On Love and Outer Space

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The last time I took mushrooms the experience was so lovely that the very next day I wanted to plan when we could do them again. I’ve mentioned my love affair with hallucinogenic mushrooms before. I prefer them to any other substance. I prefer them to a glass of wine. I suppose you could say I prefer them to reality, but — at the risk of sounding like someone who’s done a lot of mushrooms — the reason I love them so much is because of how I feel they reveal the truer reality beyond the details. The forest beyond that tree I’m so focused on. The day after I take hallucinogenic mushrooms, I am my best self.

We planned to take them again on a following Saturday. In the evening. A and C as usual, and our friends T, M, and S would be joining us; A had just acquired a large bag of his own. “We tried these a couple of weeks ago on the roof deck and we had an amazing time,” C told me. “M saw a venus fly trap in the sky, it was hilarious.”

“Sweeeeeeet!” I said. “See you at 9.”

It’s always a question with mushrooms and the brain: how many mushrooms are an adequate quantity of mushrooms, but, you know, not too many mushrooms? I’d preferred the capsules I’d shared with friends before because they were consistent. A big batch ground up and then equally distributed into tiny containers, each one more or less like the last. But any given mushroom, versus another given mushroom? Nature rolls the dice.

“So how many of these things should I take, approximately?” I asked C.

“M took 5. I’d say, 4 to 5 for you,” she said. “The caps are more potent than the stems.”

I conservatively popped one cap in my mouth and followed it with three small stems, chewing them like jerky. The last stem I bit into overflowed with empyrean fuzz, an alarming jolly rancher hue of mould. I peered into its narrow cavities, chewing skeptically.

“Huh. Is it supposed to look like that?” I asked. “Because I feel like nature is sending me all of its cues to not eat that.”

Yeah, that’s the good stuff!” T laughed.

“Woof, I need to wash this down with something,” I said. “M, pour me a glass of wine while you’re over there?”

A and T set up Christmas lights over the picnic table, and I sat down across from S as he plowed through some ravioli. I asked him about his latest internship, but two sips into my wine I sloshed the glass back down onto the table. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m already having a lot of trouble focusing on what you’re saying.”

“That is totally okay,” he smiled, the picture-perfect drug wingman.

“My head . . . my head feels huge,” I said. “I mean, not my ego. Like there’s more room for my sinuses now. Like I can breathe. Like there’s air in my teeth.”

“Hell yeah!” T laughed again from his porch chair, raising his glass.

“I’m going to go to the bathroom while I still can,” I said, stumbling toward the kitchen door. I suddenly looked down at my hand. “Am I still holding this glass of wine?” I laughed. The hand had very obediently carried the glass around the deck without my knowledge, like a diligent robot maid. “Good heavens! I have no business drinking this.” I placed the glass back on the picnic table.

In the bathroom the world was making a drastic shift, like colored sand sliding in gel. I struggled to remember what the typical person did on a toilet. Afterwards I knelt down in front of my purse and texted Janaka as the room began to spin around me, and the landscapes in the framed paintings swirled and opened their gaping mouths.

“This
is
the
hardest
thing
I’ve
ever

typed,”

I slowly thumbed out, each letter a new journey. “I love you,” I considered adding, because it felt natural and simple and true, but we hadn’t said that to each other since cautiously beginning to see each other again just a couple of months prior. I take pride in being reasonably self-aware when I’m on drugs. No sudden moves or drastic declarations; reality’s not going anywhere. I left things at that and tried to put the phone back into my bag — it fell off the chair and my possessions scattered, where I wouldn’t retrieve them for another six hours.

“Wheeeee,” I said delightedly, crawling to the kitchen.

Just a few minutes later S walked in to me on the floor leaning against the stove and staring at the marble floor, tears running down my face. “Hey hey hey,” he said. “How are you?”

“The floor is full of flowers,” I said. “How are you? Ah. You aren’t here yet. The others aren’t either I think, that’s why I’m hiding away a bit, don’t want to be weird.”

“Yeah I still feel completely normal,” he said, placing his hands on my shoulders, “but I’ll get there. The others are on their way. You should come outside.”

“I don’t want . . . I don’t want to be the only one feeling this,” I said. “I don’t want to be weird.”

“It won’t be weird,” he assured me, “we’re all here to do this.”

“I don’t . . . I can’t be around them yet if they aren’t here too,” I said. “I’m going to stay inside for just a few minutes.”

He looked into my eyes and kissed my forehead, which felt like the most lovely thing anyone’s ever done to me. I closed my eyes. “We’ll be outside when you’re ready,” he said.

