spent this summer working with children, and while doing so, forgot about most
of the debauchery and recklessness that constituted my freshman year. Now, I’m
not trying to sound like some Keystone-chugging, weed-smoking, badass. In fact,
most of it was stupid and weird. But as I stepped back on the green this fall, the
smell of goose shit reminded me immediately of May 12th, 2013.
It was a cool, spring day when I first ingested Lysergic acid diethylamide-25, commonly referred to as “LSD” or simply “acid.” After eating a small amount of chocolate chip pancakes, I pressed my tongue against a small piece of chemicalized paper that would, to say the least, change my day. In the dormitory bathroom where my two friends and I put LSD tabs in our mouths to dissolve, I realized there was no turning back. And so, with a backpack full of water, some snacks, an iPhone on airplane mode, headphones, and a notepad, we set off into the forest to find ourselves. Before we knew it, we were physically—and spiritually—lost. This is the abridged account of that hallowed day.
We sat down in a small clearing that overlooked the Connecticut River, waiting. About 45 minutes after we’d left the Bathroom of Ingestion, I was giggling uncontrollably. Actually, “giggling” doesn’t really capture that kind of laughter. No. It was hysteria: uncontrollable, stomach-splitting, hip-thrusting hysteria. My two friends were more nervous than I; when they saw me manically laughing—at parts of songs, the way the water sparkled, or a platypus I thought I saw on the other side of the river—they knew it would happen to them, too.
“This is definitely working,” I remember one of them saying.
From then on, we had dual citizenship in reality and blue heaven. We felt compelled to explore the woods through which we were walking, constantly having epiphanies that would soon be replaced by new, more powerful ones. At this point in the day, everything was fun and games. The world was our playground, and after 4 hours of hysterical recreation, we returned to campus.
As we passed Occom Pond, approaching Mainstream Civilization, we were forced to decide whether we really even wanted to go back.
“Guys, we should just stay in the forest. That’s where everything was best.”
“I know, but we’re gonna need food at some point today if we want to survive in the woods,” I tried to reason with them.
“Yea, I guess he’s right.”
Just then, an elderly woman walked past us as we were trying to decide where to go. She thought we needed directions and asked, “Are you boys trying to get to ze prouty?”
“Oh, no thank you!” I quickly replied, just to get her out of sight. We quickly began walking in the direction of campus, away from her. But still, what the fuck was ze prouty? Maybe she knew we were tripping, maybe we misheard her, or maybe she was tripping herself. Regardless, we weren’t looking for ze prouty.
We ran back to my dorm, washed our faces (I’m still not sure why, but we all felt it was important), and tried to compose ourselves in my room. With plenty of natural souvenirs still on my body and clothing, I sat on my bed and began to write on my laptop. I wrote about the source of my enlightenment, trying to articulate it in a way that others—including myself—could later understand. When I finished, I screamed with blissful exhilaration. In retrospect, it was (perhaps unsurprisingly) nonsensical.
Just as we were heading towards the dining hall to refuel, my roommate came back to the room and told me that something smelled funny. We all checked our shoes, and sure enough, I had dog shit under my left sole. Great. I had just sat cross-legged on my bed as I typed my life masterpiece, and now there was canine fecal matter precisely where I had to sleep that night.
Nonetheless, I tried to tell them how my epiphany rendered nothing definitely or objectively real. I tried to prove to them that everything was a representation of something else, and in that way, there really wasn’t any dog shit on my bed.
My roommate looked at me skeptically and said, “Dude, I know you think you just discovered the answer to the world and everything, but I’m telling you right now, that dog shit on your bed is real. You should really make a note of that somewhere for later.”
I shrugged, laughed, and we all left to get food.
None of us were particularly hungry, but we carried our food back into the woods. As we began walking on the path this time, however, things felt different. We began to feel the burdens of our lives crash down, reminding us that we still had things to figure out, homework to do. We split up and sat in different corners of a small pond to think on our own.
Most people think that LSD distorts reality, but it actually gave me a manic perspicacity that I wish I could retain while sober. I began to think about my life with exceptional clarity. It allowed me to see exactly what was important and what I needed to change. This was somewhat depressing for my two tripmates. We had left the playground and found ourselves in intense introspection. They were feeling its sobering effects. I, however, came to a most beautiful conclusion: in my life so far, I actually had been putting effort into the things I considered important. There were, of course, many things I wanted to improve upon, but I believed I was growing up to be the man I hoped to become. Sitting by that pond as the sun began to set, I was wholly uplifted. Life, I decided, was good.
The three of us reunited after about an hour and shared a few thoughts with each other.
“I’m just realizing how important my family is to me,” one said.
“Yea, I really want to be a better son for my parents, too,” the other agreed.
We packed up our bags and left The Lake That Listens, as we would refer to it later on. The two of them headed back to campus for a pre-arranged dinner, and I was left in the forest with my own thoughts, some mild mania, and the sunset. I walked along the shore of the Connecticut River as the LSD began to fade with the light of the day, leaving a beautiful mosaic of shadows between the trees. I listened to Third Eye Blind pensively. Over the next two hours, I began to apply my tripping experience to real life with perfect clarity. I completed the eight-mile loop of the day. My soul was smiling. I had stared the world, and my life, directly in the eyes, coming out not only unscathed, but healed. It was beautiful in the most perfect sense of the word.
At around eight o’clock, I returned to campus and opened the door to my dorm room. I cleaned out the myriad contents of my backpack, and then showered away the dirt with which I had spent the day. When I looked back at my dog-shit-smelling bed, I expected to have to clean off the sheets and do a load of laundry with plenty of bleach. But as I leaned over and smelled the brown spot on my covers, I was pleasantly surprised. It was just dirt. My original claim held true: the dog shit on my bed was not real.
In many ways, the drug made me more clearly in touch with reality than were all the people who had spent the day soberly studying textbooks full of facts. I had embarked on a thirteen-hour trip—in the most journey-like sense of the word—and came out a genuinely better person. Yes, my enlightenment was probably the result of excessive dopamine in my brain. And, yes, the drug itself was probably the main reason I felt so happy. But today, four months later, I’m not so sure.
People jump to too many conclusions. We naturally assume that things must be as they initially seem. We assume, for example, that the dog shit on my bed must have been real. After all, the whole room smelled bad, I was hallucinating on an illicit drug and my roommate had the flawless logic of sobriety, right? Well, maybe not.
As I enter my sophomore year, I am indebted to LSD-25 for giving me a better sense of smell. Put away the bleach. Most of the dog shit in our lives is just dirt.