Stopping for awhile should be easy. I can do this. Sobriety will make studying for finals easier. It will make my term papers coherent. My life easier. So why do I have four books open, two half-written papers and one incomplete assignment with only my name filled out? Because it's hard. It's hard to concentrate. I keep thinking about being numb. How all the noise just fades. But mostly quitting is hard because my friends snort coke, use heroin and pop pills in front of me while I pretend to study. An endless buzz of laughter, music and the schizophrenic, madness of group conversation rolls over me like waves.
"Why are you pacing around, dude?" asks Jason.
And I catch myself. The kitchen window blinds do not need adjustment again. I do not need to stretch again. Don't touch all your books again. I look at Jason and shrug. Then I adjust the blinds, stretch my aching shoulders and sit down. I move all the books around. Then I tear a piece of paper into tiny squares. But I make no move to study.
I've been eating a lot of acid. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes not. I keep forgetting where I am. But the couch is real. Kym is sitting on it next to Dev watching MTV. My vision is unfocused. It mixes with electric light and the spirit world. The brown, fractal sheets of the couch expand geometrically. Voltaic ripples illuminate Egyptian hieroglyphics in the liquid. Liquid? No, the couch is solid. I blink. Change. Flux. Chaos. This part is real. I sigh and look down at my physics assignment on diffraction. I've read the same problem over and over again. I yawn again and rub my face. Concentrate! Maybe I should just finish the paper on polymers? But I need to read this book. I look at the text. It's the same page I have read over and over and over again.
I look up at Dev who has joined me at the table.
"Yeah?" I answer while absentmindedly touching all the books again.
"Can I have some of your hair?"
"What? No! Go away!" I say looking down at my astronomy notes. There is some good stuff here. Stuff I can use. But most of my notes are drawings of dogs piloting UFOs. They're assaulting the Hubble Space Telescope. I need Vince. Maybe I'll call him because Vince knows a lot about phys-
"Very wise" says Dev in her eerie, wind-up doll voice. "Never give a shaman your hair. Or fingernails!"
"But I thought you were a witch" says Jason opening the refrigerator. He pulls out Kym's juice, looks over to see if she's watching and takes three huge swigs and puts it back.
"Yeah, Khadja has that old witchy blood in her" says Dev. "But not me. I just feel everything. And I do mean everything. Like I know what you are doing right now, Lover."
"Babe, what are we doing tonight?" asks Kym while lighting another cigarette. The spark flash hangs in the air between us like Creation. I stare far too long. Kym catches me staring, stretches two fingers like a 'V' in front of her mouth and waggles her tongue. When I look up, she laughs.
"I don't know!" I shout exasperated. "Kym I have to finish this-"
"You guys should stop by Slim's" interrupts Jason. "I can leave passes at the door. You gotta see this fucking band! Lead singer has a cello. He can't play it. Just makes awful sounds. But the bass is jazz and the drummer is that guy from Limbomaniacs."
"Oh!" yells Kym suddenly bolting up from the couch and dashing to the TV. She drops to her knees before the glowing screen. Transfixed, Kym's face is inches away from the TV as the video for Tainted Love starts. Black smears around her eyes, wet raspberry lips and white, porcelain makeup in the glow of MTV. My girlfriend looks like a flickering, black and white movie image.
"All of you!" she commands. "Shut it!"
"What's that all about?" asks Jason.
"Everytime a video comes on from a song Khadja liked as a kid, she has to watch it" Dev responds. "They didn't have cable growing up. I don't think they even watched TV. That's weird, right? Me and sister were raised by a TV. We called him Steve."
"Fuckin' foreigners, eh?" says Jason shaking his head in disgust.
"Kym's from Danville" says Dev. "US of motherfucking A. America, bitch. Flags, hot dogs, baseball-"
And they won't shut up. On and on about nothing while I struggle to read a paragraph or get a thought down...I close my eyes. Think! Embed the formulas in your brain...But I can hear them. They don't talk. They YELL. Every single one of my fucking friends is a motherfucking shouter! And the TV is on! Blackhole Sun by Soundgarden. And the stereo is on! Cure's Disintegration! It's maddening...All of this sound is crushing me.
"TV makes you stupid" says Jason.
"I like it" chirps Dev.
"Hey, where's my credit card?" demands Kym. "I need to get some cash."
"It's on the mirror, cokehead."
"Oh my fucking god!" roars Jason. "I got it! This Mickey's cap puzzle has been driving me nuts! It's 'Shoot for the stars!'"
