Looking back I can clearly see the house, just at the bottom of a small cul-de-sac, hidden away from the main road, next to the gravestone yard. I often wandered outside to look at the discarded stone, to read the names that were either half-engraved or just stencilled on the rough cut face. A few months earlier the occupants of the house had stolen a small stone from the yard, only to have the mason hammer on the door until they gave it back.
We were downstairs in the front room, just the four of us. Four young men, lounging in a den of hedonism, surrounded by the obscure world we had created.
There was no bedstead, just a mattress on the floor. My god! The drugs were quick. I was coming up fast, and looking around I could see in the eyes of my fellow travellers, they were coming along at the same pace.
I knew it was going to be a good day from the outset. We’d scored the little tabs of acid early, and in our excitement had forgotten to get any supplies in. We needed tobacco, skins, food? No, no food, acid is not a drug to eat on. Milkshakes, banana, yes!
As we exited the house I can remember the sunlight, bright in my eyes, shining off every surface. Was this the drug? Was it just summer. The odd feeling of being a little bit out of sync with the world came on, but it was somehow, funny, yes, funny. I was smiling as my face contorted in the bright light. It had been darker indoors. Checking back, we were all there, physically, mentally, and most importantly metaphysically. We were on an adventure.
As the acid fever started to build, our motion became synchronised. We were walking two by two on the pavement, smiling, taking in the sights on a street we’d walked a hundred times, but today it had been painted in light, it was shimmering, we were shimmering. I turned around to tell my friends I could hardly feel the pavement beneath me any more, but the words stopped in my mind and played back in a small loop. Besides, I could see they were the same as me. We were skipping down the street, this little Victorian street, seeing the houses and cars and trees as no one had ever seen before, and no one ever would again. I could feel the rise and fall of energy, up from my toes, travelling up my legs and through my torso, up to my neck and across my scalp, tingling, energy, raw energy, like static electricity but filled with love and laughter, filled with release.
We were well on our way now, in all senses of the phrase. How could this drug exist? How did they know it would release our minds this way? Why don’t we need helmets to experience this energy and mental velocity?
I remember reaching the top of a road and seeing the cars going past. They were these small metal animals, rolling along the tarmac with smiles and happy little faces. The colours were beginning to stretch out behind the cars, a little smudge at first, but by the time we reached the garage the trails were coming off the cars and twisting along the road, and up into the air, where they swirled around before fading away into vapour trails up in the clouds.
Interacting with the sober when you’re tripping is an odd affair, unsurprisingly. It can go in any number of directions. Fortunately we knew the risks, and that was why we came to the petrol station. The staff here didn’t know us personally, but knew the type. There is a certain clientele all over the country at 3am on a weekday morning, who want nothing more than a bar of chocolate and maybe some crisps. This was Wednesday lunchtime though, so we were allowed in to the station shop, rather than performing the little theatre of the nighttime slot, feeling the frustration grow in the operative as you ask for a chocolate bar, and then another as they return to the letterbox window.
In we piled, as by this point motor skills were becoming a bit fuzzy, but nowhere near as fuzzy as the stands of goodies were. I turned to see my friend’s taking different paths around the shop, like a bunch of busy bees, we knew the goal, but the journey was the fun part. We could see the shop assistant watching us, but it was ok, we would cause no harm.
Supplies in hand, we aimed ourselves for the shop counter and jostled forward. I could see in the eyes of my friends the thoughts were beginning to race. The eyes, like dinner plates, absorbing all the information they could were darting around, intrigued and absorbed by every colour, reflection, movement. When you try to talk the words come out all at once; of course they do. You hold them in, practicing the release, until the person in front of you has barely offered their standard greeting, so they blurt out in a mess. I recall the face of the person in front of me. They were not perplexed, shocked or angered by this, clearly high, person in front of them. They turned and collected the tobacco, and reached for the skins, king size obviously. I reach into my pocket and pull out my keys, some money and an eighth of soap-bar. Whoops. In my shock I chuckle and return the keys and hash to the safety of my pocket. We bag up the items and then float out of the shop, my mind spinning but clear all at once. We regroup just off the forecourt, collect ourselves, share some coke and chocolate, before attempting our return. We know this route well.
This is not a recollection of my first, or even further away my last, trip. This is a detailed memory of one of the good times, as there were so many. For the two years before this moment my friends and I had been experimenting with any and all tabs, powders, herbs, pills and oils we could, using them to release our minds and inhibitions. Sometime we went up, sometimes down, sometimes we took drugs on their own, sometimes a cocktail, following the rise and fall and intercepting the fluctuations with chemical input. I always recall my trips better than the other experiences. With pills there is a group-venture and it is difficult to extract a single feeling or conversation. With the serious uppers the mind and body move at supersonic speeds, and to catch any of it in the short, or long, term memory is a rarity. In both cases what you remember is being there together, feeling the waves of excitement and love wash through and over you.
