Acid Tablets: Lost in Joshua Tree
It was still early when the blistering desert sun peeked over the boneyard mountains of the Mojave and into the windows of the cinderblock Airbnb rental my girlfriend got us for my birthday. The heat poured down onto the sand of Joshua Tree like hot coffee. The warm air made it feel like you were breathing through a cigarette filter.
Four tabs of high-grade acid dripped on Sour Patch Kids were stuffed in a piece of aluminum foil. I unwrapped them while admiring the exotic colors of artificial blue raspberry and artificial lime food coloring. My woman rolled a few joints out of the weed we bought before leaving LA with Juicy Jay rolling papers that were flavored to taste like Kiwi Strawberry. I skipped my morning cup of joe and instead reached for a cold bottle of Pacifico. Shaking off the pre-trip jitters, I walked outside into the arid atmosphere and sucked dust up through my nostrils. Everything was silent. Everything was just waking up.
The first tab of acid was already dissolving under our tongues. We decided to start with half the batch and up the dose depending on how we felt in about an hour. The dealer told us to “be careful” but what dealer tells you otherwise? It would be stranger if he told us “take a fuck ton and bug out.” None the less — I was never good with warnings.
This house was built by junkies. I was certain of it. There wasn’t a level floor in the place. None of the angles lined up quite right. Paintings on the wall seemed eclectically mismatched and purposefully uneven. A mural in the bathroom featuring odd colored tile birds jammed into a stone wall. There was a random altar hanging above one of the couches with a picture of Frida Kahlo pasted over what was presumably a picture of Mary or Jesus. A copy of The Shining was stuffed in a bookshelf full of VHS tapes. A felt print of an ugly cat hung in the bedroom. The cat’s eyes seemed to follow you. I officially knew the acid was taking hold when I realized I spent the past 15 minutes (what is time?) entranced by a multi-colored pillow with a holographic Vishnu iron-on.
I felt like I was running in circles. The house we were renting had three bedroom, a dining room/kitchen, a living room and an outdoor patio. For some reason, I became stuck in this loop where I am going from room to room changing clothes, changing moods, changing my state of mind. Even the decor changed by the decade. Idilic 50’s plaid drapes in the kitchen, a hip 70’s light up globe in one of the bedrooms, wanted posters from the wild west era lining the hall.
I only became aware of my reoccurring state after I jammed a piece of journal paper into an arrow hanging on the wall between the dining room and the living room. Seeing it reminded me, “I’ve been here before.” I walked outside and took a drag of a cigarette that had still been burning since the last time I was there about 5 minutes ago.
I felt like I had somewhere to go, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. I thought: “Do we ever have places to go? Or are we always just filling our time with meaningless busyness? Fucking lunch meetings and phone calls to an uncle you barely care to keep in touch with.” The clock on the wall feels like a puppet master and my limbs become those of a marionette.
The trip is coming in heavy waves.
One second: I can see my girlfriend’s face distorted into a kaleidoscope of 30 different faces, giving birth to new faces. She reported to me that my face is also multiplying into strange recursive patterns like the frozen screen on a Windows 98 desktop.
The next minute: I’m becoming aware that I’m getting dangerously sunburnt wishing I was tripping harder. I advise against taking another hit, but my girlfriend is talking me into it. But then she tells me she doesn’t want to take it anymore. But she does. But she doesn’t. I feel like she is split into two different people — her “fuck it” persona and her normal, vulnerable self. Her body isn’t changing, but the electrical impulses in her brain are switching on and off like a bug zapper attracting a hoard of moths.
We played a “nature sounds” Spotify playlist on my cellphone. It was hard to make sense of the technology. In every day life, it’s banal. But in an acid included mind, it’s witchcraft. Inside of the house felt like the Rainforest Cafe. Croaking jungle frogs and the gentle sound of rain falling on green leaves echoed in an artificially cooled room. The swamp fan kept the temperature a constant 72 degrees. But outside, the landscape was dead and thirsty and 107 degrees. In fact you could pour a drop of beer down onto the sand and watch the earth crack and contract in all directions around you. It was like a porcelain dish breaking in reverse.
