Shrooms at the Rittenhouse

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An account of my first time taking shrooms with a girlfriend. All seems fine, that is, until nightfall comes...

Late June afternoon. Bags packed with crayons and coloring books. Beyond the windows the Philadelphia skyline looked down at us, their lights like little electric stars. I was ready to learn the Answer to Life and leave behind the needlessness of suffering—a permanent inner peace no matter the adversity.

My girlfriend and I had wanted to trip on the beach or in the woods, but due to COVID we decided to stay in Philly. Still, our 600 sq. foot room wasn’t bad. King-sized bed. King-sized flatscreen. Unobstructed view of downtown. It was nice. What stood out most was a black oil painting above the sofa. Asemic calligraphy is the best way to describe it—destructive yet graceful. Like graffiti on a soul. It reminded me of Angkor Wat and to this day I’m not sure why.

We sat at the table unpacking what we bought from Butcher Bar. A Royale with Cheese and fries for the girl. Sixteen-ounce ribeye with buttered potatoes for me. Mason-jar cocktails and cornbread for the both of us. Next to our food in a Ziploc lay the seven grams of Blue Meanies my girlfriend bought. The Answer. We divided an eighth between us and ate it with our food. I expected a stench or a horrible taste, but there was nothing.

“Chew till it’s like powder,” she said. “It’s more potent that way.”

I followed her advice. If I was going to pop my psychedelic cherry, I wanted to do it right. All in, no regrets.

I waited. And waited. And waited. Forty-five minutes passed yet nothing happened. I didn’t get it; most people on YouTube and Reddit said it’d take around thirty for the high to kick in. Were these duds? Were shrooms just an overrated hallucinogen? Did Joe Rogan lie to me? I told the girlfriend about my predicament and she gave me a half-gram stem from her stash. “This might be a bit much but it’s up to you,” she said. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

It’s the little things like this that make or break a relationship.

We flipped on Aquaman (2018) to pass the time. Maybe this was all this trip was going to be, nothing more than an empty feel-good party. The giddy taste of passionfruit and vodka swam through me, no permanent lesson to learn. Just transient hedonism. I excused myself to take a piss.

As I went, the gold-beige bubbles decorating the bathroom’s wallpaper absorbed me. I was messing around at first, pretending to see a monk that wasn’t there. But then something strange happened: the bubble shifted like syrup into a faint outline of the fat smiling Buddha. A placebo perhaps? I let Krishna enter my mind, and at once the bubbles shifted around to take that god’s form. Then Christ. A synagogue. Angkor Wat. Once I finished my business I told my girlfriend what I experienced. She laughed.

I sat back down. I raised my arms in front of me. Yellow, translucent fat waterfalled beneath my limbs as its little hairs swayed and motion-blurred like grass lagging in the wind. It reminded me of the atomic veterans who saw their own skeletons as they marched toward the explosion. It’s one thing to know how the body works. It’s another thing to see it. All life is no less a machine than a computer, it’s only a matter of different parts.

At last...the journey I’d been waiting for!

One headtrip transitioned into another as the fat melted away, and was replaced by Samoan-esque tattoos. The tribal art floated in the air and would peel on or off my skin depending on where I positioned my arms. My girlfriend laughed. I must’ve looked like a lunatic.

Things got intense and hot, so I stripped naked and lay fetal-positioned in bed to watch the rest of the film. The girl joined me, only taking off her shoes, socks and pants. The black oil painting across from us fluttered like smoke on a winter day. Inside the thousands of skyscraper windows outside our own were people with personalities and experiences; I was grateful to be a part of the colorful, vast garden of humanity. The Answer was coming.

Across the street was a brown apartment building. Inside one of its windows sparks flew, not unlike what you’d see when microwaving metal. Pop pop pop. The faint hint of smoke. Was a disaster on the horizon? A morbid, fucked-up part of me wanted that to be the case. To see a tower slowly devoured by flames while on shrooms, talk about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Very Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Death, suffering, the human condition when all hope is lost, so much to learn. Tragic yes, but it would perhaps teach the most valuable lesson of my life. Fortunately and unfortunately the sparks produced no fire. I turned my attention back to Aquaman (2018).

The movie’s visual effects brightened and intensified. Tremendously so. The ecstasy of the colors was too much to handle. Soon a bliss swelled up from inside of my chest, crawled up my torso, and exploded out the top of my skull like an H-bomb—but instead of blinding light and an ungodly amount of pain there was euphoria, all-encompassing and seemingly forever. I was one with the Earth.

I laughed and I laughed and I couldn’t stop laughing. The crazier I thought I sounded, the more I laughed, and the more I laughed the more my girlfriend laughed. I couldn’t help it...it felt so good. I sensed the Answer resided in this moment, but I couldn’t concentrate, not while I rolled around like the Joker. I needed to meditate.

