The history of my relationship with Cheryl was tumultuous, to say the least. She was living in a loft apartment when I first met her. The insane artist with the last name of Norman, whom we referred to as "Abb" for AbNorma(l), was hitting on her at the time. He was a friend of mine, but this disturbed me for a couple of reasons. First of all, he wasn't worth a damn at saying what he really wanted to say to anyone, let alone chicks. And, second of all, I was just now noticing how beautiful her long, wavy blonde hair was, and how she'd quit shaving her legs and under her arms since I had seen her in the high school corridors the year before. I was a college kid now, and the depth of maturity and worldly wisdom I'd reached in that one brief year since high school had led me to one inescapable conclusion: I had been too horny too long.
That loft apartment was above an old garage, and it was a mess. One room to sleep in, and one small kitchen and a teeny tiny bathroom. Cheryl lay there on that bed of hers, looking like Mother Earth herself, and as soon as I talked reason to Abb, he was gone. (I told him that she was way too complicated for him, and that she'd only disturb his already tenuous grasp of what little reality he could barely hold onto now in this complex world. He left, scratching his head.) Then, I sat beside her and we talked for a while before I ran my fingers through that long blonde hair. I'll never forget her words to me when things got lathered up: "You're not very shy, are you?"
No, I was tired of being shy. I was ready to get nekkid at the drop of any hat at any time, and this chapeau had hit the floor the moment my starving artist friend had hit the door.
The affair lasted for about one summer, until I went back to college. We weren't cut out for each other, anyway. She was the Earth Mother who spoke in riddles, and I was the anal retentive who wanted everything to make sense. Plus, her mother tried to run me off the road one night when she saw her daughter in the car with me. Her mom had been seen by several of the area's finest mental health professionals, but they didn't have Prozac back then, so she was constantly careening off the sideboards of life. My car was undamaged, but my relationship with Cheryl had a large dent in the right front fender. That dent led to tire failure and a need for a complete overhaul which neither of us were able to afford, spiritually.
Well, I keep on thinkin' 'bout you,
Sister Golden Hair surprise.
I had pretty much forgotten about the golden haired delight, until someone told me that she'd moved to the college town to escape her mom. She wasn't actually "going to college," she was just living there, in some cabin without electricity, out by a lake in the middle of nowhere. That sounded like my Earth Spirit Girl, so I didn't doubt it. In fact, I got directions and decided to drive out there and see how she was. It had been several months since I'd seen her and I was remembering our quiet times together and the spiritual bonds we had shared . . . That is to say, I was horny again.
It was definitely in the middle of nowhere; about 20 miles outside of town, and the last couple of miles were dirt road. But there it sat. An old wooden house that looked like it had been built in the 1920s with just enough white paint left on the boards so that you could tell someone had intended for it to be that color at one time. And there Cheryl was, sitting on that old front porch, in an old rocking chair, like some sort of premature granny. But she was lovely. The sun was glistening off of that long blonde hair and she seemed glad to see me. There was no phone, no electricity, no running water, no gas . . . it was that rugged existence so many hippies talked about but so very few ever actually attempted.
And, speaking of attempts, mine at rekindling romance went down the well about as quickly as that bucket when she got us a drink. Apparently she had transcended sex (with me, at least) as well as all the other trappings of life as we know it. So I didn't make an issue of it. We just sat there and talked about life and old times and then I gave her a peck on the cheek and left.
I've been one poor correspondent,
and I've been too, too hard to find.
A couple of days later, I began to feel pangs of guilt about the way I had treated this poor girl, and I felt sorry for her living out there like she was. I knew there was nothing I could do in terms of buying her something to make her life easier; she would have resented that. But I felt as if I could "build" her something and she'd accept it with the spirit in which it was intended. So my friend Barry and I drove out there to build her a new cover for that old well. We would use cedar, as there were plenty of cedar trees around that area, and not only would it keep out the varmints, but it would smell nice, too.