An advertisement for car insurance interrupted the music. A man’s voice pitching annual savings and reliable coverage. Is this this what existence is now? Even a moment where I’m tripping fucking balls in the desert (my mind, a million miles away) can be bought out and sold in some sort of marketing package. Where nature is an endless expanse of rodents and perennial vegetation, society is a series of billboards and cash registers. “Click the banner now to save hundreds!” I slugged down a warm gulp of the ass end of my beer and flung my arm around my woman. Her pupils were so dilated and beautiful.
She talked me into it. I was unwrapping the aluminum foil that now only held two multi-colored hits of acid. My girlfriend was her “fuck it” persona at this point. I said “I’m good” when she offered me a hit of a burning joint as we stared into the blistering sun. She looked me dead in the eyes and said: “you’re good? We’re tripping in the fucking desert and it’s your birthday…take a fucking hit.”
She was so convincing and so pretty. Her red hair matched the hot coals of the cigarette in my hand. I tossed the Marlboro Light into the sand, kissed her chapped lips, took a drag of the joint and began to prepare the next hit of acid.
“If we take this, we’re going over the edge.”
I don’t think I’ve ever said a phrase with more confidence. The artificially-colored red Sour Patch Kid stared at me from my palm. My girlfriend began to countdown from 3.
As soon as the acid hit my tongue, I felt a wave of apprehension. “Oh fuck,” I thought to myself. I looked over at my girlfriend and she spit in her hand and said “just kidding” in a sarcastic tone that matched her “fuck it” persona. I immediately spit out the gooey Sour Patch Kid. It started staining my palms a caustic red.
“Wait? I was just kidding,” said my woman. Her voice changed now. She was no longer her “fuck it” persona, but the sweet girl from her high school yearbook pictures. Innocent. Scared because she just took two hits of really strong acid.
“You were kidding? Did you take it or not?” I asked.
“Yeah. I swallowed mine,” she said with a slight tremble in her voice. She disappeared outside into the desert.
I must have lapsed into my own “fuck it” persona, because my fear instantly dissipated (not disappeared — dissipated) and I tossed the acid back under my tongue and lapped at the aluminum foil like a rabid dog. If we were going down the rabbit hole, we were going down together.
My girlfriend was talking to herself from inside the house. I could see her coaxing the air with a pole. It appeared to be from a broken pool vacuum (where the fuck did this come from?). She was holding it like a scepter.
What she was swiping at turned out to be a beautifully colored dragon fly (where the actual fuck did this come from?). She was making sure not to harm it in any way. She was simply trying to talk it into flying back outside. That’s when I noticed that there were a shit ton of bugs everywhere. A hole in the window was leaking ants and small sized roaches. There were flies buzzing around my sweaty hair. We finally got the dragon fly to the open door and realized there was a huge praying mantis perched on the window pane. He stared down at us in a calm, but judgemental manner. I lit a joint and blew some smoke his way.
I don’t know if it’s because we’re tripping so hard, but the bugs keep getting worse. It appears everything is now just a colony of crawling ants. It’s like every proton, neutron, and electron of every atom is a bug. The ground seemed to move under my feet like a swarm of maggots devouring the Earth’s rotten flesh. My girlfriend is whipping around her pool vacuum pole and squirting Dawn dish soap into any holes in the house’s facade. I see a bright yellow (or is it red?) bird land in a tree. It’s the only life besides an insect I’ve seen all day. I begin for it. I hope to ask it some questions about life in the desert.
My hands are covered in the dust from the desert. I’ve spent the last x-minutes (oh god who knows how fucking long, insert time here later) digging into the land for exotic rocks. I get this strange feeling that the desert is unnatural. Like this once was a metropolis we bulldozed sometime before cameras were invented. In the dirt I find strange remains: rocks from a multitude of geological periods, small plastic pieces that appear to be from Chinese imported toys, conglomerate stones, crystals you’d buy in a gift shop at the Grand Canyon, wood with little drawing carved in it, beer bottle caps, glass from a smashed turn signal, sea shells, a magnet, rubber weather stripping, bones.
