Just a wee warning: the 'R' rating of this fictional piece is going to come into play for this chapter, for sexual content and drug use mainly. As for the drugs, I am not advocating the use of them in any way, though all of my experiences have been positive. All questions, comments, concerns, or criticisms are welcome.
I woke up to a voice muttering obscenities while the surface I was lying on shifted. With my hazy morning vision I saw a slender figure as she slipped out of the tented enclosure. Slowly I began to comprehend my situation and realized that another body was against mine: Neil's chest to my back. I could tell he was awake since his breathing was slightly irregular. I began to remember the night before and the heady sexual experience I'd shared with these two people, one whom I didn't even know. I didn't regret my actions in the slightest. All of the stress had slipped away from my body and I was content to just lie still in Neil's embrace.
"I know you're awake." He murmured from between my shoulder blades. His lips stayed against my skin and he slowly kissed a trail up my spine. Judging from my nudity and the figure that escaped moments before, it was safe to assume Neil was in a similar state of undress. With the arm that wasn't pinned beneath my own body, I reached up and pulled his face towards mine. It was an awkward angle, my neck bent uncomfortably backwards, but the kiss was slow and gentle.
"Don't do this to me!" A soft plea came from the foot of the bed. Moorea was shielding her eyes and trying to get dressed without looking at us. "I need to get to work, I'm already late, but with you two tempting me I'll never be able to leave," She said as she attempted to put on the dress she had on the night before. Neil and I were both openly staring: her slim, braless body was clearly distinguishable under the light fabric of the garment she finally donned herself in.
"Come here," Neil asked her while he lightly grazed his lips over my temple, reaching an inviting hand out to her. My eyes were on hers, heavily lidded and suggestive as more images resurfaced from the night before. Moorea and Neil's intimacy was clearly not a new occurrence. They were lovers and had been for some time and I was simply a new body that they'd invited into their bed to share. I was entirely comfortable with the notion, even though none of these presumptions had been confirmed by either party.
Moorea sighed and knelt on the bed, then slowly shifted her body forwards, between us. I watched as Neil bent away from me to kiss her with equally slow grace, her response immediate: "Fuck you both." She groaned as I ran a hand up her bare leg, underneath the light fabric of her dress.
"Yes, please?" Neil prompted with sincerity, his voice deep and pained. "It's only seven thirty; you don't need to be at work for another thirty minutes." My exploratory hand found the edge of her underwear so I slowed, running a finger across the fabric's border.
"It takes me half an hour to walk there. Hence, your logic is flawed." She insisted. Neil's hand was suddenly over mine, which before was drifting between her legs. He maneuvered my hand into an unmistakable position and pressed it against her. Moorea's breath hitched and her legs wrapped around mine reflexively, pulling her body along mine.
"Take my bike and to hell with your logic." Neil's voice was halting as he pressed his unclothed body against mine. There was a flurry of movement, the two bodies generating a chaos of limbs and flesh that I couldn't follow. Neil had moved over me to remove Moorea's dress in a quick upwards motion before pressing her into a lying position against the back wall of the bed. He moved back and pulled me up towards him, his eyes on her. I wrapped myself around him and latched onto his neck, teeth pulling skin and my hands buried in his hair. His distinct smell was intoxicating, and his moan of approval increased my lust to a feverish pitch.
"You're both so," Moorea let her unfinished sentence hang, so I pulled back and glanced towards her. She was looking past me at Neil, giving him a coy smile. Suddenly he was grabbing my shoulders and pinning me to the bed. He was over me, still holding me down while Moorea slowly straddled my waist. Neil leaned forward and whispered an unmistakable request into her ear. I reached up and began to trace the design tattooed into his flesh, distracted by their artistry. Neil took my hand away from his chest along with my other and gripped them in one of his, held them both over my head. He bent forward, his face upside down from my perspective and asked with a small laugh,
"Are you ready?" I began to vocalize my confusion but Moorea silenced me, her hand deftly guiding me into herself, the sensation so overwhelming and surprising that I yelled out a string of words unbeknownst to me. The night before was devoid of any actual penetration on my part, so this wasn't what I expected to happen a moment ago. With my eyes tightly shut, my head was thrown back until my pinned hands covered my shut eyes. Every muscle in my body was tensed for several moments before I relaxed and let out a long breath. I opened my eyes and met Neil's above me. He was watching me with a question in his eyes, but I was too absorbed by the woman I was inside of to form any words.
She started to move slowly, teasing me with her patience. My vision skewed and Neil's eyes stayed on mine. In my blissful disorientation, Neil began to slowly run his hands over my stomach, putting his mouth level with my nipples. His warm lips closed over one and sucked gently, causing me to let out another string of unintelligible words. He moved to the other and bit down much harder then he should have, prompting me to thrust into Moorea with unexpected force. She let out a loud shriek of what I hoped was pleasure and began her rhythm again with ardor and a rough tempo. I freed a hand and reached for the back of Neil's neck, pulling his face close to mine, but due to Moorea's movements I turned away from him allowing his ear to rest against mine. My heavy breaths were matched with his and amplified in our proximity, and I knew I wasn't going to last much longer.
