Citation: Zen Priest. "My Sitter was a Rope: An Experience with Salvia divinorum (exp60167)". Erowid.org. Apr 9, 2007. erowid.org/exp/60167
ONE DAY, TWO CROSSINGS:
I am nothing if not persistent, and have been granted a rare gift: one entire weekday alone with no other duties or obligations and with NO probability of interruptions. And so following weeks of lengthy contemplation I decided to once again go back to do what I said I never would again in my previous Erowid post “The Hellraiser Leaf” – taking “The LadyD” in excessive amounts. Recklessly unheeding my own advice until finally re-experiencing the most unforgettable reminiscences.
No words can accurately express the feeling that overtakes you beyond the 20 second mark into a lung-deep inhalation of 10-20x salvia… the clockwork point where you try to resist that momentary “Oh-Please-I-decided-I-don’t-wanna-GO!” panic and feel the initial tug that tells you its too damned late…that for better or (much) worse, you’re in for a Great Adventure…
And what follows is probably as “pleasant” an experience as Salvia is ever going to get…
BACKGROUNDS AND WAYWARD THOUGHTS:
Quickly summing up from my previous post:
I’m 47 years old, have two Masters Degrees and am a (fully Ordained) Rinzai Zen Buddhist, with over 20 years experience in various forms of Eastern and Vipassana meditation as well as being a meditation instructor and lecturer. For over 2 years I also worked as a Hospice volunteer, which resulted in numerous nights of 5-8 hour sits with the (Buddhist) dying – those of a fortitude requiring not so much a consoling ear as a brief sharing of one-on-one explorations and atonements, to the extent that that is even possible. The Buddhist group I belong to were NOT happy when without too much difficulty they discovered my infatuation with the Diviners Leaf Nevertheless, I am still scheduled for further Ordination later this year. As I tirelessly explained it is my profound respect for the plant, its meditational gifts and Shamantic introspective that drove me almost weekly into her arms.
My past entheogen use (20 years past before recently taking up Salvia) included mushrooms, DMT, ayahuasca, and alot of LSD.
As I said I am nothing if not persistent. The following is my reported 14th attempt with The Sage. The first 2 proving to be among the most horrific experiences of my life, the very first so outlandishly nightmarish that I still at times pause and find myself wondering how my sleeping hours are not chronically plagued with unrelenting psychotic reminisces.
My other 11 attempts have either been uneventful, purely “gravity-driven”, or I simply came to with shortness of breath, intense sweating and 90% amnesia. All told I feel I have a real brain-affinity for The Leaf, and find it strange that these amnesiac episodes occurred with smaller extract amounts, and not with the first two that contained Lv5-6 dosages.
I was determined to come to terms with The Lady. After tortured deliberation I was willing to once again throw myself at her feet in the hopes of finally having a spiritually experience- and though never expecting “profound” at least a moderately pleasant one. I felt from my first two voyages I had more than deserved at least that. I had more than paid my dues.
All that week in my mind I would internally beseech and implore The Plant that maybe this time She would perceive the sincerity in my heart and have pity. She was to answer my prayers - in a rather sardonic manner at first – for it seemed in retrospect she still believed I had some humility to acquire in accessing her kingdom. We may all, in the course of our lives, eventually get what we wish for but with Salvia as you will very soon see it is hardly ever the way you expect it, and in most cases probably deserve.
WE ARE OUR OWN ‘SET AND SETTING’:
I did not have the extravagance of the Zen Hermitage his time out, and my faithful Buddhist friend and sitter Richard is in NY doing botany research. So I chose my mothers cold, dark, stone-layered basement, creepy as hell but nonetheless an ideal place - I had spent almost every day of my late adolescence bodybuilding among my fathers scattered tools and massive workbenches so for me it was a very familiar and comfortable setting. It also served as my old music studio during the mid-late 80’s where I did most of my Goth/Industrial soundwork so for all intensive purposes the place was like my second home.
Reassessing my dosages from my first attempt months back, I would start with 4 droppers of Emerald Essence tincture, this time once again undiluted. Burns like a mother, but I just cannot be bothered with the hot water measuring, dual eyedroppers, etc. etc. Its all I can do to try to hold the shit in my mouth, smoke, and get the whole rest of the process somewhat accurate while all the time dealing with the ever-present extreme nervous tension. I would follow this by (hopefully) clearing an entire 0.2 gm cone of 10x in one try through my favorite “ice-twist” bong on top of a half-leaf of Hawaiian Premium. I knew a second attempted hit after this would be extremely doubtful, but just in case, I always had my wooden 2-chambered pipe as a backup and some extract, although what I packed here should be PLENTY and I had no real intention at the time of using anything more the first attempt out. Richard would say I was more than ready. I couldn’t wait to call him when this little adventure was over as long as it went as planned.
