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Pure and Consuming Terror photo

This was the time I got too high on acid at 4,237 feet above sea level. The local ski mountain was having its annual spring event ‘Reggae Fest,’ my girlfriend was breaking up with me, and I was working a shitty kitchen job, so I decided to attend and do a lot of drugs with my brother and cousin. There was no causal logic to this sequence of events. I wasn’t trying to patch a society-shaped hole in myself, I don’t think, at least not on any conscious level, I just wanted to get really fucked up on a ski mountain.

I rode up with my cousin and we met my brother in a muddy parking lot, where he brought us to his trunk and poured shots of tequila. It was ~7:30am, a fact my cousin commented on ‘smirkingly,’ it seemed to me, although he still took his shot. My cousin and I had both taken Adderall, and I felt a buzzing form of confidence, I was conceptualizing myself as a highly-efficient, hyper-rational robot. This was a time in my life where I’d quit a corporate sales job that involved wearing a tie and dress pants to work part-time in a kitchen and drink a lot, a period where I still thought that drugs were an overall liberating force for good in the world, a freedom suppressed by the government because it opened one’s mind too much.

We acquired our ski tickets and did a few runs down the mountain. At this point, my cousin mentioned that his friend, whose mountainside condo we were planning to stay the night at, had some acid. In my clunky ski gear, very high on stimulants, I felt like an astronaut. The ski mountain was a galactic moon, alien and ice-hewn. I vocalized doubt toward the idea of doing acid, to which my cousin and brother assured me it would only be ‘a little bit’ of acid.

We skied down to my cousin’s friend’s condo. The friend, who I’ll refer to as The Host, greeted us warmly. We did more shots of tequila and The Host took out the acid, which was liquid and would be, we decided judiciously, mixed into a beer that we would then divide into four drinks. While he worked to distribute the acid, The Host explained that he needed to take a dab every ~8 minutes or else his anxiety would trigger, such that he had a special vape with an automatic timer reminding him to smoke, because he’d otherwise be so high he’d forget and thus have a panic attack. The Host had some sort of remote coding job allowing him to afford the half a million-dollar mountainside condo we were staying in. During my stay, the only food I saw The Host consume was bacon, he would bake massive, oozing trays of it on a bi-hourly basis.

The acid was ready. I voiced one final reservation about the dosage and was assured that it had been divided such as to ensure a ‘microdose.’ I was familiar with microdosing; one of my chief hobbies post-corporate employment was to take fractals of LSD with my roommate as it seemed to increase the number of beers I could drink at the bar, and so I relievedly assented. We drank the acid. I immediately felt fucked. Typically, in my experience, acid takes a tingling period to settle in, like the encroaching of dusk; I immediately knew something was off, glancing at my brother and cousin who returned ‘The Joker’-seeming grins.

We got our skis (The Host remained in his lair) and walked to the chairlift. We began ascending the mountain. We did not get off the lift, opting instead to continue riding higher and higher. My cousin and brother were giggling and shouting ‘The Lord of the Ring’ quotes at skiers beneath us. It was occurring to me that eventually we would have to traverse down the mountain. At an inevitable point, we’d need to get off the chairlift—one always has to dismount the chairlift of life—and navigate our way ~3,000 feet down ice-slicked trails. I had no physical awareness of my legs. Tripping, to me, seems mostly incommunicable, in the realm of Hollywood sitcoms where a protagonist gets high and sees dragons, so the best way I can describe this is to compare it to getting nauseous drunk and attempting to slide down a mountain on two sticks of wood glued to your feet.

I’ve never experienced existential, identity-rendering panic on acid, and in this case I retained—considering the degree to which I was fucked—a pretty objective-seeming grasp of the situation: I was too high on top of a mountain with no way out of the situation but down. I kept calmly thinking thoughts like, ‘God can’t help me now.’ I was fully prepared to careen into a tree at top speed and die instantly, utterly. We skied down the mountain. At the bottom, there was a brief debate where my cousin wanted to keep skiing, whereas my brother and I agreed we were utterly unsafe and fucked, so we parted ways, my brother and I returning to The Host’s condo, which was softly-lit and aquarium-like, a welcome refuge from the mountain’s harsh descent.