I began to see lights in the darkness behind my eye lids and my breathing became sporadic. I thought I was about to go insane with the buildup of pressure when Moorea collapsed on top of me, clinging to my chest as she had a long, drawn out orgasm with me still inside her. I followed close behind. We lay together, Moorea on top of me and Neil cradling my head in his crossed legs.
"That was so lovely." Moorea mumbled into my chest. "And, you have pretty nice timing."
"Pretty quick." Neil said with snicker from above me. "Oh, right, you haven't had sex in eons, I forgot. In that case I'm impressed you lasted at all."
"Now I really have to go, oh god." Moorea darted off the bed and out of the room with her clothes in hand. I lay still with dazed contentment, allowing my breathing to slow back to a normal pace. Neil laid himself over me, face to face, his legs framing my own.
"That was hot." He intoned with his eyes boring into mine.
"Thank you for allowing it to happen, I guess." I responded, reaching a hand up to his chest once again to trace the ink there, though I couldn't see it from my angle. Neil was propped up over me but his face was close to mine.
"I'm more jealous of her than I am of you, to be honest." Neil said quietly just before Moorea entered the space, dressed and composed though a bit flushed. She bent over me and gave me a long kiss.
"Mmmm," She said approvingly and kissed me again. "Thank you for the distraction. I hope to see you again soon." She looked up at Neil and he reached forward and pulled her in for a rather passionate kiss.
"You'll be back this evening?" He asked quietly and she nodded.
"Have a nice day without me." She added with a small pout, and then she ran out of the loft. The front door opened and closed and the space was quiet.
"And now I have you all to myself, my plan all along. I'm sorry I didn't mention that she would be here, I was a bit surprised myself." He settled lower on my pelvis and pressed against me, his arousal still unattended to.
"I'm so upset. She's such a downer. No fun at all." I said with monotone sarcasm. Neil smirked and lifted my lower body by placing his hands in the crook of my knees, putting me in a rather vulnerable position. "What are you doing there, Neil?" I asked with trepidation.
"So you're not totally gay then? Not open to anal sex?" He didn't advance his intentions any further but he held me in position and I was sure I couldn't move away from him if I tried, so I relaxed. He put my legs over his shoulders and began to run his hands over my exposed body.
"I'm not opposed to the idea, but I don't think I would the one on the bottom..."
"You were just a moment ago." He teased, his hands cupping my ass. "If you're not gay, then whose name was it you screamed when Moorea mounted you? It was a guy's name, I'm sure." His fingers began to get too close to the orifice in question so I squeezed my calves against his head and aggressively threw him against the bed, attempting to gain dominance but his struggle was too effective from his position. We ended up tangled on the bed, both not willing to submit to the other.
"I didn't yell anyone's name." I said with disbelief, and then I realized that I very well could have.
"Alex? Alexander? I think that's what it was." I instantly broke into a cold sweat. Neil didn't realize my sudden discomfort and tried to pin me down again, but I was holding his hands too tightly for him to move them into any effective position. "Damn it, you're stronger than you look." He tried again with determination and sank his teeth into my shoulder. I responded by letting go of one of his hands and pinched his nipple with unmerciful vengeance. He yelped and used his recently freed hand to bat mine away, putting me in an open position. He leaped on top of me and but I twisted away, narrowly escaping his weight. He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back onto him, falling onto the bed with me on top. He held my arms against my chest and locked his legs over mine rendering me inert.
"I understand why you're hesitant. It's something you want to do with someone special for the first time. It's another way of losing your virginity, but I won't deny that the fact that you still have it makes me want you even more." He murmured into my ear since his mouth was inches away from it. "It was so satisfying to kiss you while Moorea photographed us. It's what I think about when you photograph me. It's so erotic, your interest in my body." He gently released me and lay spread out on the bed in a submitting gesture. I turned around so I could face him as I spoke:
"It's because you're so beautiful. I've always been incontestably attracted to you. Interested in your tattoos and other modifications," I touched his gauged ears. "You're so beautiful." I re-stated, my resolve weakening. "Like I said, I'm open to the idea, but you would probably have to get me really drunk. Or let me be on top first. Some sort of compromise. It's not too reassuring when you're avoiding being bottom, trying to get me to."
"I'm just so achingly aroused from watching Moorea dominate you like that. It's nice to see a guy allow that to happen." He grinned from the pleasure of the memory.
"You were holding me down, let me remind you…"
"Sure," He attacked and I had no leverage over his massive frame. He tried to pin me to the bed yet again, but I again slipped away before he could get a good hold on me. As I made for the edge of the bed he got a hold of my ankle and I dove forward, the top half of my body falling off the bed. I used my angle to my advantage and got away for a second time. Now that I was in a heap on the floor I had little hope to right myself in time to get in a defensive position. Once I'd managed to sit up Neil had my thighs against the edge of the bed and my upper body flush upon the bed's surface, putting me at a right angle and in a very exposed position.
