3 hours till Shroomsgiving. I'm listening to Dave Brubeck. I want to take a picture of my outfit and send it to the Pink Ladiez. I’m wearing crepe pants with a 70s psychedelic flower pattern. I'm wearing a striped blue and white crop top that I bought years ago at & Other Stories but always felt too fat to wear. Now I'm wearing it and it feels good. It feels good to have a stretchy top, like a bandage, over my breasts. I'm wearing a lilac blazer from H&M. It's got a Miami Vice quality to it. My hair is wavy in a good way because the weather is damp and drizzly. I will not send the Pink Ladiez* a picture. I will send them this description.
I bought too many shrooms. I bought enough for 14 people to have a heavy trip. There are 12 people coming and two of them (Grace and Greta) have opted out. I’m sad about this because my dream was to be on a spaceship with everyone and experience some sort of group catharsis. You know what, you can’t control everything. You can control the atmosphere though. I have been low-key prepping for two days. I moved the dining room table against the wall and bought green wreaths of pine and bay leaves. I bought a thick bundle of sweet smelling Norfolk pine. I bought these things because tomorrow is the first day of Advent. In four weeks it will be Christmas. I don’t celebrate Christmas but I like bringing green things indoors. There are so many plants in my apartment. I’ve been moving plants around all day, finding them new and unusual homes on the floor, on top of a dresser. I had to make room for the candles. The atmosphere requires candles.
I’ve been sick all week. Really sick. Laying in bed sick. So much laying in bed that my hamstrings get sore from underuse. I laid around and ate easy food, not sick food, because I am alone and don’t have someone to cook for me. Although Astrid hooked me up with stews; one pumpkin and one cabbage with beef, which I stretched with white beans and a bit of steak, bought on a whim. The beans made me gassy. I farted and farted in bed while watching The Card Counter. When I sneezed, the snot flew out of my mouth and landed on my sleeve. I am disgusting. The bed is filled with crumbs and smells like a sweaty sick me. I wallow in it. Sickness warrants wallowing. I oscillate between wallowing and resting. I wake up unable to move for a long time. I worry every morning I won’t be well for Shroomsgiving.
Now it’s Saturday, Shroomsgiving, and I do feel on the mend. I don’t feel better though. I have a phlegmy cough and a snotty nose. I spent time putting on makeup – lots of soft Lilac eyeshadow, mascara, and a burgundy lip – this will hide the pale, fragile person I’ve been nursing back to health all week. Astrid knows I was sick. No one else knows. I want them to walk into a home with an energetic, healthy host. The atmosphere requires this. I am rising to the challenge.
Astrid tried the shrooms last night. She just ate a small cap. She said it was intense. She texted me and said it was very potent and she’s glad she tried it early to know how to dose properly today. I want a trip. I want a good trip. How much should I eat? The website says 5-10 for a giggly good time, 15-20 grams for a deep trip and possible ego death. Ego death sounds solemn for this occasion so I’ll eat 10 ish. Earlier I listened to Neal Brennan on Mental Illness Happy Hour talking about his DMT experience, which was horrible. It annihilated his sense of self. He said he reached the right department for deep change but the price was almost unbearable. He was thrust into a place that was devoid of humanity. Nothing mattered at the center of the universe. It's an icy place that cares for nothing and no one. Existence, a shark-like mechanism that cannot be altered. Being and nothingness.
On shrooms now. I have been cooking in new ways. I selected a vessel for syrup sizzurp. I want an elixir of the gods to be poured the whole night. Being an artist is just loving to make things. I love making things. I love making things in the kitchen. I love making things with my words. I’m talking to you Pink Ladiez. I write this for you. I pour one out for my homies, the wisest beings I know. There, I choked down the last of my 5g. My vision is a rainbow. Should I change out of my contacts and into my glasses? I know I will not, because I am vain and I look better without glasses and also I worry the glasses will start to pinch or fall off.
My little sister Astrid walked in. She’s not my real little sister but she’s my business wife and my family. She puked in the bathroom. She didn't eat today. We told each other, please eat. She said she would. She’s looking out for me too. She’s protective of her big sister. She told me to do a smaller amount. I was gonna do 10 but I did 5g.
I’ve been having bananas ideas about the empire I'm creating. Always creating. Photos. Photos and oh shit…sis Astrid needs me.
The party is swinging. Yvonne put aqua makeup on my eyes and now everyone is calling me Aqua Cleopatra. Lois is puking but she’ll be ok when she’s got it out of her. We are constantly having to expel things. It's a chore. A human chore.
