It was Friday the 13th, the day before Valentines Day and Maria and I couldn’t wait to bleach the hell out of Octobers orange, and whatever other colors had found their way onto our tender young heads in the last 5 months, and dye and blow dry our way to red. The Clairol Jazzing bottle called our red “red hot!” The sweet smelling dye was red, RED. The reddest of reds, blood red, candy apple red, fire engine red, the very color that comes to mind when you think RED. We crowded into the tiny bathroom in the furniture-free apartment I shared with my Mom, and got down to the serious business of punk rock beautification in preparation for our Valentines Day- eve celebration. Maria stood behind me in the mirror and snapped a picture while I shook the black blow dryer at my freshly hatched head full of red. Later, the developed image shows a prism of light shooting out of my noggin where the flash bulb exploded.
The Circle Jerks were playing at The Metro, and even though we lacked money, a car, or permission from the ones pretending to be in charge, we had oodles of intention, chutzpah, candy apple red hair, and four equally red and sassing pouty lips between us, so the question of getting to the show, getting into the show, and what came after, really wasn’t a question, it was more like a done deal with details to follow. That’s how I rolled at the fresh age of 14, I was already living the highest goal of all spiritual seekers, I was living in the NOW. The future was a place I couldn’t conjure, so I was certain it would never happen to me. The past was best left buried in the bottom of my already shattered and barely audible heart.
Before the show, we scored some acid from Paige who lived down the street. He was the lead singer in the local punk rock band, Our Neighbors Suck, aka, ONS, and our convenient neighborhood psychedelic connection. We agreed to sell some acid for Paige at The Circle Jerks Show in exchange for 2 small paper squares of the windowpane, that was made to melt in your mouth, and your mind soon came melting after.
We had planned to get to the show our usual way, hitchhiking, but Greg offered to drive us to the show in his old blue pickup. He was Paige’s roadie and roommate, a- hunk-a-hunk-a leather clad love. He was lots older, probably 20, but I was smitten, I projected all of my Nicolas Cage circa- Valley Girl- era fantasies onto this much more available look-a-like. Greg was always a total gentleman, and I while I had recently lost my virginity to a mo-hawked boy closer to my age, I was still innocent when it came to sex and seduction, so I kept my crush confined to notebooks and the occasional creative visualization exercise where Greg and I played our favorite records for each other while kissing, cuddling, and looking even cooler as a couple.
We get to The Metro just in time to clean up the parking lot, which was littered with flyers and assorted garbage from previous shows. “Please, please, puhleeeeeze, let us in!” We pleaded our usual case to the owner of our regular haunt–no money and lots of wanting. We were well known in “the scene” as it was called, simply because we were everywhere the scene was. We followed it like unemployed clowns follow the circus. We were younger, but no less die hard than our older role models, some of whom had actual jobs and cars, the stuff that saved them from hitchhiking and begging. Not one to give anything away, but willing to help us earn our way into slam dance central, Mr. Metro gave us a job. We paid our admission with fistfuls of trash that we happily deposited in the garbage can on our way in the door.
The show is a blur, selling the windowpane is a blur, Greg is a blur, and so is getting back to the townhouse where Maria lives with her aged parents. We may have been taken there in a flying saucer made out of green bean casserole, anything was possible.
My memory picks up in Maria’s kitchen, which is open to the living room where her Father is asleep on the beige sectional in front of the giant TV that is hollering nonsense at his snoring face. We are quietly drinking orange juice in an effort to intensify our LSD trip, while trying not to laugh or stare at the grown up. Grown ups morph into really sad creatures when observed from an acidic state , I could read their minds and feel their pain after my mind slipped away, so needless to say, avoiding adults when frying was a really good idea. But, we are “peaking”, we need OJ, and even though everything is bizarre, hysterically funny or unbearably sad, we make like mice while we sip the sweet glowing potentiator. Peaking is just what it sounds like, the peak of the LSD experience, it happens about 3 hours after taking the drug, and all good trippers know that drinking orange juice or smoking pot while peaking will increase and prolong the drugs effects. We are 14, and we are savvy about very important matters such as these.
After we finish our orange juice, we quietly tumble upstairs to Maria’s cave where we find the big brown ceramic Buddha bong, load Mary Jane into the bowl which sits in the center of Siddartha’s huge belly, and begin the work of getting really fucking high. Even higher than that. We are listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and I’m taking enormous hits, big enough to make Maria exclaim, “holy-shit, you’re taking enormous hits!” And I am, before realizing through the cloud of smoke that Buddha has a carb, the little hole you cover with your finger when you inhale, but I haven’t been using it, so not only am I inhaling all the THC in Buddha’s belly, I’m also pulling in gobs of oxygen and all the other chemical components of room air. Suddenly, I can’t catch my breath, my hands are numb, and I’m aware that my heart is working hard trying to bust out of my chest. I realize now that I am dying. I tell Maria that I’m dying. Maria is staring at me, with her head cocked to the side, trying to organize her multicolored mind, and come up with a plan. Comfortably Numb is spinning on the turn-table, the song is soaking into my porous skull, lulling me into a full blown panic, and daring me to give into the desire to pass out. I don’t let myself pass out, because I know I won’t wake up. Maria suggests I breathe into a paper bag.” God damn it, Maria! I’m dying here! “ She seems stone cold sober now , and I can tell she is worried as she rushes out of the room. , I no longer feel high either, we both failed to peak in the way we had planned. I feel scared, really, really, scared. I can’t catch my breath, and I have the sensation that I’m floating right outside my body, but I’m fighting to stay in , tethered to my flesh by the sheer force of my will to not let go. Maria returns from downstairs with a paper bag, and because I can see she believes in her idea, I put it up to my face a breathe a couple of times, but then throw it on the floor demanding we wake her Mother and have her drive me to the hospital, because I’m sure I’m dying of strychnine poisoning. Somewhere along our journey, we had been infected with stories of rat poison laced LSD, and I was convinced I’d gotten a tainted dose.
I am the one who ends up waking Maria’s 65 year old Mother at 4am on Valentines Day to take me to the hospital because I’m dying, and I don’t have much time. I am still clinging to my body as she pulls on a robe, not asking any questions. Our parents didn’t ask many questions, they just watched us self destruct in between watching soap operas, and calling the cops on us to teach us tough love. I sat in the back seat of the gold Dodge Charger with the window rolled down, the cool air on my face does nothing to ease my terror, my breath still refuses to go to my lungs, I feel weak, dizzy, scared, and curious when my life will start flashing in front of my eyes. As Maria’s Mom drives the speed limit on a cool February morning, I wonder where my Mom is, and how she will finally get it once I’m gone.