So I would have an entire morning until late afternoon totally alone in my mother's shadowy basement, where not only did she live alone, but was visiting my Aunt who lived over an hours drive away. It was 9:00am, the basement was practically soundproof and the neighborhood quiet. All in the nearby vicinity were either at work, in school or just gone. Perfect.
Lacking the luxury of Richard-The-Worrier’s presence with me this time out, I reached into my trusty ‘salvia-knapsack’ and pull out the Home Depot bag where my new “sitter” lie patiently waiting: 75 feet of newly purchased 3ml.thick yellow plastic rope.
I would wrap myself securely around the steel main beam in the basements center – consecutively looping the rope around twice and then tying 5 loose knots continuously until I reached the end. I’d make the rope loose enough so that I could sit somewhat comfortably in a half-lotus position – even on a cement floor, but secure enough where I was going NOWHERE fast except to be able to swivel around to reach my knapsack if needed. With the poor lighting down here this tedious process would take a good 10 minutes at least to undo in a lucid state never mind in a churning, salvia mind-swirl, and that way in case I happened to completely freak out and TRIED to untie myself the experience would be over long before I managed to break free and create rambunctious havoc roaming around my mother’s house. Doubtlessly totally unnecessary, as I figured I'd probably be close to comatose anyway.
This time I also decided to once again wear only my black Zen robe and sit on a thick throw cushion I happened across in an upstairs bedroom folded up snug against the mainbeam. Did I actually think utilizing religious overtones and gowning up would have made a difference?
Finally situated and comfortably sitting in place I went through the usual tincture-torture, bringing along my little timer to count off 4 minutes before swallowing. And so with only a 100 watt fluorescent bulb far behind me as the only external light source I hit the torch, whose dim glow dances at the walls with an almost conjuring effect, the immanent, beckoning realm at once and always frightening and exhilarating .
My hand-my whole fucking arm- is quivering, and it's like this every single time with no exceptions - all week long I've anticipated the moment -then upon its arrival I open the torch and hold the flame right at the cone and I hesitate –DAMN if this isn't the one drug that always scares the living shit outta me every time we meet. This is the one given that will never change.
Brief visions of carneys and clowns and rusted old rides…
I always hated carnivals. As a child I found them somewhat foreboding, and clowns always conferred a sense of dread. Amusement parks and their ilk have a distinctive, depressive aura all their own, always seemingly aged and dirt-ridden. For me they are the landscapes of sadness and vanished reverie. I’ve long associated the thought of carneys with Loss.
And here I am: looking over and down at another dreaded Ferris wheel, but within the confines of a rollercoaster approaching its end accent.
The coaster is packed full, my fellow passengers collectively silent and sitting stoically upright, with none of the usual hand waving or hoops of excitement. All are faceless, in that they have faces but no features whatsoever, just empty canvases of blank flesh.
All are wearing the exact same fleeting, long grey gauze sheeting that rips through the air, billowing upward and back as if I'm riding the ripples of some darkened cloud on a midnight sky - and yet there is no wind or even a light breeze of any type. The air is dead. In fact there is no sound whatsoever except the creaking of the coasters wheels wheezing upward although the park below is packed full and vibrant.
I look at the passenger next to me, who is in turn “looking” at me silently and without expression like she is expecting me to say something. I say she as it has breasts plainly visible beneath the gauze. The coaster slows at the very top, and I am now hesitant, never having enjoyed coasters all that much and - more importantly – right now I am still conscious of being under salvia’s influence and in turn know this will be anything but your run-of the-mill rollercoaster descent.
As the coaster starts to slow I notice my feet, legs, and hands have started to liquefy into the cracked vinyl fabric of the seat. I am TURNING INTO THE COASTER and instead of briefly halting at the very top it continues upward, smoothly and completely disengaging itself from the track and rising on into space. I look around - forgetting all about salvia as this is so real and look to my partner for aid but she is silent, her attention now fully forward.
I open my mouth to scream as the coaster suddenly tips and accelerates then flips straight back, completing a counterclockwise circle where I am seized fast to the seat but my mouth and lower jar are held back, elongating my eyes and face, thinning me out like stretched taffy as my whole face can’t keep up with the rest of my body as it flips and plummets straight downward. From all around me there is now the muffled chorus of a thousand singing “Ooohs and aahhhs”. The last thing I am aware of is the Ferris wheel’s deep, repetitive laughter as I smash below into a thousand pieces of disembodied consciousness and all is a sheet of white.
