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Fiction

CW: mentions of abuse, substance abuse

 

At the thirty-minute mark, I grabbed the snack bag ziplock from the glovebox and dumped the eighth of mushrooms into my mouth. Their dryness and rubbery texture sucked the salvia from my cheeks and under-tongue so that I had to chew considerably more than I would have liked to. I had my eyes on the road, my hands gripped the steering wheel, but the sensory organ playing captain was my tongue. My taste buds acted like driver ants collecting each part of the mushrooms’ earthiness. A faintly fecal note had me reaching for my yeti water bottle in the passenger seat. The 26oz stainless steel canteen weighs 1.5lbs and reminds me of the aluminum fish bat I saw my father use to kill a dog.

 

My father harmed things near and dear to me, and now I have a problem with commitment. I am the unfortunate consequence of my father’s parenting habits. Meadow didn’t know that my desire to spend the night alone at a hotel was due to having magic mushrooms. She assumed that I needed space to think, so I could give her an answer to the ultimatum she sprung on me the night before. The options were clear; either I proposed and committed to a wedding date, or we broke up. Why did seeing Meadow cry make me cry? I guess it doesn’t matter; considering the options we had left, the tears we shed over our future were suitable for that moment. 

 

When I woke up the morning after the ultimatum and saw Meadow already awake and teary-eyed, I knew the only way to delay an answer was to request an extension. Again, I must admit the thought of eating the shrooms increased my enthusiasm for the appeal. I purchased a last-minute ticket to Carmel, where I’d trip balls on mushrooms and tackle my commitment fears. To get her blessings, I only needed to tell her that I’d come back home the following day with an answer. The fact that we agreed upon a deadline seemed to be a small victory for her. However, it did nothing to disperse the thick air of the unknown that hovered between us. 

 

If I weren’t so accustomed to driving high, parking the car as the shroom’s kicked would have been a nightmare. I arrived at the hotel thirty minutes past check-in with dilated eyes. Before I exited the car, I snagged Rohto eye drops from the center console and used them in my eyes. 

 

Outside, the first thing I noticed was the canopy of Monterey Cypress trees above me. The hotel was only a couple of blocks from the beach, and I could hear it calling for me, asking if I would come and gaze into it. The second thing I noticed was that there were no parking spaces. I had taken the last one. 

 

I heard voices on the other side of the white stucco walls that protected the hotel’s courtyard from the parking lot. The walls were decorated in certain areas with black fencing and patches of rose bushes. I took this all in on my mission to get to my room. Under my feet, the change from parking lot asphalt to the courtyard’s red brick was like going to the next level in a video game. I was leaving my comfortable world, the world of my car, and my thoughts; I was entering the world with people who I’d have to talk to. The bricks underfoot were all a similar hue of red, but they were also all different. Each one seemed to tell the soles of my sneakers their own story. My sneakers, and everything else on me and around me, was now capable of storytelling. 

 

I stumbled upon the hotel guests at an event called Cocktails in the Courtyard. The words were written on a chalkboard in blue and pink lettering that seemed to levitate just above the black slate stone. I can’t say for certain if I was making eye contact with any of the party’s attendees when words exchanged between two men in front of me caught my attention. One of the men was a hotel guest, and he was carrying a weekend bag over the shoulder of his small grey shirt, which stopped just above his belt buckle. His skinny jeans fit snug over his black converse high tops. He had long hair, but it stuck close to his face, framing his wider nose and jaw. The other man had his gelled hair combed back and was more professionally dressed in all black slacks and a button-up. He was an employee. I was pulled to them by the current of energy the mushrooms illuminated.

“It’s double-booked?” The man in the grey shirt said. 

“I’m afraid, so. I really do apologize. These things sometimes happen with online bookings.”

“Is the other guest here?” The man asked.

“No, sir. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and he won’t show.” 

On cue, I stood ninety degrees to them, the third wheel of the group. The employee with gelled hair acknowledged me, 

“Hello, sir. Are you a hotel guest?” 

The words echoed their way into my ears and left me partially stunned. 

“Sir?”

“Huh? Sorry.” I said, “I’m checking in.” 

I glanced at grey shirt, who was already glaring at me with intensity. I wondered if my pupils were the size of quarters. 

“Name?” The employee said. 

“George Bayley.” I said. 

In the candid moment that followed, the employee’s expression dropped like he’d lost the strength of his face muscles. I’d only ever seen such disappointment in my father’s eyes. 

“Sir, hello. Welcome.” The employee was nervous, fidgeting with the spiral bindings of his reservation book, “I’m so sorry to say this, but, unfortunately, we’ve double booked the room.” 