"Or I could just take you right now." He said slowly and with a serious tone that made me try to pull my hands free from where he held them against my back.
"That would be called rape." My words were muted due to my mouth's position in the bed covers. He sighed and released a bit of the pressure on my back, allowing me to relax slightly.
"Oh, ouch, too true. Mood killer. I'm rather hungry, may I make you breakfast?" I laughed and he allowed me to wriggle free.
Neil made eggs and toast stark naked while I loaded film into my own camera. We ate together on his couches while sipping black coffee. There wasn't much to say between us. I didn't really know what to say after a friend so clearly expresses affection towards me, allowing me to join him and his lover in bed. I settled on smiling warmly and thanking him for breakfast.
"What are your plans today?" He asked while setting his empty plate down, leaning back with his coffee and settling deep into the comfortable couch.
"I have none, really. My agent is going over to my house to look through a package filled with my artwork, pieces that I haven't seen in a while. My mom passed away and her lawyer made sure to get this particular package to me. I guess she moved some of my art into storage, and now it's here. He wants to have an exhibition of my old work," I drifted off seeing the sadness in Neil's eyes.
"Your mom died recently?" He asked softly.
"We didn't have a good relationship so I'm not too torn up about it. It was almost like I was released from her mental bindings when she died, so I actually feel relieved. It's awful to say, but it's how I'm feeling about the situation. Please, don't feel bad. It only reminds me of how heartless I am about her passing." I finished off my coffee and set the mug down with a finality that Neil ignored.
"Sounds like some tragic shit went down in your life just before I met you." He leaned forward and picked up a sculpture on the table between us that I hadn't noticed before now. A wooden man curled in upon himself, the middle had an invisible divide that Neil twisted open. He revealed that it was actually a container and he presented me the contents: a bag of shriveled up plants that took me a moment to recognize.
"Magic mushrooms?" I said, aghast. "I tell you my mom died and you give me hallucinogenic drugs?"
"Hey, you reassured me you have little emotional connection to the event, aside from relief. A trip may help re-align everything in your life. Who knows?" He took the bag back and examined the contents.
"I'm not sure if I'm ready for something like this. I've never actually tripped before."
"Seriously? You're a visual artist and you've never tried to trip? I would almost think that's a requirement at art school: Introduction to Hallucinogenic Drugs, 1001."
"Well, I didn't make it all the way through art school, remember? Dropped out. Actually, forcefully withdrawn from the program by the before mentioned mother. And other psychological issues."
"Wesley, what are you telling me?" Neil said with a concerned frown.
"Maybe some other time, Neil." I reassured him with a gentle smile and a nod towards the sculpture on the table. "Does this contain any more magical items?" The deviation worked. Neil grinned and brought out a miniature mason jar filled with a familiar green herb.
"Shall we smoke a wee bit before we go out adventuring?" He was already withdrawing a nugget from the jar as he asked. I watched as he ritualistically broke up the herb in a metal grinder before he revealed a simple yet attractive glass bong. He packed the bowl generously and offered me the first hit. The smoke was soothing and the effects swift: my breath slowed with my heart rate and my smiles grew larger.
"So the great artist Wesley Donovan has never tried any drugs aside from marijuana?" Neil asked with genuine disbelief, the drug we were smoking evident in his mannerisms.
"Nothing else, aside from prescription drugs I suppose. I really don't know why everyone keeps calling me such a great artist. I don't feel like I'm saying anything too provocative with my art. Nothing that hasn't been said a million times before."
"But your portraits, Wesley!" Neil insisted with frustration. "They are so emotive and overwhelming; I can't get over those paintings. The exhibition that Moorea mentioned, I went to it every day after I was out of class. For two weeks straight. I totally had a love affair with the main portrait."
"The one that took up the entire front wall?" I asked with my hand over my eyes, flattered by Neil's statements.
He groaned and sensually exhaled a lungful of heavy white smoke, looking slightly lovesick: "His eyes. They would hold me in place for ages. I was always blazed out of my skull, mind you, but that piece really spoke to me. And I'm not alone in saying that. There was always a crowd of students in that gallery for that exhibition. You're not popular by fluke chance, love. Your talent is obvious and you happen to paint the most gorgeous faces I've ever seen. Who models for you?" He asked with a pout, knowing I've never asked him.
"All the paintings from that particular show were from my head. No models." I said quietly, knowing that this piece of information would rock Neil, seeing as it has impressed everyone I've revealed it to.
"Fuck no." Neil shook his head. "How can you say you're not a great artist when you can conceive such believable characters from your mind? I guess that's why I admire you so much, you're a modest genius."