GREETINGS FROM OLD MEXICO…
I’m staring straight into an expansive sky of white porcelain. Naked, and stumbling forward in the middle of a jungle road – deep grey piney knots of gnarled foliage to either side of me and its all so very familiar. The overgrowth so thick I couldn’t venture past a foot of it without ripping myself open on bent, sharpened branches poking out like grey ribs. It’s like this all over the Yucatan jungles.
Then it hits me. Our last 2 summer’s family vacations. The road I’m on heads towards the Mayan ruins of Tulum. And suddenly I’m surrounded by people, thongs of people everywhere, a materialized column of thousands sauntering and stumbling forward and past me in this blistering heat with seemingly grim determination. Most are fanning themselves with what looks like large rolled up leaves.
In their resolve they hardly give Mr. Naked a glance.
I look around. It’s gotta be at least 11:00 and I am pouring sweat but my attention is momentarily riveted to the trees on either side of me. There is a distinct sense of someone, a Presence distinct from the others, of something IN there. Something in the trees studying me, and it’s more than an uncomfortable feeling. What the fu..?
Kids have gathered all around me – grabbing my hands and pulling me forward. Unlike many of the others they‘re running all around with animated enthusiasm. A few point at my crotch and giggle. Rather than embarrassment I don’t give this a second thought, my only objective trying to keep up with them but this HEAT is sapping my energy! I’m exhausted like I was walking in this oven for days on end.
“Vamanos Papa! “, two little Mexican boys laugh good naturedly.
“Ven! Ven aca Hombre!”
Two ancient women, squat and dressed entirely in black rush up and accost me, pushing the kids aside, grabbing my arms from each side and propelling me forward with surprising strength as we are literally soaring vertically inches off the ground past the innumerable single couples, tour groups and packs of solitary native children. And there are 'Others' cartoon-like figures resembling huge, plastic parade floats hovering flaccidly or bobbing up and down, heads above the rest of this moving wall of humanity, grinning stupidly at me as I fly by. Amongst the many packs of children they remind me of dejected dolls being tossed about in the air before discarded to some dusty playrooms corner.
One character with a head like a carrot and dressed in a long yellow tailcoat with an oversized bowler hat stops as I pass by, tips his hat to me while bowing from the waist to the very ground. Upon raising he replaces the hat with an exaggerated, dandied flourish and points past me, redirecting my attention to whatever the collective goal is that lies ahead.
And then SHE appeared from beyond the imposingly thick tree-line. Vast and ancient, in only a tattered green-gold shawl, she is androgynous with skin glistening black as night. Arms pressed tightly to her sides her hands are empty and bent arthritically upward at the wrists, resembling long talons curling into half circles. Her hair was set straight up into a broad, twisting coiffure. And with her head thrown back she stares down over the crowed, scanning them like some inpatient Goddess. Regal and omnipotent among her minions, she looked like a midnight, polarized version of Queen Neffertiti. She was well over 8’ feet tall yet so stick thin she couldn’t have weighed more than 90 lbs, but this woman, this creature, could easily rend me to shreds and hand the strips back piecemeal. I must be out of my fucking mind, not being able to tear my eyes from her. To say she was a vision of abject fright would be the ultimate understatement, although she stood stock still in a totally non-threatening manner. She seemed almost bored as she perused the crowd, not bothering to give me even a cursory glance.
We have reached a clearing, my two ‘guides’ immaterializing from my side, which causes me to drop unceremoniously to the ground in the center of a large tree-studded clearing. If there is any further doubt as to where I am it disappears as I rise and am once again facing the pyramid ruins of Chichan-itza.
No way am I getting near that again. Never having ever suffered vertigo in my life until last summer as when I climbed to the top. I was overwhelmed by a mental terror I never dreamed experiencing. Luckily there was a fist-thick man-made rope on its eastern side for the benefit of petrified tourists like myself. I went down all 91 steps sliding on my ass and thanking Buddha for delivering me to solid ground, my bones and brain spared a likely flesh-crushing tumble down the awkward, crumbling 10” high stone steps, snowballing all that would have lain in my path.
Looking around and straight ahead, I had to keep reminding myself I was on a drug. And salvia or no salvia, Chichan-itza lies before me once again. So damned real and overwhelming that after awhile reminding myself of anything was making no difference whatsoever, threatening me once again with its prehistoric, colossal height. Timeless and inviting.