"Lemme see" questions Dev. "Yeah. Probably."
"That was awesome!" Kym declares. "Now I have to see their Sex Dwarf video!"
"I don't think they can show it on MTV. It has tits. And dwarf butts."
"Hey let me see that puzzle! Oh Jase, you are stupid aren't you? The answer is is so simple a drunk, frat boy could figure it out."
My mind is captured by their conversational anarchy. So LOUD. I sit at the table, pick up my books and try and find where I left off...should I write a paper? Read? Finish the astronomy?
"Lover" sing songs Dev. "Do you want me to wake you up? Or do you want to be here?"
"What'd you do without TV?" continues Jason.
"Calculus" says Kym.
"Oh and how'd that work out for you?" laughs Jason. "Get me a double latte with skim organic goat milk."
"Lover?" asks the Priestess in a new voice.
I close my eyes. I can do this. I can focus. I can-
And everything changes. I remember this sensation as a child. All the voices spinning around me, all the faces and the furniture and insects crying out in garbled, unison. Perplexed doctors, angry teachers, terrible report cards. I can smell mom's Avon soap as I struggle to find my way home. Wait, which home? Do I have a home? And the voices have changed. Happiness to sorrow. Sorrow to euphoria. Voices, voices, voices pushing me into the cold embrace of the earth. They are coming. They cover my face. Tiny moths licking my eyes, filling my nose, mouth and ears. Soft, powdery wings drowning me. Yet they love me as they push me into the dirt. They fill me with their human kindness. If just for a moment, I am alive.
"I need it for her pre-school. Shit! How are we going to pay the mortgage this month?"
"Hi! What's for dinner?"
"Daddy! Look at my painting!"
"Catalytic converter? How are we going to pay for that? What does it do anyways?"
"Close the door. Have a seat. Now this is the third time you've been late this month..."
Make it stop. Make it stop, makeitstop, makeitstopmakeitstop, makjesystd, $%$^&*($!#(&%%&^#)*(*#&^@&%&@%*&@^*&^(*@&)(&#&^*&^@(*&@)(*_!*!_(*(&@^&*&^!%!(!&*!(&(*@^*&^*@^*&@&(#*&#&*%^&&$!#$%&*^*&)*()&@^%*(!&(&)
A field. Green grass topped with laughing, red flowers for miles. Before me is a house. Yellow paint flakes off rotten wooden beams. The roof sags in on one side. A parrot flaps it's wings, cries out and wheels upwards into a hostile, blue sky.
"You ready?" asks the old guy.
I look at him. We're sitting on cheap plastic chairs. An enormous, fiber optic wire spool lays between us like a doll's table. He is older. Black suit, red tie and a black overcoat. Pale skin, a salt and pepper goatee, half shaved cheeks and bruised slugs beneath his eyes. Puffy, swollen and unhealthy looking.
"For what?" I ask.
"I gotta give you the low down" he scowls. "You're here, man."
He wipes his nose, looks briefly at me and then away. He's always moving. Twitching. Messing with shit. His hands wander around like migrating beasts. He vibrates one knee maniacally while the other foot taps to an unseen rhythm.
"But where am-"
"Ok!" he interrupts. "So the water pump is like one at Eagle Lake. The generator is self explanatory." He walks around the house and I follow. I watch him crack his neck and have the insane urge to copy.
"Don't leave the porch lights unless you like bugs" he continues as he reaches out, rips a stalk of grass and starts to tear it into tiny pieces. "Toilets on a cesspit so don't dump anything like-"
"Oh my god!" I yell as the dog approaches us.
He's majestic. A shaggy black and brown, fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bear of a dog that stands man high. Bugger has to weigh at least 150 pounds. He looks at me with a serious face, sits down and watches. And I feel like crying.
"Mookie?" I ask him softly. His ears pop up, his tongue comes out and he runs to me. I bend down and laugh as he licks my face. "Mookie!"
"Yeah Mookie's here" says the man with a smile.
Mookie sniffs the man's hand, licks it and jumps on me whining. He tries to curl up on my belly but he outgrew this spot long ago. Mookie. My dog. My very dead dog. My best friend from days long forgotten. He jumps and circles me. Always so conscious of his enormous size, he jumps straight up which lets me grab him midair for a hug. After he squirms away, I look for a stick to throw. The man clears his throat.
