I woke up early to vomit in the toilet for an hour. As my system cleansed itself, a strange out-of-body sensation overtook me. I was looking down upon and within myself to a chorus of faraway voices squawking sadistically at the sight of the sad primate hunched over a toilet in Mission Beach, San Diego, inexplicably alive. Back in the room everyone was asleep. It was only ten o’clock. I dug through Arnold’s backpack and gobbled up some of his weed brownie crumbs to help with the stomachache. I took a shower and found Ojas on the porch, sitting atop the trusty wicker bench and clutching his temples in a way that reeked of pure misery, not to mention the actual odor of vomit and stale vodka emanating from his person. I offered up a cigarette.
“Hallelujah!” he croaked. “I can’t believe you’re alive, Johnny boy, you crazy motherfucker. I got three Snaps last night of you snogging the shit out of Brianna.”
“That’s right dude, plus Boris has it all over his Snap story – no joke, bro, like 80 seconds of you two attacking each other’s lips. You were fucking conked, mate – like, fucking conked. I helped you get there, ey? And not that I wasn’t too. You remember Sandbar, bro? Holy fucking shit! Sandy as fuck if you know what I’m saying. He! Hehe!” He continued giggling uproariously until a coughing fit seized hold of him, ushering phlegm from his throat and out his mouth, flying onto the glass table.
“Oh, fuck,” I moaned, unprepared to deal with the social aftermath of my inebriated philandering.
“That’s right, motherfucker, but don’t worry, it’s all banter. Besides, people are fucking like dogs on this vacation, I’m half expecting a few babies to result – give me your fucking lighter, my head is pounding like shit.”
I handed it over, then lit one myself. We walked to Starbucks with cigs in hand. A few Waco Crew members were ordering frappuccinos when we arrived, and some water polo guys got in line behind us a minute later.
“This is just it, Johnny,” erupted Ojas, flailing his arms dramatically. “This is just too typical, isn’t it? Imagine how the aliens see it: Private school fuck-faces descending on Starbucks like moths to a lamp.”
“Moths rely on instincts, bro. We have Google Maps,” droned one of the water polo guys without looking up from his iPhone. I ordered coffee and water. On our way back we stopped at a liquor store for more cigarettes and a few bottles of hard alcohol in case our supply was running low. The warm coffee felt nice, and the marijuana was kicking in quite cozily. Fellow lunatics had woken up and were on the porch. Everyone seemed to have their foreheads in their hands. The duplex suddenly reminded me of a vehicle whose motor was difficult to start, but once revved up and moving, there was no stopping the beast, at least not till dawn when the gas ran out. Ojas and I entered one of the living rooms and sat down with Phillipa and Shelly, who were peeved because neighbors had complained to our landlord. One more “strike” and we’d all be kicked out.
“What the fuckin’ hell did they complain?” grunted Ojas inarticulately, burying his face in his hands.
Phillipa was huffing with rage. Teeth clenched together, warm air fluttering her bottom lip. “Those… those animals,” she rasped. “Blasting music until dawn. I ASKED them – again and again! – asked them to turn down the volume.”
“What they ignore you?”
“Oh, they turned it down, but then five minutes later it mysteriously returned to its previous level. Some of these people actually. Are. Fucking. Animals,” she said discordantly, like a child banging on a xylophone. “I just can’t… they’re just… absolutely uncontrollable.” Phillpa felt aggrieved. This was her time before the rough and tumble of Washington D.C. to to relax with a good book and sip on a few margaritas before hitting the hay by midnight. Her great organizational challenge was quickly becoming a nightmare.
“I mean, just look.. just look at this text I got last night, from, from, from Zane Zinser,” she sputtered, turning nauseous at the mere sight of her phone’s iMessages application. “I just… I just cant.” We huddled around to read over her shoulder. Instinctively, she opened the message and held the device aloft, tilting its screen for its audience:
LISTEN UP AND LISTEN GOOD YOU FUN-KILLING PSYCHOPATH, THIS HOUSE IS NOT YOUR DOMAIN. I REPEAT, THIS HOUSE IS NOT YOUR DOMAIN. I REPEAT, THIS HOUSE IS NOT YOUR DOMAIN. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? DO YOU UNDERSTAND? DO YOU UNDERSTAND? TEXT YES IF YOU UNDERSTAND. TEXT NO IF YOU DO NOT. TEXT YES IF YOU UNDERSTAND. TEXT NO IF YOU DO NOT. TEXT YES IF YOU UNDERSTAND. TEXT NO IF YOU DO NOT. PRESS 3 IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE THIS TEXT MESSAGE AGAIN. I CAN ALWAYS SEND THIS TEXT AGAIN. LA MUSICA ES BUENA. QUIERES UNA CERVEZA?