Outside I heard S reporting to the others. It’s hitting Adrianne hard, maybe because she’s so small, maybe because she didn’t eat dinner. Well she should join us. I’m not feeling anything are you. No. Maybe we should have more?

I got down on my hands and knees and I stared deep into the marble floor. It’s true, the floor was full of flowers, but they weren’t beautiful ones. They were dissected through the pistil, all faded colors of peach and mustard wavering in a shallow sea of formeldayhde behind glass. Specimens. But still alive. Uh oh! Going somewhere dark, I realized. Adrianne Mathiowetz. Get up and surround yourself with some people.

The door was only maybe 8 feet away, but walking was difficult. Not to mention the complete change of lighting quality and temperature between the kitchen and the deck; suddenly I felt uncertain about this whole new world I would encounter when I went through that door. Would breathing be the same? Would it be thicker? I hovered in the frame for a moment like a kid on a diving board, then grabbed the wall and stuck one foot outside experimentally. I heard laughter.

“Oh!” I cried, sliding into the divine pool of fresh air, “oh it’s so much better out here.”

“Yaaay, Adrianne’s back!” someone cried. They were lounging in chairs and slowly smoking cigarettes, discussing the sky.

Gosh walking was hard. Standing was hard. I sat down. M and I laughed together about some trivial thing, but I was struggling to move my mouth and felt a little ill. I laid down on the astroturf.

I laid down.
I laid down.

You never know how much time is passing, but usually it’s wonderful. You don’t know how much time is passing because time is meaningless. You don’t know how much time is passing because everything is taking your outmost attention; the wind in the leaves, the smell of coffee, the secret life of an orange: its juicy unfolding spine. But suddenly I was aware that I had no idea how much time was passing because I was incapable of sustaining any short-term memories. I only have blinks of images from this period.

My friends’ faces, covered in neon hexagons, swirling and orbing like a horrible sickness. The sound of their laughter was piercing and loud, satanic. No, no, no, I thought. 3 seconds. Gasp. 3 seconds. Gasp. I laid there and struggled to construct a narrative. How long had I been here? Was I okay? You’re on drugs, I reminded myself over and over, this is just a poison working its way through your body. It will take some time and then it will be over. How much time? How much longer? What if it had already been days? Janaka. Where was Janaka. 3 seconds. Gasp.

“Adrianne!” M called, from a seemingly impossible distance away. “Are you with us?”

My throat felt entombed, tightly wrapped with gauze. I struggled with how I could respond. I was terrified that if I acknowledged the separation I was feeling from my friends I would be further isolated, other-ized, an alien pariah. They were having so much fun. “I’m here!” The words heaved out of my mouth like vomit.

“You sure? You’re with us?”

“I’m with you!” I croaked. A kind of prayer as the night sky unravelled, dripped down and into my eyes, down my throat.

Then, quite suddenly, I was catapulted into space.

I clenched my eyes shut tight. No, no, no. The speed at which I was traveling dizzied me. No, no, no. I want to stay. But I traveled faster and farther away.

Woooosh.

Later I would do the math. Three hours. Three hours I didn’t know who I was, had no concept of what anyone else was doing or where they were.

Three hours it was just darkness and stars and a taste of burning and plastic in my mouth, gravity pulling and pushing and leaving me, utterly alone, floating and falling. I pulled at my shirt. I lurched on the ground. I pulled and pulled at my hair (every now and then a flash of realization: your hair will come out if you keep pulling at it like that. How much hair do you have left. Are you pulling all of your hair out? Stop it, stop it). My hand flying to my belt buckle. It was solid and cold and metal. This, I would suddenly think, this is real — only to be pitched back into that endless black. The stars were lightbulbs hanging on wires in a cheap apartment, sparkling and popping, weaving in the ether, drooping into me. Crackle, pop. Wait, but really, who am I again? Oh god. Who am I?

One thing. One thing I had, even in the middle of bottomless space, even when I couldn’t remember my own name, was you.

Where are you.

I need you.

This would be okay if you were here. Could you come?

I gasped and lurched. I thought of you as I slammed into ancient Rome, the pillars stretching cold and infinite into the sky. There was a river, an incredibly wide river. It was turbulent, dangerous, tumbling over boulders and fallen trees. And your shadow, there, on the other side.

You were too far away and anyway I couldn’t speak. I kept opening my mouth like an empty bellows.

Wooosh.

