Pioneers pt. 4
Eric stood in front of the mirror in wearing a dark blue three piece suit. He dipped his comb in a glass of water and slicked his hair back giving it teenage mafia don appeal. I watched the whole thing oblivious to his intent. The stripped tie around his neck was alternately cinched tight then loosened as he struggled to find the right look.
“Funeral?” I asked.
“Booze.” He replied with a scheming grin.
When you are underage and you don’t have fake identification your options for getting alcohol are limited. You can pay someone to get it for you and we have used bums before but it is always a tremendous headache. Anyone coherent is going to rip you off and the ones who are out of it need their hands held otherwise they will forget what they are doing.
Or, you can buy it yourself in which case you aren’t going to get a case of Rainier from the grocery store. You need to find a run-down bodega, owned and operated by immigrants who will let you purchase one of two six packs of their oldest dustiest import brew for a premium price. Personally, I’d rather drink bong water.
Eric had decided on a third way. Washington State only allows liquor purchases in state owned retail establishments. They always card and no one under twenty one would even think about trying them. Eric though had huge balls.
We waited until 5:45 then walked to the store. Eric carried the leather briefcase his father bought him for graduation. It was completely empty but added perfectly to the illusion. Along the way we practiced faces, serious or angry or distracted. I watched from the sidewalk as he confidently entered the store went to the shelf and took what he needed as if he had been there a hundred times before.
A bottle of vodka in his hand and a bottle of whisky tucked under his arm, he strode about like a man with a purpose. Periodically he would raise his wrist to look at his watch showing off the brown leather case he clutched while he waited in line for his turn at the register. He stood before the girl in her orange vest and acted. His demeanor said, I’m busy don’t bother me, I’ve had long week at work and now I’m going home to an empty house where I will drink myself to oblivion while I relive all the bad choices I’ve made in my life. We developed an entire back story.
She gave him a quizzical glance but even though she had just carded a bald man with a greying beard she let Eric pass. He handed her the money. She gave him his change. He thanked her in the monotonous perfunctory way a person does when they’re polite but not enthusiastic.
Eric was so into character that he hardly spoke to me until we were far out of view. His head hung like the beaten man he portrayed. His jaw was clenched and his gaze cavernous.
“Are you gonna snap out of this?” I asked.
“I don’t ever want to do that again.” He gave out a deep groan and doubled over.
“What? Buy from a liquor store? It was a brilliant move.”
“Pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t care about the alcohol.” He handed me his briefcase and clutched the bottles tight to his chest. “I felt like I was outside myself and inside this vision of a person I’d created. I think that’s how people lose their minds. They get lost in make believe.”
“That’s some deep stuff. Let’s get drunk. You earned it.”
We were all smiles after that. In fact we were exuberant, especially Eric. Getting away with it is the sweetest reward.
Eventually, I’d grow to resent alcohol. It’s such a stupid drug. It smells bad and it makes you smell bad too. It tastes like poison and if you do too much you lose total control and make an ass out of yourself. It can chase you down dark rabbit holes. It can make you feel like crap. When you’re young none of that matters and no amount of lecturing will make you shy away. It’s a way to get out and get lost for a moment. That’s what everybody wants and everybody needs.
We had the whole dorm to ourselves on the weekends. Freshmen always go home. Eric didn’t see much of his folks when he lived with them so there was no reason to sleep in his old bed. We sacrificed every quarter we had to the vending machine for mixer and acted like juveniles. We played music loud with the door open, smoked in the hallway, and rode skate boards inside. Best time ever.
When I woke up my mouth tasted sour and my brain throbbed like a second degree burn. Gina was standing in the middle of the room with a look of amused disgust. Eric puked in the trash can the night before and was deep in a coma. Gina jumped on him once, twice, three times until he rolled over.
“What the hell happened here?” She asked.
“Some Seagram’s Seven and Vodka.” I replied.
I cracked open a can of Coke, took a big swig and then in the empty space filled it up with whisky swirling the contents gently to mix.
Gina pinched Eric’s cheeks firmly and said in a sweet little girl voice, “You look like shit.”
