She was wet with panic. Her eyes screamed of a disaster sewn from whole cloth. Still, her face was kinda calm, her voice measured but shaky.
“So, like, what’s happening to me?”
Her two friends looked on, freaked out and furious. At me. This was my fault, in their view. It was me, after all, who had sold her the acid.
This poor soul, this anonymous sorority citizen, was trembling outside my dorm room door, close to the edge, down by the river so deep it promised to pull her down, down to the cities of sirens whose skeletons are woven from her unceasing thoughtspeak. There was a long pause as I watched her watch this, watched her friends watch me, one of them trying to see past me to the small party unfolding in my room.
Someone behind me exhaled an enormous column of smoke. There was laughter.
The first time I dropped acid, some twenty months before, it was a suicide attempt. I was that ignorant of LSD and how it operates. I was miserable, at the tail end of a childhood that left me full of holes. All I knew was that 1) acid was the preferred means of the hippies who made all that great music, and 2) that it was a powerful and dangerous drug. I figured I would drop two hits in my room at night on a random Tuesday, experience true bliss, and perish. I actually thought I would simply disappear, disassemble into a thousand million shiny particles. I pictured my mother coming to wake me up for school and opening the door onto a silent room awash in winking glitter.
Instead, it was a good ten hours of rollicking terror interrupted by staggered episodes of revelation and deeply reassuring visions. Bliss, not so much. But that endless night was a galaxy, a deep deep gravity well that propelled the arc of my life past erstwhile misery and into the light of living now. It was terrible. It was terrific. That was the deal.
“She’s freaking out, you asshole. What the fuck did you sell her?”
I kept an eye on the patient. Her face was slowly shifting to wonder. The fear in her eyes was separating, getting gauzy, clearing away. A fat disc of pot smoke rotated around me, surrounded the four of us.
“She’s fine,” I assured her friends, keeping my gaze on our traveler.
A lighter flicked in my room, fwik-fwik, and my roommate Scott took another hit. The bong gurgled lustily and loud. I smiled. And the sorority tripper smiled. Then giggled. And laughed out loud, hands to her mouth, eyes wide with serious amusement, almost hysterical.
It was classic — I scored the acid from Toby, a fellow senior who I’d known since seventh grade, but not well. He had blossomed from a bar mitzvah darling into that 1985 suburban white quasi-Rasta tie-died acolyte of the Dead and drugs. Toby’s route was different from mine, but we recognized each other as members of the escapist brotherhood.
He delivered the LSD tabs in a crumpled wad of tinfoil.
That night, resolved to end my time and transmute to speckles, I ate half a tab. Nothing. I noted this in my journal, like Jane Goodall observing my own primate dissolution. I swallowed another half, but nothing. Perhaps Toby got me some fake shit? The little skulls and roses on the tabs looked real enough. I swallowed the last hit whole and figured I would just fall asleep, have some wacky dreams, and die another day.
I kept writing in the journal all that night. And, for some reason, I kept that journal for thirty years. Perhaps this was out of respect for the transmutations that occurred. But ultimately, the journal was a cringe-worthy jumble of repeated words, amateur acid observations, and shaky drawings. It was an external ink flicker reaction to the seismic shifts in my psyche. My pen was merely jittering on the page as my mind was rewritten in an alphabet of thunder. I burned the journal in the backyard thirty years later, some five months ago. The page-smoke smelled like sandalwood.
By 6:00 a.m., I had learned my lesson. Also, I was at once exhausted and wide awake. The LSD had done its thing, for the most part, and the speed mixed in there was slow to fade. The previous ten hours were an immense journey, one that plotted me across my whole life. I saw many things. I saw this — writing this, being forty-seven. I saw it all. The Ghost of Acid Present took my hand, and we floated above my life: “See,” said the soft demon, “see: you will grow older, you will be a teacher, you will have children, you will be safe.” This unfolded in my mirror, in my wallpapered suburban bedroom where I once escaped into Star Wars figures, where I hid in the corner crying, where I had chosen to snuff it all out. And I did.
But as with all such revelations about living, at the end of it all, there you are — back in the muck with new eyes. I was remade. The world was not. That’s the deal. And all the new eyes in the world were not going to change the fact that I was utterly exhausted, afraid, and so hopped-up on shitty speed I thought my chest would explode.
I remember this: making the decision, opening my door and entering my parents’ room. I woke them up with my loud entry.
The last word echoed, trailed off into a twisted tight tunnel of sound. The room was stained with a soft purple dawn light. Time to rise and shine.
“I took something.”
I continued to experiment with acid, putting the finishing touches on the rewiring, and then some. I also started smoking a lot of weed, in part because it was fun, but also because it reminded me of that night, echoed the lessons on a manageable scale.
Not to mention Stonehaven University was awash in drugs of all kinds and the nice men and women who will get them for you. One of them was Carl, a tall, skeletal acid freak too old to be in college. He was obsessed with trading crystals and gems, LSD, and Frank Zappa. He took a real shine to me. He hatched a plan: we would buy a few sheets of acid together from a guy in town. We would sell enough to recoup and eat the rest. I was resistant at first — dealing drugs with felony status was not really my thing — but the math was good.
I took the dealing seriously. LSD was not a party drug for me, it was a life raft. And here was one of my customers, floating away as her Titanic life slipped under the cold waves. She was doing great. She had taken only half a tab. Her friends needed to chill the fuck out and let this unfold.
She stopped laughing and spoke: “Hey, man. You have a cigarette?” I gave her one and watched her pupils not contract as I lit it for her. Fwik.
She turned those saucery eyes to me, smiling as she exhaled the blue smoke. “So, like, is any of this real?” Her friends shifted uncomfortably. Smoke wreathed around us. I took her gaze.
“No,” I said. “Yes,” I said. “That’s the deal.”
Corey S. Pressman is a writer, artist, and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has published poetry, academic works, and short stories. His science fiction stories are often taught in university classes on futurism and science fiction prototyping. Corey’s food story “Three Burgers” was featured in Gastronomica. His memoir, “Growing Up Sideways” will be published in the fall of 2020. To learn more go to www.coreypressman.com.