Archive for November, 2004


Monday, November 15th, 2004

Michael and Rebecca are two very busy people. Michael doesn’t have enough time to write, he doesn’t have enough time to see his friends, he doesn’t have enough time to take drugs. Michael wants to do AMT this weekend with friends at a small party. Rebecca’s going to feel jealous; she can’t do AMT because she’s going to Pittsburgh on Sunday for business and she has to be absolutely sharp when she gets there. She will just have to hang out while all her friends are high and do her best to have fun, with alcohol or Vicodin or whatever seems handy, when really, she just wants to be alone with Michael.

All week long they dance around the topic. Michael promises to pay attention to Rebecca at the party, no matter how high he gets. AMT is just something he wants to do and hasn’t done for so long, because they just don’t have time anymore. He’ll make it up to her. He promises he’ll get up Saturday and help her pack and they can go out to dinner that night. He won’t flirt with anyone else at the party, which might normally be just fine. He’ll spend time with her, even if he’s so high he can’t really talk. She’s not convinced that his assurances mean much, but she feels she’s always telling him he can’t go have fun, which isn’t true, but he doesn’t argue, because he wants to go have fun.

“I just don’t want this to have been a bad idea,” she says.

On Friday night, four people do AMT, three people do LSD, a couple people do GHB, a few just hang out. It’s a casual night, nothing momentous, nothing disastrous. People are busy; they need to catch up. What’s going on in people’s lives? They share stories about how they’re keeping their bodies in shape, with yoga, with Pilates, with martial arts, with acupuncture, with medicine. Robert’s publishing an important paper, and everyone’s incredibly proud; there are a million ways to work the blogosphere to help publicize his findings. Lisa and Charles just bought a house, and they’re sharing real estate prices and war stories about real estate agents; Charles has job interviews next week and wants to be sharp, so he can’t really get high. Rebecca’s doing engaging and difficult work developing a very specialized kind of software. Candice suffered a painful breakup recently and maybe this is distracting enough and maybe it isn’t; it’s not a good time for her to be on a strong psychedelic, so she’s spending the evening sober, but the company is good. Ellen has to work at 8am, so she’s hanging out sober as well. Robert was going to throw a nitrous party this weekend, but the timing didn’t work out; it seems like there’s just never a good time to get everyone high at once, but this party is likely good enough. People are thriving in their professional and personal lives; the conversation all night long is wide-ranging and rambling, a kind of comparative religion for the non-religious.

It’s only a short time until Election Day, and Michael comments that in Australia, they have mandatory voting; but Lisa and Charles are political activists, and Charles comments that it should be harder to vote, that you should be able to prove you know what the hell you’re voting about. They’re all listening to a private Internet radio station that they programmed specifically for their pleasure; in a given hour, they hear Massive Attack, Ella Fitzgerald, Radiohead, the Chemical Brothers, Miles Davis, Asian Dub Foundation and Brak. Ellen suggests they all jump in the shower, a big shower with two shower heads and lots of room, and four women and two men hop in for nothing more than the tiniest hints of flirting and a fair amount of shampooing. Two thirds of America would rather have their feet chopped off with a circular saw before submitting themselves to such a thing, but certainly no one’s forcing two thirds of America to take their clothes off. This is a polyamorous community, but this is also just a shower, and Michael and Rebecca are on opposite sides of the shower, looking at each other, watching each other, and Michael wonders what she’s thinking when Ellen scrubs his hair. The closest of friends are assembled, and what could be wrong with that?

Jess breaks out a few boxes of nitrous chargers and suggests the party head to the basement, where there are softer, more comfortable surfaces. The party rapidly changes locales, and soon Michael and Jess and Robert are cracking the first cartridges. People trickle down into the basement slowly; at one point, Jess asks, “Where’s Rebecca?” and Michael reasons that she’s opted to stay upstairs with the others. But after twenty minutes, Andie delivers a message: “Your wife would like to see you upstairs.” Michael promptly makes his way to the kitchen, where Rebecca says, “I’m going home.” Why? “I’ve been up here for twenty minutes. No one even bothered to ask me if I wanted to come down into the basement. No one asked me if I wanted to do nitrous. I had no idea what was going on. The next thing I knew, you were all down there doing nitrous, and you didn’t even notice that I hadn’t come downstairs. You were supposed to pay attention to me tonight; that was the deal. You were supposed to look after me and make sure I was okay.” Michael’s sorry; he didn’t mean it. So what? “I’m just a clumsy person,” he says, and it’s true. He’s the kind of absent-minded fool who can set down clean towels on a rainy lawn on his way to a hot tub, or lock his keys in the trunk seven times in a row. Does an apology make it okay? Should it? You’re not supposed to make your lover look so sad.

She sits on his lap and he wonders even now if it has all been a bad idea. “This won’t be in my top ten of all parties,” she says; it won’t be in her bottom ten either, likely, but that’s just a crude rationalization. “I don’t want you to go home,” he says, and it’s not that big a deal, except it is, and she’s still leaving on Sunday, and they better just make the best of it. What business does he have doing drugs when she had such serious misgivings? Isn’t that the definition of selfish? Isn’t he ever going to learn? She decides to stay, once again putting her misgivings aside.

They watch Akira Kurasawa’s Dreams as they’re coming down. Almost none of them have seen it; it’s an extremely unusual movie, juxtaposing ham-fisted moralizing with outstandingly beautiful imagery. It’s worth the lecturing to see what pictures Kurasawa will show next. As Rebecca cuddles up in Michael’s lap, the others pop in a DVD called Stargaze, which shows nothing but still images from the Hubble telescope; in the presence of some of the most powerful and majestic images they’ve ever seen, their impulse is to resort to Mystery Science Theatre commentary, picking out images of clowns and skulls in the nebulae and galaxies on display. Candice says, “This is good, replacing old memories of the boy with new memories of being with friends,” but you can’t replace those memories all at once. Rebecca falls asleep as Michael drinks a gin and tonic, and each time he suggests they go home, she says, “No, you like this part, where you stay up late and stay high,” and she drifts back off to sleep. Forgiven and probably not forgotten, but in the grand scheme of things, this is still quietly enjoyable, the cuddling and the relaxing.

No one promised anyone a perfect time. Robert had a small celebration of a major accomplishment. Andie and her husband William were nauseated for a good chunk of the evening and maybe wished they’d taken a little less; normally the AMT nausea wears off at a given time, but this time it persisted and left them hurting a lot longer than they would have preferred. Jess made it to dance class the next day and maybe wasn’t spot on, but there she was. Michael slept until 5pm on Saturday and couldn’t really manage to take Rebecca out to dinner that night. He would have to make it up to her some other time, but that didn’t seem unlikely in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes you just have to leap off a cliff, do what you want to do in a moment, and sort out the repercussions after the fact. Then again, life is too complex to think you can safely schedule fourteen hours to be unpredictable and manage to get away with it. What will happen the next time Michael wants to run around and be crazy and foolish? Is Rebecca going to spend the rest of her life putting up with unfortunate demands on their time and attention? Are they actually learning any lessons or are they just storing these memories for a hypothetical break in their schedules when they can really sit down and analyze what just happened?

It would probably be New Year’s Eve before all these friends managed to congregate again like this, in the solitude of a collective altered state, schedules being what they are. Michael still remembers a tiny moment of solace from the party the night before, as he was coming down from a hit of nitrous oxide, before the top abruptly stopped spinning and he still had time in his schedule to believe that things were going reasonably well. He had quietly exhaled and managed to inexplicably express, “Yes, the balance is good.”

And with a quick smile, Jess had replied, “I’ll drink to balance.”