Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dilemma: Love In The Age Of Hippies

Checked Out By Aliens

Ah, youth.  I had some interesting experiences in the sixties, living in Marin County.This story came to me in a bank of memories over coffee a couple of days ago.  It said "Write me, write me!"  Who am I to defy the command of the writer's muse, no matter how arcane or silly the subject matter?  Actually, I like this story a lot.



1967.  Muir Beach, California

            Robert had taken LSD three hours ago and now he was trapped in the bathroom.  It was a small bathroom in a small beach house.  The place looked out over the Pacific Ocean and could only be reached by climbing a hundred and fifty wooden steps or riding a cable-driven cargo trolley.  The place belonged to Linda, Robert's acquaintance, a woman who made tie dye and batik clothing.
            Robert wasn't a casual taker of psychedelic drugs, but he was with good people: yoga practitioners, Tai Chi enthusiasts.  He felt safe.  His friend Pam was at the party, and so was his room mate Steve.
            It was an intimate gathering, about a dozen people agreeing to share an experience in a beautiful setting.  Linda dispensed a tab of LSD to each arrival.  Now it was getting towards evening and the group had settled into serious tripping.  There was a bit of quiet talk.  Some giggles from a couple on the sofa.  It was quiet.  The sound of the surf tumbled in the background.
            Robert was VERY high but when nature called, she could not be denied.  He viewed the act of taking a shit as a comedic episode, a meeting of the sacred and profane.  He made a little mantra from it, mentally chanting the words to a samba beat: how could a thing so huge..still have to take a poo.  The Huge was himself, in his expanded universe, the hyper-galactic infinite divine.  And yet, way way down there in the microcosmic world, his body still had to eliminate the dross from his small intestine.  It all came down to the most common things.
            The bathroom was a cubby hole.  It had a toilet, a small window and a wooden stand that held an incense burner and a couple of magazines.  An old tarnished mirror hung on the wall opposite the throne.
            Before the toilet episode began, Robert had been watching Linda move about, with her bun of blonde hair trailing cute little wisps.  She wore a sleeveless batik dress of luminous green and a necklace of silver and turquoise.  Robert liked the shape of her.  She was well toned, contained in a nice little parcel of soft firmness.  Her breasts lifted the neckline of the dress and the effect was mesmerizing.  Linda was single, Linda was beautiful, and Linda had given him a smile as she dispensed the tablet of LSD.  Robert interpreted this smile as an invitation.  He thought Linda was conveying a message.  "Ask me to make love," he thought she was beaming at him, "ask me."
            The problem.... that is, the problem before getting trapped in the bathroom, was working up the nerve to ask Linda to make love.  Other couples were pairing up and vanishing into various nooks on the property, riding the sound of the mighty surf into psychedelic splendor. 
            The party's social math, the indices of affinity seemed to put Robert and Linda together.  Robert had never done this kind of thing before.  He had never approached a woman to ask if she wanted to "go somewhere quiet".  The complexities of an LSD high built a scaffold atop Robert's shyness.  How do I do that? he wondered, how do I come right out and ask a woman to make love?  He wondered and feared, and wondered and feared, and tried to engage Linda in pleasant conversation but an acid conversation can be very weird.  There are multiple interpretations layered on every word and phrase.
            If he said, "Hi," well, okay, there you go.  Was he greeting her or was he making an insipid observation on his state of psychic elevation? 
            "You're beautiful" he said, at one point.  "You look stunning in that dress."  That was not ambiguous.  Linda merely said "Thank You" and the conversation jumped off a cliff and went splat.  If only she would make things easier for him!  Maybe he was wrong.  Maybe she didn't send the signal he thought she sent.  But her fingers had lingered on his hand as she offered him the purple tablet.  She had given him a deep soulful look.
            Then his stomach sent him another kind of signal.  The bathroom was directly off the one large room of the house.  The room was virtually the entire living space.  There was a counter, a kitchenette, and a short fight of stairs that led to a loft bedroom. A thin plywood door separated the bathroom from everything else. 
            Robert's poo was a loose disgusting mess and he was about to turn the flush handle when the thought occurred to him: what if the sound of the toilet flushing sends someone into a bad trip? Or worse, what if it sends EVERYONE into a bad trip?. 
            The house was high on the bluff and the toilet flushed with a distinct sound as the water forcefully drained.  Sploosh! it said, splodda splodda splodda splodda, and all the pipes in the house rumbled and whooshed for what seemed hours.
            Everyone is so high! Robert thought.  If I suddenly introduce these sounds with all their associations, they will drown out the Ravi Shankar on the record player and they will enter people's LSD-saturated inner landscapes as a downward spiral that will carry them into the underworld!  People on acid are so suggestible!  I'll ruin the party!
            He couldn't look at the poo.  He had closed the lid and was frantically using a National Geographic to fan the fumes outside.  He was on the verge of puking, which would add another dimension to his problem.  There was a box of incense and a pack of matches, which he now used as he attempted to work his way out of this mess.