The mushrooms’ superpowers had already afforded me this information; I’d heard it all when I was walking up to them, and this allowed me to prepare a question. 

“What are we going to do?” I asked. 

I could feel the tension between us. It was very familiar to the apprehension that my wife and I often felt with each other. Each of us was hoping that the other would come up with a solution. 

“This is Mr. Luckhoff.” The employee introduced grey shirt. 

“Call me Jacko.” He said, reaching out for my hand. His palm was unusually warm and soft, like a bouquet of microwaved rose petals. 

The employee proceeded to tell us that the hotel was booked full. When Jacko and I asked him to find us accommodation in the area, he said no other hotels had vacancies. It was not a good situation for us to be in. Although it was warm outside, I was beginning to feel that the cold could roll in at any moment. Jacko explained that he had no other place to go. He had an accent when he talked that sounded Australian or British, and if I thought about it too much, it was pure gibberish. After not coming up with a solution on their own, the two men looked at me. 

“I can’t drive right now.” I said, “I mean, I can’t drive home tonight. I don’t have a place to go either.” 

Cocktails in the Courtyard was going on around me like fireworks. It seemed that everyone was drinking champagne and enjoying the jazz music playing from the rock speakers. 

“I understand this is unorthodox.” The employee said to us with his hands held up in front of him, “There is a pullout bed in the suite. If you’d be willing to share a room, we can make it comfortable, and of course, there would be a discount.” 

If it weren’t so early on in my shroom-trip, I would have thought that I was hallucinating the whole exchange; this employee was out of his god damn mind. I waited to see what Jacko would say, hoping he would bow out and leave me with the suite. He was taller and more handsome than me; I was hoping for some pity. 

Jacko spoke up, “Look. I know this is very strange, we’ve only just met, but if you’re ok with it, I’ll sleep on the pullout. I don’t care. I just need a place to stay, like you.” 

His accent lulled me into a kind of compliance. With the little sobriety I still had, I reasoned that Jacko’s proposal was my best option. I couldn’t possibly drive while tripping, and it was better not to sleep in the car.”

“Ok.” I agreed, “That’s fine.” 

 

About fifteen minutes later, I was in the suite’s bedroom tripping balls. Jacko was taking a shower; luckily, it was not ensuite because I was seeing all types of crazy things. The TV, which was off, appeared to be pulsating like a magic eye illusion. The fibers of the short carpet were impossibly textured like I was standing on pin art. And the ocean in the distance outside of my window floated under the reflection of the sun. I’d wanted to leave the hotel as soon as possible but ended up in the confines of my room, remembering how safe it is to be alone. People create pressure. I reminded myself that I was in this room, but I was not alone; a stranger was in the other room, and he could call for me at any moment. I needed to get out.

I opened my bedroom door at the same time Jacko opened the bathroom door, and steam came billowing out. His hair was in long wet ringlets. He was wearing the jeans from earlier and buttoning up a short-sleeved camp shirt.

“Hey.” Jacko said, “Where you headed?” 

I replied, “Um.” That was it; the word was the only thing that my shroom-mind could muster. 

“You going to the beach?” 

I nodded my head up and down and said, “Yup. Yea. Yup”

“Mind if I come?” 

“Ok.” I said because I was too high to lie or come up with an excuse, and telling him the truth that I’d prefer to be alone didn’t cross my mind.  

“Maybe we can get some grub when we’re out? Sound good?” 

I had the weird feeling that my shroom-trip was turning into a date, partially due to the emasculation I felt by Jacko witnessing me at this vulnerable time. I told myself that Jacko was not someone to be worried about; it didn’t matter what he thought; it didn’t matter if he found out I was high; he was just a stranger. The only difference was I had to share a suite with him.

 

We walked down the left sidewalk, crossing four streets, each lined with million-dollar cottages or little hotels like the one we were staying in. The streets themselves held storefronts for the rich; art galleries, seafood restaurants, a piano store; who’s buying a piano this close to the ocean? Why do pianos look like spiders from far away?

On the walk, I noticed dogs, lots of them. Dogs have unique faces, especially the smaller ones with wrinkles on their jowls. In Carmel, each human had a dog, and they window-shopped together on walks down Ocean Ave. 

 

Jacko carried the weight of the conversation. I found out his weird accent was South African, and he was traveling the United States on holiday. Jacko didn’t tell me what his current job was, but he did tell me that he used to be a crew member on a superyacht as we were sitting on the beach looking out into the ocean. There were three reasons that I felt great anxiety as I listened to him speak about it:

1) The shroom-trip. With him by my side, I couldn’t fully immerse myself in it and so was only catching glimpses of more intense hallucinations that flickered and went by. That bothered me. 