No fucking way.
Stopping RIGHT HERE and whatever happens, happens!
The crowd has now converged, and we are encircled by what must be a thousand separate black-cloaked antediluvian beings, both male and female and all chanting the same mantra that resembles the TM “Om” intonation but in this case sounds more like a guttural version of “Weeee”. Chorused in grand unison in a cadence so low it makes the very Earth rumble. If I ever witnessed the physical definition of crowd-induced Ritual, this is it.
And SHE has returned, this harsh Queen oblivious somehow to all eyes but mine, and this time she stares and points directly at me, her face a mask of loath impatience. The “Weee’s” are growing in volume and now the entire crowd has joined in synch. All are standing stock-still in place as the Queen advances toward me with hardened, dour resolve, muttering something with machine-gun rapidity, her outstretched right arm rising toward the sky, toward the top of the pyramid. Her animated rant feels like a spell, becomes more guttural, from deep within until it rises to a wailed screech, and now she’s no longer just pointing but jabbing, stabbing her finger simultaneously at me and the Pyramids summit while flying towards me. I am overwhelmed, personalizing her as the embodiment of every daunting, wrathful incarnation I have ever feared.
As she’s almost on me all I can do is supplicate and fall to my knees in cowed dread, hoping against hope that she has some inkling of the age-old custom of Mercy. I huddled myself as best I could into a ball and covered my head exactly like some terrified child who at night thinks if they keep the blanket pulled up over their heads the Boogeyman will remain at bay. Not since my first salvia trip have I been so shitlessly petrified.
MEET YOU IN…MOROCCO?
“Ah Booleh Booleh! Ah Booleh Booleh!”
Peeking upward She is now nowhere in sight but WHAT.
This loud, piercing gibberish is accompanied by a succession of sharp, searing pains in my left ear, which feels wet and burns with heat. Looking up I find myself staring directly into the face of a butt ugly, curd-chewing camel who appraises me with a somewhat curious interest. And sitting high on the camel is what looks like a Tuareg nomad, swaddled from head to toe entirely in blue robes, with only sun-blackened forearms and creased face exposed. He peers upon my naked form, and leaning down starts furiously hitting at me with a long wooden switch on my face and head. Raising my arm against the glaring sky and frontal assault only seems to infuriate him all the more. He keeps switching at my head... looking up and struggling to escape I can only move slow-motion through deepening sand that sucks at my feet.
“Ah Booleh Booleh! Ah Booleh Boo!”
He is now screaming and I don't have time to think past 'WTF' as I notice I am directly in front of a large, dome-like structure of comparable size but looks more like a gargantuan stone egg than a Pyramid -for Chican-itza is nowhere in sight and the only people about are a small group of the bobbing, cartoon-characters from my earlier road pilgrimage (including other versions of my carrot friend in the bowler hat) that seem to be working in twos – or should I say slaving - on the “Egg” carrying stone blocks around its base. There’s the distinct sound of gnashing ‘gears’ although there is no machinery of any type anywhere.
All stop and drop their loads when they hear my Buddy-on-High screaming. Collectively they start jumping up and down, giggle and point, which only infuriates the Tuareg further who rises up to a standing position from the now bored camel and raises both arms toward the heavens and screaming I-don’t-know-what before wailing on me with renewed vigor. I must have done SOMETHING to piss this guy off but what I haven’t a clue - but what is far worse than that is that as I go to speak it hits me that I can’t remember who the hell 'I' am. Remembering Chichan-itza and The Queen I nonetheless can’t connect with ‘Jonathan’. I had no name and no conception of what tripping was or what had happened to cause this, but am now only connected somehow with my being an (?American) (with no money) (and no clothes!) and no idea HOW I arrived in this increasingly unnerving situation.
Asshole persists with the switch screaming this Booleh-Booleh shit and all I do is stand there like a frightened idiot as now a small cluster of about five or six other riders in turn are approaching from my left, waiving, shouting and gesturing at the infidel who upset their companion so. Not looking good at all. Having always obsessed on visiting Northern Africa, Caro, the Sphinx and great Pyramids of Giza, this was not exactly how I envisioned my longed-for pilgrimages.
I feel another hot wave across my skin as I start to “run” toward the stone egg structure. A futile endeavor. Where the hell do I think I’m going! I’m looking for, what?...refuge?
