Wednesday, October 30, 2013

True Halloween Story 1: Acid Reflux

The Author on Halloween, circa 2006

I probably fell in love with Halloween in high school, when the real partying started. I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth as a kid, so I wasn’t that crazy about candy. I don’t think I even ate candy until I started smoking weed. And when you are real young, candy is about the hypest thing that is going to happen, except for maybe putting your hand in some peeled grapes at the haunted house in the auditorium. Up until high school, the most fucked up thing I had ever done on Halloween was watch my friend Jonny attempt to stab a neighbor’s garden hose with a Swiss Army knife.

In the tenth grade, I ate acid on Halloween. It was a school night. Some of my friends and I had failed to come up with much. I think a couple of us had hats on and that was about as good as it was gonna get. Not baseball caps, but, like, hats. Shit old people and cab drivers wear. Those kind of hats.

We were on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, taking it all in, lurking where we always did. The stone wall in front of the Methodist church was essentially the closest thing we had to turf, and we were always skating in front of it or sitting on it. Franklin Street was amazing on Halloween back then, this was 1994. People still dressed up and knew how to have fun without fucking it up it for everyone else. Family types and wasted party people all crushed together in costumed bliss, their differences hidden behind masks and wigs, or spilled out via slutty nurse and librarian outfits.

We linked up with some other guys, one of whom drove a Cutlass Supreme with bass. My best friends, uh, we’ll call them Sam and Dave, are tripping, too. Someone decides we should go trick or treating, because hey, clearly there is nothing suspect about 8 teenage boys not wearing costumes and pounding on your door after dark, some of them with pupils the size of olives. I mean, it’s Halloween. So it’s totally all good.

All I remember about the car ride is, seriously, just limbs EVERYWHERE. A total fever dream of bro-arms and bro-legs, with insane laughter phasing in and out of Eazy E on blast. The image burned in my mind is like an overly warm photograph, bathed in an orange glow and smothered in tangible low end frequencies and blunt smoke. We park in a mellow but affluent Chapel Hill suburb and begin our short reign of terror.

MAYBE one of us had a mask on, but otherwise it was Russel sweatshirts, baggy pants, and a hat or three. I don’t recall us having much luck, maybe a mini Butterfinger or 2 at best, or maybe just criticism and contempt at our lack of costumes. And at how old we were, I think at least one of us was 17. Our plan would have burned out quickly, but we didn’t have much choice, because shit got real very fast.

We go to a nice house and are angrily turned down. I don’t even know if we are all together at that point, but there is definitely a group of us leaving. We are on a brick walkway heading toward the street, and there is a door in the fence that you have to go through first, constructed out of wood slats and thin metal fasteners, you know what I’m talking about, like with one of those little latch things you have to undo to open them and it’s always annoying. My friend Dave is in the front and is built like a side of beef. He is full of drug strength, and who knows what his mind was zoning in on in that moment. But wherever he was, it was not a place that recognized there was an obstacle right in front of him.

Sometimes actions are carried out with a certain “commitment” that allows them to defy laws of nature, such as an old lady lifting a car off her smooshed grandchild or regular people walking over burning hot coals with gonorrhea on them. I still see it like it happened in slow motion, a common sensation for memories such as these. Obviously the acid made it that more incredible, and yet, these types of things seem to happen ONLY when you’re tripping.

When Dave hit that door it was like it was made out of twigs. It shattered like kicking over a house of cards. Bits of wood were in the air like fireworks, and seemed to disintegrate into sawdust, while tiny shards of metal clanged, and springs shot out of eyesight like a smashed cartoon clock. Dave never once slowed down or had a misstep, instead he turned to look at me as he burst through the door with a curious look on his face, brushing at the splinters that were landing on him as if they were lint or a mosquito, not really sure what was happening but observing it all in the way that a god regards a puny mortal.

The door never stood a chance, and everyone was amazed and slightly perplexed at this new development, Dave most of all. What in the fuck had just happened?! Did Dave really just WALK THROUGH A GATE like it wasn’t even there? But we barely had a chance to coat ourselves with chatter and laughter before all hell broke loose.

