Youth wasted on wasted youth
I was very happy with myself when I came up with the phrase “youth wasted on wasted youth” because it’s also the same if you say the words in reverse. In college I wrote a paper about this one night we did acid. I wish I still had it. When I say we I mean a large group of us. Up to a dozen maybe. I wasn’t there the night or two before when everyone did a large group trip, but half of them were exhausted from that previous night. When we bought it we’d been looking up and down Fourth Avenue. We found one of the Dream Destroyers, Dirthead, while he was on it. He told us it was really good shit and we figured if it actually affected Dirthead, if the drug made its way through the head bashes and brawls and who knows what else, it must be. We bought it in one of those little breath freshener drop bottles and went back to the houses. Two houses that stood back to back like two men at the beginning of a duel, separated by a wide dirt alley. Cheap housing in the university district, the campus was a few blocks away. Everyone took an equal dose and the guy who pitched in the most held on to it. He’d been getting federal grant money for college because he was half Native American and would often have money left over and nothing to spend it on. He kept it in his pocket for the rest of the night.
These lateral moves that have consumed the past twenty years. You never ended up on an oil refinery in your younger days, or the south pole as a construction worker, the cold wind burrowing in your skin. Or hopping trains, yanked from a boxcar and beaten by the police, told never to return to this town. The scars were accrued in your hometown. You look in the mirror and it’s an odd mix of youth and older age that bleed into one another. Something deeper burrows into the skin. It doesn’t leave wrinkles or a weathered look. You look and think to yourself what did I see when I was younger. What did that face looking back at me look like. Did it look young. Those features from the past, the ones time has impressed are buried too deep beneath the skin beneath a few more layers. You stay in one place and all the world can pass through you just like it would if you lived those years somewhere else. And the effect is the same, no one else will see in your face what you see.
We climbed rooftops that night when it started to kick in. They were building out new departments, new wings on campus. On a separate night some time after this night we climbed a single ladder straight up, ten stories, maybe more. The wind blew hard and we held on to the ladder tightly until it died down and then kept going up because there was no fun in stopping and going back down. We walked along flimsy scaffolding and went back back the same ladder. At night the campus was empty and quiet. Casey, Devan and I started to leave the house. Devan’s girlfriend held him back because she wanted to talk so he stayed behind so he could talk to about their relationship while he was hallucinating. Casey and I climbed over a roof and ended up in the inside of an unfinished building. When we found our way back he was angry that we left him. He was prone to anger and violence. I once saw him throw a beer bottle at someone’s head and when it narrowly missed it caused a whole room full of people to erupt into a fight.
At one point Greg wandered off. He wandered off because Tom was holding the vial of acid in his pocket and fingering it without knowing that there was a very small hole in it, so he was absorbing it through his skin. Greg had spent a little less money than him and wanted more. He wrestled it away, took it and squirted a small stream onto his tongue. They each took an indeterminable number of hits at that point. As it started to heighten for them they each picked up a guitar and started playing on the front porch. They played the same chords and progressions in time with one another but would compete by doing elaborate riffs and variations while keeping in time. They kept playing and it kept heightening. I sat watching as Tom cursed each of Greg’s maneuvers.
Greg left us for a few hours. When he returned he was soaking wet and only wearing a long-sleeved thermal top and his boxers. He was barefoot and showed back up on the porch. In the time he was gone we wondered where he went but didn’t want to go looking for him. The night was He walked up to us, stood on the front porch licking his lips and said, “I forgot to exist.” Later we found out all that he had done was take off his pants and shoes and walk waist deep into his apartment complex pool and then walked the few blocks back to the houses.
Devan found a pair of boxing gloves and a snowsuit. He put them on and rubbed his nipples with the gloves yelling “BEEFYCAKES.” Tom picked up the guitar and played a riff as the sun came up. He played it over and over and called it “Morning Groove.” I can still remember how it’s played. I passed out on the couch but my mind was awake and still moving. I heard Morning Groove and Devan and James whose porch we were on. My body fell asleep for a few minutes before everything snapped back awake. I made it home.
I wanted to go out again the next night. I called Tom from a pay phone but he said it was too early for him to go back out in public. He had accidentally taken too much and the effects hadn’t worn off. They wouldn’t for the next couple of weeks. I wish I still had that paper. I wish I could remember everything from that night.