Shelly laughed and shifted somewhat guiltily. “Oh Phillipa, I had no idea. I’m a very deep sleeper. I was out like a log and didn’t look back.” Ojas and I snickered. Phillipa began prattling about how she was light sleeper and hadn’t slept a wink. Her situation would have been mine but for the volume of alcohol in my system weighing me down and carrying me through the night. Shelly and Phillipa then left to Starbucks, and Ojas went back to sleep. A New York Times notification informed me it was Mother’s Day, so I went to the beach and dialed my home phone. “Well hello, honey!” my mother exclaimed. Her voice brought a tear to my eye. We talked for twenty minutes as I walked along the shore. She wanted to hear about San Diego, about my life. I offered a few details. In Colorado, meanwhile, everything was splendid. Dad had made breakfast-in-bed: pancakes, fresh fruit, bacon. They were hiking in the afternoon, then dinner downtown with the Franklins. Dad was doing well. The dog and cats were fine, too. I let the details wash over me, but the details were feisty, and they tunneled into my heart. The animals, siblings, parents, myself – everyone was aging. The world felt dry and withered. I longed for home and cursed the thump-thumping existence that had chosen me, or I it. The past echoed alluringly, but the present stood firm, unshakeable, irrevocable. The conversation ended. My parents left to go on their hike. I turned around and started back, the thin surf lapping over my shoeless feet. I bumped into Eddy on the porch. In addition to a wetsuit, he wore a conspicuously sheepish grin. I recollected our encounter at Sandbar the night before – or at least the tenor of it – and a hammer-blow of guilt struck me where I stood, catching me off guard. What the hell had I said to him? It must’ve been bad.
“Hey man,” I began pacifically, “Sorry for anything that I… that I might have said or done last night.”
“Last night. Sandbar. I think I may have been… well, I don’t know.”
His face scrunched into a perplexed, innocent countenance, as if he were a Provençal peasant instead of a polyglottic elite. A flicker of remembrance then set his face alight. He laughed good-naturedly, clutching his stomach and breaking out coughing.
“Jesus Christ John-nee, I almost forgot how fucked you were! Oui, you were saying most ridiculous things.”
“Yeah, man. I’m sorry about that.”
“I forgot about it already. How do you say… consigned to the dustbin of history – yes?Good?” He flicked the backhand of his fingers into the his hand’s palm, a brisk motion that reminded me of Jaz-Z brushing his shoulders off.
“Good indeed!” I cried, relieved our friendship was intact. “What’s with the wetsuit?”
“About to get in thee ocean, my friend. Mind, body and spirit,” he said, gesturing to forehead and then unfolding his arms expansively toward the water. “There is peace out there, my friend. True peace. Real peace. And it’s about to be mine. I laughed and asked if he was fucking high. “Well, you could say,” he responded softly, reassuming his mischievous grin. “I was just visiting thee Drug Den, you see, and, well, everyone’s doing it today,” he finished merrily, then stuck out his tongue, where a little white square lay glittering in the sun. I felt my blood boil with anticipation.
