Awake between the sleeping bodies of the two men I loved the most in LA, one who I believe will self-destruct and the other I will soon outgrow. With my eyes closed, I could see the heads of Joshua Trees spinning in magnificent color with the stars staining the sky.
What goes up must come down,
Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round,
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin,
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel spin.
I thought about our conversations earlier in the day.
I thought about Trent on top of a rock, bringing up the Israeli Man he had an affair with again. He said, “I know it was him that gave me genital warts. He was the only one I had unprotected sex with and he was always out, calling me, talking about the boys he was picking up. He was an asshole. I remember sitting in his car with him and he answered his phone. I know he was talking to his kid, I could hear it. And he was just lying. That’s when I said this has to stop, this is wrong.”
I thought about a younger version of Trent sitting in a hoodie and jeans in the expensive car of a much older, much richer man’s car. And I could see Trent’s face change as he identified with the child on the other side of the phone.
I wondered if this man knew what an impact he had on Trent, if he thought about Trent during moments of deep reflection or with friends who are willing to listen to anything that comes to mind in the middle of the desert.
At some point in the day, I mentioned the Prophet to Trent. When I was still married (separated) and obsessed with Eric (The Prophet), I came over to his apartment in the middle of the night. When I answered the door, he had a brown blanket over his head and draping around his arms like a shroud.
He answered the door, concerned the knocking would wake up his roommate or neighbors, and just quietly lifted his arms in the air as if to say, “Why are you knocking like that right now?” In the moment, he looked like he was doing his best Jesus impression.
I like that memory. It is a ridiculous association with someone who truly believed he had a prophetic calling straight out of the Bible.
When I shared it with Trent out of the blue, it was almost as if he could see my memory too, and he laughed. Trent, “He was cute, just a cute boy.” In the moment, I felt like he could see my stories like a photo album across his lap. I nodded and smiled. He was just a boy, by now he must be a man.
As I lay still in the dark, the tent walls turning from black to blue, I wondered if these two men knew how much they touched our lives. So much so, that they wander our thoughts in the most intimate and isolated moments of the desert.
You got no money and you got no home,
Spinnin’ wheel all alone,
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you never learn,
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel turn.
The dawn was coming through the tent now. I had to go to the bathroom again, but there was rustling and voices with the rising sun. I held my digestive turmoil with all my abdominal muscle until the all-American family and Mrs. Ruining Our Trip broke down their tent and left.
I left and used the bathroom again.
When I came back, I turned to Trent and said, “Hey . . . hey, Its your birthday”
Trent, “It is? Time for a birthday drink.”
We drank two more PBRs.
Then dosed again. My hands and eye glasses were huge, so the drug was still in my system.
We came up with a plan. Split another pill and a half between all of us. Break down the tent, then explore until sunset.
We poured the fine white powder into the crevice of broken oreoes and ate.
Trent also had a cube of LSD kept in foil. Abe asked to lick the foil. Trent allowed it.
Then Abe asked me to videotape him pretending to fly with the tent as his cape.
We moved fast, I didn’t want any responsibility when the drug returned again for another visit. We finished, packed and skedaddled to Hidden Valley.
Trent said, “You know this rock is quartz. Its supposed to regenerate. Maybe that’s why it was considered sacred ground.”
We lazily leaned up against the rock, trying to hide from the wind.
The drug takes over an hour to find you.
Climbing the rocks was easier than we thought. It came naturally.
Abe, “Where are we going?”
Me, “We are following Trent, he is being led by his Mexican ancestors.”
Trent would cackle and squeal at my jokes, like a car that was spinning in figure-8s. Abe was quiet, and sometimes surrendered a delayed laugh. He was late to the party and interrupting our rhythm, trying to find a way to fit in.
Abe, “Be careful! Watch where you step!”
Me, “I can climb anything with these huge hands!”
We panted and giggled, looking for the sun and hiding from the wind.
Abe, “So, I just got back from my grandfather’s place in Kern and they told me about the Muslims. Apparently, they are really trying to take everything over. Its like an assault on our culture. They actually want to be able to pray during work hours-”
Trent and I gasp.
Abe, “AND . . . AND get paid for it during those business hours.”
Abe, “I know.”
Abe isn’t stupid, he is naive. My father’s first impression was, “He is still molding his thoughts about life. He is very malleable.”
I know what it’s like at his grandfather’s house.
His father, his Uncle (A right-Wing Christian) and his Grandfather all sit in a small cluster of chairs in the living room and complain about Obama. The Thanksgiving I was there, I had to excuse myself, and I found all the women crunched in a separate side room, shaking their heads and asking me to ignore them.
We talked about books and women’s healthcare. Abe was in the wrong room.
Back in the desert:
Abe, “Getting paid to pray. I don’t get paid to pray.”
Me, “Next thing you know, they will want to get paid for bathroom breaks.”
Trent, “Don’t they use their left hand to wipe? Just their hand.”
Me, “Yeah, that’s why they never shake with their left hand. They just have sand and the one hand.”
Abe, “And then they serve those shitty hot dogs at 711.”