* * *
Good morning Pink Ladiez. It's almost 11 on Sunday. I recorded 14 hours of the party. I wonder If I’ll ever listen to it. For at least 5 hours of that recording, I was in bed asleep, while the party continued without me. It is a funny thing to fall asleep to the sound of revelry in your own home. I tried not to feel fomo about my predicament and I mostly succeeded. It is very on brand for me to fall asleep at my own party. I'm in bed most nights by 10. What felled me was my own fragile body. And I listened to its call. Go to sleep. You’re sleepy. Go to sleep. You have a sinus headache from the tail end of a cold and perhaps the two bumps of Ketamine you decided, on a whim, to partake in. Ketamine is a divisive drug. I don’t know much about it. There is a city wide ad campaign warning club goers about the dangers of Ketamine. There are billboards calling out the drug by name. I’ve also heard it can help with depression. It's one of the new/old drugs that we’re allowing to have a rebirth. Acid, mushrooms and weed are the others. No one is advocating cocaine, heroin, or meth, but maybe they will be recontextualized down the road and seen in a new light. Isabel brought the Ketamine. Isabel, who is new to me as a friend, as are nearly all of the party guests. Isabel has good energy. She's built like me, physically. It was something I marveled and proclaimed at. Look, I said to everyone, don’t we look like a mirror of each other physically? I asked her to dance with me and we held our hands, palms out and touching, and moved that way.
I realize much of the awakening I want, the coming out I need, is a coming out (or in) to my own body. The sacred space of the party. The altar of candles and the groovy playlist…It was all a means to let me come out of my shell. I want to embrace myself. I want to find myself beautiful. I look around at all my guests. They are beautiful. I take off my pants. I do some stretches in the middle of the room. I howl. I become aware of drawing too much attention to myself and then reaIize that I shouldn’t care about that. The point is to feel myself and feel free to explore my own desires.
Isabel said the Ketamine would loosen my shoulders. My shoulders have been wedged below my ears for years. I snorted from a tiny spoon, contained in the lid of a tiny vial. The spoon is so tiny. A doll’s spoon. A mouse’s spoon. Isabel said to Yvonne, do you want a little?
What is it?
No. oh no. I don’t feel like becoming pure geometry.
Astrid said, shhh don’t scare her.
I said, It's my first time.
Everyone said, nothing bad will happen with the amount I did.
Isabel said she knows herself well enough to know she can’t have Ketamine in her home. She’ll just do it all.
People were eating more mushrooms but I couldn’t decide if I should or not. I took a little truffle and contemplated it but I was already tipping toward nausea and didn't want to suffer anymore. I was hoping the Ketamine would boost my mood, elevate the 5g of shrooms I took and let it wash over me until I’m on a higher level. I want to be less conscious of myself. I want to transcend my discomfort.
In a corner, Greta and Grace are talking about writing workshops. I wanted them to leave that world behind. Hilary said, you wanna see my Ketamine dealer’s ragdoll cats? I felt stymied by the phones that followed us into the party. The pure release I was seeking never came.
I was on my way to my room for an outfit change with Isabel when I realized I was going to puke. I made it to the toilet in time. I puked in three long satisfying hurls. I don’t puke very often so the experience is novel. I am paying attention to my own expulsion. It is glorious. I burst from every orifice but one. My mouth vomiting. My nose streaming string-cheese threads of snot. My eyes watering. My bladder releasing piss with every convulsion. When it was over I looked in the bowl and deeply desired a camera so I could take a picture for the Pink Ladiez. Now I am going to paint it for you with words:
White bowl mostly filled with sweet-potato and kale stew
orange and green, watery mustard yellow
Sunrise on the battlefield circa WWI
No red blood. Instead, right in the bullseye of the toilet
String cheese threads of white snot.
After the puking was done. I mopped up the piss with a dry towel. I squeezed toilet bowl cleaner over it and wiped the wet floor. I remember saying to myself, Patty…If you look in the mirror, don’t spiral, this is not the real you. Then I looked in the mirror, briefly. The bathroom was dark except for a few candles. I prefer the bathroom dark. I glanced long enough to register that I was comically horrifying. Bits of puke in my hair, the festival level aquamarine makeup ringed down to my cheeks and speckled with black mascara. I did not dwell on my image. I listened to myself and didn't spiral. But I did get right in the shower to wash it all off and emerge renewed.
Like falling asleep at your own party, it was quite novel to shower while the room next to me continued to draw and dance and talk and roll and laugh and laugh and laugh. The power of hot water is un-fucking-deniable. I like to brush my teeth in the shower and I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste inside. It was a luxurious experience to scrub my teeth with that pink brush. To spread black charcoal toothpaste over it and fill my mouth with minty suds and hot water.
Isabel came in to check on me just as I was getting out of the shower. I was so happy to see her. I was so eager to follow the connection I felt to her and to our bodies. She sat on the toilet lid next to me while I applied a thick layer of primrose cream to my face. I asked her:
Does it smell ok in here?
Yeah it smells lovely.
Ok, because I pee-peed when I vom-vommed.
Yeah, that’s what happens after two kids.
(I take off my towel and continue to speak)
I’m so happy to be nude in front of you. It feels so important. Do you feel it too?
