One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice of Life this week is an error of judgement.
Yeah, I made a pretty big error of judgement back in the day.
Warning – this post may contain drug references and graphic descriptions of drug use.
Well, not really. I’ve just always wanted to say that.
I went to a party when I was 17. I remember I was wearing a batik print dress with sandals with cork soles and these enormous silver earrings with moons and stars on them that jangled as I walked. Yes, even though it was 1982, there was a Batik revival going on in Sydney and I thought I was the Cat’s PJs.
Mel had on a pink and purple batik ensemble with some kind of Buddhist temple on it. She hadn’t handwashed the dress before she put it on and in the summer heat the dye was beginning to come off on her neck and arms.
There were some boys in my class at that time who thought it was really cool or smart or funny or something to spike girls drinks. This resulted in a lot of people throwing up on the lawn at various parties. I remember Annabel Mason’s famous spew into her mother’s handpainted steel watering can imported all the way from France. It was the stuff of legend because her mother didn’t notice it for over a week and the spew hardened and the only way to get it out was to scrape it out with a spatula and a chisel which Annabel’s Mum made her do as punishment. Annabel’s nickname was the watering-can spewer from that day forward.
The thing is that the clued-up girls knew which boys were spiking the drinks so we avoided accepting drinks from them as well as setting up sentries around the punch bowl and the jugs of lemonade on the party tables. That’s why when Danny McAllister handed me a glass of Coke, I didn’t suspect a thing.
Danny and I were good friends. We were on the debating team and co-edited the school newspaper. He was a science geek who wore glasses but he had a heart of gold and a great sense of humour. I mention the geek part because Danny was teased a lot by the jocks. It’s such a common story, isn’t it? It’s as if as soon as you enter the school gates you get caught on this treadmill of stereotypical behaviour and you can’t get off until you’ve acted out your part.
Danny was teased by the jocks but instead of telling them to go and suck our big fat ones as the rest of us did, he went to great lengths to gain their acceptance. And that’s where my error of judgement comes in.
The spiked substance of choice at this particular party was LSD. There was a real 60s retro thing going on in my town. It was tangerine trees and marmalade skies all the way.
I had seen Danny talking to one of his Jock Idols a short time before he handed me my drink but I really didn’t put two and two squared together until the ground began to dip in some parts and rise up in others. I don’t know why but the organ riff Ray Manzarek plays in that Doors track Break On Thru To The Other Side popped into my head straight away.
The tune stuck in my head, obstinately, and I began to dance. But it was hard to dance because I was standing on a life raft that was floating rather precariously on a very choppy sea. And the colours in the world were so vivid my eyes were stinging.
I remember feeling like everything was rushing toward me and that objects and people were so enormous I thought they would crush me. Then they would retreat, farther and farther away until they were like ants at my feet.
And it happened. Just as everyone who has taken LSD says it does – I saw God. Well, actually, I saw St. Michael the Archangel. He was beautiful, terrifying, cruel and tender all at once. I wanted to run from him. I wanted to stay by his side. ‘You should remember me,’ he said. I often wonder what he meant by it.
Mel knew I was in trouble when she saw me holding up a handful of ice to the sky and whispering to myself. ‘You were somewhere else,’ she said. ‘And it scared me.’
I was somewhere else. I was hearing the harps of paradise as I stood by the acacia trees as well as the cries of the forgotten.
Mel got me out there. It was a pact we had. If ever one of us got into an awkward situation at a party the other one would bail her out.
I spent the rest of the night alternating between throwing up and seeing the world with kaleidoscope eyes.
During the course of the night Mel figured out Danny McAllister was to blame and called his mother. He spent the next month apologising to me and didn’t speak to any of the jocks for the rest of the school year.
I wasn’t mad at him – well, not really but it did make me think a lot about peer pressure and how the desire to be in the popular clique can cloud your judgement, sometimes adversely affecting not just yourself but other people you care about. You hear people say it all the time:
You think you know somebody…..
while shaking their heads.
And it makes you realise how difficult it is to be an independent spirit in a world of conformity.