“Get some of this shit, then get a wetsuit and meet me in the ocean. We’ll find peace out there together, man, ey?” He slapped me on the back. I laughed and went inside. The weed was wearing off and I felt the sensation death returning to me, so I returned to our room. Arnold stirred when I opened the door. Boris lay still beneath the covers. I sat in bed and scrolled through my phone, unsure what to do with myself. I realized that I was dawdling like Arnold, dawdling like my friends. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know where to start. I was very confused, but also perfectly confident in my desire to sit. It didn’t seem to matter where: on the porch, in the living room, in the kitchen, on this bed – there was no reason, or I saw no reason, so I went through my phone, rotating between a handful of social media, stewing over facsimiles of images and words repeating themselves with slight variations and different font sizes while Arnold stirred and Boris lay motionless in our drab, dimly-lit room. I groaned and closed my eyes where I encountered the great kaleidoscope of shapes sitting and moving, shitting and eating, singing and dying. Nothing changed, everything moved, and I felt I may puke again, this time in my lap, only for Arnold to stir, Boris to lay motionless, and I to puke, here or there, so I went to the bathroom and threw up again – out-of-body consciousness returned; the sadistic squawking recommenced – but I survived and returned to the porch like Odysseus to Ithaca, only instead of mayhem I was greeted by pleasant conversation, zippy ocean draughts, bagels and orange juice, fresh rays of midday sunshine, a few fat blunts in roto, so I sat back mirthfully as the serene fluidity of friendship unraveled the enclosed madness of my interiority, not unlike like the pale cloudless expanse seemed to be tempering the rambunctious Pacific as I drank OJ and devoured a bagel before smoking more weed and smiling widely because freedom was ringing in my ears. I could go anywhere, do anything. I grabbed a towel and joined a few peers down by the water – nothing but a bunch of grubby life-grabbers riding on epochal backs! – or so I mused because the kush was working wonders on my psyche once more. Everyone else was tripping balls, including Carl, who marched by us lolly-gaggers and threw himself into the ocean, ready to resume warfare. Yesterday he commanded troops; today he fought solo. The solemnity of this occasion demanded that he, and he alone, grapple with the waves. Everyone else was laughing hysterically and flourishing in the mid-day light. Inspired, I retrieved my notebook from my string bag and penned a haiku:
Weird blue sky
Grains of sand ground us
The waves go
I read it aloud and everyone cheered. Nathan, a happy-go-lucky guy with big ears, couldn’t stop laughing.
“The waves GO! Hehehehehe! The waves GO! How COULD you man! How COULD you! Hehehehehe!”
Eddy was taking a break from own his adventure. He lay on a towel and looked around joyfully, rolling around in his wetsuit like an infant in the crib, mesmerized by the many stimuli. I saw him and he grew bashful, burying his face in his towel. Then, slowly, he tilted his head upward, anticipating eye contact, and when our lines of vision became one he roared primevally and buried his head once more. We repeated this procedure several times. I was playing peekaboo with the spirit of a child.
“Eddy, give us a haiku!” the people cried.
“Down by the water, there you feel free. In the meedzt of humanity, there you feel alive!” roared the Frenchman, beating his chest like Tarzan. Everyone was giggling manically, especially Nathan.
“Hehehehe! The WATER, man! the WATER! How COULD you man! Hehehehe!”
I was plotting a second poem when I noticed a big creature emerging from the water, staggering onto shore. It was Carl, fresh from nautical combat. He walked with a limp, his face grimacing.
“Carl! My Goodness, are you okay?” cried out Eddy, whose status as Carl’s perennial best friend included a clause that sanctioned maternal concern.
“Not so good, squad, not so good,” panted Carl to no one in particular as he approached our hallucinogenic circle. “I got stung by a stingray on the bottom of my foot.” We all looked at him, unsure what to do. “Ah fuck! It hurts like hell!” He was teetering on one foot and then sprawled onto his back, writhing terribly in the sand with a helpless foolishness that reminded me of Gregor Sansa.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck. I can’t stand this,” he cried, unwitting tears streaming down his cheeks. No one knew what to do.
“John-ee, the ball!” Eddy cried.
I threw over the soccer ball and Eddy placed it under Carl’s injured foot for elevation. I then emptied my water bottle over the Spartan’s squirming foot, washing away the moist sand. His underfoot was now defiled by a nasty puncture, encircled by raw, red flesh.
“Are you sure it wasn’t just a rock?” a few people asked.
“It was a stingray alright. I saw that son of-a-bitch before he stabbed me – fucking hell guys, this hurts!” The enemy has gotten the better of him. From the porch, Grace and Shelly had seen the commotion and were running down to help. “Can someone get a lifeguard or ambulance or something, please guys, please” Carl was crying out desperately. The LSD was not helping to foster a peaceful state of mind. Grace kneeled down and assured him that help would arrive soon. Shelly and Eddy took off running to the nearest lifeguard tower, a quarter mile down the boardwalk. Ten minutes later a four-by-four drove up. The lifeguard was a blonde-haired bro with orange skin and Oakleys. He spotted Carl writhing in pain on the ground.
“This the victim?” he asked, chewing on a tooth-pick.
“Fucking clearly,” observed Eddy with patrician wrath and stamping his feet in the sand with a brand of petulance that is surely unique to Parisians.The lifeguard ignored this and grabbed Carl beneath his underarms, bringing him to his feet. Carl wrapped his arm around the man’s shoulder, who led him into the vehicle’s passenger seat. They drove off with Carl waving back at us soberly, his eyes downcast with fear and shame. I suddenly felt exhausted, sort of sad, and ready for my first drink of the day. I was walking back to our madhouse to look for Arnold when Grace caught up with me, touching my elbow lightly. She thanked me for tending to Carl’s wound. I apologized for anything I had said or done the night before.
