salvia in the city


Nearly an hour spent, hands fumbling in my backpack in the dark space behind the seat ahead of me. I find a thick, black marker, memories of yesterday in the bathroom.

"What did I write on the wall?"

"What wall?"


A dirty feeling wooden pencil, memories of middle school, or have I slid farther back, elementary school, borrowing grubby pencils from my classmates. Secretly of course, no talking in class. I drop it immediately, then regret it. I know I'll find it again someday, and have to feel the same grubby, halflit memories; Taylor Starr, born on the 4th of July. Why did I think of him? I find the pencil again and lift it out. I can feel that it's a round one with glossy paint. Red and white and blue paint. I throw the pencil beneath the seat, then regret it. I see myself fumbling in my bag for a pencil at a bus station, sitting next to a pretty girl, two dead pens and a scrap of paper beside me on the bus. I have nothing to write with.

I find a small zippered bag, this may be it. I pull it out, black and gold skulls stare up at me. A field of Sable bedecked with skulls of Or, generosity and grief. This is not what I need. I try to imagine who sold this to me, but can think of nothing but the screaming on the stage ahead of me.

"...If I can't hold my baby I'll just die!"

"You'll never hold your child. You killed my first son already, I won't allow you to take another!"

As he brandishes his imaginary gun, I feel the hate come from him inside. Bad vibrations, this man is no longer acting. Who does he hate so much? Is this supposed to be funny?

I start digging around again, trying not to think of what's happening on the bright stage ahead of me. My fingertips start sliding around the bottom of the bag, searching still for the small bag of salvia. I haven't removed my hand from my bag for hours. No, it couldn't be hours, the performance ahead of me is only thirty minutes long, and it's only just begun.

A condom, I think of my bed, of home. I want to go home, to lay quietly in the dark, dreaming of cool forests, of being alone. My wife, or soon-to-be wife sits beside me. We never use condoms anymore, this is for someone else. I feel embarassed that I brought it to this crowded place where we've come to be alone. It's too hot and damp and dirty for sex anyway.

Finally, I reach the last unexplored corner of my pack. I find the bag, but before my hands close around it my fingertips brush sand. Cold sand, bringing with it salty, spraysoaked memories of dawn on the beach. Sitting beside my car, watching the full moon descend to the western horizon, while the sun tears its way through the dense tangle of eastern clouds. They feel like spiderwebs, stretching and sticking and remarkably strong. I smell the tide receding from the damp salt marsh, feel the thick air of the sea, so humid and cold. I think of the glaring gold graffiti on my car, even this almost made beautiful by the sun and the contented people sleeping in the back. I wonder what they dream of, on this strange morning at the end of a strange night. If their dreams are like those of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, filled with gardens bright with sinuous rills and forests ancient as the hills. I wonder if wherever they are is as beautiful as where I am.

Where I am. Where am I? Not in anywhere beautiful for sure. This theatre is full of dirty drunkenness. It feels like a dream of half naked men dancing deep inside a mountain, waist deep in blood and rose petals.

I start to fill the bowl with the dark brown flakes. It smells like raisins. No, more like fresh tobacco when it seems like it smells like raisins. I feel it stick to my fingers, the sweat and grime mixing with the salvia. It don't worry about it. I think of Arabs, naked in the predawn hours, the precious few hours before the heat of the scorching sun, preparing to run through the field ahead to gather the precious resin on their greased bodies. Their brown bodies glistening with ghee, their brown eyes with excitement.

Finally it's time. The lights blackout, then almost immediately brighten again. The crowd churns as people change seats or leave or arrive. We move to a darker corner of the theatre. It's time for the show we've been waiting for.

We bend low behind the seats, keeping the lighter flash out of sight. It's nearly 4:00am.

"Do you think it's light outside?"

"I don't know."

These are the first words between us in a while. I feel like it's been days. I haven't called my mother in a long time. If I ever get out of this theatre I might.

I smell the alcohol as he sits down, nothing more than a blue shirt and a red face. I don't understand him when he speaks to me but I know that he saw the pipe and wants to smoke some weed with us.

"Actually, this is salvia," she says, as if we were in conversation with the man next to us.

"I tried that once, it blew my mind. I never thought to do it at a public performance."

I never did either, I realize. This seems like a bad place for it.

As I take my hit, nearly emptying the bowl, leaving only some embers that were left after my wife took the first hit, I hear the man next to me ask if he could trade a twenty five cent coin for a hit of salvia. Then he offers another coin. I pack it and hand it to him, then look up at the stage for the first time.

I see people dancing, many instruments, a light like a fire between them. I don't know where the light comes from at first, then I realize it's a bonfire. A bonfire like the Misery fires, stretching up into the trees, casting a light that both makes it seem brighter and darker at the same time. The area outside the circle full of unknown beings, wolves, lions, satyrs, ancient snakes that live beneath the tree of life, their heads too deep within their scaly coils to be found, like a childhood memory caught deep within your brain. It seems like I could trace the snake down, maybe find some experience of my early childhood, but instead I trace his patterns with my eyes only to find demons in aluminum foil masks, dancing around a fire, deep within the woods. Their song has no meaning, even the tune changes with every word. Yet the audience knows the words. They are singing. I think again of the dream of blood and flower covered savages in the mountain, did they ever sing anything? I can't remember, maybe if I find another snake to follow...

"Are you a performer?"


I think to myself, aren't we all performers?

"I agree, every day is a performance in some way."

Did he just sense that or did I say something?

Cranes swoop close to the fire, their wings seem vast within this small theatre. They swoop so close to the fire the tips of their wings are slightly singed. How did they get here? How did these massive trees, roots twisted with years of history, get in here?

Suddenly, the lights fade out and then almost immediately return. People churn about, changing seats, leaving or arriving. I'm done.

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