The problem: it was not our house, it belonged to some guy I’d only met several hours ago who cooked trays of bacon every few hours and had dosed me on ungodly amounts of LSD. Ideally, when you trip you have some sort of safehouse prepared, a haven blanket fort-soft. My brother kept muttering something about ‘walking the dragon road’. I was fascinated by his teeth, the acid was allowing my eyes to ‘zoom in’ like a video game sniper scope on his mouth-rot, an almost gangrenous browning from decades of smoking cigarettes. Everything was bad and, I approximated from the intensity of the trip, probably not going to improve for at least the next 18-23 hours.

The Host, firmly plopped watching reality TV, announced he would not be doing any ‘babysitting.’ Wide-eyed, he accused us of accusing him of ‘dosing’ us. There was to be a party at his place, we discovered. It was late noon, the sun at an angle resembling the video game ‘Metroid,’ and people were starting to show up to The Host’s condo. I was in a primordial state before language—I could not conceptualize language because it had not, for me, been invented yet. People would try to speak to me and I would nod dumbly in response. I could also only walk at crab-like, shuffling angles.

My cousin returned. My brother started to glug tequila straight from the bottle, and after a particularly greedy swig, announced, ‘I think I just shit myself.’ I laughed, this was a language I could grasp, humor, piss and poop jokes, but my cousin snapped, ‘You shit yourself?’, and fear flashed across my brother’s face—‘I shit myself…?’ he wondered. My cousin seemed imp-like and domineering—the most explainable side-effect of acid, to me, is that other people begin to resemble goblins—and initiated a hissing stream of shit-talk, accusing my brother of drinking too much, partying too hard, shitting himself. At one point, I dimly remember, he compared my brother’s brain to ‘Chernobyl.’

My cognitive prowess was still stuck somewhere in the Cretaceous period, and I marveled at my cousin’s capacity for speech and thought—are drugs inherently a matter of willpower? Are there simply some people who are ‘better’ at doing drugs than others? In this case, I reflected, my inability to function wasn’t a point of sympathy but personal weakness. I deserved this and whatever further fate was in store for me. People should be able to endure MK Ultra-levels of psychological torture from LSD, they should be able to ski down a mountain with ease after unwittingly taking ≥300 micrograms. After all, wasn’t there that one guy who pitched a no-hitter baseball game on acid?

The party was all but over. I became aware of the fact that my brother was talking about acquiring some cocaine, urging me to get into his car. My cousin, his face a gremlin-like snarl to me, disagreed, citing the now-empty bottle of tequila as evidence that my brother should not drive. I was conceptualizing all this information as ‘tiny boy,’ as having a warped human infant perched on my shoulder whispering into my ear. The sun had set like a dead battery. I got in my brother’s car and watched my cousin shake his head waggingly at me.

As we drove off, I found myself admiring my brother’s drunk driving skill while also lamenting its lack of societal application—if society was managed better, I felt, there might be a place for drunk drivers other than jail. At the coke dealer’s house, the dealer reminded my brother he had an outstanding debt before offering him a ‘whippit.’ There was much talk of ‘six hundred dollars’ being tossed around, everyone kept mumbling something about $600. The drug dealer had a gnarled face that was like a scar but not scarred.

We got the coke and returned to the condo. Despite his moral opposition to the means by which the coke had been acquired, my cousin had no problem partaking, which seems like a resounding moral lesson about cocaine in general—it’s made by literal slave labor, I think, by human trafficking and misery. I haven’t done coke in ~4 years in a manner I’ve conceptualized as ‘going vegan.’

My brother and cousin were bickering about the price of the coke ($600), while The Host watched a TV program about crime in the streets of America, drugs, cops and murder. Every 8 minutes, an automated timer would go off in The Host’s vape, reminding him to take a hit. He had bacon cooking, a constant background rendering of pig fat. My cousin had assumed a state of infantilization toward my brother, treating him as irresponsible and toddler-like despite the fact we were all succumbing to the same drugs. My brother, meanwhile, was growing indignant and listing songs he knew from the band Phish—I don’t know why he was listing these, he was citing Phish song titles and lyrics like rhetorical weapons in a court of law. I felt strangely optimistic, perhaps a side effect of the coke, that we were ‘getting to the bottom’ of family issues, ‘resolving trauma.’ Years later, my cousin would check himself into rehab and my brother would have a son. To this day, I’m still me, for the most part.