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We bought the chocolate shrooms from some fidgety tweaker we had only just met. Released from prison earlier that same day, the tweaker broke into Steven’s studio looking for its former tenant, our friend DeYoung. We had to sit there and listen to the tweaker babble until DeYoung could come over and confirm his identity. Then we handed the tweaker our money and promptly saw him back out the door. 

I can’t stand the taste of mushrooms, magic or not, so the thought of chocolate shrooms made me cringe. Good thing these chocolates tasted like chocolate, good chocolate, something like chocolate coins. We washed them down with room temperature Rolling Rock, paid for by the Department of Education. As soon as we started seeing shit, everyone piled into Steven’s car.  

The streets were full of students dressed bright red for the college football team. Everything breathed and bled squiggly beards of pinwheeling gushers. I could almost feel the heft of my pupils, so I kept my eyes low. The purple shadows of the too few leaves left in the too few trees blurred the sidewalk swirling like star trails.

No one said anything during the walk from car to café. DeYoung looked as though he was going to fall on his face. Besides shrooms, he had swallowed ten or so Xanax. He had lost count, and now he was losing his faculties. Steven had both hands shoved so deep in his coat pockets he looked like he was wearing a straitjacket. Colton and Gabby trailed behind. They were dead sober.

We squeezed single file into the crowd and searched for someplace to sit. A live band noodling in the window made my brain freak. Faces melting through this mass of humanity shapeshifted with every swivel of the spotlights on the ceiling. The bar flashed bright then black, backlit by a nebula of voluptuous bottles seeming to levitate upon glass shelves.  

We finally found a booth and sent for beers. DeYoung sat across from me, gazing at the women with dead eyes. Yelling over the music, Colton rallied for buffalo wings. The beers magically appeared, as did the wings. I was outside of time. Teensy amoebic televisions snowed in my eyes. My throat felt like burnt hair. Every time I reached for my beer, I seemed to reach across the room.  

I reached again for my beer, but it wasn’t there. I puzzled over the ring of sweat on the table for something like an eternity. Then I slowly looked up. Colton was drinking my beer. Though our eyes met, Colton made sure to drink his fill before freeing up his mouth to laugh at me. I could see every tooth in his head. No wonder he’s always getting his ass kicked when he goes out.  

I hadn’t seen Gabby since her boob job. Her lips were thin and pursed. She was sandwiched between her high school sweetheart, wing sauce smearing his rubber grin, arm slung across her shoulders like a roll of carpet, and DeYoung, who was crumpled on her sleeve, sloppily kissing her hand with crusty lips. She didn’t, or couldn’t budge, shut in the stocks of their affections.  

A waitress took away my half empty beer and I materialized outside, careening down the sidewalk. Colton and Gabby had vanished. Steven, DeYoung and I were headed for Crystal Corner. Somewhere along the way, DeYoung stopped to talk to some lady at least thirty years our senior. I guess she was a professor at the technical college. She was wearing a blue polo, sunglasses, and beret. Kind of looked like Hunter Thompson.  

Even though DeYoung could hardly stand, let alone speak, the professor invited us to join her for drinks. I was only twenty at the time, and deathly afraid to order a beer on my own lest undercovers brandish their badges and slap me in cuffs. The professor smiled like a skull and insisted that I take a sip of hers. The dark sockets of her sunglasses further unmanned me. I decided to do as I was told and forced down a sip of some shitty craft beer.    

DeYoung insisted we match the professor, so now we had to go to her apartment. I wasn’t even drunk and the shrooms had already fizzled out. DeYoung was barely alive, having popped even more Xanax. Slumped in the backseat, he feebly picked at the lips of the baggie, a bar chilling in his shirt collar, another stuck to his bottom lip. Steven was talking up the professor in the front seat. I was just along for the ride.  

She lived in a totally nondescript apartment, not unlike every other apartment I’d ever seen. DeYoung immediately collapsed on the couch and Steven kept at the professor. Her weirdo roommate glommed onto me. He opened a little bottle of beer, some Halloween shit, judging by the jack-o-lanterns and cobwebs on the label. It tasted like nail polish smells. The roommate talked my ear off about the millions he had made and lost playing the stock market.  

“Yeah, huh, damn,” I chanted. “Okay, uh-huh, yeah.”  

A bowl went around, but it was the smallest, shittiest, most clogged pipe in the world, so I didn’t even get high. Just severe cotton mouth, which I attempted to soothe with splashes of Halloween beer. When I wasn’t maintaining direct eye contact with the roommate, I stole desperate glances at Steven, my only way out. This was before Uber and after cabs. To my horror, he seemed to be trying to fuck the professor.  

She eventually took fresh interest in DeYoung, peering down at him from behind the couch. She hadn’t taken off her sunglasses this whole time. DeYoung, now slurring his few words and foaming at the mouth, stared up at her blankly.  

“I think you like me,” he said, beer dribbling down his chin.  

Actually, the professor was parts panicked and annoyed by DeYoung’s deterioration. She asked us to leave. DeYoung desperately hobbled into the bedroom and flopped face down on the bed only to be hauled back toward the door. Gripping the jambs, DeYoung said he misplaced his baggie of Xanax. The professor insisted he and I wait outside while she and Steven had a look around.  

I practically carried DeYoung’s flaccid corpse down a flight of stairs and outdoors. As soon as I let go of him, the dumb ass flailed headfirst into a dumpster, fattening his lip. I helped him up and wrapped my arm around his waist. The pit of his pants darkened as he pissed down his leg. 

The search turned up nothing because the baggie was in DeYoung’s breast pocket. The professor let Steven out and curtly bid us goodnight. The heavy door clumped shut and stayed shut.  

We spilled into the car, trickled through bottlenecks of rotten snow and bad parallel parking, and finally puddled inside Steven’s studio around four or five. I allowed DeYoung to use the little red throw pillow I had brought from home, the last shred of aid I could possibly dispense. Unwilling to risk soaking in a pool of anyone’s piss but my own, I forfeited the futon, too, and tried to get comfortable on the floor.  

The last time I did shrooms, I experienced ego death. Looking in the bathroom mirror, I knew it was me looking back, but I was a stranger to myself. Daylight savings time happened to end that same night, so I thought I was trapped in a time warp or some shit. It was a life-affirming experience, but I was unchanged.  

I’m still waiting for some chemical reaction to change everything. To make everything right. I’d been given to believe anyone can stuff their face with houseplants and fly carpet to peace of mind and a meaningful life. It’s total bullshit. I think that’s the takeaway. Or else don’t buy shrooms from tweakers. Buy meth from tweakers. Makes sense.  

The next morning was like waking up from surgery. DeYoung shrugged off the dried piss in his pants and biked home. I slowly collected my things, mentally preparing for the long drive back. The red pillow now bore white stains of Xanax drool. And that shit never came out.