Isabel says, I mean you’re beautiful and I know how it can be tricky…tallness and weight. For so long I hated my stomach (rejoinder: I hated my stomach too!). But then I was like, whatever, it's just a stomach. Anyway, I can see that you’re having an experience with this thing about our bodies. I think that’s awesome, but I’m not having that same experience.
Ok, I say, I’m gonna get changed.
I walk to the bedroom in a faded Winnie the Pooh towel. I am alone in a new world that is achingly familiar to me at the same time. I know where to find my underwear because it's my room. I put on a nicer yellow cotton pair, because I'm treating myself like I’m my own guest. Lois and Hilary come in while I'm changing. How fun! It becomes an intimate trio of fashion mavens. Standing in front of my closet, I feel I am reclaiming my role as the oldest of three sisters.
We transform into the caftan crew. A caftan works on every shape. I pick a fluttery magenta silk one with a floral print. I bought it with Seth in Lisbon. That was a great flea market and a great day. I take out a cream caftan, thick as a table-cloth. It looks Balkan to me. It looks ceremonial but distinctly Christian. There are thick ribbons of red and green satin that criss-cross down the front creating a simple grid. Within each square there’s a charmingly tacky design of glitter covered flowers. Lois should wear this caftan. I tell her it's like a Ukrainian harvest caftan. She says, that’s an archetype I can get behind. Lois is so funny! But Hilary eyes the harvest frock and wants to wear it herself. Hilary is impossibly thin and tall. Her body just looks like an impossibility. It’s fascinating to observe her bird-like form. Where does the food go? I always wonder when I look at Hilary. So of course the Balkan Beats Christmas caftan looks ridiculous on her. Way too heavy. Way too big. I dig out my best caftan. My red caftan with the abstract black bird on the front. It is art.
NO! I yell like a bossy sister.
Take that off Hilary and wear this one.
They are on shrooms and I am bossing them around from the comfort of my bed. It takes them a moment to process what I’ve said. I have to repeat myself:
I'm serious! Switch bitches! Switch!
When Hilary is in her proper caftan and Lois is in her proper caftan, I feel pride and joy. The red caftan is made of a light polyester-cotton blend. The fabric is thinner, so when Hilary puts it on, you can still see body movement underneath. And Lois, with her cropped hair, strong jawline, and bull nose-ring looks absolutely majestic in the Lithuanian winter-solstice caftan. I say:
Alright bitches are you ready to wow the crowd?
Are you ready to honor the humble house dress?
Are you ready to transform into the caftan crew?
I am sitting with Greta on the floor. She came late with Grace and we haven’t spent much time together. She says, It seems like this is fruitful for you. I say, yes it is. And she asks, how are you feeling now? And I say sleepy. And she says, maybe you should listen to your body and rest. And I say, yeah, I might just go lie down in my bed for a while. I grapple with the awareness I'm planning to leave my own party. I tell Greta, please carry on without me. Stay however late you want to stay. And I mean it.
I wake up at 4 in the morning. I don’t force myself out of bed but I wake without a headache or a stuffed up nose and I feel relief that I'm not in pain. No pain brings new possibilities. I listen casually to what is happening in the living room. There are still voices. There is still music. I have to pee so I rouse myself and head to the bathroom. When I’m done, I pull a thick green cardigan over my caftan and check out what everyone is up to. Four are left. Astrid, Yvonne, Cyrus and Hilary. They are happy to see me. I still have a turquoise rhinestone glued to my cheek.
Astrid says, Hey buddy. I thought I heard you. They are all on the floor. They are a tight unit. They may have had the full experience, the bonding experience I missed. They are guests in my house and I’m happy to have them. Astrid is spooning Yvonne and Cyrus is rubbing Yvonne’s leg. Astrid met both of them for the first time last night. While I was sleeping, Astrid fell in love with Greta. I tell her, Oh…Greta is way married. OH NO! Everyone laughs and underneath the laughter, Astrid is actually sad. I dial back my proclamation because I don’t know the ins and outs of Greta's marriage. Maybe Astrid has a shot as a side piece. Yvonne is with Cyrus but she’s also the side piece of an Italian couple. I know this about Yvonne already and I know she will offer it up to Astrid now. Yvonne is predictable that way. She has a few patterns I’ve observed in my short time of knowing her. If you compliment what she’s wearing, she will tell you why it doesn’t look good on her. If there’s an opportunity to tell people she speaks Chinese, she will seize it. She will also pepper it into conversation when it's a pretty clear non sequitur. Earlier in the evening, I found out she went to Yale and I'm planning to keep tabs on whether or not Yale makes it into Yvonne’s repertoire. Astrid is craving love and getting a diminished version of it from all of us. We try to sympathize with her. She hasn’t fallen like this for someone in a long time. She was fantasizing about making Greta a playlist for the shower because Greta doesn’t know the wonders of listening to music while you bathe. I say, you can still make her a playlist.
*The Pink Ladiez are Barbara Genova, Jillian Luft, Elle Nash, Gwen Hilton, Cath Spino, and Sonya Vatomsky