Once the laughter subsided I closed my eyes and dove deep into the phosphenes, floating down grand cathedral halls the color of Chinese fingertraps—the Tiffany glass made up of alien fractals. Yes, I was on the cusp of finding something. Love, success, happiness, courage, it was there at the bottom of the halls. I only had to descend a little further to know a beauty which drives ordinary people mad when they see the face of god. Yes, yes...it’s there. Take me.

I got so overwhelmed I opened my eyes. The grey sky hid the sun. I had to go back and find the Answer posthaste—the coming night was already sending bad vibes. I closed my eyes, but the colors of the fingertrap halls grew faded. It wasn’t long before the horrid odor of dirt and unwashed armpits crept down my throat like rotten flesh. I wanted to gag.

“Told you it tastes bad,” my girlfriend said.

I chugged water from one of the hotel’s plastic bottles. My girl mentioned how the thirst came from the rewiring of the brain’s chemistry caused by psychedelics. The word ‘chemistry’ made me think of ethanol, hydrochloric acid, bleach. Chemicals in everything. I stopped drinking.

I needed to go back. I was so close. I looked outside, hoping the view would calm me.

Against the greying clouds, the buildings stood as a memorial to a dead and forgotten species. Philadelphia slowly lost itself in darkness, as if it were being lowered in a coffin. Dreams, ambitions, love, humanity, happiness—they meant nothing now. My girlfriend and I were the only ones left on this planet, this godless desert under a wasteland sky. Oed’ und leer das Meer...the Unreal City. A total blackout without one glint of light, only a crashing which never ends. An extreme gravity.

It’s one thing to know and talk about death. It’s another thing to feel its infinite emptiness.

I needed to write something, if only to keep myself from spiraling into despair. Though my limbs were as dead as a fish out of water, I managed to grab a sketchbook and two colored pencils from the bag on the ground.

As I jotted my thoughts down I put on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” just to keep things silly. Between the writing and Guy Fieri, my spirits picked up if only a little. Still, I asked my girlfriend to reassure me that this psychosis was temporary.

“It is,” she said.

“What if I become one of the shopping cart crazies?” I asked. “Who am I without my mind?”

“That’s an offensive stereotype.”

“I know, but what if? I should’ve never had these things.”

She laughed. “You’ll be fine. Question though, why did you want to take shrooms?”

“The Answer,” I said. “Big A.”

“What answer?”

“To...I don’t know. I’m tired of living at home. Tired of my job. Tired of people’s wants controlling my every action so...freedom I guess. The Answer to freedom.”

She shook her head. “There is no ‘big A’ answer. But if you want to be free, be present and grateful in the moment.”

Been there, tried that. Never made a huge difference in my life. There was something else, I had been so close.

Minute after agonizing minute—another tooth torturously being pulled. My mouth went dry from breathing through it, yet I still tasted the dirt I tried not to smell. Even with the TV on it felt too quiet, as if any minute now death would come unannounced and drag our sorry asses to hell. I had always frowned at ignorance before but that old cliché’s right: it really is bliss.

I just wanted it to be over. I apologized, though to no one in particular, for my taking this drug.

My girlfriend leaned into this existential dread—"for your own good,” she later claimed. She talked about evolution, sociology, cultures, any subject that dismissed individuality. How much freedom can one really have when billions of years shaped and controlled us to where we are right now?

“I know I shouldn’t say this,” she said. “But even I control you.”

What?

“That’s right. Sure I smile and giggle, I let you live in your little Truman Show bubble, but that’s only to hide my intentions. I want to control you, to financially and socially dominate you. And I think you like it. I shouldn’t have said this. I knew I’d scare you...I see the look of fear on your face.”

However what she saw wasn’t fear. It was hate, raw and uncut. Here I was with the one person in the world who I believed I could truly confide in, and I find out she’s been using me?

“Shit, are we about to have that talk?” she said.

“I think so,” I said.

“Probably for the best. You and I had a good run.”

I wanted to sink into the bed the way Mark Renton sank into Mother Superior’s carpet in Trainspotting (1996) when he OD’ed. I wanted to comfort myself away from the dread, from the world saying, “Fuck you for thinking you’re more special than dirt.” Ungrounded by anything or anyone I could care for, I floated directionless in a state of chaos. Was this the ego-death so many talked about? All alone in a group.

But I didn’t want to break up with her. She was the best thing I never knew I needed. I loved all her quirks and traits: how she’d talk circles around me when it came to politics, how I’d always have to catch up with her because she walked so damn fast, from the TV shows she’d “stan” to a whole host of other things.

The hallucinations, the passing time, the night, they became less scary as I looked into her eyes. I just wanted to be in the now with her. I told her that although our relationship was less than perfect, it was too good to let go.

The comedown from the high was nothing special, mainly just a shower and struggling to sleep. I did try to read Ulysses, thinking that it would make more sense when I’m high than when I’m sober, but I didn’t understand much of it.

And...that was it. The next morning we checked out of the hotel, glad about our experience. A few weeks afterwards, we broke up. I miss her. I saw us building a life together, taking on the world type shit. She was an answer to all my problems.

An answer...

 

END

 

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Submitted: November 02, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Marquise Williams. All rights reserved.

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