Have I never told him that I loved him? I thought. 3 seconds. Gasp. Have I never told him that I loved him. Have I never told him that I loved him.

Where are you.

I need you.

This would be okay if you were here.

My eyes snapped open. S was sitting near me. Me, my body, laying here, on earth. I put my hand on his knee and looked up into his face. “Help,” I pleaded, knowing it was impossible. He laid down next to me and took my hand. I held on tight and braced for the next wave, not entirely sure I’d come back next time. What if it’s always this way now, I thought.

What if I’ve broken my brain. What if days have passed.

What’s my name? What’s my name? I lurched on the ground and grasped my belt buckle, pulled my hair.

Janaka, Janaka, Janaka. No matter where I was I remembered yours.

Slowly, exhaustedly, I returned.

Another two hours.

I could sit up, sometimes. What I saw in front of me was — for the most part — a rooftop, some astroturf, and my friends coming and going. S at my side, still holding my hand.

“I’m thirsty,” I said to A.

“You should drink some water,” he said.

“… I don’t know how,” I said.

As soon as I could, I crawled, on tentative hands and knees, back into the kitchen. I found my possessions scattered all over the floor. My phone, my phone, where is — there. I began to cry. “I think it’s really dumb that I’m not always telling you that I love you,” I wrote. “I love you.

Then: “I want to be good to you.”

Then: “I want to be the best for you.”

Everything changed.

I saw a glimmer of my best self. I grabbed on.

When I called for a cab it was around 5 in the morning. I stumbled out of the apartment, shirt buttons askew and hair hovering around my face in fluffy chunks. The sun was just beginning to rise against the wet streets, and all of Crown Heights blushed in the oncoming spotlight.

“Where to?” the cab driver asked.

“Bushwick,” I replied, looking out the window back up to the roof.

“Bushwick?!” he laughed. “… Nah, nah. You don’t live in Bushwick.”

“No?” I said. “And where do you think I live?” I met his eyes in the rearview window in one of the more cinematic moments of my life: just those eyes, framed in light. My Maltese Falcon.

“You’re a woman who lives in Manhattan. You’re a woman who’s always lived in Manhattan.”

“And why do you say that?”

“I don’t know. Something about you. The way you carry yourself, some look in your eyes. You’re not like all these kids, spending their parents’ money in Brooklyn, selling bikes and fucking around. No, no, you’re from Manhattan, I know a woman who lives in Manhattan when I see one.”

“Well you’re wrong,” I said. “I live in Bushwick so you should probably take me there.”

“Would you like a cigarette?” he asked, popping open a silver case. “I really never smoke with passengers in the car, but. You also look like someone who might join me?”

“No, thanks,” I replied. The streets spilled out of his headlights. I looked up into the sky. My mind was deliciously blank.

Just, I love you. I love you.

Two years have passed since I wrote the first draft of this post, in the summer of 2014.

Janaka and I had first started dating in 2009. After seven years of tumultuous long distance on-again, off-again — of seeing other people, of not speaking to one another, of getting back together, of ill-timed proposals, of breaking up again, of sudden two-sentence letters in the mail — that January he proposed during a weekend trip to Portsmouth, that February I moved from New York to live with him in his apartment in Boston, and a few Saturdays ago we got married.

It’s hard to count some days, how many times I tell him that I love him.

 

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Hunting With Ian

Hunter crouches in the woods with his rifle and cell phone

The strangest thing about hunting was how quiet and still it was. Ian emphasized this before we went out — that it became a meditation, to stand or sit for hours in the woods and just observe, and he loved it for that.

At first I treated it like a game, to be a statue like this. I didn’t turn my head. I didn’t shift my weight. My breathing shallow, my heart an oyster buried in sand. Just the field in front of me, and my eyes scanning, back and forth, or settling in the waving reeds. For a minute, two minutes, what is time any more. When you’re listening with this much expectation, everything begins to sound like an approaching animal, and your eyes dart — is this the moment? Do we spring into action now?

After a while it would feel like a spell had been cast. What if I’ve forgotten how to move, I’d wonder. I’d test it out, slowly. Can I bend my knee, just a little? And every time there would be a moment, before effort overcame inertia, when the answer seemed to be no, motion is no longer possible, time has stopped perhaps forever, and the magic and the power of that was terrifying. And then suddenly — perceptible only by feeling — my knee would bend.

Full album: here.

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Card Game Beginnings in the Park

Moby Dick card game creators walk through Battery Park

I connected with some old college friends at a birthday party, and they told me they were in the middle of making a Moby Dick card game. “We’ve got it all designed and written out, now we’re just going to make a Kickstarter page to raise money to make it. Oh, actually — would you want to take photos while we film that, to help our page?”

