Archive for March, 2007

Sugar Mountain High XII

March 28, 2007

I suppose you know everything until you are confronted with something that reminds you that you actually know very little. I thought I knew Elmo. I don’t mean that I could predict his every move and thought. Rather, I had an understanding of his spirit, to use that old fashioned term. I knew him as a kindred spirit. And even to this day, I am still confident that Elmo could have been one of the greats, of whom it is spoken long after they have lived. Perhaps his actions on that day even defined his greatness.

Let me say that I do not agree… no, that is not the right word. I do not condone what he did. I could not have predicted his actions, but I understood why he did it, after the fact. Elmo had long suffered at the hands of certain people. We, his friends often made fun of him, his afflictions. How could we not? He was extremely funny, with his gait, and his mannerisms. I could not say Elmo was this, or Elmo was that, since we did not have the luxury of comparing him with someone of his ilk. He just stood out from us. So we made fun of him, but we were never rude. At least, I hope we never were.

Other people, on the other hand, went beyond that. They mocked him, they were cruel, they laughed at him, not out of fun, but from malice. We were different: to us he was just a joke. But to those others he was all that was wrong with their world. They hounded him like a dog, if you’ll pardon the expression. They chased him, they kicked him, they spat at him. He could do nothing in return: his limp leg made it impossible for him to chase anyone. And his weak upper limbs would have tickled them rather than hurt them if he could catch them. So he was forced to just let things go by. I don’t know how he managed. We never discussed it with him. It’s not as though we could do anything about it, anyway. That was the way of the world.

So poor old Elmo had to stick it out. Until that fateful day. But perhaps he had planned it all along. Perhaps the introduction of Pedro into our group was all part of his plan. I pondered this as I stood in his room, waiting for the cupboard to swing open completely. There was one boy in particular who taunted Elmo no end. His name was Willie.

So it came as no surprise, although, again, I could not have predicted it, when Willie’s headless corpse was revealed against the back of the cupboard, as the door completed its arc. I knew it was Willie because his head rolled out of the cupboard. It had probably been what caused the door to open.

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Sugar Mountain High XI

March 27, 2007

I trod back through the woods with eyes downcast. What would I tell Pedro? Would his mother say anything to him? Aside from these thoughts, I began to feel low, the after-effect of The Rush. I wanted to lie down next to the path to have a nap. But I went instead a little way off the path to a stream to rinse my face and hands.  I began to feel a little better.

A rare clarity took hold of me. I saw that The Rush had begun to control me. By going to his mother, I felt that I had betrayed Pedro. He had wanted to show me a new way of living, but I had allowed myself to become overwhelmed. Would he still trust me? Would he still love me? I needed him so much, especially now. I feared a descent even deeper than what I had just achieved. I saw an image of myself bed- ridden in a virtual stupor, wanting only one thing, living only for that one thing: The Rush. I looked at my hands, and then my body. How they had changed.  Where was once a petite feminine figure, was the beginning of bloating. And my arm: a purple swelling had begun to form where Pedro’s mother had injected me.

Who could I turn to for help? Not Pedro: I wanted to go back to him cleansed. I thought of Elmo, reliable Elmo. I began to run. He did not seem to have been as taken with The Rush as I was. I was mistaken. When I reached his house, Elmo was lying in a pool of blood. Not his own. His eyes had the far-off vacant look from The Rush. He could not be roused. I followed the trail of blood…

It led to a cupboard at the back of the room. Afraid to open it, I turned back towards Elmo, but the door of the cupboard began to creak. I turned to look, and froze as the door swung open.

Sugar Mountain High X

March 22, 2007

When Pedro refused to let me have more crystal, I hatched a plan: I would visit his mother. She was the source, after all. I did not tell Pedro, of course. All I wanted to do was increase my supply.

I arranged to go when Pedro was busy. His family lived in a ramshackle timber house on a footpath well away from our part of town. As I approached, I could see smoke rising from a chimney. There did not appear to be any signs of life. Feeling a little bit like Goldilocks, I opened the door when no one answered my knock. “Hello?”, I inquired, as I went inside. Silence. The room I had entered was neat, but sparse. There were some low seats set against one wall, and a table occupied most of the rest of the space.

Holding aside the bead curtains, I went through a doorway, deeper into the dwelling. It was dark. After a few seconds, I could make out certain shapes. I was in some kind of passageway, very narrow, with two rooms leading off it. At the other end was what looked like the kitchen. I cautiously started walking down the passageway. As I passed the second room, a slight noise, almost imperceptible, made me turn. There on the bed, was a human form. I nearly jumped with fright. The figure was facing me, its eyes staring at mine!

I stood like this, not knowing what to do. Then the body on the bed began to speak. “I know you,” it said. It was a woman’s voice, Pedro’s mother. She was breathing heavily. “Ye…yes,” I stammered, “I’m Pedro’s friend.” “He not here now,” she rasped. I stood still. From the way she moved slightly on the bed, I knew she understood why I was there.