The other Tuaregs had met up with my tormentor and all are now playing their own desert version of Cat & Mouse, riding to either side of me while cross-crossing my path - their camels closing in as they direct my course of escape while continually kicking at me as I stumbled pointlessly forward. I have never felt such heat in my entire life, sweating so much I’m sure if my luck holds out I’ll melt into nothing before my tormentors grow bored and think up some new game at my expense. Each step sinking deeper into sand that looks more fluorescent than golden brown, like running in a dream where the faster you go the less headway you seem to make.
The sudden absence of nomadic laughter coincides with the grounds starting to violently tremble as I fall over. The old boys behind me must have halted to observe the “Eggs’” center - now abruptly starting to shine and throb along its vertical axis revealing itself not as a stone structure but more a pulsing, wet grey wound.
Both tying in to the now burgeoning comprehension of my coming down from salvia’s peak, for just as quickly as it all started everything collapsed in a sudden halt, an abrupt awakening from my self-induced transitory flight.
The grey plasma-like Monolith in turn reveals itself to be in fact just the protruding stone wall of my mother’s basement as the old boys behind me have indeed disappeared, replaced once again by my awe-inspiring Cancun Queen - the last thing standing directly between myself and mornings lucidity - no longer threatening but seemingly radiant with matronly understanding and a look now of empty, profound sadness. I had felt a strong presence once before, but this was the first physical manifestation of a being that seemed somehow to be the key presence in these absurd realms.
And rather than relief my mind wells with emptiness finally grasping the obvious. I suddenly feel so stupid, like I should have some life-affirming question at the ready for this rapidly fading representation before me which was simply my own subconscious rendering of the human condition in the Face of the Infinite... Lady Salvia.
“WAIT!” the scream in my head comes out as incoherent, mumbled garbage.
My eyes explode with red floaters, my blood pressure must be sky high and I think I’m about to pass out, so afraid that if I take the second to squeeze my eyes close for relief when I release them she will be long gone.
And then worse than any faded withdrawal – she purposely just turned away, as if I was not worthy of whatever it was I was meant to confirm or understand from the very beginning.
And along with her broken, ephemeral image – along with all that I had just recalled in moderately vivid detail - I knew there was so much more…but whatever these other images would have been were all fleeting at best, and I should be happy with what I had, as within 10 minutes I might not even have that….
WITH REGARDS TO SECOND CHANCES…
I’m slumped over staring into the cellar floor, robe wide open, stomach and left hand sticky with saliva and tincture slime, made worse by the fact that it is now quite cold down here, and I realize that I have drifted off either to sleep or just passed out. Two minutes? Two hours? I can’t even make out the timer that’s just a yard away and in my present mental state for all I know it could even be evening by now.
And pain. A lot of pain and that’s a first! Man do I feel like shit…
My left ear is burning something fierce, and reaching up my fingers come away dark and wet. I must have wrenched down hard on my two loop earrings and now there’s only one, the other probably somewhere at my feet. Nice. Good going.
There are also dull tingly pains all around my upper chest and sides. Putting that plastic rope around my semi-bare midsection was a real dumbass idea as I’m sure to develop a nice set of rope burns which will turn into real nice welts and I can’t begin to imagine how I will somehow explain it all to my wife when she sees this mess. I must have jerked around something fierce.
I’m growing more and more disheartened as I’m once again seemingly unable to break into anything mystical or exceptionally positive although I feel in my heart that some closing brink is so, so within reach.
Brink to what? (I try not to ask myself) …What the hell am I talking about?
Reality check: Half naked. Filthy, pissed off and in pain.
I’m about to call it a day, unwrap myself and leave disgusted when I turn and spy the fresh backup pipe right behind me, packed tight and ready for firing. I had to go it again AND NOW, in haste and with no breaks before I changed my mind or the habitual coward in me will out. I foolishly thought that if lucky I might possibly end up back to exactly where I left off . Before reason takes hold I put the pipe on my lap, reach over to the tincture bottle on its side and quickly squirt 2 (? 3… the bottle was near empty) droppers-full into my mouth.
I squint into the bowl as I mentally with minimal success attempt to tick off 5 minutes in my head before squeezing my eyes tight against the gag reflex and swallowing the tincture at the same time clicking the torch-lighter. And the familiar arises, telling myself to exhale but the lungs aren’t listening until I almost choke through the exhale. And as I try to catch my breath the familiar increasingly loud “ear humming” and immediate sweating starts. Never in my life would I ever have believed the body could sweat in such an instantaneous manner before experiencing salvia. It is just so uncanny.
