Friday, February 29, 2008


[Here's another piece of prose from the last millennium.]


The first time was in a nightclub. Chris held the three small tabs of pink gel on his palm for Doug and me to look at. We each took one, washing them down with a swig of beer. The metal dance floor in front of the stage was slick and cold despite the summer heat. When the band came on, Doug danced in the back, while the stage pressed me and Chris against the people behind us. The fingers on the frets played all of my strings.

The second time was at another concert, at a fairground by the beach. Dave and I had spent the night with my brother twenty miles up the coast; I had drunk too much beer and was sick. Still, on our way to the concert, I took the dose I had brought along. We strolled across the dusty parking lot and went through the gates — more dust, yellow paint on Dave's loose all-white outfit. While the band played, seagulls flew over the stage like lost words; I spoke them, joined them as they veered above the waves.

On our way back to my brother's apartment that evening, we hitched a ride in a pickup truck. Afraid to sit in the back, I chose the passenger seat in the cab, leaving Dave to feel the wind. Only as we were on the highway heading straight west into the setting sun burning orange over the ocean into my eyes did I think that I would have to talk to the driver. My mangled syntax must have clued him in: as he dropped us off he said, "Have a nice trip."

My brother wasn't home. We sat on the lawn outside his apartment complex, waiting. Dave made an ironic remark about not having his burgling tools; as I did not know how locks work, he began to draw pictures on paper from his notebook, explaining keys first and then how to trick a lock into thinking the burglar's various metal strips were really the key to open it. Suddenly a police car was circling into the parking lot. "This is not the best place to be talking about burglary!" Dave noticed. I laughed: "Especially while tripping!" "You're tripping?" Dave exclaimed. "Then we definitely better not sit here any longer."

Across the highway was a restaurant with great milkshakes which I'd had before with my brother. The cold chocolate iced my mouth; I only spoke to say, "I'll try to call my brother again now." Finally he came home, and we headed back over the highway for the night.

Eric and his friend Cran came to the café and asked for some of my liquid for a trip in the hills under the full moon. My shift was just ending, so I went home with them, decided to join them. We took the drops and began to head toward the foothills behind town, me tying on a bandana, Eric tying his jeans shirt around his waist. "Don't you want to leave that in my room?" I asked; "No," he laughed, "you never know when you might need a good heavy shirt."

The road into the hills branched at the top of a steep climb; we split the difference and headed through the long yellow summer grass. In a valley on the other side were the dry bones of mammoths; lifted, they became intricate old branches, far from any tree. Up another hill, we saw a tree the branches might have come from; its canopy enclosed us; it held us as we climbed. Jumping down, our bodies left trails in our eyes. Further up the hill, a narrow asphalt road was giving off the day's heat into the night. The untraveled way surrounded us as we lay on the warmth, looking at the moon and stars, listening to the heat turn into voices, and then a couple walked up with their dog, she in a mini-skirt, he bare-chested. "Beautiful evening," he said. "Yeah," was all we could answer, sitting up.

The road curved around the crest of the hill, but we went straight over the crest to a steep descent on the other side, the grass brushing our legs, the footing unsure. When I met the road again, ahead of the others, a log by the side of the road offered me a place to sit for a moment to wait for Eric and Cran.

Something moved on my finger. I brushed it away, hot iron burned my hand, sent me into the air, springing across the narrow road, Eric and Cran stock still as they heard me scream, "The buzzing! The buzzing!"

The swarm around my ears chased me back down that steep road we'd come up before. "The buzzing! The buzzing!" — and Eric had caught me, enclosed me in his tight embrace, "There's no buzzing! There's no ..." — he had heard the swarm and as I broke from his loosening grip Cran cried, "It's in his hair!" — coming up behind me to tear off my bandana and set free the wasp trapped behind my ear.

The adrenalin was gone, though my heart was still beating. "I thought I had finally seen someone freak out on acid," said Cran. "Do you want my shirt?" asked Eric.

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