“Come here, child,” she said, getting up, and gesturing for me to lie on the bed. “Do you know what you are doing?” she asked. I nodded. She gave a snorting laugh. Or was it a cackle? Was she really a witch woman? I felt a fleeting inclination to get out of the room, and out of the house. But I let it pass: my needs were greater; I had begun to sweat and grow irritable since I had been with Pedro earlier. My fear grew when I saw her take a needle from a bag next to the bed. She drew some solution from a tube that she had vigrously shaken. “Be still,” she said. She opened my left arm, and cleaned it in the crook with a wet sponge.

She raised the needle to eye level, squinting in the shadows. Before I could protest, she plunged the needle into my vein with great accuracy. Ahhh! Immediate relief: The Rush was upon me.

Sugar Mountain High IX

March 20, 2007

All that summer I could think about only two things: Pedro, and The Rush, as he called it. I became addicted to both. We performed the ritual regularly with our group, mainly on the open field where we had first been. I also began to take it in private sessions with Pedro. Those were the most intense experiences of my life.

It felt as though my body was boiling, while I was able to shut out the pain at the same time. During the sessions, my skin became taut, but over the summer, we felt our bodies begin to bloat. I grew larger, out of all proportion to what I was ingesting. This was not too surprising for those around us. You see, my people are big drinkers. They do not pride themselves on it. In fact, it is a source of shame that is never spoken of. But it is accepted that when a person reaches a certain age, it is not unexpected for them to start changing shape because of it. I hid my addiction under the guise of heavy drinking.

Only Pedro did not change. He refused to experience The Rush with me. He said that he had seen his mother ruined because of it. But why was it okay for me to take it? He said that he knew what he was doing and that it would all be alright. I believed him. He was a beacon in the sea of change I found myself in.

I saw changes in the others, especially Elmo. He became more aggressive. Pedro said it was not unusual, especially when a person needed that special fix. I felt it too, that need to feel The Rush. When we were alone together, Pedro allowed me to swallow the crystal whenever I wanted to, instead of going through the ritual that we did when we were with the others. But he limited the quantity I ingested, so that after a while that did not feel like enough. I always wanted more.

Sugar Mountain High VIII

March 19, 2007

We lay in this state for what seemed like hours. It must have looked strange, the four of us on our backs, Pedro in the middle. I felt as though I was levitating. My skin was tingling with delight. With my eyes closed I could sense our surroundings. Clouds passed overhead in a bewildering flux. A vortex emerged from the sun, spinning slowly at first, but spiralling ever faster as it reached the earth. It was going to swallow us. I sensed it in absolute acceptance. Whatever the universe had to offer I was ready to accept.

The vortex propelled itself through the atmosphere. It was a kaleidoscope of colour. It touched the clouds, it was moving close to the speed of light now, but somehow slowed down by my perception. I felt the softest sensation of touch on my chest, and opened my eyes. A daisy had dropped on me.

The others were all sitting up by now, groggily rubbing their eyes. I longed to return to wherever it was I had been. Pedro came to stand above me, casting a shadow. I felt like crying. He bent down to hold my hand, and said: “You’ve come back to me.”

Sugar Mountain High VII

March 16, 2007

We went one day on our regular picnic. Pedro was invited but he failed to bring anything along. Nothing visible anyway. After eating he said: “I’ve brought something from my mother’s kitchen.” We were keen, and said excitedley: “What is it?”

He told us to lie back and close our eyes. He hummed a tune, and I felt my eyes and body relaxing. Then I became aware of the ground around me, the grass in between my toes. He leaned towards me and gave me a gentle kiss on my lips. Then he whispered in my ear: “Open your mouth, and hold out your tongue.” I was hesitant, but he rubbed my cheek with his fingertips, and I complied. I felt his finger on my tongue.

It was slightly encrusted with a crystalline substance. I felt it draw onto my tongue and dissolve. I was highly aware of it, probably because I was in such an accepting state. I had forgotten about Pedro, but then I sensed that he was already standing up, still humming his strange melody. I felt him moving to Elmo, then to Bobby and Avril, performing the same ritual with each of them, in turn. It was strangely church-like, as though we, young adults, were playing at the Sabbath service the way we used to when we were little children. Pedro’s tone, though, was light. It resonated with the rhythms of my own body in that time and place.

Even as I lay passively on the ground, I felt something begin to work inside me. After what must have been only a minute or two, I began to feel unsettled. As though he knew what was happening, Pedro stopped humming, and said: “Lie still, this will pass.” I felt myself relax again. But not mto my previous state. There was an excitement all over my body. I felt aroused in a way I had not felt before. I suddenly wanted Pedro to lie down beside me. Instead he said: “You will now begin to experience The Rush.”

Sugar Mountain High VI

March 15, 2007

Bobby was an excitable sort of person. You wouldn’t say so from his normally passive disposition. He was inclined to explode, I suppose because he kept things bottled up inside him. Being a woman, I learned how to draw out of him whatever it was that was bothering him. But sometimes I couldn’t be bothered.