I scoffed in response. "Genius? Total bullshit." Neil fanned himself like a school girl.
"So modest, it's sexy." He stepped over the barrier and knelt in front of me. "I have the artist that the whole town is obsessed about in my loft." He paused. "In my bed." He looked up at me from under his brow. "A lot of people would love to be where I am right now. Be careful, Wesley. You're too kind and naive to be in your position. People will try to take advantage of you."
"They already have." I said with a serious tone. Neil shot me a startled look and stayed silent to hear more. "Recently, this friend of mine seduced me and is forcing hard drugs and sex upon me with no avail!" He snorted and laid his head on my knee.
"You love it and you know it. And you will love these mushrooms, I assure you. They are natural and relatively harmless, and certainly not 'hard drugs' as you say. They grow everywhere in the woods, in farm pastures, and even in the city, if you look hard enough."
"Where should we go to do this? I hear that a good environment is essential for a positive trip." I said, finally deciding that this was a good way to spend my day.
"My friend Calvin has been trying to get me to go to a secret spot just outside of town. I will give him a call." Neil got on the phone and talked with Calvin while I washed the dishes.
"He said today is a perfect day to go. Where we're going, I have no idea. He's going to pick us up in the botanical gardens in thirty minutes."
We moved back to his bed and split up the dried mushrooms equally by weight with the aid of a small electronic scale. He ate them one by one, every cap and stem, wincing at the unfavorable taste and drinking them down with orange juice. I looked at my handful and swallowed nervously.
"The faster the better, my friend. They don't taste all that great. The best medium I've ingested them through was tea, actually."
I ate them all at once and drank copious amounts of juice to drown out the acidic earthy flavor. We sat in silence picking pieces of mushroom out of our teeth.
"That was interesting." I said while sticking my tongue out. "How long until it takes effect?"
"Anywhere from half-an-hour to an hour from now. I am going to roll one for our voyage." I nodded and lay back on the bed and watched Neil prepare. He pulled a tray out from the bedside table. Upon it was a pair of scissors, a metal grinder, and a package of actual cigars.
I was curious since I'd never seen the process of a blunt getting rolled from a cigar before. He was slow and meticulous with his movements: cutting the dried bud with small scissors, grinding it, and then placing it all in a narrow line on the trey in his lap. He took a pre-rolled cigar from the package and gently undid the delicate whole tobacco leaf that wrapped its entirety. He then laid it carefully near the prepared row of herb. Neil then cracked the exposed cigar from end to end with his thumb nail and carefully shook out the tobacco into the trash. He sprinkled the weed into the shell of the cigar, more in one end than the other, forming a cone shape. He carefully tucked one edge of the blunt under the other, and wrapped it tightly, licking the end to seal it. Once it was rolled, he wrapped the entirety of the blunt with the leaf he removed earlier.
"Interesting process." I commented. Neil put the blunt to his lips for a dry hit.
"I find that smoking is a good way to calm down if you're experiencing a bad trip. Brings me back to something familiar." He shrugged and placed the cigar back in its protective package and into his messenger bag. "Shall we walk to the gardens?"
I collected my few personal items while Neil ran around the loft. We were out the front door and into the fresh air minutes later. The overpowering light enveloped us and I squinted my eyes so they could adjust. The sun's warmth was electric on my skin. At the edge of my vision, a little flash of light caught my eye. I looked towards the light and found nothing.
"Damn, daytime is beautiful." Neil said from my right. I still hadn't opened my eyes all way. "Let's go." We walked down the sidewalk together, moving quickly towards the center of town where the Buddhist University had its botanical gardens. We passed by people and smiled at them, getting them to smile back at us, only to magnify our happy state of being. "I'm feeling pretty good, how about you?" Neil asked after we got a pair of girls to laugh aloud at our large grins.
"I don't know, I'm feeling slightly disconnected from my body." I looked down to make sure it was still there.
The gardens were lush and thriving with energy. We walked through the paths silently and pointed out flowers to each other. Neil was becoming more and more spaced out, clearly getting into the trip. I felt the mushrooms start to invade my psyche by drawing out colors and emotions in a disquieting manner. We walked to the other end and sat on a bench together. We didn't speak, but stared out in opposite directions totally mesmerized by different things.
"Did you see that?" Neil asked with wonder. I had been watching the bricks at my feet melt into each other, so I nodded, "Yeah that was wild." I mumbled.
"How are they doing that?" I looked over at Neil to see him staring up at the clouds. I watched with him for a moment and shook my head; disturbed by the way they divided and dipped down towards me.
A car pulled up and a boy walked over to Neil, who seemed to recognize him.
Ten minutes later we were in a car with someone I'd never met before, or at least couldn't recall. Neil introduced us but I'd since forgotten his name. I sat in the back and tried not to get too lost in thought. Colors were overwhelming and my sense of being was fading in and out of focus. I peeked out the window but the blur of the passing landscape nauseated me. I sat lower in the seat and stared at my hands instead.
