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Jacko Is Wacko Is Us photo

For one night on acid when I was fifteen, I became not I, more than I, less than I, nothing and everything, no one and everyone, no and yes and every, thanks to this little sheet of paper some Armenian kid sold me and my friends. The tabs dissolved on our tongues and we dissolved in turn, deindividuating, thank you CIA, thank you Leary, thank you Armenian kid whose name I can’t remember who hung out in Phish show parking lots solely to buy drugs. 

We’re in Spenser’s prismatic basement with one entire wall covered by 10-inch by 10-inch square mirrors, glinting, reflecting, refracting. The carpet is a strange 70s orange and black plaid like something off the set of a grainy porno. We’re calcifying into adult selves and stories, four hobbledehoys getting fucked up on a Tuesday night: Spenser’s parents are away and he’s just starting to shed his old jock image by diving headfirst into our little druggie crew and Ezio’s father is a Fox News host who quizzes him on geography, what’s the capital of Uzbekistan? What’s the biggest waterfall in the world? The deepest lake? And Louis is in a band, a capable drummer carrying his sticks everywhere like a talisman. I’m the quiet one, the self-stylized deep one, the one who reads, who smokes blunts with his stoner Boomer parents and then reads dog-eared Saul Bellow novels and the collected poems of Larkin until three in the morning. I wear this depth like a point of distinction thinking it might help me fuck nerdy girls even though the nerds won’t accept me because I haven’t gotten a grade higher than a C since elementary school and they all think I stink of weed and cigarettes and sweat which I do. “Tashkent!” Ezio yells and Louis says “I’m putting on Hendrix, you gotta hear Mitchell’s drumming, man, the speed, dude, the footwork,” but I don’t like Hendrix because my Boomer parents were at Woodstock and this is their music and I want to be different, not all love and peace and tie-dye, but grunge, punk, thrash, throwing wild roundhouses at shows, trying to get people to admire my busted lip the next day.

Hours pass. Eons. Time contracts, freezes, combusts. I’m standing next to one mirrored square squeezing my cheeks but they aren’t mine, they’re my mother’s, no, my father’s, no, Richie Havens’, no, Layne Staley’s, no, yes, no, yes, they’re mine and everyone’s because there is no I, no they, no you, no me or mine, and I see over my/a mirrored shoulder that Ezio has his dick out and is slowly jerking off into an empty Planters can and Mitchell is still drumming as Ezio yells “Baikal” and “Mariana Trench” and “Ljubljana” trotting out superlative answers to questions we haven’t heard and can’t understand while Louis is furiously banging on the coffee table with his gnawed drumsticks or am I the one with the knowledge of drumming and geography, are they my sticks? Is my dick the one getting off in a peanut can? “Where’s Spenser?” I ask the mirror and someone says “upstairs, he was hungry and had to throw up,” so I go upstairs, dragging the whole universe I’ve become/dissolved into/emerged as, and in the kitchen I/We/It find Spenser huddled over the sink, a sandwich in one hand, his other braced against the counter, the sink full of a pinkish vomit, and he says “you hungry” and I/We/It try to speak but it’s like the action has been forgotten, like the muscles of this throat no longer operate automatically but are waiting for a signal, a directive, and the transmission lines have been cut or the order of operations has been jumbled or forgotten, whose mouth is this? Whose eyes? Whose brain? What loads these hands down? A disorderly rush begins—

My father picks me up in the morning. He’s been fired again recently so he doesn’t ask why I’m not going to school. We go to the A&P, he and I. We play hooky from the world and smoke a joint together in the parking lot listening to shopping carts creak around us. Inside the supermarket, the colors are super-saturated. Technicolor America. Aisles and shelves and carts of processed goods that I run my fingers over trying to process all the big beautiful truths I unearthed last night while on acid but they’re slipping away, slipping—

We’re at the register. I load the food onto the belt pulling all this tasty shit—honey bunches and premade mayo-thick mac salad and fudgsicles and grayish ground beef—towards the cashier, an elderly woman with a kid with Down syndrome helping her bag. My father is stoned and when he’s stoned he likes to read the headlines of the tabloids out loud, usually in a posh British accent, and he lands on the Post and reads “Jacko goes over the edge” and the kid stuffing our groceries into a plastic bag echoes “over the edge” and the old woman ringing us up says “Jacko is wacko” and I look at the Post and see the King of Pop dangling his baby over a terrace, over an unseen abyss and I say “who’s bad?” really wondering about the who and the edge more than the bad, if there’s a way to fully vault over the edge, to shed this who, and the acid comes back all of sudden, a tsunami of deindividuating flashback truth washing away the shores of my I, and I/We/It realize we’ve duped ourselves into a Jacko-Wacko binary, Self vs Other, Subject vs Object, Part vs Whole, when in reality we’re all One, yes, One: we’re all Jacko, harried stars dangling what we love, shamone, out of windows, and we’re all Wacko, clueless babies about to plummet to our deaths and if only we could read the headlines swirling in our one collective oceanic heart, we’d have the answer because the whole world, all of us, has to answer right now…