Mescaline isn’t that bad

‘Why the hell’d you put my name on it,’ I said.

‘Everyone knows you, Jack,’ Monty said.  ‘It was either that or the address.’

‘How many of these are there?’

‘Well…’  I could see Monty squirming, trying to avoid the question.  ‘…there are probably, oh, I don’t know, fifty or so, spread around campus.’

‘Fifty?’ I said in surprise.

‘Ut-oh,’ Marty said, now paranoid like me.  Across the room I saw that the co-eds were back on the table, although their shirts remained on. 

‘Hey!’ I left my friends and started toward the table.  ‘Get down from there.’  I pushed my way through the crowd.  When I got to the base of the table they looked down at me, outraged. 

‘Why’re you so uptight?’ a brunette said.

‘I’m not.  But I don’t want my table broken in half.  You copy?’

‘But we’re having fuuuuuuuun!’  She peeled off her shirt and a cheer rose from the crowd.  I awaited a Mardi Gras bead shower that never came.   There was no point in trying to control these women.  The crowd was on their side.

Returning to where I’d left my housemates, I found Marty crying.  He’d been punched by an angry hippie after Marty asked the hippie not to draw in permanent marker on our walls.  Monty was nowhere in sight.    

‘We’re gonna die,’ Marty said, grabbing me by the shirt collar. 

‘No we’re not.  We’ll be fine.  We just need to clear this place out.’  But it was more urgent than that.  This corner of the room, previously unoccupied, was now roiling with mosh-pit intensity.  We’d been overrun by large men with prehistoric chins and names like Chad, Troy, and Soren. 

I noticed a fellow without his two front teeth grinding his pelvis against one of the Jackson’s.  I’m sure it started as a joke, but he was getting into it now.  I confiscated the mannequin, trusting it to Marty for safekeeping. 

‘Just don’t let that happen again,’ I said to Marty.  ‘You take care of the mannequins; I’ll take care of the party.’

This was an overwhelming assignment given Marty’s inebriated state of mind.

‘Where’s Monty,’ I said to Marty. I was ready to castrate monty.

‘We’re gonna die!’ Marty said, this time shouting.

‘No we’re not.  Snap out of it.’  Marty looked blankly at the wall.

‘Jack?’

‘Yes?’

‘Remember those mushrooms I was telling you about?’

‘Yes.’

‘I took them about an hour ago.’  He began to cry.  ‘I shouldn’t have.  I’m sorry.’  We were getting stares now.  Strangers turned from their Jackson companions with cross faces.  I saw one couple pick up Randy from the couch and head outside.

‘We’re gonna get busted,’ Marty said between sobs.

‘No we’re not.  We’re not, Marty.  We’re not.  Marty….where’d Monty go?’

‘We’re goners, man…’  Marty pawed at me, grabbing my shirtfront again.  ‘What are we gonna do?  There must be four-hundred people here.’ 

He was right. I had no idea what to do.  

I left Marty and went looking for Monty.  This was his fault: here I was caretaking a babbling Marty and trying to control a party that shouldn’t have been.  I pushed my way toward the back of the house, scanning the crowd.  No Monty.  I doubled back and found Marty lost in a desperate conversation with the carpet.  I went to lift him and was blindsided by an unfamiliar co-ed. 

‘Do you want to go upstairrrss?’  I didn’t realize she was speaking to me at first, even with her face six inches from mine and her arms around my neck.  Everyone at the party had become inanimate, mannequinish.

‘Um, no, I don’t think so,’ I said.  ‘Who are you?’

‘You don’t recognize meee?  We’ve met beforrrre.’  She was very young; a freshman.

‘Here.’  I took Marty by the arm and hoisted him to his feet.  ‘Take him away.  Take good care of him.’

‘What’s wrong with himmmm?’

‘His dog just died.  He’s sad.’

‘Oohhhhh.  Poor bae-beeeeeee.’

Marty turned to me as she led him toward the stairs. 

‘I just remembered that today’s my birthday.’

‘No it’s not.’ 

I resumed my search for Monty.  The party had a thousand faces, all watching me, wide-eyed.  If I’ve ever been scary to anyone, it was then.  I found a D-cell flashlight and brandished it like a nightstick.  The faces were strange and congruent—the stick figures you draw in pre-school.  The house reeked of kegger and BO. 

Co-eds still had control of the table.  I again tried to shoo them off. 

‘Get down.’

‘You again?’ the shirtless brunette said.

‘This is my house.  Get down.  And put some clothes on.’  This time they did as told.  I turned the table upside-down to discourage future shenanigans.  I pushed further into the house, examining back corners for some sign of Monty.  A Haight-Ashbury burnout had seized control of the bathroom, converting it into his private coke-den. 

‘You mind letting people use this for something else,’ I said.

‘In just a minute.  But first—join me.’

‘No.’ 

A familiar voice from behind saved me from a pointless confrontation. 

‘Jackson?’

Helen was in her work clothes. She had her purse and didn’t look like she had come for the party.

‘I just got off work,’ she said, only half-shouting, ‘I didn’t realize you were having a party.’

‘Me neither.’

‘People are crazy about these mannequins,’ she said.

‘Tell me about it.’

‘Are you OK?’

‘Well, yeah. Except I took some unconcentrated mescaline earlier. Otherwise I’m great.’

‘Right. Well I don’t know if you remember it or not but we had a date tonight. I’ve been looking forward to it all day.’

‘Oh, well, we can go,’ I said, pawing at my shirt-pockets for something, what, something that would get me out of this bind?

‘You’re on mescaline. We’re not going on a date. Your house is already trashed.’

‘Yeah, well, Monty kind of sprung this one on us.’

‘After you took the mescaline?’

‘After, yeah.’

She looked down. I knew by now she did this so we wouldn’t have to talk. The party still thronged around us but I really didn’t care about that as much. I wanted to say something helpful.

‘Mescaline isn’t that bad.’

The look on her face made me instantly regret saying it.

‘I suppose it won’t be too bad when LSD makes you eat our newborn. Or when being stoned for three days straight makes you forget our kid at the gas station.’

‘Why are you getting all baby-crazy on me?’

‘I’m getting tired of waiting, Jackson. I’m three years older than you and I’m a woman—I don’t have all the time in the world here.’

‘Soon enough, dear.’

A kettledrum banged in my stomach as I left Helen standing there. I was alone, ricocheting between hot bodies.  I stopped in the middle of the room.  My insides churned; chaos spun around me.  I looked right, looked left, and then…The Choice.

I’ve always hated Robert Frost.  Ask an illiterate frat boy to name a poem and he’ll cite a butchered likeness of “The Road Not Taken.”  But just then that poem reverberated through me like a Bryan Adam’s song you can’t stop humming. 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood….

To my left, the bathroom.  There would be a line there, a coke fest inside, but it was my house, my rules.  Besides, even someone with a raging urge to piss could understand a brother’s need to vomit.  That was one road.

The other road would take me out the door.  The front deck beckoned, carport below.  The air was cleaner, the way less sure.  

The passing there

Had worn them really about the same

I was a man with choices.  It’s all anyone can ask for, to have a choice at a moment like that.  My stomach rose in applause.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I bolted right, toward the door.  On my way out I collided with a man, not a student, just entering the house.  Had I looked up I would have seen the pallid face of Shylock the landlord.  But I didn’t look up.  Nausea and myopia consumed me, and I stumbled past, out the door, banking to my left and toward the carport.

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