Yeah sure! You guys are awesome and consistently make awesome things.

Caleb holds mic in the park

The forecast had been for rain or “wintry mix,” but it turned out to be the first really spring-like evening we had, and I felt drunk on sunshine, taking my black parka off and leaving it in a pile while they worked. A gaggle of tourists flooded the scene and filming stopped. “I’m just gonna take like five minutes of ya time!” the guide yelled. “You guys cool for five minutes?” Crash crash, said the ocean.

Later, walking along the pier to the subway stop, a turkey would wobble its way across my path and eye me curiously, as if I was the out of place thing in this park, and in the parking lot a bus driver would lean out of his window and yell to his friend “hey! You want some of these pecans?” I’d turn my head, because it felt like the kind of day when a stranger might offer something like that.

When I emerged in Midtown, the sun had set, and the freezing rain had begun to fall.

Done! Hurray!

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Before the Battery Died

Avery Fisher Hall

Hurricane Sandy hit on the evening I was supposed to shoot a fundraising gala for a choral society. The gala was canceled, but we still needed photos for an upcoming audio piece, so a few days post-storm I took the apocalyptic shuttle — with its block-winding hoards of people, all making calls to friends and relatives out of state to exclaim Oh. My. God, you would not believe how crazy this is, I’m going to be like three hours late to work, or raising their smartphones into the air to Instagram and immediately Tweet the moment — into Manhattan to shoot the chorale’s rehearsal.

The rehearsal was for a concert they were having that night; one of the few they have in the year. We couldn’t record any material at the concert itself, but after the rehearsal I realized I had little else to do, beyond take the terrible shuttle back home to my cookie-filled apartment. So I walked from Chelsea to Avery Fisher Hall, thinking I would at least get photos of the crowds lining up for the concert.

Of course: this was a few days post-Sandy. Most people still didn’t have electricity or hot water. Many trains weren’t running.

I hadn’t been to Avery Fisher Hall before and I was following the walking directions from my phone, a little cold and bewildered, readjusting my laptop and gear on my back. Suddenly I turned a corner and there it was, glittering in the dark. There weren’t many people bustling in front of its snowy fountain, but those who had made it had come in ironed clothes, a splash of cologne, polished shoes, curled hair, lipstick. I got out my camera and hunched in front of a doorframe to rest my legs, contentedly waiting for something to enter the frame. The air was cool and wet, and inside, the show was going on.

I would take ten, maybe fifteen photos before my camera’s battery died, its spare back home in Brooklyn (lesson learned: third time); I would sit there with my dead camera for a while to rest and watch the couples lean on each others arms. I would decide to walk as far as I could home to prove something to myself; I would make it four, five, six? who can say anymore hours to the Brooklyn Bridge when, exhausted and hungry, I would see a policewoman smile and gesture at the open doors to an empty shuttle. “Going to Brooklyn?” she’d ask. The city felt like a slumber party lock-in then, with its dark empty streets, freshly polished by the storm; teenagers giggling on corners, storefronts dark and taquerias buzzing warmth and the drunkenness of wild surrender. Being here felt like you were in on a secret. When night fell, anything could happen. I got on the shuttle with no idea where it was going, really, beyond toward home.

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Backstage at the Nutcracker

Backstage At The Nutracker

Oh hey guys, what’s up. It’s been a while. The good news is . . . I have been doing all the things! And more importantly documenting all those things! And then storing all of those things on memory cards and then responsibly external harddrives and then extra responsibly backing up those things! And then . . . doing more things without looking at any of the previous things! VROOM GO GO GO!

So January has been a whirlwind of processing catch-up, but now I finally have something to show for it. First, here’s a slideshow of photos from backstage at the Hopkins Youth Ballet’s performance of Nutcracker.

Sad Mouse

Gingerbread Boy

I always forget that kids live in a different universe than adults do. I had been backstage for maybe five minutes when suddenly a pair of arms were wrapped around my waist; the East Coast instincts I’ve been struggling to cultivate almost let out an alarmed shriek. I looked down to see a tiny blonde head. “ADRIANNE!!!! I love you.” Who the hell is this, I wondered in a panic, before her mother turned the corner and waved. Oh! Right, the neighbor’s little girl.

She took my hand. “We’re best friends now!” she said. “Want to come with me?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “I’ll follow you anywhere. What are you up to?”

Full album: here.

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