Me, “Muslims, man.”
Trent, “Want their prayers”
Me, “Don’t want our toilet paper.”
Trent, “Just our money”
Me, “And our sand.”
Abe, “Wait, are you guys being sarcastic?”
Me, “Welcome to the party!”
We drove out to the Cholla Cactus Garden. Time was expanding and we kept wondering if we passed the cactus garden. Trent’s body needed a bathroom immediately.
On the horizon, hundreds of yellow cactus sprung from the ground.
Me, “There it is.”
We got out, Trent in his sun hat, me in my heart-shaped sunglasses and Abe, looking like a regular Jewish kid.
Mini-vans and SUVs boxed us in, and as we got out, we felt the eyes leer over us. We were pleasant and wished everyone a good morning, but the white pasty folks in big sweatshirts and cheap hats only offered a brief critical stare in return.
We were closer to the other entrance of the park, where the rest of America enters the park. The side closest to Los Angeles greeted us with open arms, but now we were face to face with the America a Gay, a Jew and whatever I am . . . an Asshole with a Hatchet, prefer to forget about.
As we carefully stepped through the cactus garden, the odd colors painting the land with thorns and buds waiting for bloom, I quietly sang, “♪♫ People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly, when you’re alone. Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted. Streets are uneven, when you’re down . . . ♪♫”
One Asian gentleman with a camera around his neck smiled and said hello.
Trent turned to me with a big smile and arms up. I dryly responded, “Foreign.”
We drove back towards Jumbo Rocks and stopped at White Tank so we could all use the bathroom again. We were drinking water out of cheap gallons we bought at Target.
Looking ahead from behind the steering wheel, I said, “Is that a swarm of bees?”
Trent and Abe looked, “ . . . no.”
Me, “Oh. They are gone now.”
Trent said, “We are in bat country.”
We drove up the slight roll of desert, the bright yellow paint on the road leading me every mile closer to nowhere.
I said, “It’s almost like we are climbing the yellow rail of a roller coaster. Just waiting to get to the top.”
Abe, “But you are ok to drive, right?”
Me, “Well, my hands are on the wheel and we appear to be moving forward so I should say, yes, I think I am driving.”
They laughed with a light weight of concern. We were moving slow. No one was around. I knew the rocks would protect us.
Did you find the directing sign on the,
Straight and narrow highway,
Would you mind a reflecting sign,
Just let it shine within your mind,
And show you the colors that are real.
We stopped at White Tank and sprang out to use the bathrooms.
I waited outside of one until a small, Asian woman came out. We politely nodded, and I entered the small room to see there was urine sprayed all over the toilet seat.
How was I high hallucinogens and still had the common sense to clean up after another grown woman?
I sat down and watched the cracks and holes in the wall move splendidly around in harmony. Was I still high, or high again?
We decided to leave my car where it was and wander across the desert. Abe was afraid of leaving my car, he was afraid of getting lost, he was just afraid.
We assured him we were parked and the ground was level enough that we could easily climb a rock to assess where we were.
Trent leaned up against a rock, “Time to regenerate.” He let the quartz warm his hands.
I leaned back in two sweatshirts and a hat, then yawned a, “I feel right at home.”
We would take turns talking to each other, while a third tripped into a universe of quiet thought.
Me, “I can smell my own bo through three layers of clothing, that’s kind of impressive.”
We drove up to the Hall of Horrors, with my small container of dark chocolate covered almonds.
I parked and said, “Ok, lets see what is so horrible about the Hall of Horrors.”
We walked around, Abe fitting in quarter cigarettes here and there. Me munching on my almonds. Our laughing was taking rise again.
I held up a handful of chocolate almonds melting together.
Me, “Would you like an almond cluster? It’s something I invented with a Hyundai Sonata and sunlight.”
We wandered, calling for Mr. Rabbit.
Trent said, “Mr. Rabbit, come out.”
Me, “We just want to admire you and love you.”
Abe, “Must be easy to hit them with something simple, like a bow and arrow.”
Trent and I paused and then giggled, and I said, “Geez. Stop being such a white man. You don’t have to dominate and kill the beauty. Learn from our ways.”
Abe thoughtfully took a drag and said, “Alright.”
Me, “Well, I don’t see what is so Horrific about the Hall of Horrors.”
Trent, “Maybe its the way the light hits it during the day.”
Me, “Yes, or we just have to use our imagination.”
Abe fought to keep up, he was running out of time to get the jokes and find his place in the fast exchange of dialogue, but the day was unforgiving, and it was time to go.
We drove Abe back to his parked car at Hidden Valley and he followed us out of the park. We stopped at the first gas station. Trent went inside.
Abe came out to stand next to my car, “I will miss the rocks.”
Me, “They will always be here for us.”
Trent returned with a pint of beer.
Abe, “You realize there is an open container in your car.”
I turned to Trent, “Oh yeah, let me have a swig of that.”
We finished the beer and decided to find a hot springs to sit in before leaving.
As we drove, Trent’s phone finally got the reception he was starving for all weekend. He checked his email and his text messages and grew quiet.