"There is an old well in the field" drones the man as I shove my hand into Mookie's mouth, grab his lower jaw and shake his enormous head back and forth. "Nothing around the well" continues the man. "It's just a hole. But a very deep and dangerous hole. Don't let Mooks over there."
"Sure" I agree rubbing Mookie's ears and headbutting him while he licks my face. Doggie breath. The smell reminds me of being safe. Laying in bed with a huge, stinky dog without racing thoughts of fear or sorrow. I look up at the man but he is gone. I look down at Mookie but he is gone. There is nothing here but the wind slithering through the grass and strangling softly to death at my feet.
I walk forward and yell, "MOOKIE! HERE BOY!"
And I hear him bark. Distant. Echoing. But I have eaten a lot of acid and sometimes perception can be an issue. I wander into the field. The grass is chest high and sways like the sea. I follow the sounds, treading carefully. And there it is. The shattered remains of a well. The rocks have long fallen away and lay scattered around the hole like teeth. The gaping mouth screams soundlessly at the vigilant sky. Now the sun is setting. Slivers of a vibrant blue bleed to purple as the Universe reveals itself. Owls call to the approaching night and an eight-pointed star rises in the East. I peer inside the hole but see nothing. The Darkness is complete.
"Mookie! Don't worry buddy! I'll get you out of there!" I reassure him as he whines.
I race back to crumbling, old house and find a rope and bucket. I tie the rope to the bucket handle and lower it into the mouth. Mookie is known for his happy demeanor and freakish size. But Mooks is not known for listening or following directions.
"Ok, Mooks" I explain, "get in the bucket! You can do it! C'mon buddy!"
Mookie whines while my mind grapples with the absurdity of a 150 pound dog climbing into a 5 gallon bucket. But the rope grows taunt. He did it.
"You in buddy?" I grunt as I square my feet. I might be able to pull him out. Maybe. I wrap the rope around my hands and pull. The bucket is not heavy at all. Or I have grown psychotically strong. I look into the Darkness and pull. A shape forms. I see eyes looking upwards towards a dissolving blue sky. Human eyes. But instead of doing the sane thing and letting go, I keep pulling. The old man rises out of the hole. He's still dressed in his shabby, black suit and overcoat with both feet planted in the bucket.
"Last night I dreamt..." the man sings.
This song. This fucking song. I have heard it 1,000 times. A record my girlfriend plays over and over again. The piano, the roar of voices and the sudden clear, sound of an exquisite melancholy.
"...that somebody loved me." I finish while pulling. The man steps out of the bucket and looks at me sadly.
"You know how you always hope it gets better?" he asks me.
The man looks at me for a moment. Then he shrugs, turns his back and walks away. I let go of the bucket and hear it tumbling forever. In the distance, a curtain of fire burns across the field. Red flowers swaying like madness as long gray shadows cover the field.
And I can see and hear everything. Voices like flames devouring all. Everyone is talking at once. They swirl around me like spirits of the void. Colors bleed into each other, huge anime eyes. And then a terrible, ringing silence.
"What? You're talking too fast" says Kym putting her arm around my shoulder. "Take a deep breath. You ok, babe? You're all sweaty."
My eyes open and my life is torpid. My house is a painting that melts slowly. All their eyes are on me. They seem still. Statues stuck in mud. But when I focus, everyone is in motion. Kym is talking but I can no longer listen. Jason distracts me by moving across the linoleum forever. Each step from his steel-toed boots explodes in slow motion. Then Dev stands up and walks normally across the room. She smiles at me, calmly reaches forward and puts her hands on both sides of my face.
"You can't breathe. It's time to wake up."
They tell me when I scream at night, the sound is terrible. A hysterical, moaning wail pushed out in wheezing gasps. Louder and louder until I choke out. My wife is looking at me. The kids are hovering by our door. The cat is concerned. I'm still halfway in the dream but the tiny faces of my sleepy children bring me back. It's not the first time I've woken everyone up screaming. After we get them back to bed, my wife begins.
"You have to go to the doctor" says my wife. "You have to get back on the meds! This is annoying! And dangerous!"
I shrug and flip over my sweaty pillow. This happens when I quit using any opiate. The detached, euphoria cracks and life pours down the well. The sadness and psychotic realities that never left start screaming again. The meds they gave me as a kid and the ones they gave me as an adult don't make it go away. But they do reign my mind in. I can focus. I can breathe. But I don't like my medicine. I never have and never will. Exercise, proper diet and forcing myself into society is my cure. You see, the trick is making them think you're normal. Do this long enough and you actually become normal.