            What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?
            Another part of Robert's psyche was laughing at him, saying, oh this is pathetic, you're wasting your whole fucking trip on idiotic paranoia.  Robert fought back.  It's unselfish paranoia! he replied.  I just don't want to send anyone down the toilet. Acid's unpredictable.  It can be a catalyst for deeply buried psychic material.  I can't take that chance!.
            It seemed that hours passed.  Robert fanned fumes out the window, lit incense, lit matches until the pack was gone.  There finally came a breaking point.
            Fuck this, Robert decided.  It's inevitable.  I have to flush the toilet.  He reached out and touched the cold metal handle with its contoured shape.  He caressed it for a moment.  Then, in an act of passionate courage, he pressed down and released the water.
            Sploosh!  Oh god it was deafening!  Splodda splodda splodda, down down and down into the depths of the netherworld.  The pipes went Whhhsssssh like Boeing 707's lining up on a runway before takeoff.  There were at least eight people just a few feet away from this sonic extravaganza.  They might tear him to pieces when he emerged.  He had bummed their trip!  They might ostracize him forever, banish him from other weekend retreats at other beautiful houses full of beautiful women.
            His heart was beating frantically.  Okay, he decided, let's face the consequences of my irresistible evacuation.  Robert turned the knob and exited the bathroom, closing the door with the barest of clicks.
            It was almost dark.  Ravi Shankar 's music came gently through the hi fi speakers, playing an evening raga.  Candles were lit and most of the group sat rocking to and fro, lying on beanbag chairs or prone on yoga mats.  Nothing had happened as a result of Robert's flush.  Nothing at all.
            A candle had been set in the middle of the room.  Linda was alone on a cushion, sitting in yoga posture, meditating on the flickering light..  Her eyes were open and seemed radiant and enormous.  She glanced at Robert without reproach.  The whole episode had passed without a ripple, merely a product of Robert's self-conscious agony.
            What the hell, he thought, just do it.  He found a cushion and sat next to Linda, replicating her full lotus, displaying his credentials as a yogi.  His feet rested easily on his thighs and his spine straightened as he gathered the nerve to approach this gorgeous woman.
            Linda's shoulder looked velvety in the candle light.  Robert gently put his fingers on her body, just the four tips of the fingers of his right hand, touching her oh so lightly.  He watched Linda's response.  She didn't flinch or move away from him.  Nor did she move towards him.  She was set in her own center.  That's okay, Robert thought.  That's okay.  Again, his heart beat fast, his stomach turned over with anxiety.  I've got to do this, he urged himself.  I've got to break through my fear.  You get nothing when you don't ask.  So just ask while you have the chance.
            "Linda," he said, "You're beautiful.  Your skin is amazing."
            She smiled a subtle little smile but remained facing forward.  Robert was about to commit himself but he realized that he hadn't prepared his words.  How should he put it?  "Linda, will you make love with me?"  Or more commanding.  "Linda, make love with me."  That might seem too aggressive.  How about "I would love to make love to you, Linda."  Oh, that was clumsy.  Love to make love.  Oh fuck it.  He leaned close to her and quietly spoke into her ear.  "Linda, love make me, oh, uh, you know, I really dig you, um, um, this is hard.  What I mean to say is I want you to make love to you.  I mean me..I want.to make love to you.  There!  Whew!"
            Linda's head turned with agonizing slowness.  The huge shining eyes rotated until they met Robert's eyes.  She was a sacred dakini, a deva, a goddess!
            "Robert," she said, "you're sweet, but you're just not my type."
            Robert squeezed the pillow, almost pulling it out from under himself.  "Okay, okay, that's cool, I understand that, it's just that, well, okay....thanks."
            He stood up holding the pillow in front of his body, then dropped it back to the floor and walked onto the deck.  He could see the last of the sun's rays as they vanished into the starry night.  His vulnerable heart opened and he wept.  He was so sad.  He was so lonely.  Everyone else had a lover.  
          Well, that wasn't true.  There were people here who seemed perfectly content with their own company.  There was Allison, there was Dave.  They were sitting, watching, tripping.  Now that he thought about it, Allison had been beaming desire signals at him all evening.  There was no mistaking the meaning of those lingering gazes.  He had ignored them.  She was nice, but she wasn't......uh...his type.  She was a little too Jewish.  Robert was a Jew boy and had to have himself some Shicksa, oh yes he did....
          He winced at his own self-evaluation.  It was true, but he was as he was.  Maybe, some day, an Allison would look mighty good.
            He lifted his eyes to the sky and saw The Milky Way for the first time.  He had never understood that this THING hovered over his head, arching across the heavens in such primordial splendor.  Amazing!  The sky was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  . 
           After a time, as he watched the stars, he realized that at last he was free from all the ridiculous bullshit he had just put himself through.  Afraid to flush a toilet.  Afraid to ask a girl. God!  The universe was such a spectacular place! He didn't have to hook up with Linda.  He didn't have to hook up with anyone. He was fine, right here.  Robert and the sky, right here.