So we got our tools and put them in the car and drove out to Cheryl's place. We took four little cow shit mushrooms with us for a reward when we were done. We'd been eating a lot of these little bastards during that time, and the effect had always been a fairly mild trip.
No one was home when we got to Cheryl's place. But that almost made it better. We would do it and leave her a small note and she could appreciate us in absentia when she returned. So the cedar was cut and the well cover was built and it looked damn good. Now it was time for the reward.
Barry ate two of the little mushrooms and I ate one, figuring I'd save the other one and do it in half an hour or so. We walked down to the lake and took our clothes off and dove in for a swim. I was floating on my back, paddling away from shore at a pretty good clip, when it hit me. Now, I'd been doing a lot of these little mushrooms, but never had they hit me like this, even if I'd eaten a dozen of them. This one little bastard must have just been about to throw its spores or it was a different breed from the rest. I don't know why, but I do know what. And the what was an exploding sky.
I was on my back, in very deep water, and concentric circles of brilliant colors were exploding out of the sky. They were moving fast and it was as if I was being drawn into one of those spinning wheels that were so popular in bad science fiction back then. You know, like the ones used to hypnotize folks?
I guess this would have been fun, except I couldn't concentrate on swimming very well. I went down once, and then made a conscious decision not to let this kill me. I started dog paddling back to a shore that seemed a mile away in one minute and right in front of me the next. It was all I could do not to give in and just sink and get it over with. I wanted to turn back over on my back and float, but I knew what was going on up in that Disneyland sky and I didn't wish to interact with that again.
Finally, I reached the point near land where I could stand up. Barry was just sitting there on shore, smiling and staring out at the lake. He had no idea what was going on inside my head. I sat down next to him and he said, "Why are you breathing so hard? You didn't swim that far."
I looked him right in the eye and said, "Look at me. Look at me closely. Listen to me. Listen closely. I am more fucked up than I have ever been fucked up in my life. I need to get back to the house." I said it very slowly, and he knew I was not kidding. We had been fucked up before, the two of us, and he knew not to take a statement like that lightly.
The walk back seemed redeeming, in a way. It was like being one of the chosen people, walking out of bondage. Everything quit being scary and things became magical, instead. We got back to the porch and I saw the well cover we had built. I ran my hands over it several times. "We did a good job, didn't we?" I said. Barry, by this time, was wondering if I had crossed some sort of line we'd never discussed before. A line that doesn't let you cross back over.
"Sit down, and let's smoke a joint and see if that makes you feel better," he said. And I did. And it would have, except I felt as good as you can possibly feel by then. I was rocking in an old chair, like we had on the porches when I was kid, butt naked, like I was when I was a baby, and the sun was going down slowly, gracing us with a wonderfully pinkish sunset. In the wisps of clouds where the color was changing, Greek letters were spelling out messages which I couldn't read but which I understood fully. Mockingbirds were singing songs to which I knew the words. I had never been more alive, and I've never been more alive since.
A car could be heard coming down that dirt road, still a long way away. "That must be Cheryl. Why don't you put on your clothes?" Barry had gotten dressed a long time ago, but I just couldn't. I had decided never to wear clothes again. "OK, you know her better than I do," he said.
A Volvo pulled up in front of the porch. There was a Springer Spaniel hanging his adorable head out of the rear window. Barry got up and went to the car, because it was clear that this was not Cheryl. He spoke to the people in the car, a man and a woman, at length. I couldn't hear what they were saying because I was concentrating on the lyrics from the mockingbirds. All at once, the car sped away, leaving a huge trail of red dust.
Barry came back and sat down on the porch. "We need to leave," he said. I said, "Oh, man; I cannot leave this place right now. I’m having a once in a lifetime revelation here. Why should we have to leave?"
"That was Cheryl's mother and her new husband, and they have gone to get the Sheriff. She told me she would have killed you if she'd had a gun."
"There's too much violence in this world," I said as I got into the car, still naked, and we drove home. I stuck my head out the window and heard the wind whistling through my eyebrows until it got dark.
Lyrics by Gerry Beckley, ©1975
First recorded by the band, America.