Eric pushed her away. “I’ll kill you. How did you get in here?”
“Your door was open. I have a surprise for the three of us, but I don’t know if you two can handle it.” Then she held out her hand and inside of it was a tightly folded piece of tinfoil.
“What’s that?” I asked. My curiosity was piqued.
“Just the strongest, purest LSD in town.”
Eric sat straight up. We had talked about tripping for years. We’d read the literature. Eric was somewhat sure he could make it in chemistry lab if only he had some privacy. Gina had done it but we were virgins.
“I’m in.” Eric held his hand out.
“I am not getting high in this hellhole.” Gina closed her fist. “You guys need to clean up first. I want this place to be spotless. Beds made. Both of you need to take showers and put on fresh clothes. And…,” she snatched the drink from my hand. “No more drinking.”
Eric and I snapped out of it quickly. We had a mission to fulfill. Gina played disc jockey while we folded, straightened, and wiped down. She made us eat cold pop tarts because we shouldn’t trip on an empty stomach. Then when we had met all of her demands the three of us sat on Eric’s bed and she unwrapped her magical gift.
Slowly, Gina pulled at the corners of the foil until it spread open revealing three red windowpane squares. We each took one and put it in our mouths.
“Now what?” Eric asked.
“Now we get out of here.” Gina stood up and pulled us to our feet.
“But, we just cleaned the place. Aren’t we going to trip here?” I asked.
“Later.” Gina said. “We’re going to be high for at least the next ten hours. Right now I want to go to the movies. You two are going to treat me. I want to see 1984 on acid. It’s playing in about an hour. We should be just starting to fry when it starts.”
You can’t argue with logic. The three of us crossed the campus in the crisp November air. The conversation was light, quips about the night before interspersed with exclamations of excitement about the day ahead. We were explorers on a journey full of anticipation.
I first started to feel it while waiting outside the theater. A woman in a red coat stood in front of us in line. It was the brightest red I had ever seen. It filled my senses. A giddy murmur swelled in my stomach. I looked to the other two to see if they felt what I was feeling and the warmth from their beaming sunny faces made me squint.
I lost the point of the movie almost as soon as it started. I’d read the book and knew it well but I couldn’t recognize it on the screen before me. I was too busy listening to the hum of the walls as they took deep breaths in and out. The heads of the crowd in front of me bobbed like flotsam in a tidal basin.
I was completely lost in my own thoughts when Gina gave out a loud guffaw that she tried to stifle by putting her hands across her face. It startled both Eric and I into momentary clarity. I thought she had it under control but then she stood up and ran out of the theater. I didn’t know what to do at first. Eric grabbed me and we went out to find her.
We found her outside on the sidewalk laughing hysterically. I think Eric asked her if she was okay but all she could say was “Holy shit” over and over again. Before long all three of us began giggling. Tears ran down our faces. Whatever it was must have been the funniest thing ever.
When we got our heads together we decided to head back. Red square was vast and cavernous. Shadows danced across bricks in the dark night. Gina thought the statue of George Washington had turned into Beelzebub and I saw it too. Horns grew out of his head and a spade shaped tail swished in the air behind him. We all snickered about U of Devil U until passing strangers made us self-conscious and we moved on.
Walking through the Quad it started to rain ever so lightly. I saw the droplets fall as pastel colored umbrellas. They disintegrated into colored puddles creating a giant mosaic floor. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I wish I could have taken a picture if only it was real.
When we got back a dance was taking place on the ground floor between the two dorm towers. Hundreds of preppy kids mingled about to the sounds of Duran Duran and Adam Ant. We let ourselves get swept up in the crowd of button down collar boys and sweater girls gyrating in syncopation.
Eventually, it got too hot and claustrophobic. The three of us decided to make a run for it but were stopped at the elevator by a muppet faced girl named Andrea. She had a class with Eric and might have been trying to pick him up but the look on his face was sheer terror. Gina and I huddled by the elevator waiting for her to swallow Eric whole with her giant felt mouth.