"Where are we going?" I managed to ask after what felt like hours of driving.
"We've arrived, actually." Our pilot informed me as we pulled over onto the side of the road. We were far out of the city and had even surpassed most of the farmland as well. We were surrounded by a forest that I'd never seen before. There were trees so huge it would take the three of us to get our arms entirely around one's base. I followed them into the forest, walking on a worn path. Neil would often stop and stare at a tree and hug it for a time, sometimes moved enough to cry into its bark. I was too concerned with my own elevated state of emotion to even try and delve into something as arcane as a tree. I'd been aware of a faint memory ever since we left the car. It was drifting outside of my conscious mind, certain things around me triggering déjà vu: the smell of the pine, the sound of the pathway under our feet.
Then our sober companion spoke: "This is one of my favorite places on Earth."
I stopped and let the others walk ahead. Something about what he said broke into my memories and pulled up a whole day that I'd forgotten.
The mushrooms, of course, chose now to kick into overdrive.
I started visually hallucinating since there was suddenly a fourth figure with us.
No, alone with me.
Thought manifested into physical form and I realized that the boy I had banished from my memories was standing before me.
He was dressed in one of my white tank tops; just like the day he woke me with the words so similar to the ones that triggered my hallucination. Every detail of him was clear, my memory of him from that day now sharp: blond hair falling carelessly, seductively, over his electric green eyes down to his jaw. Jutting collarbones that led to lithe arms perfectly toned, small waist, long legs in black jeans, Alexander's bare feet standing still in the fallen pine needles.
My heart was in my throat, racing with fear, love, confusion, horror.
Everything was pulling into me. The trees bending towards the ground we stood on, the sky dark and the wind pulling every fiber of my being into the center of myself. It was the opposite of an explosion, where everything goes outward: this implosion was slow and euphoric as I looked upon my long lost imaginary lover. His eyes narrowed in slight concern, his mouth opening to speak: "She told you I was here. Why are you so surprised?" His voice was a whisper but it was so loud it hurt my ears … just like the dream of Sam. So many dreams and false realities folded in unto me until the breaking point was reached. I fell backwards, eyes rolling up into darkness.
In this new space, my senses were not present. I couldn't taste, smell, hear, feel or see. I was alone with only my mind in a suspended reality: the forest and people gone and everything else with them. I felt no body, breathed no air. Physical restraints were nonexistent and I was alone with my self. I felt a flood of emotions replace all sensory input. I was re-experiencing the mental state that my mind occupied at the moment of seeing Alexander. It came in waves of pure ecstasy and contentment. Orgasms couldn't compare to this. I was the happiest and most satisfied that I'd ever been though simultaneously my subconscious was filling with dread.
I had held the pathetic hope that he was real. Ever since I'd woken up entirely from my insanity I'd been hoping that my mother was the psychotic one instead of me. I was hoping that the medications replaced my reality, true reality, with her fabricated and Alexander-less one. But here he was once again, looking and sounding real enough while I lay in the woods. The woods?
"Wesley?" A voice I didn't recognize came from above me. It was the driver from a lifetime ago, back when I was alive and with a body, oh yes, I was still here. Alive.
I was lying on the forest floor, the trees tall and straight all around me, opening to a cloudless bluebird sky. The earth was cold and my spine was against a root, painful but reassuring. The boy above me was younger than I remembered, his face morphing slightly due to the hallucinogenic toxins pulsing through my system. He was beautiful just like everyone else I had ever met. His eyes were wide open with concern, clearly expecting a response from me.
"What's your name again, beautiful?" I said stupidly, regretting my wording once I'd said them. He laughed and sat back, all concern leaving his face instantly.
"You were tripping the fuck out, my friend. I thought you'd lost yourself for a moment there. You were lying on the ground completely still with your eyes open but not focusing, shit. All the while, Neil is off having a very intense conversation with a fern, probably never would have noticed. I'm just glad I was here. Shook you out of it. My name is Calvin, for the second time now. Its okay, you're allowed to be forgetful in this state."
"I lost my body with the shock of seeing Alexander again." I started crying. Sobbing.(,) I lay flat on my back, eyes shut with my arms by my side, opening letting my tears go. "I miss him so much." Calvin sat bashing me and put my head in the cradle of his crossed legs. "He was so real. My memories so vivid. I thought that maybe she was wrong." I sobbed harder and finally covered my eyes with one hand.
"Everything will be okay." Calvin said, putting strong hands under my shoulders.
"You've already said that!" I said with frustration before realizing he hadn't. "Oh I'm sorry," I sat up and shook myself, quieting my tone: "You didn't say that. I had a dream though, and she said that word for word."
"Tell me about your dream." The boy behind me asked.
"My friend appeared in my dream a few nights ago. She told me Alexander was in the woods." A sigh escaped me, though the tears had stopped. "And I just saw him. Then she told me everything would be okay. So did you. Exactly what Sam said, verbatim."