I could now give a shit. This new ringing in my ears is so ever pleasant, so womblike. It lends me a feeling of such complacency that I’m no longer worried as I usually get that it’s my blood pressure rushing to an exceedingly dangerous point.
Not even considering it all strange that there was now a grotesquely fat elderly man playing a child’s toy piano in the far right-hand corner by the stairwell, his obesity matched only by his excessively long, accentuated neck. I found it far stranger that there were no sounds emanating from the little piano considering that the notes were plainly visible rising from its keys.
This fat Giraffe-man is singing. I guess you’d call it singing but its more like a drawn out, softly pensive lament.
“aaahhhh Looooo… Looooo…aaahhhh Looooo….”
“HEY! Yes you! Who the hell let you in here! “
I catch myself – maybe he is a guest who is staying over. I don’t want to anger the guy or worse hurt his feelings and suddenly hate myself for swearing at him. I can be such an asshole, Damnit.
“HEY!… Did you come for Mary? Are you a friend of my moms?”
I feel really bad that I keep yelling but this swooshing rush in my ears is growing louder by the minute and my long string of frustrated shouts continued unanswered and ignored. He just keeps up this weeping, wailing cry-song and weaving his head back and forth.
And then THEY appeared…
THE SALVIA LAUNCH LIKE NO OTHER
There were four of them.
“Aaaaaahhhh RINK! a dink a dink... a rink a dink... a dink a doooooo
Ohhhh RINK!... a rink-a-dink. a dinka doooo...”
The facing wall came alive with an emerging, pale white spotlight illuminating a string of 'dancers' standing dead still until bursting out in unison with that ridiculous Jimmy Durant jingle. Their ludicrous choiring seemed to rise up and engulf my mind, churning my thoughts and growing so loud I threw both palms over my ears but their siren whaling only grew to a pitch so volumous I feared my head would explode.
They were lined up in flawless unison, not like four dancers would line up as one in perfect sync, but more like those scissor and paper cut-out dolls kids make, all accordioned out in the exact same manner as their mirrored counterpart. They sported black-tailed dinner jackets with matching stovetop hats and white gloves and shirts with sharpened collars. Each swung walking sticks as they tapped back and forth and side to side - inching their way slowly toward my tied up prostrated form. They would have looked like four comical versions of 'Mr.Peanut' except none had features, only blackness between hat and collar, in fact anything that would have registered as human flesh took on a deeper hue than invisibility, as I could not see the cement wall behind them through there empty 'faces'.
As they closed in they stopped singing and started collectively humming the same “aaahhhh Loooo, aaahhhh Looooo…” exactly like my mothers fat guest in the corner but who was now nowhere in sight.
Comical… Stupid… utterly Ludicrous...
Words I said out loud to reassure myself were empty, for there was something malevolently unnerving about them. Their leisurely, unhurried approach promised nothing rewarding in the least. All I could think of was I had landed in the middle of some black cabaret - a burlesque act right out of a Joel-Peter Witkin photography nightmare.
And then I was suddenly jarred and bounced upward right from were I was sitting, literally straight up off the whole cushion and a soft voice mellowed in my ear from the left but came across like a loud scream.
“HEEEYYYYY…. LOOK …. AT…..eeeeYOOUUUU.....”
In the floor at my side, head thrown back and half beneath the surface with only its throat exposed lies an upper torso and two arms that lean back from the elbows in a reclining position, securing my sitting frame with two propped knees bent and supporting my body firm to its center. Materializing upward the face stretched forth and took on the hue of the concrete, as if it were emerging straight up from the grey flooring looking exactly like a face would if it were pressed flat into a stretched balloon.
Rising, it was naked and nondescript, save for sagged breasts over lean, emaciated ribs and eyes that when opened stared blankly not with pupils but with darker, pooled grey centers neither benevolent nor threatening. And it shined like it was wet. A statuesque, gaunt manikin, come to life rising up from directly below the cellars surface.
With neither knees nor arm movement she – this phantasm - started to 'bounce' me up and down on her lap, not violently with the intention of discharging me off and onto the floor - just a simple but steady rhythmic up and down, like a parent might 'roughly' tease and bounce a child in play.
And then she reached up and around, grabbing the right side of my forehead and back of my neck and gently but with surprising force tugged downward while inching upward, her lips brushing against my left ear as I started to bend over at a physically impossible, sideward angle. In laws of normal physics my hip joints from either side should have snapped as I descended ever downward. Pulling her face up to reach my bent left ear and not externally but from the very center of my subconscious came the softest voice – so unlike the face it originated from – whisper/screaming in my ear but feeling more from my minds center:
'DOOOOOON’T BE AFRAID… THIS WON’T HURT A BIT...'
