consciousness to snap loose
Saturday, November 22 2014
This morning Gretchen and I had our weekly coffee and then I went out into the cold to do a deep cleaning of the Honda Civic Hybrid, which we were hoping to sell to a highly annoying woman that Gretchen had somehow reached via her large Facebook network. I vaccuumed, shook out maps, scrubbed, and windexed (I mean that in the genericized sense). Despite my best efforts, Gretchen wasn't satisfied, so she took a rag out and cleaned it some more (particularly the mud that the dogs had impregnated into the passenger seat).
When the mail came, a tiny USB 802.11n dongle had arrived for me. It was no bigger than my thumbnail, and as I absentmindedly threw away the packaging, I threw away the dongle as well. Only after looking for it fruitless in all the usual places did I look in the trash and find it. It was bad enough when electronic circuits became too small to interact with, but now that we have things like microsd cards and tiny USB dongles, devices themselves are as easier to lose than spare change. While being distracted by that tiny dongle, I overlooked a rather important piece of mail addressed to Gretchen.
Later from work at the bookstore, Gretchen told me that Eva and Sandor wanted us to come over tonight for dinner, and they even volunteered to come pick me up so that Gretchen and I wouldn't have to convoy home in two separate cars (Gretchen would be going to their place directly from work).
Unfortunately, Eva, Sandor, and I were a little late getting back to their place, and Gretchen (who had accidentally left her phone at the bookstore and could not be reached) found herself locked out of their cold dark house wondering where the fuck we were. But it all worked out okay, and soon enough the four of us were sitting around the rustic coffee table listening to some old gypsy music that Eva had in her collection of MP3s (it didn't quite suit the mood, but it had the advantage of being highly unusual). Sandor had bought an IPA I'd never had before (I forget what it was, but it wasn't in my IPA wheelhouse) and Eva had given us samples of a new vegan cheese that can be bought at the Whole Foods in New Jersey. It was called Chao and it was the most convincing sliced sandwich cheese we'd ever experienced. Had it been a little saltier, it would have been indistinguishable from provolone. It even had that waxy buttery surface quality and that slight gummy resistance to being bitten. Supposedly it melts exactly like real cheese too.
At some point I broke out some marijuana that I had secreted on my person (not very well, mind you, Eva had been able to smell it) and there was some smoking thereof.
The meal consisted of a savory chickpea "glurp" poured on rice noodles, which, in my rapidly-intoxicated state, tasted really good.
Inevitably, Eva broke out the Cards Against Humanity deck, something Gretchen had been hoping to avoid. But once she started playing it (and winning), Gretchen warmed to it quickly. Meanwhile, I'd made the mistake of taking a second hit from a one-hitter (the kind that looks like a conventional cigarette; though clever, these devices are becoming increasingly anachronistic as marijuana becomes more accepted and tobacco becomes less so). Initially it heightened my perceptions and made me realize and articulate some interesting things (for example, that stone houses are never made out of bluestone) but then came a point when the gears in my brain started to seize up and produce nonsense. For example, I'd been harboring a suspicion about Cards Against Humanity that the cards were too clever or unsubtle, something I blamed on their authors. In putting their personality into the individual cards, they made them less useful for players. I explained all this to the others, whereupon Gretchen looked at me strangely and said that I was really stoned.
Within a few minutes of play, I'd decided that the white cards (with their political cracks, sexual extremism, and occasional scatology) were perfectly fine for the game, whose goal is what amounts to "strategic curatorship." If you can find the perfect fit for a Mad-Lib-like phrase on a black card, your white card will out-compete the others and you will win, and no matter how specific or clever a card is, there will eventually be a place for which it is the best match. And while I'm not very good at Cards Against Humanity, I can't really chalk it up to a failure of luck. Everyone gets a hand of equal randomness, and yet some (Gretchen and Sandor) are better able to find perfect matches for the black card than I am. Of course, I've never played the game while not stoned, but at least this time I understood and appreciated the game's underlying brilliance.
Soon after these realizations, the wheels fell off the vehicle of my consciousness. I say "consciousness" instead of "mind" because my mind actually continued to function rather well. When it came my turn to read a black card or come up with one or more white cards, nobody could tell that there was anything wrong with me. In general, I stayed pretty quiet, but when it came my time to speak or read, I had no trouble doing so. Issues with short-term memory were causing a few problems that were detectable to the others, such as when I accidentally placed already-played cards into my hand instead of into the used pile and then played them later (I played stupid the first time this was detected, but by the second time it was clear who the offender was). But none of these gave any clues as to the turmoil happening in my consciousness.
Evidently the marijuana had caused my consciousness to snap loose somewhat from the underlying machinery of my brain. This was an incredibly unpleasant situation, and caused wave after wave of panic to wash over me. The panicky feeling would cause tightening in my chest and neck, and something in my consciousness interpreted this to mean that something very bad and very terminal was just moments away from taking place. There was a disconcerting shallowness and pointlessness to the range of my thoughts, as if I was helpless to do anything and incapable of mentally processing what I needed to process just to live. Contradictory thoughts seemed to have no trouble happening simultaneously, making me feel crazy. Also, there was an unrelenting hardness to these thoughts that made it seem as if I had been permanently altered and would never be normal again.
It was one of the worst mental feelings I have ever had, though it wasn't completely unprecedented. I have also felt this way (usually to a lesser degree) while badly hungover, while on nutmeg at Big Fun, after taking psilocybin mushrooms on March 23, 1987, and after being given some sort of sedative just before receiving intestinal surgery on October 21, 1983.
At some point I managed to get it together enough to go to the bathroom, where I tried to take a shit. I figured that if I had to go I might as well try. Sitting by myself, outside the demands of socializing, gave me a nice calm moment of reflection, though it unleashed a number of critical voices within the society of personalities inside my head (I say voices, though they manifested as unheard thoughts). They made a range of demands, some of which made sense (stop drinking alcohol) and some of which I was able to bat away immediately (stop keeping an online journal). I told these voices that I would take their views under advisement and then returned to the couch.
Cards Against Humanity continued, and I managed to keep a cork on the things happening in my brain. Eventually Gretchen won (as she always does) and then she looked over at me and noted that I was looking simply "sleepy." Eva demanded that we take some food with us, a process that seemed to take a very long time, but eventually we were in the car with Gretchen driving (there was no way that I could). I explained what all I'd gone through and was continuing to go through while hugging myself tightly through all the curves on the road homeward. Gretchen was sympathetic, and I told her not to worry. Soon after we got home, I quickly recovered, helped somewhat by a bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (I'd been unable to so much as consider drinking alcohol at Eva & Sandor's). There came another shock to my system when Gretchen showed me the amazing piece of mail that had arrived today, though the shock was more positive than negative.
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