Trent, “That girl better send me those Coachella tickets I bought.”
Me, “They haven’t arrived yet?”
Trent, “No, and she hasn’t written me back about it. Its a lot of money . . . Oh, someone can take my shift tomorrow. Maybe I will do that.”
Me, “You should, give yourself a day to recover.”
He wasn’t really listening. His phone had its hand around his throat now, bending his face down and staring into his eyes. The magic was slipping away from the desert and technology introduced a new set of feelings; anxiety, time and demand.
We drove into Desert Hot Springs thinking there would be free hot springs, but there were just spas everywhere charging to sit on their property. Didn’t they know it was our property too?
Trent said, “I am hot and tired. I just want to go back.”
I leaned against my car, as Abe quietly stood by.
I said, “Well, I would like to enjoy the rest of my trip, if I can.”
Trent said, “Ok.”
He wanted to be a good tripping partner, but we were out of alcohol, out of food, and out of steam.
I suggested we hit a Thai food place nearby and regenerate. The air conditioning kissed the sun burns, and cold glasses of water were delivered to our pristine, white table cloth.
We all washed up in the bathroom and ordered food, even though we weren’t hungry.
Trent was quiet over a glass of chardonnay and Abe was attentively feeding me tea and water.
Abe’s face was changing. He looked troubled. He kept videotaping me, which made me uncomfortable. Strange for an actress.
I said, “You are going to miss me when I move back to Washington.”
He said, “Yes, I know. I fucked this up. I fuck up everything. I am worthless.”
Trent said, “Stop, stop. We like you.”
Abe’s face fell closer to the table and he said, “Now, I am going to lose you.”
I said, “Stop. Stop. What’s done is done. You couldn’t move in with me. I am moving back home now, it’s settled. I am at peace with that.”
He grew quiet.
Talk about a bummer end to a trip. Trent was spinning his wine glass around in circles, thinking about his job, his troubled relationship with Kent and his next adventure.
The rocks had kept human life out and let us roam in free thought. Now that we were around buildings, people and technology, the rocks couldn’t protect us from ourselves any longer.
Abe was fighting the emotion chemically surging through all the neurons he numbs to death on a daily basis with THC.
I ate my Thai Food and said, “We should just head back.”
Trent, “I don’t want you to drive back if you can’t. I don’t mind paying to go sit in a hot spring.”
I said, “No, now I am tired and it’s only going to get worse. I didn’t sleep at all last night. Its better that we head back now so I can just go to sleep.”
Abe and Trent asked several times if I was sure, and I said I was.
We got into the car and I said to Abe, “So, are you following me back to my place?”
Abe said, “Let me check my messages and see if I work tomorrow.”
Trent and I waited in my car, as the sun turned from hot to warm, yellow to orange.
Abe said, “Well, I don’t work tomorrow but my cousin is in town to visit me. I forgot.”
He didn’t forget. He just didn’t mention it. My heart was set on taking him home with me to finish out the MDMA with love, dogs and sex.
I said, “Great, well thanks for coming out.” I started the engine. He faltered at the passenger side and said, “Um .. ok, be careful.”
Trent thanked him for the company and said it was great.
I drove off furious.
I was furious the phone took away my tripping companion, and furious that my lover made plans on a night perfect for confessions, cohabitation and coitus. Now, I wouldn’t have a home tonight, just a room I am waiting to move out of.
Driving, the setting sun was smearing over the sky, making it hard to see the horizon, so I focused on the car in front of me.
Trent, “You are driving over the bumps on our lane. Are you sure you are ok?”
I said, “Yeah, the wind is pushing my car a little.”
He grew quiet and molested his phone, chewed his finger nails. The sound of the tap tap tap on his device and the nails breaking in his mouth wore on my nerves.
I tried to think about what I learned. Alan said, “I always like to think about what I want to come out with before I start [tripping].” I don’t really take that approach, part of the adventure is finding something you don’t expect.
In this case, I found the asshole with the hatchet. The fight to live my life.
No more apologies. No more regret. No more profusely thanking people.
I will be less polite and allow more leeway for myself. Take what is mine.
I dropped off Trent and helped him haul his things up to Kent’s and then smoked a cigarette alone in my car.
Abe texted: “If you want to come back, you can spend the night here with me.”
I wrote back: “I just drove through two and a half hours of LA traffic to drop Trent off and I have to work tomorrow, so thanks but no thanks.”
When I came home, the dogsitter hadn’t secured the cap on the dogfood vault, and the dogs got into it with kibble spilled all over the ground. They found my clean laundry bag halfway full of clothes and urinated on it.
I quietly cleaned up, and the three of them stared at me on the bed. They knew that I wasn’t happy and quietly waited for me to lay down.
What goes up must come down . . .
I had to sleep. Sleep would settle my mind, and erode my anger. Sleep would align my body back with my soul so I could see, once again, what my future might bring.
Someone is waiting just for you,
Spinning wheel is spinning true,
Drop all your troubles, by the river side,
Ride a painted pony,
Let the spinning wheel fly.