"Wait, Sam?" Calvin said with sudden interest. "You do know that she's my partner?"
"No I didn't, but that seems to make sense. I didn't know who you were so I associated you with Sam who appeared in my dream. I was seeing ahead to this experience."
"I don't even know what to say. But, we're almost there, let's get Neil."
"Almost where, Calvin?" I said with a smile, convinced I was too far gone to take that recent event seriously. Though, my heart was still beating out of my throat.
I walked on the trail ahead of Calvin as he told me where we were going, though I lost interest once I saw Neil. I stopped so Calvin stopped and we watched him. He had his eyes closed; sitting crossed legged on the trail, a hand resting gently on the fern in front of him. He was almost completely nude and I felt my face flush at the memories I'd have of him for the rest of my life. His youth and beauty would be preserved in my mind if not on film or canvas.
I walked up to him and sat with him on the forest floor, Calvin stood close watching from above. He lifted his hand from the plant and sighed, not opening his eyes.
"I missed you." He put his hand on my shoulder, his fingers encircling my throat gently. "Your heart is beating so fast!" He giggled and bent forward. "I can see everything even with my eyes shut, its wild. The fern taught me so much." He pulled me in for a gentle kiss, withdrew and smiled. His eyes opened slowly, already focused on mine. He drew back realizing that Calvin was watching us. "Hey there, where are we going, fearless leader?" Neil asked, his eyes roaming skyward.
"It's so close, just get up and follow me." He bent down helped Neil to his feet.
We walked together in a line off the path and right into the unkempt woods. Bushwhacking for several meters, we eventually broke out of the trees and approached the edge of a huge sand bank that led into a large basin of moving water.
"It's a quarry! The locals who know about this place swim here all the time. Such free spirits!" Calvin said excitedly and abruptly removed all his clothes. Neil and I stood together on the edge while Calvin ran full tilt down the sandy edge, crashing gracelessly into the water. He swam across to the other side where a group of nude teenagers stood watching us. One climbed a tree onto a platform fifteen feet above the water. A rope hung from the tree and the youth grabbed it and swung outwards over the quarry. With a whoop he let go and landed, gracefully, in the clear water.
Neil took off the one garment he had on next to his bag and tentatively took a step down into the sand. He turned back and waited for me as I struggled to simply remove my shirt. He climbed back up and unbuttoned my pants for me while I worked on my belt. "Why was that so complicated?" I laughed as I finally stood nude before him. He turned triumphantly and jumped down the embankment with athletic poise and ran into the water with a crash thirty feet below. I took my time getting down and leisurely swam across the quarry, mindful not to forget my purpose and drown.
I watched from the waterside as the group that was here before us showed off on the rope swing. They weren't as young as I'd thought, though some of them were probably deceptive in their age. All of them were thin and athletic, several of them with tattoos visible due to their nudity. Neil blended in with them, many approaching him with questions and admiration for his chest piece. One girl had a finger through his earring when another approached me. She was slender and very tan, judging by her few tan lines. Her breasts were bare like the rest of her, each nipple pierced with plain barbells. I stared at them as she walked towards me, suddenly realizing that it appeared rude as she stopped in front of me.
"How are those mushrooms?" She asked with a half smile.
"Am I that obvious?" I said with a defeated sigh.
"No, no. The boy you're with told us you two were tripping."
"It seems as though they're easing up a bit, actually. I had a really intense peak in the woods on the way here, hallucinating like crazy."
She turned her head to the side in question: "Really? I've never really tripped visually too much on mushrooms. I am usually just lost in my thoughts."
"It's nothing too new for me." I said with a sigh, watching as Calvin swung off the rope with a slight yell. He swam up to us and tried to get me in the water. I refused and he swam away, back towards the crowd at the base of the tree with the swing.
"So you do a lot of drugs?" She inquired, sitting next to be on the rock I occupied.
"You just said that visual hallucinations are not a novel experience."
"Oh, well, I guess I was referring to my schizophrenic breakdown that I had a few years back. I'm in remission and haven't hallucinated since then, but, I did. Just a moment ago in the woods."
"You know that psilocybin triggers schizophrenic episodes." The girl said with a serious tone.
"Oh, really? That might explain it. I've just been ignoring that time in my life for so long now, the mushrooms kind of dug it up again."
"Heavy stuff." We sat in silence for a time. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping steadily.
Eventually the whole group collected on the beach and Calvin built us a small fire. There were about ten people, naked and laughing, talking amongst each other. Neil was the focus of a lot of attention, sitting next to me with a leg against my back, his body reclining towards the fire. "Oh, my, god..." He suddenly laughed and tore down the beach, diving into the water with purpose.