A man had been walking his dog directly in front of the house as Dave and the rest of us made our explosive exit. He grabbed one of us, probably Dave, and shouted at the man who had turned us away, “Jerry! Call the police!” We no doubt seemed like destructive bastards who must have done it on purpose, the reek of alcohol and marijuana only confirming that we were trouble. Everybody immediately bolts in different directions, and whoever had been in the vigilante’s death grip is long gone.

Dave, Sam, and myself all jet off together like we know where we’re going. We’ve been getting stoned after school in this neighborhood for a while now, several people in our crew live right by the house we are fleeing from. We run down the street toward a cul de sac where our friend Baylor lives and proceed to hide in the bushes. It’s really dark where we are, and if you have ever taken LSD before you know that an unexpected adrenaline rush can really stir things up. But we seem to be holding it together as best we can, crouching and panting, whispering “holy fuck!” over and over.

We have no idea where the car is. No idea where the other guys are. We are the only ones who dropped acid. And Dave has literally just destroyed property. We have graduated from “shenanigans” to “crime” in a matter of seconds. There is nothing we can do but wait.

I remember looking at the moon through the trees and rubbing at my ankle because I had stepped on a soccer ball as we ran through a yard and had twisted it slightly. The street lamps have the cul de sac oozing with a pale lemon haze, the roads still wet from an earlier rain. We wait and we wait. Finally a car pulls slowly down, its brake lights leaving red trails six feet behind it. It parks across from us, and stops, its engine idling.

There is not much deliberation before we realize it’s our homeys coming to rescue us, so we come sprinting out of the woods. We all hit the car and grab a different door. Dave and I are on the passenger side, him at shotgun, and Sam is behind the driver. All our doors are flung open at the same time, and each of us swings our inner ass cheeks directly at a seat.

And immediately come to a screeching fucking halt. Because we are all making unblinking eye contact with a middle-aged Asian man, in his car by himself. There is a moment, like in an 80’s comedy, where everything pauses and there is complete silence. Like, a whole beat of dead calm. Freeze frame. And then suddenly everyone snaps out of it and there is that communal scream of “Ahhhhhhh!!”

None of us will ever forget the look on that poor man’s face. Eyes popping out of his head in sheer terror, pupils as large and inky as ours, his mouth hanging open like it was broken. I’m sure we looked just as scared, or at least extremely surprised. But before the brutal carjacking he was imagining began, he heard the sound of three car doors slamming simultaneously, followed by the heavy, galloping of 6 sneakers slapping against the pavement.

I would like to re-visit my earlier point that THESE THINGS ONLY HAPPEN WHEN YOU ARE TRIPPING. It’s like a spiritual force, I don’t know how it works, but I believe in it like karma.

We run back to the exact same spot we were earlier, the whole thing with the Asian man lasting no more than ten or fifteen seconds. We feel trapped, but we can’t stop laughing about what just happened. The car that we almost jumped in is still sitting there, possibly with a heart attack victim inside it. Stalemate.

After a while we feel the distant rumble of some twelves. The Cutlass rings the cul de sac, looking more American-made and majestic than ever, and we dash out of the yard, rip open doors, and pile in. Everyone accounted for. “What the fuck?! We were looking for you guys!” echoes out of the front seat like it’s coming from a speaker. We take off to the tune of “Gimme That Nut” and someone hits a bowl.


We eventually make it back to Franklin Street. Our friend Aemon is wearing pajama pants and rabbit ears and is drunker than anyone I have ever seen. He is going back and forth between rolling in the grass like he is having a seizure and basically doing the exact same thing while hopping up and down through the crowd. It is a source of entertainment for much of the night before we realize that he is going to hurt himself, so people take turns trying to restrain him but he’s like a drunk bar of soap and impossible to hold.

I end up on the steps of the church with a super pretty girl I was always into. I’m laying on my back, and she throws a small pinch of glitter into the breeze and as it blows away it looks amazing. I tell her that and she says she likes making tripping people happy. I am staring up at her, with a swirling night sky behind her like a giant ocean. Her smile is beautiful and she looks like an angel. We kissed for, like, a second and that was it. I don’t know where she ended up that night. But in the morning, her father would tell her all about this group of asshole punks that vandalized their front gate and then ran off.

Photo by Sam Roberts