2) The decision I needed to make. It seemed that I had no time to decide what was the best thing to do with Meadow; the purpose of this trip was to be alone with my thoughts, and I was not.

3) Jacko and how he finished describing those years he worked on the superyacht as his most sexually active. He shared the information as casually as someone might tell you the name of their college, and a few minutes later, he told me that he was single. 

This wasn’t the first time that a man explored flirting with me. I believe that my weight and neat appearance make it seem like I might lean that way, but I don’t. I felt an insecure urge to clarify my sexuality and attempted to set the record straight by telling Jacko I had a girlfriend. However, more information than that came pouring out of me like white water crashing then dispersing into the sand. I said, “I’ve been dating the same girl for three years. She wants to gets married.” 

Jacko didn’t seem disappointed or phased by this information at all. I remember thinking that I may have misinterpreted why he told me the tale of his superyacht years. He said, “Congratulations. Do you know when you’re going to propose?” 

A hallucination winked at me, and I saw Bart Simpson writing the question over and over on the chalkboard just like he does in the introduction of his show, “When are you going to propose? When are you going to propose? When are you going to propose? When are you…” 

A wave crashed in front of me, and its sound brought me back to the moment. I told Jacko more. 

“Actually, I’m supposed to tell her if we’re getting married or not tomorrow.” 

He turned to look at me, “Or not? Mate, what’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I said and wanted to be done with it, but he looked at me unsatisfied with the answer. He kept his gaze like a teacher waiting on a student’s response. I was compelled to continue, “I don’t know if I’m built for marriage. I have a problem with commitment.” 

Jacko nodded his head like he agreed with me. 

“Tell me about her.” He said. 

 

The things you say about the person you love have been told better by Hallmark cards. This was my truth. I rambled to Jacko about Meadow over twenty waves crashing on the beach. Each sentence was more convoluted than the last, but the point I was making was clear to both of us; I love her.

 

When I was finally quiet again, Jacko asked me a straightforward question. It seemed obvious, but I’d never thought of it before, and so the seven words had a significant impact and made me emotional. They were, “Can you picture your life without her?”

 

My life. Growing up, I saw my father date a dozen different women. Each one lived with us, some full-time, others just on the weekends. I was young and naive, and each one that came I thought could be my new mom, but they always left. The relationships I formed with those women, and with my father when he was with them, always disappeared; their memories were stuffed in a bottle and thrown into the ocean, never to be seen again. He managed this behavior across all objects in my life. He hurt the pets that I loved and discarded my favorite toys. Nothing I’ve ever had has lasted. I can’t picture my life with Meadow because the fear of being left alone won’t allow it, but that wasn’t the question. The question was, “Can you picture your life without her?” 

 

Jacko watched as this all churned in my mind. In front of us was the buoyant Pacific and the setting sun, still blazing. I felt that he understood me, but I knew he was a stranger. Then, I decided it might be that he doesn’t understand all of me, but this part that has to do with Meadow was clear. 

 

“You’ve already got the answer.” He said. “You don’t need to say it to say it.” 

 

On the walk up Ocean Ave. to the Italian restaurant where we ate, I felt much better. I was less than three hours into my stay in Carmel, and I’d already gotten exactly what I needed. I felt an urge to call or text Meadow because I knew my decision was weighing on her heavily, but since my mind was no longer worried about making the decision or the stranger I was sharing a suite with, the shroom-trip fully kicked in and squashed any of those compulsions. It was impossible to carry on such a conversation in my state. All I could do was let the world in front of me unfold.

 

By the main course, the hallucinations had taken over; bats were climbing on curtains, for example, and Jacko finally called me out, “Are you high right now?” 

I nodded my head, “Super. Super. High. Tripping.” 

Jacko chuckled and then ordered another drink. What did he think of the stranger he had to share a room with? For the rest of the dinner, he let me get lost in an imaginary world as he sipped Jack and Cokes. The evening turned out to have a pleasant ease to it, and in the end, the only thing that didn’t go my way was the sleeping arrangement. 

 

Once back in the suite, he told me, “You’re high, and I helped you realize you need to marry that girl. You’re sleeping on the couch.” 

 

And so I did. It was a great trip, in every sense of the word. 

March 05, 2021 14:16

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1 comment

Angel {Readsy}
05:13 Apr 06, 2021

Scott is a wise writer , its every word reflect high IQ level, supreme wisdom, you are a remarkable scholar there is no award equal to your intellect you are out of of this world divine having super powers , hey may I collect little piece of written intellect from you

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