Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Unfathomable Idea of Buying Crazy

We did it because we were bored, really. 

My buddy Zak came to Purchase College for the weekend because he was bored at home. We played video games for a while, but we got bored of that too. We had done this a thousand times before. It was so mundane. We were in an adventurous mood and sitting around in my room just wasn't enough. 

Zak leaned back in his chair and cracked his knuckles for the countless time. “There has to be something to do around here, Cal,” he said. “What the fuck kind of school is this?” 

“I don’t really know the party people here.” Purchase had a party scene to be sure, but I was just a freshman and hadn’t had anyone show me the ropes of Purchase party hopping just yet. 

Zak’s hair and beard were short and neat while mine were long and scruffy. He was stout and buff while I was tall and lanky. He got restless easily, and he hadn’t had much excitement for some time. I was usually easily amused, but nothing was doing it tonight. 

We talked about smoking weed, but this was all more of the same. 

“I want to try something new!” Zak said, trying to blow smoke rings and twirling his cigarette between his fingers. “I’m still pretty mad that acid didn’t work.” Zak had bought what might as well have been tabs of Tylenol a few weeks back. “You don’t know where to get anything like that around here, do you, Cal?”

I did. I paused just long enough that it was obvious. “I dunno, man. Maybe not tonight.” I pushed my glasses further up my nose. 

“Not tonight? Are you fucking kidding me?” 

I sighed. He had a point. I hadn't really done anything too crazy since coming to college and I was feeling a little bottled-up. I didn't have any work to get done. I was with someone I trusted. I had some spare cash. And we were bored. It was the right time! But I was scared. 

“I … okay. I know a guy who might have some ‘shrooms. Let's at least see what he charges.” 

We picked up an eighth each. A friend of mine had once suggested I only eat half an eighth on my first time. Zak didn't like this idea. 

“Nah, man,” Zak said. “I want the full effect. I want something fucking extreme.”

I could have done just half an eighth, but I wanted something extreme too. 

We took them at 11:45 PM. Never mind that mushrooms are an eight-hour drug. Who cares, we said! We wanted a wild night! I thought tasted like stale popcorn. Zak thought they were more like chewy croutons. 

We sat around while we waited for it to kick in. We didn’t know what to expect.

About half an hour in my fingers started feeling weird. Then my legs. Then my arms. 

“Weird in a good way?” asked Zak. 

“Weird in a weird way,” I said. “I dunno.” 

It got weirder. I became very afraid of physical interaction. I really didn't want anyone to touch me. Slowly but surely, reality began to slip away from me. Zak called somebody and was quite convinced that the echo of his voice on the other end was another person. 

“The light through my tears looks like candy,” I said, as my eyes teared up from staring at the light too long. My chair almost slipped out from under me as I leaned back to gaze more deeply at it. 

We decided to go outside. 

Zak became obsessed with getting a Frisbee. I just didn’t want to be touched. 

“I want a Frissssssssssssssss-bbbbbbbbbbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” he said with glee and longing. “Where can we get a Frissssssssssssss-bbbbbbeeeeeeeeeeeee?” He tried to poke me. I shuffled backwards quick-as-I-could fifteen feet while squealing like a girl. 

We wandered around campus for hours. Zak continued his quest for a Frisbee for a while. He asked random people if they had one, then burst into laughter. I started to get over the touching thing. The campus was so big and nothing felt close to me. Everything was removed. Nothing was connected to me. Except, of course, for everything. 

I became more and more incredulous that places other than the one I was standing in right then could exist without my presence upholding them. Same with the past and future. They weren’t happening now, so how could they be? The difference between time and space also seemed to lose importance. They were basically the same concept as far as I could rationalize. 

Zak talked a lot. He ended up getting to the point where he couldn’t not talk. He had to. He was incapable of stopping. 

“I’ve got a magic mouth!” he proclaimed. “I speak magic words from my magic mouth! I need an Ear-Jar to understand my magic words! The magic words that come from my magic mouth! A magic Ear-Jar to put my magic words in! Then they can be understood!” 

The implication was that he made sense; he just couldn’t understand himself. I couldn’t understand him either. I failed as the Ear-Jar. He called three people and talked at them for long periods of time in an attempt to find someone who understood him. His magic words went to waste however, as all failed to meet the challenge of being the Ear-Jar. 

We learned some things in the meantime however. I now know that I am Fredcal, the eight-eyed fire magician. I have fire magics and techno magics and steal fingers. I have only the slightest concept of the origin of these traits and names. The night and the insanity have claimed them. 

Zak and I became entrenched in our own little cosmos. There were very few people around and when there were people, they were very far off. At one point, a guy came up and asked us for a cigarette. Until he spoke, he wasn’t real. As soon as he stopped speaking he stopped being real. I exchanged a glance with Zak and immediately knew he felt the same thing and we burst into laughter. I stammered to the guy in the negative, but it was more automatic than anything. Why should I have responded to him? He wasn’t real! 

We became connected to certain things. Zak was a red neon light near the Visual Arts building and I was the white light behind it on the Performing Arts Center. They were friends. But different friends. From a different time. 

There was a lake! There was a mountain! There was endless adventure! I was scared! I was ecstatic! The world stretched out before me with infinite possibilities, going nowhere, nowhere at all. 