Then the tap-dancers were upon me…
Upon me and INSIDE me, all four with their gloved hands “exploring” my face and hair – at first rubbing vigorously in swirling motion and then using their fingers to probe into my face, eyes, nose and mouth. The room started to vortex inward as I could no longer see clearly or in any way grasp my bearings, their voices now steadily humming louder and louder with fingers from four pairs of hands in turn vibrating inward, past my skins surface to the center of my brain, the very absence of any sense of pain creating an experience all the more horrifying.
I was at the point of being totally bent sideways in half - with my head and upper body now completely encircled - forced into and through the flesh and bone of my left hip. The “rink-a-dinks” had desisted from my facial rape, replaced now with 'her' working my entire head ever inwards. I'd taken the street expression “becoming intimate with my own ass” to a whole new level. If I had previously – my first time out – experienced the depth of mental hell then this was its physical, mirror equivalent. The very cellar where I had spent over 40 years had now become my own private Hieronymus Boche World.
I was gagging and gurgling, struggling to breath through my nose and all that came out was snorts. I thought my eyes were exploding and starting to run down my face unto the floor while all the time she cooed in the most soothing voice making it all the more appalling. And the very last thing I remember hearing before my entire head melted into my hip, I turned into a literal Human Doughnut, and the world went mercifully black, was her now gentile, calming, almost inaudible whisper…
'There now… There we go… Welcome to the threshold…'
OF MEMORIES AND CHILDHOODS END…
“The Butterfly counts not days but moments, and has time enough.”
- Zen proverb –
And with no memory whatsoever:
I’m centered in some immense antechamber, a darkened hallway where each of the walls support great, oval portraits, each with its own set of candles on either side that offer the only source of illumination. Expanding out endlessly as far as my eye could see, each portrait is identical, covered over completely in black curtains, the only sound a soft rippling, similar to a breeze passing through plastic tarpaulin.
A vast museum of infinite ambiguity.
The endless hall is filled with hundreds of small children quietly sitting at small kindergarten-type desks silently intent on some kind of test before them. I too am squeezed tightly into a tiny seat constructed for someone 1/3 my stature. Glancing down my entire body is enwrapped, clothed only in white sheeting. Held fast, it never crosses my mind that I should be in any way apprehensive, only that I need to get up and proceed down into that vast corridor and quickly…
“PEPOTA!”, my voice a booming echo though no one seems to notice or care, my cry only adding to the accentuated silence…
She was our live-in maid from very early childhood, when I lived in Northern Spain up until the age of seven. She who was as close to the family as if she was a blood relative and practically a second mother to me, someone who’s loving memory hasn’t passed through my mind in well over? Why would that name blurt out suddenly after all these years?
With the myriad of figures surrounding me I feel utterly alone. Unable to move I don’t even attempt to struggle, and just sit there in resigned loneliness and weary, fragile sadness.
And then a sense of body, but not a human body…
“HOLA SENORA ROSARIA!” I yell back and attempt to waive but cannot.
I know this woman, who has suddenly appeared across the squared, inner courtyard and is hanging wash from her opened kitchen window. The entire apartment alcove is suddenly alive with animated conversations as more and more women have appeared, likewise hanging wash, or simply hanging out their respective windows, elbows rested on ledges in anticipation to long mid-morning bouts of gossip.
I go to waive again at Rosaria, not giving where I am a second thought but can only swivel my head as my hand and arm seem fixed in a forward leaning position. I am held fast, and looking down see nothing but the courtyards’ three story drop.
From what I could tell I was part of the window ledge, but crazy as it sounds - and completely unaware of being under a drugs influence - the memorable, nostalgic sights around me kept any and all feelings of terror and panic well at bay. For I was momentarily stunned at my minds sudden clarity to these surroundings and unable to fully believe I could actually be back where I have once again found myself in Spain.
My childhood Spain as it was – over 40 years earlier.
'Here you go sweetie'
I turn at this voice, soft and familiar and it is my mother stooping over my father who is at his morning ritual: huddled over his Esta Dia newspaper and sipping coffee. He gazes lovingly and tiredly at the woman before him as she stoops to kiss him.
So very young.
And I am invisible to them. So frozen in shock and disbelief I can only observe, not daring to cry out or interrupt in any way in case this moment is broken, feeling waves of sentiment long buried in a far distant past long forgotten by years of selfish misunderstandings and veiled remorse.