After a brief conversation Eric walked over to us and asked us to follow him to her room in the north tower. Apparently, she wanted to get us high or more precisely she wanted to get Eric high but we were a package and he was too polite to say no and she was too accommodating.
“You gotta do this for me.” He begged us.
“I don’t know. I’m getting a serious muppet vibe from her. I’m afraid I’m going to freak out. Besides we have our own weed.” I was dead set against it.
“Don’t say that because I will see it too and I think she’s alright. If I get that image stuck in my head it will always be there. We don’t have to stay long. Besides, you already have Gina. I need to get myself a hook up. Please.”
I hadn’t told Eric about me and Gina or the kiss but he was a perceptive fellow and I don’t think I was very good at hiding my feelings. Gina, who no doubt assumed I blabbed to Eric about everything, elbowed me in the ribs.
“Sure.” She said. “Let’s go.”
She squeezed my hand tight as she dragged me behind her. Only when I let out a howl did she ease up on her grip.
Andrea’s room was hippies’ dream, tie dyed bed sheets and Escher prints. The cornice of the wall above her bed was inhabited by dancing Grateful Dead teddy bears. It looked like our room but reversed and fifteen years ago. She put on some jammy space rock and passed around joint of B minus ganja. Eric, Gina, and Andrea were talking to each other but I couldn’t understand a thing they said. I sat there nodding my head to a cacophony of noodling guitars and parrot squawks. I began to lose myself in the never ending staircase leading to nowhere.
I don’t know how long we were there but it seemed like forever and I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up in the middle of the room and announced. “I need to go.” With that I left. I had peaked.
I thought Eric and Gina would be mad at me for bailing on them like that but soon enough they followed me out into the hall.
“I’m sorry. I was losing my mind in there.”
“Thank God.” Eric said.
“I was really freaking out.” Gina added.
We went back to our room as quickly as we could. As soon as the door closed behind me I relaxed. We were back on the right course. It seems everyone wanted to leave but no one knew how to extricate themselves.
The next few hours were spent acting like genuine idiots staring off into space and looking for patterns on counter tops. And, we got back to laughing which we did until the early morning hours.
When Eric fell asleep I assumed Gina and I would do the same but instead she led me to the stairwell. I was still pretty high and the neon light accentuated that so I was not expecting it when she started to make out with me. Her aggressiveness was a revelation as hands began to explore beneath loosening clothes.
I hadn’t thought about how far we were going to take this. I let her lead. I was just happy to be there. My hands reached up to her breasts and she pushed me away. I thought I’d gone as far as we were going to go.
Then she said to me. “I’ve never done it on acid. I’ve always wanted to.”
A bomb went off in my head. I’d never had sex on acid or any other way. Doing it was all I ever thought about. The only word my addled mind could form was yes and it repeated it over and over again rolling like thunder.
I was frozen as I watched her take off her jeans and white undies with little red flowers. I marveled at her half nakedness. Then she undressed me pulling my pants to the floor and perched herself against the metal railing.
I was awkward and clumsy but she guided me. Instantly I knew what this was for, why we are all so driven by madness to copulate because if I could have frozen time I would have stayed in that moment forever. She wrapped one leg around backside while we rocked back and forth on a precarious edge.
Gina clung to me tightly and buried her head deep in the nape of my neck. Her rhythmic grunting hot breath made an animal of me. I struggled for firm footing. I was trying to carry her as I climbed primitive, primate.
When the end came it was sudden as a rushing wind. The gust had robbed me of all my strength. I was made helpless by what we had become and the vulnerability had evoked in me a gentleness I had never guessed at.
Gina was so tender afterwards. We dressed in silence but continued touching throughout, communicating in an unheard language, fingers to fingers, fingers to skin. Once back in my bed I was the little spoon again. I liked being the little spoon.
She got up early to leave and woke me briefly. We were alone. She whispered to me. “Don’t tell Eric and don’t get weird.” Then she kissed me and I drifted back to sleep. When I finally awoke properly I could tell by the light in the sky it was late afternoon. Eric was doing homework at his desk. I wondered, to myself, if I had dreamt the whole thing.