Bobby was the first boy I kissed. Four years passed before I kissed another boy. Does that tell you something about Bobby, or about me? Pedro was very different. There was passion with Pedro, whereas Bobby was more of an experiment. He didn’t mind. We were friends, after all. So it was surprising to see Bobby become jealous when he saw me and Pedro together. I suppose that since Elmo had brought Pedro to our group, and I had accepted him, Bobby felt left out. Jealous. I learned then that there was nothing profound about Bobby, he was a common man. His soul lacked lustre. I say this not so that you think that I judge Bobby harshly, but to hold him up to the light, as one would an object of mystery. Then only to find that its sparkle fades into the background, because the light comes from a place even more mysterious, magical, even.

Elmo, on the other hand, had possibilities. In a different place and time, he would have been famous. Not movie star fame, or political fame, but something else. Perhaps he would have been a great writer. Or an astronaut, or inventor. He had a will that was overwhelming. He had the will to dream. To dream us other than we were, and to realise that dream. To dream himself awake.

But he was not a dreamer. He was a willer. One does not meet that sort of person often in one’s life. Perhaps as often as you experience a great loss that shatters your being. I was lucky enough to know two people like that in my life: Elmo and Pedro. And I do not expect, or even want, to meet their equal again.

Sugar Mountain High V

March 14, 2007

Pedro came from a worse position. Or should I say, merely, another position. His family lived on the other side of the hill. To say that he led us astray is to say that he showed us what was on the other side. But it was more than a physical journey.

His world was far removed from ours, though he lived around the corner geographically. The world I am referring here to is a conception, a way of life that enforces also a way of thinking. He had no friends. All his life was work. His father had died when he was young, so he had to become the breadwinner for his three younger siblings. His mother was a cripple. We all thought she was some kind of witchwoman, always disappearing into the forest on the side of the hill, with one of her kids in tow. God knew what she did there, but we came to know too. At the time, Pedro stuttered that she was planting  “C..C..C.. “. We started laughing, and I became hooked on his cuteness. How was I to know that attaching myself to him this way would lead to being hooked on other things?

How would we have known what it was he would have said anyway? Our lives had been so sheltered up till then. Yes, you may call it deprived, but that deprivation was our shelter from the ways of the world, just as much as that hill. A lot of innocence is lost in exploration.

[Flashforward: . In animal experiments at Princeton University, Carlos Colzani has shown that rats that have been fed large amounts of … in their food and then have it removed show signs of opioid withdrawal. “The indices of anxiety and other symptoms were similar to withdrawal from morphine or nicotine,” he reports in the journal …]

Now where were we, or rather, when were we? The year was 1935. A year of no significance, it hardly registers as a blip on the radar of history. We were before our time. When our time did come, we watched in amusement, and some curiosity, as a new generation re-discovered and proclaimed to the highest heavens, what we had known in our tiny group. Well, let me qualify that by saying that the form, but not the substance was the same. Ha! Ha! I find that so funny.

Sugar Mountain High IV

March 13, 2007

Did I say ‘radio’? I meant ‘wireless’. That’s how we used to refer to it. Although, come to think of it, perhaps I am confusing the times. Did I not warn you of this? The period I am speaking of is before the time of radio, at least for us. We were in a deprived backwater of the world. My daddy drove a donkey.

So how could there have been a radio? But is this not a fiction that I am writing after all? Even if it, or something like it, really did happen, the fact that I am writing it makes it a fiction. Writing necessarily brings with it an element of the fantastical, if you will. One cannot write the truth. So does it matter if I insert a fictional radio? But then you might protest that I am sketching an anomaly. And what would that radio have been playing? I forget.  It is sometimes a virtue of old age to forget.

In that case, does the insertion of an explicitly fictional element somehow connive with the inhererent fiction of writing to produce and lay bare an element of truth, if nothing other than all is fiction? Ah! that would be something, wouldn’t it? And what of dreams? Surely it is the case that in the real world a dream is a fiction. So if my writing a dream is portrayed, that is a double fiction. A fiction reflected. Reflected into reality.

You can probably tell from my musings that I am wont to wander. I was a girl with her head in the clouds. Even as we scratched in the dirt.

Sugar Mountain High III

March 12, 2007

It was a normal day. How shall I describe it? Better yet, why don’t I get you to read ‘To kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, to obtain a feeling for the day. There’s nothing specific, what’s coming to mind is a day with Atticus on the porch, his white jacket draped over the wicker chair after a long day, a cold glass of water on the table. It was that sort of day when Pedro came round to our circle.

We’d been doing everyday kind of stuff, listening to the radio, talking, reading. It was an elliptical sort of day; I mean a day when the earth merely rotated on its axis one more time, without any bumps or mishaps, or comets streaking across the sky. The hours neither stretched not shrunk, but stood their guard. It took an hour, no more, no less, for the clock to tick from one to two.  When I say that there will be time enough to check the time, I am speaking of another ‘time’, perhaps, than the one one normally encounters. A personal time, established by your own metabolism, maybe. Or perhaps it is not so banal.

Yet, there were days to come when time became a personal matter, much like one’s thoughts. What I mean is a certain element of randomness crept into time, so that it seemed akin to the stream of consciousness. A haphazardness. No more than that I cannot say. I can barely glimpse it from the corner of my mind’s eye now, the feeling of being buoyed about in the mysterious swellings and lulls of temporal elapse.