The whole crowd watched in silence as he struggled up the sandy embankment, eventually reaching the top. He returned, out of breath and triumphant, with the mighty blunt that he rolled earlier for us. The circle erupted into laughter and he passed it to me. I lit it, nervous to have so many eyes on me, and took several deep breaths of the heady smoke. "What perfect timing Neil, I forgot all about this." I said with a funny voice as I tried to hold in the smoke as long as possible. It made its way around the circle several times before being reduced to ash completely. Everyone thanked us and praised our generosity as we stood to take our leave.
The girl I spoke to briefly waved as we waded out into the water. I waved back and submerged myself in the warm water and swam in unison with my two companions. The walk through the woods took no time, and the drive was only half an hour. Time was returning back to normal and I wasn't so withdrawn now that I was stoned and back on the same level as Neil and Calvin.
As darkness settled over the city, I directed Calvin to my apartment. "I would love to stay and chat, but..." Calvin said with dramatic ambivalence, I'm pretty sure he thought he was in danger of being obtrusive between for us as a couple. He saw us kiss in the forest, Neil's affection towards me not muted.
"Seriously, please come in. I appreciate you carting us around in our funked up state." I smiled at him encouragingly.
"No, no, I'm fine. I should be getting home anyways. Sam will be wondering where I am."
"Oh, right! You love Sam!" I said with genuine mirth. We shared a look, since he knew of my psychic dream.
"Yeah, we live together a few blocks down. She's my soul mate." Calvin said with honesty and I laughed.
"She's amazing. So full of love. I really enjoy hanging out with her."
Calvin nodded and said: "She mentioned that you've seemed to have woken up a bit recently. Opening up more to your friends."
"Yes, waking up. Realizing that I actually have friends, really. It's nice to meet you, Calvin. Tell Sam I said hello and that I had a dream about her recently."
Neil crawled out of the car; his long legs must have been cramped. Even though the car wasn't small, Neil was just absurdly tall. He danced around on the sidewalk as I sent off Calvin.
"I'm sort of glad it's just us." Neil was at my side, lips to my ear as soon as Calvin was accelerating away. The trip wasn't over, I noticed, as his touch brought the vibe back to the surface of my thoughts. The ground was tipping sideways as Neil very publicly biting my neck. There wasn't anyone on the sidewalk nearby us, but we were being rather audacious. In my stupor I happily forgot about the social setting and let my hand drift up under his shirt.
"Inside." Neil said with a very different voice then any he was using earlier today. I found my keys after a moment of fumbling and had a time finding the right one. Neil stopped being undeniably seductive. I was thankful, since my state of mind wasn't making it easy to get into my building.
"Is it just me, or are the mushrooms picking up again." He asked as I finally unlocked the main entrance. He was pressing his forehead against the glass of the door as I opened it. I laughed and agreed, waving awkwardly at the security guard who was giving us a suspicious eye.
We continued up the stairs, though it continued to feel like the planet was moving off its axis. I stopped and tried stabilize my sense of balance, but everything started to fall backwards. I clung to the railing and Neil just laughed. "It's okay, I'm behind you." He put a grounding hand on my back and gently guided me up the rest of the stairs and to my door.
"I need to sit down..." I mumbled as tried to unlock my door. Neil took the keys from my hand to attempt it himself. He slowly tried every key and laughed when they didn't work. Finally, one of the keys fit and I was revealed to enter my apartment.
The space seemed huge and empty. My kitchen's high, white ceilings and clean counters made me slightly more nauseous.
"Make us some coffee?" Neil said, the high point of his voice echoing off the floor into the next room. He walked away from me and out towards gallery room. The balcony would be amazing right now, I realized, and set to making some black tea instead, since I didn't have any coffee in the apartment. The water boiled, the tea steeped, and I poured the dark liquid into some ceramic mugs. I poured some cream, then honey, into the tea and stirred it before making my way to the balcony.
I walked into the gallery space to see Neil frozen in the center of the room. I was about to ask what's wrong before I realized that the walls were covered in paintings that I hadn't seen in two years. Many of them were only half mine: inch wide strips removed from the canvases, even faces entirely cut out of some. The memories of that night came back with a wave of stomach dropping agony. I stood frozen in the doorway, looking around me with a combination of horror and intrigue.
The mental states that I was in while creating these paintings have since been banished from my memory. Although the paintings Kirsten defaced and claimed revolted me, they were very clear prototypes to the style that I'd adopted in my professional career. Neil noticed. He was slack jawed, staring at one portrait in particular of a friend of mine back in my first year.
"The cut ones freak me out, they're vibrating with negative energy, I swear. This one though, untouched, so akin to your current work." He walked towards another painting, this one cut into strips, the wall visible behind the open canvas. "Why did you do this?" He asked with unbridled confusion.
