. Classic, paranoid, misperceptions.
Out in the hall L and her girlfriend D are not getting on super well. I hear car keys flipping in L’s hand, and a vow to get drunk.
Everyone decides now’s the time to get in the car and go buy the liquor.
Downtown Middletown the grown ups go off to buy the liquor and leave us with the soon-to-be ex-girlfriend at a picnic table surrounded by mental patients, unable to cope. We’re surrounded by mental patients and college students and we don’t know who is more insane, but none are sober, and everyone’s got a chip on their shoulder. Middletown has two major industries: the university and the mental hospitals, with some liquor stores and ice cream shops thrown in. D is talking about some book about secrets. Amazonian secrets. Secrets that are the foundation of humanity secrets. The secret war between angels and demons, the players in the game, the unseen signs and symbols, the mason conspiracy. A man comes over and says “you’re not from here,” and yells at us. “We like Yankee boys up here, you don’t look like no Yankee boy,” he yells at Dave. “No, thankfully, I’m not,” says Dave. We go in search of the liquor buying friends, and find them in the ice cream shop.
I buy an ice cream cone and it is cold in the wind and air. I bite in with my front teeth.
Back in W’s room with the wine and the 40‘s the whole thing is going downhill fast. I realize with one last sinking thought that we’re gonna need a new escape plan. Out in the hall L and D are done for, they are breaking up, and Dave and I lose a ride home in the split. L’s not driving home for days. Instead she’s gonna put D on an Amtrak train back to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection and if we want we can go with her. This will not work for us. We are cashless. Dave smokes. I pull myself out of the swirling consciousness that has spilled from my head and heart into the air all around me. I take stock of our surroundings. I don’t want to see the little girl at the door again.
“We are in Connecticut,” I think. “I know people in Connecticut. I’m from New England, I can certainly navigate CT.”
I call my aunt in Westport. I explain we need to get out. I explain we’re coming to her. She says it’s no good, she’s got a dinner party on.
We get a lift to New Haven. We deposit our last money in the Metro North machine. We take the train to Westport. It’s pouring rain. We take a taxi to the house, and walk in the back door like the drowned rats we are. Soaked, tripping our faces off, fresh from a bad party, to a room full of 30 and 40-somethings, dining on gourmet, xanax, and vodka.
We are handed shot glasses that come to a point at the bottom, and invited in for dessert, and dancing.