We got back to the house with little trouble, just the usual problems when colours seem sticky on the ground and cars driving past cause intense visual flashes to momentarily blind you.
This was not my house, nor did I have a room here, but I found myself here more often that not, when I wasn’t working. I did work at this time, regardless of the amount of drugs we were taking, we all were. Working through the week in a haze of apprehension and excitement for the next dose. It was our summer of love, our days without care or fear. It was 1999, the end of the century, and we were together, our little collective of explorers.
This isn’t the end, not by far.
Back inside our den I can still recall the intense visual aberrations, items moving when they were still, colours merging and changing, shimmering in the low light. I reached out on the bed and laid my hand on a road map. The red and blue and orange lines all twisted and grew, moving over my hand and up my arm. I felt a sense of panic and fear as the colours moved further towards me, and told my friends. It was ok, they said, it’s just a map. The calm washed over me and I rolled onto my back. We were all on the bed now, four young men under twenty on a double mattress in a small room, in a house. But that’s not where we were together, we were on a boat, a floating cosmos, sailing and twisting inside our minds.
There was some paper and pens, and we started trying to write, drawing pictures of what we could see when we looked at the floor. There was a sound around us, beneath the talking, under the laughter and even below the quiet electronic music that was joining us on our trip. The gentle hum of drugs working on brain matter, the fine buzz of electricity in our fingertips and on the tip of every word. I could hear the world outside, a conversation, a car, waves crashing and seagulls flying by. Were we on a boat?
The supplies came in handy and I took a big gulp of banana milkshake, feeling every droplet ooze down my throat and sense the liquid slowly move down into my body. I couldn’t remember what had happened a moment ago, the thoughts and feelings were coming fast now. We were 2 hours in, but the pace was still rising, and my mind was spiralling, feeling faster. The world around me was warm and I could feel the glow of the moment, the sensation of being here, but at the same time not being anywhere. Not existing in any form of matter or substance. I was energy, everything was energy. There was no beginning and no end. Everything in the universe was passing through this place and time, on this bed, with these people, my friends.
At the high point of any trip, when you think you can’t possibly get any higher, and if you did your mind would open up into the stars and disappear, there is niggling sensation of reality, grasping at your feet, trying to catch on before you slip off the edge. There had been a moment just before this where one of us was near the edge of the bed and we pulled them back to the middle, falling into a mess of arms and legs, feeling the glow of being safe and together. The edge of the bed was not just the edge of our boat, and the floor was far from the ocean. These were simple metaphors for the way our minds were floating up above the ether, experiencing thought without restraint, looking all around, up and down, shifting the internal fabric of our brains and making neural pathways combine in extraordinary ways.
My head fell down and my face was pushed into the pillow, by gravity or my body falling. All at once I could see the astral plane, the galaxy zoomed out and away until it was just a disc, shimmering in the light like an oil slick on a wet road. I was orbiting the universe and seeing all of nature and science from one, perfect, viewpoint. The world was unseeable behind the beauty of the colours in the darkness. Light zig-zagged and flowed all around, vibrating with the most enchanting sound imaginable. The vibrations grew until the pitch was high and loud, pressing in on my brain. I lifted my head off the pillow and looked around me. My friends were at the same time aware and oblivious to the vast distance I had travelled in the past few moments. I knew they had their own explosions of beauty and light going on.
The world began to slow down, and I can still feel the relaxation of the drifting pace of thought returning, slower and slower, until I could grasp each thought, even though it lingered for less than a second, it was so calm compared to the rapid-firing electronic sizzle of the previous few hours. It was dark outside and my mind was clearing. I could see the room, that had seemed like an expanse before, for the size and dimension that it really was.
We took some time to resynchronise ourselves, and found we could talk to each other again, and have flowing conversation. We skinned up, we toked, we smiled, and we laughed. We didn’t need to talk of the beauty we had experienced, the distance we had all travelled inside. Even though acid can be social on the exterior, on the inside it is a solitary drug, a drug to take a single human mind and release it from the bounds of sensory input and analysis. There is a place to share the deepest insights gained through acid, but the moments together and apart are the glue that links the tripping world to the sober reality.
I don’t know how that evening ended, or if it in fact it did. Every second on a drug is a step further away, and you can never return to your starting point. You can never come back from being that close to the edge. For me it’s like my brittle psych crumbles near the edge, and I leave a small trail of dust in the wind, floating forever over the abyss of insanity.