And then...'I' entered...
I am watching an exact replica of myself at about age 5 enter the room from the corner entryway: Everything was exactly as I had known it probably 40-plus years hence! I am mesmerized. Actually WATCHING MYSELF AS A CHILD move through this slice of pre-adolescent life-at-a-glace.
'Myself' moves towards my father's small table and is swept up into his arms, head buried in his shoulder. I am able to “sense” his lined face as it nuzzles my neck and I laugh into his collar. The look on my fathers face stops me dead. I feel so hot I could pass out. The moment is at once heart rendering and totally implausible.
'I' then ran from the room, and I was tormented at my inability to follow myself and stay, mesmerized by my mother and fathers now youthful features. For all I had for memories up until this point (when I rarely cared to rouse them at all) was his pain-wracked body dying for two long months in a hospital ward, waiting in coma's embrace for the bone cancer to finally take him. I wanted to grab hold of this kid (myself!), warn him of his immanent future before it was once again too late, to make alternative decisions - to speak those words never spoken.
DAMMIT I never wanted to leave. I no longer cared HOW or WHY or HOW LONG or WHAT any of this was or when I would wake up but my tenuous desperation at grasping the moment was more painful than having to suffer any past physical agony and less painful than my inability to move and participate in these evolved proceedings.
“DAD! MA!” My call is thousands of miles away as he just went back to his paper, accompanied by my mothers hum at the dishwashing she’d started. The women’s voices outside made me turn and I closed my eyes, squeezing them shut so tight thinking for some reason that if I kept them closed the moment would prove eternal.
When I opened then I was in a spinning vortex of jumbled thoughts - no longer in Spain but I had no time for lament. I witnessed snippets of a history gone forever, fresh and vibrant as they ragged past me: My father golfing with me by his side -tired and uninterested yet happy just to be his son and included in his treasured pastime.
My Father: valid memories started hastening by at a speed comparable to a rapidly shuffling deck of cards, so many at once and at such a rapid onslaught I couldn’t even stop any longer to.
'HOW’S MY LITTLE MAN!'
Now it was my Grandfather shouting down at me. That loud, bellowing voice behind his massive jowls broken into smiles as he patted my head so hard I saw stars. I could have cried. It was the one solid hero of my boyhood. My best friend, My 'Grampie' and before THIS were just memories of months of his Alzheimer’s malicious descent. 'My Little Man', his favorite pet name and one I adored. I haven't had the heart to utter those words aloud in later years as the pain was too great. Better (I thought) to let it stay buried, as what I refused to acknowledged might never come back to hurt me.
Looking around and NOW I was once again sitting at some kids birthday party (?mine) at Hickory Lodge, a place and time where once there were countless adult males all around, were childhood life was for me what it is in storybooks -innocent and joyous, with no lack of affection and guidance. I am now the last immediate remaining 'elder”, late 40's but with no males in my family older than myself.
Fading...fading.... my ear was burning and I looked around there must be 50 people in this room all talking to me at once. I’m trying to see but everything is growing hazy and my mind is unclear. I see a floor and walls and so, so many people, people who are now leaving in droves and I hear 'Chose to stay' somewhere What the fuck is that and where is Grampie. Where is Dad.
There are 2 very small boys sitting huddled up to each other in the corner of some basement I am in, looking anxious and afraid. They don’t say anything else but I can tell they want me to come with them and I feel hurt and sad and alarmed that they will now disappear for I know somehow that they are my own sons but I WANT TO STAY! I WANT WHAT HAS GONE FAR PAST. 'Grampie!!!' was all I responded, the scream in my head answered with only their hurt stares.
Dad I am so sorry for not being the son I could have been. Too late. Too late. I want to stay.
I WOULD MAKE A MOST INEPT CRIMINAL…
Wanting nothing more than to just bolt home I spent all of maybe 30 minutes “cleaning up” after myself with such mechanical incompetence that I would definitely have to go over every inch of this house again early tomorrow before my mothers return. So muddled, saddened and confused I must have left enough evidence to my being here I wouldn’t make it past her most superficial scrutiny. Everything seemed in place.
I looked over one last time at my mother’s house, the house I had grown up in off and on since birth. I thought of the many family ghosts who had so very long ago wandered its quarters – from my uncle who literally built it to the two key male influences who had lived my life, loving me irregardless and hoping to make a difference.
And suddenly I’m laughing my ass off, out loud and so hard I cannot stop.
Peace. And safe journeys to you all.
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