We eventually went back to my room because I got cold. We were loud and I was worried about waking my residence advisor on the way back in. We had to keep reminding each other we were on a whisper adventure. The room was small and dark and scary but safe. It was home but it wasn’t home. 

We talked about many things. We realized that we were in fact the same person, Zak and I. It was hard to distinguish myself from him. We were connected in a way I’d never felt with anyone. Not with my family, not with my friends, not with my lovers. It is simply miraculous that one mind can control our two bodies, we thought!

Zak eventually found his Ear-Jar in himself. He turned my webcam on and, confident that he would understand himself when he was sane again, spoke for some time. 

“I have two voices,” said Zak. “I can’t find my real voice.” 

“That voice is a lie,” I said. “But you say true things!”

“I’m a liar! You’re a liar! I wish I could find my real voice.”

“There’s so much adventure! Remember when we couldn’t find any adventures, Cal? I mean, Zak.”

“I’m Cal, you’re Zak. No!” He pointed at me. “I’m Zak!” He pointed at himself. “You’re Cal!” Feeling as though he’d gotten all that straight, Zak went on: “We’re on a talking adventure. I feel like there’s a whole ‘nother adventure we could be having. A not talking adventure!”

Later, Zak began to have panic attacks. I assured him everything was all right. I was there to protect him with my fire magics and techno magics. He appreciated this. He controlled himself by focusing on a cup of soda next to his bed intently for abnormally long periods of time. 

Every once in a while I would get up and go to the bathroom. It was deeply frightening to look upon my own face in the mirror. A different one stared back at me every time. I didn’t truly hallucinate, but I interpreted my features in such drastically different ways it was like looking at a whole ‘nother man in every sense. I was old, and mature. I didn’t feel that way. I was young and naïve. I didn’t feel that way. I was weak and brittle. I didn’t feel that way. I was strong and in control. I didn’t feel that way. No face ever showed itself twice. No face was familiar. No face was mine. Yet they stared back at me through the dirty glass. It was terrible, yet I could not look away. 

We turned on The Incredibles so we’d have something to focus on. We got attached to the characters. Zak was Mr. Incredible, the hero of the film, and I was Frozone, another superhero. They were friends and our body types loosely corresponded. One big difference between my doppelgänger and I was that Frozone was black. We discussed this. 

“You’re Frozone,” Zak reasoned. “But you’re not black. Or are you? No, you’re not black. But maybe … no, definitely not black. But what if … no, you’re not black!” Every time the statement was made we had to reconsider. We just couldn’t be quite sure I wasn’t black. 

Zak was still freaking out, but I was more tired than I’d ever been in my whole life. I’d been up for days before, but I’d never been that tired. Yet I couldn’t sleep. My head sank deep into my pillow, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to sleep so badly. The idea of sleep was astronomically tantalizing. A small voice in the back of my head reminded me of Zak——of his panic and his fear. I wanted to protect him. He wanted me to be there for him and guard him. But the urge to sleep was massive. I stayed awake for what felt like hours. It was painful not to be able to sleep. Eventually, however, I dozed off. 

Zak did not sleep. He finished watching The Incredibles. It was very important to him that Mr. Incredible succeed. He had been in life-threatening peril, and thus, so had Zak. Zak fought a robot in a volcano. Zak thought his family had been murdered by evil men. Zak saved the day. Scary stuff, that. 

When the movie ended he had to focus on certain things. His soda cup became important once again. He stared at it for an indeterminable length of time that he had thought numbered in the days. He clutched a bed post to stay connected to this world, to not lose it (a very real possibility at that point). He held on to what was directly around him for dear, dear life. I truly regret not being there for him, impossible as that would have been for me. 

When I woke up my dreams left me quickly, but the feelings lingered on. They were not pleasant, and I felt that while I slept my insanity had grown to insurmountable, indescribable levels. The dreams could never be expressed by anything with any semblance of logic or reason. 

We were coming down now though. Finally. There had been times when I had felt like I might never come down. That I might be insane forever——lost to oblivious oblivion. It was a scary thought. 

We watched A Few Good Men. A movie grounded in reality that we had both seen countless times. It helped. We were almost down, though it was hard to tell. I couldn’t really remember what being sane felt like. We decided to go outside, get some air, and revisit the locales of our madness. 

The lake turned out to be a puddle. It had felt so huge! The mountain was the side of the Performing Arts Center. It was a tall building to be sure, but it had felt like it stretched into infinity. The world was there, out before me, just as I remembered it, but different in every way. 

The idea that I paid for the night’s happenings was an almost unfathomable concept to me now. I can understand buying drunk. I can understand buying stoned. But I had bought crazy. Currency was traded for unfiltered insanity. Something about this is still mind-boggling to me. 

The crisp morning felt strange. Last night felt like a dream I hadn’t quite woken up from. I still couldn’t tell if I was okay. 

We watched Zak’s webcam confessional. He still didn’t make a whole lot of sense. His quest for an Ear-Jar was left mostly unsuccessful, thus his magic words have never truly been heard. My voice on the recording was far less coherent than I remembered. I sounded mentally retarded. 

I can’t say I truly understand myself, or Zak, or anything much better for the experience. I do know that I am Frozone and I am black, but not really, but yes really, but no, not really, and that I have many faces, and that I am the white light, and that I am Fredcal, the eight-eyed fire magician who has fire magics and techno magics and steals fingers. And truly, that is enough. 


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