My brother is the only person I’ve ever accepted drugs from. Despite being a terrible student in a rigorously academic family, he knew everything about drugs. When he gave me a second batch of hallucinogenic mushrooms, he told me to take them with food. “Try pasta,” he said.
We cooked them with steak. They smelled feral. We devoured the steak, and went to a late movie. The theater packed, and lit in animated green. Our mouths formed Os and we both reached out to the screen like it was a waterfall.
Afterward, we drove home slowly through a heavy snowfall, let the dogs out, and walked through the blizzard to the tiny park two blocks from our house. Nearly two in the morning, the whole neighborhood dark and insulated with snow. I played hide-and-seek with my dogs. Snow fell on my bare head, and I remember crouching behind a fir tree, and watching my black lab stand at the top of the pirate ship play structure to scan the park for me. Her sister raced through the trees, and down to the creek bed. This is how they operated: one watched for me, and one ran for me.
I was 27. Impossibly, wildly young. Months away from being so ill that I’d require immediate surgery and months of recovery. Not yet reconnected with the woman who would tell me that she couldn’t have an affair with me because of my family. Not ever acknowledging that we wouldn’t have an affair because I’d given up cheating.
In my family of addicts, I’m the one who quits. I quit sports, and marriage, and guitar. I quit states, and women, and jobs. I quit people. I haven’t spoken to my brother in more than a decade. I give up coffee and alcohol and sex. For years, I was one packed bag away from leaving everyone. I want, more than anything, to be alone and uncomplicated. To stand in a park in a snowstorm, so high that I have lost track of my husband, and the snow feels like a baptism, and I am free. I am the fulcrum of the world. My arms spread out to the sky, and then both dogs tackled me.
Saturday night we watched a documentary about mushrooms, and the interconnectedness — that sense of being whole and part of everything — is why hallucinogenic mushrooms are so potent against PTSD. But I think of them as the way that I began to love Spokane. In the dark, in a blizzard, in a small park with my dogs. I lay in a pile and stared up at the sky and felt holy and loved. Holy and loved.
I wasn’t alone. And nothing would ever be uncomplicated. It only hurts because you’re alive. I don’t know you, but I love you.
I got high on mushrooms and fell in love with the world. That’s what happened. I quit leaving and I stayed. Not then, but soon afterward. Nearly a decade later, after I’d burned everything to the ground seven or eight times, I quit leaving and I stayed. When my dogs were old, and my child was young, I quit leaving and I stayed. I moved back to this neighborhood with my wife, and built the home I didn’t know I wanted. Could I see them that night? My child? My wife? Could I see a life where I would feel holy and loved and devout?
Who can say? Being alive felt important. That’s what I remember best. And the way the dogs tackled me with joy and discovery. We have found you! We have found you at last!