“I don’t know, I remember we were together, and I was so drunk, and I woke up feeling guilty – I don’t know,” I rambled.
“Oh, dude!” she exclaimed reassuringly. “It was nothing. All I remember is you buying us drinks!”
“Oh well anytime!” I was relieved, though semi-conscious of her lying to me, and once we surmounted the porch steps and finally made eye contact for longer than a lingering moment, I could see a reflection of myself snogging Brianna in her pale blue pupils. Mercifully, Grace smiled, almost pitifully it seemed. “So will I see you at the basketball apartment?
“Oh?” Her deviation from past to future pleased me.
“They’re throwing a day-party in an hour or so! “You simply have to go! It’s gonna be crazy.”
“Oh hell yeah, you know I’m already there!” I said cockily, though I was sad to hear her devolving to collegiate cliches, and surely she must’ve hated herself upon hearing herself, or maybe I was projecting and actually hating my self for standing tall like an alpha and basking in another drunken dance-floor conquest, for that’s what gave it it’s oomph, that is was just one of many, or so the act seemed to say about me. She smiled and left to call her mother. I went back to the room. Arnold was awake and searching for something beneath a pile of clothes. His red hair was totally disheveled, as if wind-swept, and his smile was that of a man still tipsy but thoroughly rested.
What’s up, buddy?” he yawned happily, teetering over and grabbing the bed’s frame for support.
“Not much, dude.”
“Nice man, nice… umm… oh, yes, dude! We gotta get Ojas to get some tabs. Everyone’s doing it today,” he said mirthfully, just like Eddy.
“I don’t know. My stomach’s been killing me.”
“Oh, no?” He looked at me, surprised and saddened. “Everyone’s doing it, man. It’s Acid Day, man. Acid Day,” he repeated plangently, as if I were telling Christmas to go fuck itself.
“Okay, okay, let’s get on with it then,” I relented, conscious of how readily I could pull a 180, how easily I succumbed to even the mildest form of social coercion.
“Alright! There you go!” cried Arnold, performing a little jig of excitement. “Let’s go find Ojas, he told me last night he’d save us a few tabs.”
“I think he went back to sleep.”
“All the better.”
Ojas’ room was the counterpart of our own, situated on the duplex’s other half, equally drab and dimly-lit, equally noisy and dangerous in its proximate location to the living room. We jumped on his bed and shook him awake.
“Uhhgggghhhh. What the fuck do you mother fuckers want.”
We told him to get the fuck up, that we wanted his acid.
“Fuckkkkkkk man,” he groaned. “Jesus okay, okay, fine, just give me a second for Christ’s sake.” Eventually he shrugged off the covers and sat upright. Nathan soon barged through the door. He turned into stone at the sight of us, then started giggling hysterically and hurled himself onto the spare bed where he rolled around like a playful puppy. Ojas began meticulously snipping two little squares from the larger sheet of acid. Nathan’s neck was on a swivel; eyes roaming the room with bewildering penetration, as if he was stunned by his own sensory faculties. Whenever he made eye-contact with me or Arnold, he launched into the fetal position and started rocking maniacally, cackling in his hitch-pitched tone.
“Hehehehehehehehe! Rollie-pollie, rock-a-bye baby, it all falls down,” lilted Nathan while swaying on his back with his limbs up in the air like a turtle on its shell.
“Dude what is so funny?” we’d interject, and he wanted to explain, but he could only offer us randomly extracted words, catchphrases and song lyrics, randomly sewn together into unintelligible amalgamations, until a new round of giggles seized hold of him. His merriment belonged to a child: pure, animalistic, ecstatic. He was exulting in the self-realization of his desire to laugh about nothing in particular.
Boris, who sniffed out drugs like a hound dog, entered the room.
“You want a tab, bro?” asked Ojas good-naturedly.
“That would be… that would be great, Ojas. I would appreciate that. Like really, thank you man.”
Boris, in addition to being terribly hung-over, was repentant and gracious. All of a sudden, their feud was over. I felt happy to not worry about Boris slitting Ojas’ throat.
“The magic of drugs!” exclaimed Arnold to no one in particular, though we all knew the underlying sentiment, and next thing I knew a white tab was on my tongue. I looked at my iPhone. It was 1:00pm in the afternoon.