BA and I stare up at the once-white wall in our kitchen that’s been transformed into a Jackson Pollock painting with alternating drips of yellow, cream, and lemon chiffon.
“You see it too?” he says.
I nod. It’s impossible not to.
We find the place where the wall meets the ceiling, searching for the canvas edge. The sunny streaks don’t disappear so much as they’re graded into the white surface around them.
BA steps closer. He runs his fingers over the braille-like texture of the wall trying to decipher the materials used by our mystery artist. I press pause on admiring the painting to take a sip of Sunny D, and my eyes flicker between the concoction and our champagne-streaked wall.
“Maybe it’s always been this color,” I wonder aloud.
We search the kitchen. Pollock’s paintbrush is hiding somewhere, and we’re determined to find it. BA opens the cabinet doors above the stove. Squeezed inside are boxes of Ramen Noodles and Tigers Milk protein bars, both staples in the homes of poor college athletes worldwide, and both unlikely to have decorated our wall with such a flaxen flurry.
I rifle through the refrigerator. I feel nauseous. My stomach churns as if there’s a hamster inside and he’s just found a wheel.
BA grabs a pan from beneath the oven and puts it on the stove. He points to the raw meat, then down to the pan. He pantomimes flipping hamburger patties, then looks up at the wall. The hamster stops and a wave of realization washes over me.
“Grease,” I say. “Fucking grease.” I grab a notebook from our kitchen table. “We should write this stuff down.”
BA and I have been roommates for two years. We met at the alumni dorm rooms at New Mexico State University when we both arrived for two-a-days three years ago. He was a lanky wide receiver from Phoenix, with a ridiculous Jheri curl and an ability to charm the skirt off any girl. I was a burly defensive tackle from Oklahoma with the emo-approved eyebrow piercing/lip ring combo and a morbid sense of humor.
This is BA’s first time taking mushrooms. Compared to him, I’m an old pro, having ingested this particular fungus five or so times.
I prepare him for what he’s likely to experience: The stomach ache, followed by a wave of relief, and hysterical bouts of laughter. I let him know that colors may start to seem brighter and the walls could appear to breathe. This was all normal.
I decide to throw on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We’re about halfway through when I feel the urge to pee, and convince myself that if I don’t go right this instant, I never will.
If not now, when?
I jump up from the couch and dart into my room. As I do, I notice a flash in my periphery. BA reflects my movements in real time, jumping up from his seat and sprinting into his room.
We’re all just reflections of each other.
In the bathroom, my piss lights up the toilet bowl like a vat of neon gas. I’m enamored by its brilliance, and reluctantly flush. It swirls around and then disappears forever.
Everything is ephemeral.
Because I’m leading BA through his first trip, I decide not to wash my hands, determined to keep a safe distance from my reflection. I’ve fallen into the time-consuming trap of staring at the mirror on shrooms before. The first time I tripped, I gazed at my reflection for over an hour. My expressions morphed into a stop-motion film, flickering between different states of mind personified by the Seven Dwarves. I was finally able to pull myself away after seeing Sneezy for the seventieth time.
The living room is empty when I return. I take a seat on the futon and look toward BA’s open door. It’s a black hole cast against a white universe. BA’s hands clutch the frame as if he’s afraid of falling into another dimension.
“WHAT-ARE-YOU — ” I stop myself. “WHAT-IS-HAPPENING-TO-MY-VOICE?”
While I was peeing, some celestial being must have replaced my esophagus with a microphone. Everything I’m saying sounds as if it’s being amplified by a dozen speakers in my brain.
BA peaks his head out as if he’s surveying the living room for Death Eaters. When he’s convinced himself that it’s safe, he returns to the couch.
I force out my original sentence, “WHAT-ARE-YOU-DOING?”
“Sitting on the couch.”
“Why did you?”
“Oh,” he says. “I, uhh...”
He looks up at me, flush with fear. Then he says, “I thought I was gonna cum.”
The microphone in my throat turns my laugh into a roar.“WHAT?”
“I thought I was gonna cum.”
“You ran out of the room.”
“I thought it was because you came in your pants. And I was scared I was gonna cum in my pants.”
“It was dripping.”
“I thought maybe that’s what happened on shrooms.”
“NOT-THAT-I-KNOW-OF” I say, but I can hardly think of a more transformative spiritual experience than the spontaneous jizzing of one’s pants.
BA laughs which makes me laugh even more. Pretty soon we’re both doubled over.
It’s with caution that I approach our dining room table the next morning. The neural pathways unearthed by the mushrooms either wasted our egos away or solidified them. And now it’s time to find out.
Moses chiseled the Ten Commandments on two pieces of stone. BA and I inscribed our manifesto on college rule paper from a Five Star notebook. I see the piece of paper and wonder what wise words have been scribbled across its margins.
The side facing up is blank. I must have turned it over to increase the suspense, a nice touch by my unconscious mind, which has always been skilled at constructing moments of drama for my future self.
I reach down, half excited and half dreading what is written on the other side. I turn it over.
I’ve yet to lift my self-imposed ban on mirror-gazing, but if one were in front of me now, my face would reflect the same slack-jawed childlike wonder I felt in fifth grade as the sun-filled sky turned black while my gym class watched our first lunar eclipse from the playground.
BA opens his door as I set the paper back down. I smile and shake my head. He looks at me. “What’s it say?”