What is all of this? I feel like I’m in a dump that has been reclaimed and turned into a barren amusement park that you have to see to believe. Was I sent here? Why? Am I supposed to be discovering all of this? Who sent me here? Did my girlfriend know? Was this all part of her plan?
The paranoia is intense as I sit in the dirt in my underwear, arranging the rocks in a sort of shrine. When the rocks touch together, a strange energy pulsates through me. Clarity. Yet opaqueness. Comfort. Yet an unnerving sense of monachopsis (n. the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach).
The acid is only intensifying which worries me as I realize the sun will be going down soon. There is a deftness to the darkness in the desert. It’s all encompassing like the smoke of a house fire. I can tell it is making my girlfriend uneasy. I’m uneasy too.
Our trips are running in concentric circles. When she’s in her “fuck it” persona, she helps me to calm down. “Remember: it’s only the drugs, Evvy. We’re fine.” She talks me out of inducing vomiting multiple times. “Shhh” she says in my ear when I start to get too deep and question whether or not I’m just going to lose it and kill us both with a kitchen knife (you shouldn’t write that, people will think you’re crazy). When I’m in my “fuck it” persona, I ensure her that we don’t need to call anyone or that we don’t need to drive into town or that the weird lights in the sky were “totally just a mirage.” I ask her to drink more water and to put some ChapStick on her sunburnt lips.
We work in unison like the double helix of DNA. At one point the waves of our trip line up and I grab her and pull her close to me. She’s so tight against my skin that I can feel our ribcages syncing up and we begin breathing together. I kiss her forehead. It tastes salty with sweat. “I love you,” she says. “I love you,” I return.
At that moment: time (which was been moving painstakingly slow) speeds up. I see her as a small child dancing in a ballerina leotard. Then I see her on the night we first met smiling from across the room at a crowded college party. Then I see us watching fireworks on a sketchy roof, opening the doors to our first apartment with a shiny new key, holding hands while jumping into piles of crisp fall leaves, making up after a loud fight, singing “Rocket Man” while walking home drunk from the bar. Then time speeds up even faster. I see her standing in a beautiful, lacy white dress at an altar arranged with candles. I see her in a hospital gown holding our first child covered in globs of vernix and hours old skin. I see her smiling as our kids are handed diplomas by an aging man in a commencement gown. I see her old and grey sitting in a rocking chair. I see us both turn to dust and get swept away by the wind. I see two beams of light dance up into the clouds to form one bright new star in the milky way galaxy.
The feelings is so intense that I recoil once it’s over. I look into her eyes. They’re filled with tears. We don’t need to say anything. It’s understood we just saw the same thing.
A fucking kangaroo rat ran across the floor. My girl said “awh” but I said “ew!’ I think I made it self-conscious. I feel bad because it was kind of cute (remember to insert a link to a picture of a kangaroo rat).
The sun began to set casting the most stunning temperatures of pink and blue richoteintg off of endless skies and mountains out of a John Wayne movie. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t on a movie set or in some Vegas casino lobby. This was real. While people cram into miserable cities, with miserable crammed apartment complexes and miserable crammed freeways — there’s a land breathing out here.
I gathered firewood, Pacifico boxes, a local monthly magazine we got while in the town and lit a fire in a circle of cinderblocks. Unadulterated in a light-pollution free ecosystem, the blaze illuminated the night. It was the only light for miles besides the occasional headlight from a horny couple riding a dirt bike to the local bar or the stars that shined like miracles from the dark blanket of the atmosphere. The acid mostly wore off but there was a lingering effect that made light constantly look like you were squinting. Vertical spikes like lens flare on 35mm film emitted from all directions of the desert abyss from planes, satellites, cellphone towers and the celestial bodies of the universe. It was like you were looking at a streetlight through a kaleidoscope.
The last photo on the disposable camera clicked. The last few effects of the acid dissipated (dissipated — not disappeared).
I wonder if you ever fully come back from a trip? What if you keep something with you that’s so infinitesimal that it just becomes part of you? Fuck I’m getting too deep. Too cliche.
My braincells feel like scrambled eggs.
Originally published at nakidmagazine.com