"My girlfriend at the time let herself into my apartment and modified many of my finished paintings. I'd almost completely forgotten about them. At the edge of my memory, almost forgotten forever but I remembered, obviously, as soon as I saw these again. It's been a long time." I walked to the edge of the room, near the exit to the balcony where the box that the paintings came in lay forgotten against a wall. Next to the tall box on the floor sat a hammer, a pile of nails, and my old camera. I smiled with affection as I placed down the two mugs on the floor next to the hammer, and then carefully took the camera up in my hands. The weight was familiar and it made everything perfectly content in my addled mind: mushroom comedown paired with bad memories of psychotic girlfriends all forgotten with reacquainting with my favorite camera.
"No way..." I muttered in surprise.
"What's up?" Neil said, coming up behind me
"This was my first camera; I used it while I was in school when I was just beginning to learn photography." I checked the back of the camera and saw that there was already a film canister in place. "I'm super excited to see what pictures I have in here."
"There is exposed film in your camera? From two years ago?" Neil said with a raised eyebrow. "That could be anything. Are you going to develop it?"
"As soon as possible. Want to help me use up the rest of the film?" I suggested with a comic eyebrow waggle, knowing full well that photographing Neil turned him on.
He smiled kindly, "In a little while, right now I'm still feeling a bit loopy. Let's go out on the balcony, these paintings are making me emotional." I retrieved the steaming mugs that I set on the floor and followed him out onto the balcony.
The night air was warm with a slight breeze, the moon rising full over the city looking larger than usual.
"What a picturesque night. Good end to the day, I'd say. How about you? What did you think of the mushrooms?" Neil said, settling into a lounge chair.
"Well, it sure tripped me way the hell out. I had some pretty intense visual hallucinations, which surprised me. The day had a great rhythm to it. Meeting up with Calvin and going to the quarry with the rope swing was perfect. Thank you for introducing me to the insane world of hallucinogenic drugs."
"I was feeling them pretty hard in the woods."
"You made friends with a fern, Neil. That was pretty deep."
He laughed. "These were relatively mild mushrooms for me. I'm not surprised to hear that you tripped more than I, though. You're smaller and it's your first time. Describe your hallucinations."
I sighed, "That's the thing: it actually has to do with the time in my life when those paintings were destroyed." I nodded to the gallery space.
"Does this have anything to do with what you were referencing earlier? When we were talking about your mother passing away? Something really crazy happened."
"Yeah. Me." I said with a snort. "I went crazy. My mom found me in my apartment having a mental breakdown. I'd been imagining, well, hallucinating a character in my life. His name was Alexander." Then, without warning, the flood gates opened for the second time today. I started crying but didn't stop talking. "I was in love with him. This imaginary being. My girlfriend was jealous, so she destroyed my art. But he was there to comfort me when she left, I can remember that now. Things about today have been reminding me of him. The mushrooms brought him back to my attention." I wiped my nose and let out a sob.
"What were you diagnosed with?"
"Well, maybe we should have talked about this before the trip. Medically, Schizophrenia is often a symptomless condition dormant in young adults that can be triggered by mushrooms. Maybe the drug allowed you to experience your condition again."
"That would make sense, because I totally saw Alexander in the woods. While you were communing with the flora, I was staring down my imaginary lover. But what's really strange," I took a sharp breath and controlled my crying for a moment. "Is that Sam told me in a dream that I would find Alexander in the woods. It was very odd. She told me everything would be okay, and her soul mate told me the exact same thing." I thought about that for a moment. "It was nothing like how I remember interacting with him, when I was psychotic. Today, I very well knew he was a hallucination, weather that was because I was aware that I was on drugs or that I've since been informed that he wasn't real. I haven't 'hallucinated' him or anything, that I'm aware of, since my breakdown, so I thought it was all done."
"That must have been terrifying."
"The drugs they gave me were the worst. I didn't create any art. I was kept locked up safe in my mother's house, totally numb. It was the worst experience of my life. I sort of woke up in my medicated state and started to wean off the drugs without anyone noticing. Then I ran away and moved here. I met you soon after."
"You were a completely different person then. Brilliant and mute. No one knew what was going on in your head. But you were kind and sweet, so it was okay. And your art blew us all away. And the public. That is such a wild back story. I don't even know what to say." Neil watched me as I wiped my eyes dry and lay back, emotionally exhausted.
"I'm so confused by the entire thing. I decided to start seeing a psychologist again to try and figure it all out. She's totally freaked out by my history. She can't get a hold of my previous psychiatrist so she probably thinks I'm a compulsive liar. It makes my head hurt."
"And your heart." Neil said with a sad smile. He moved from his seat into mine and held onto me like he was the one upset: arms around my waist, head on my chest. "You're so much more complex than I thought."
"Thank you for putting up with my insanity. I'm finally recovered from all the medication and emotional stress from the break down, but I'm still affected by it, as you can see. I hate crying in front of people."
"You're an attractive crier. Very cute." He nuzzled into my shirt. "I'm oddly jealous of your imaginary lover."
"There is nothing to be jealous of." I said with a sad honesty, Neil sighed in response, and together we watched the moon rise and slowly appear smaller as it traveled higher above the horizon.