I made a bowl out of my dry, callused hands and waited to receive communion in the backseat of the car. It had been ages since the last time I received the eucharist. I was a bad, bad Roman Catholic. I felt nothing for religion and any of its customs, to be honest, there was very little I felt something for, but every now and then you have to keep up appearances, partaking in rituals for the sake of others. I loved the look, the architecture of churches, maybe the only thing I appreciated about them was the aesthetic.
I didn’t mind being inside a church. The holy water didn’t boil or anything and the crucifixes never melted.
“Body of Christ, my son.”
“Amen,” I said, uneasily. It occurred to me that I couldn’t remember how long it had been since my last real, proper confession. It made no difference.
Ozzy, one of my oldest friends who was named after Ozzy Osbourne, dropped the brownish beige mushrooms slowly into my hands. Piece by piece. Ozzy Craven and I met in elementary school PS. 79, just as our fathers had. Maybe we even had some of the same teachers, though I never thought to ask. In the summer before 8th grade Ozzy hit his growth spurt and shot up to almost 6 feet into a big dirty blonde hair, blue eyed nordic looking boy. After that I no longer won when we fought, which was infuriating, but beyond my control because puberty for me in Junior High was nowhere in sight. I still tried to win those fights, unsuccessfully. It didn’t matter what happened between us, we would always be best friends, that was how it worked. It just was.
Ozzy smiled, his trip began earlier only you wouldn’t know it, kneeling in the passenger seat of his mother’s beige Chevy Malibu. Ozzy must have had a high tolerance, he never seemed too fucked up, he always handled himself well, better than I did. I tended to get sloppy. The cap and stems he gave me were desiccated and porous, they split and cracked leaving a sprinkle of dust inside my paint stained hands. For whatever reason I thought of mushroom clouds, then I thought of Isabella Rossellini’s mouth, then I thought of bridges. My favorite bridge was the Brooklyn Bridge. I thought of bad trips, which I then hoped would not lead into one. I had been the beneficiary of a horrible trip, one that had gone awry and I did not want to repeat that again, ever. I spent the whole night under my covers simultaneously laughing and crying. It was a ride I definitely wanted to get off of, some scary hours were had. So there was absolutely no fun on a bad trip. I never had a bad trip on LSD, it was only that once, that single solitary time that the mushrooms affected me negatively. It was enough to worry me whenever I was going to take a little journey again. What if life itself was one long bad trip? Think about it for a second, you never know.
“I got this particular batch of psilocybin from the dude by Springfield and U. They are fucking ridiculous. I’ve been eating them all week.” Said Ozzy as he casually fed himself more stems as if it was popcorn, washing the foul tasting fungi down with Grolsch, without any hint of a grimace or displeasure. I wondered if he actually enjoyed eating them. I think he did, which was hard to fathom, since the taste was repulsive to me, but Ozzy was a strange creature.
“We know,” Said Martin, looking at me in the rearview. “We all know you’ve been eating them all week.”
Martin was always the one who drove, maybe because he felt he was more capable of getting us home alive. Maybe he felt more comfortable being in control, he was always more mature than the rest of us. Maybe he felt like the de facto leader of the crew. Martin and Ozzy were brothers, they were always very different from each other not only in looks but in personality. Often times people thought that Martin and I were brothers. We differed in height, Martin was as tall as Ozzy but both of us had long dark brown hair. His eyes were blue like Ozzy’s though, mine hazel, leaning more toward a greener shade. Martin was a year and a half older but we all hung out together. Martin was tough as nails and loved putting people to sleep, often with a slick right hook but he really enjoyed the chokehold he honed in Brazilian jiu jitsu classes he took in a broken down store front. Martin was named after his grandfather who died before he could meet him. Everything has a life expectancy, an expiration date that most hope will be above average. That’s not always the reality. Sometimes the milk turns early.
“Would you like to partake, bro?” Ozzy tried to feed Martin, lightly hitting him in the mouth with a cap.
Martin swatted Ozzy’s hand away, “Stop, dick,” raising his beer in a salute before swigging it. “How can I eat mushrooms right now? Can’t you see I’m driving.” Martin favored Grolsch but I think it was because he loved the pop tops of the pint bottles.
“What time is Soilent Green supposed to go on?” I asked, while trying to swallow the putrid mash of mushrooms I chewed on like a cow. If only they could be delicious? I probably would have ate mushrooms more often which would not have been the best thing for me to do. Mentally, you know? We don’t always do what is best, now do we?
We were on our way to the city to see Soilent Green. A band from Louisiana that we all loved was playing CBGB’s that night. It was my second time seeing them, first time on psychedelics. They were not a band that disappointed live. I was delighted to be seeing them again. Sewn Mouth Secrets was an instant classic. I loved the catchiness of Patton and Punch’s bluesy riffs and their killer guitar tones, Buckley’s impeccable groove, Williams’ pounding bass and Falgoust’s lyrics and vocal deliveries were stellar. I loved how they blended various styles of metal, weaving in and out of different genres seamlessly. I found it puzzling that they were not bigger.
“Colm, I think they go on around ten. I’m really not positive though. Do we know what other bands are playing?” asked Philip. Philip Spalla was Martin’s age and in all his classes growing up. Philip was funny and argumentative but also quick with his hands. He had a boxer’s build and a receding hairline that was noticeable with the contrast of his black hair and pale skin. Philip lost a bet to Ozzy and got a tattoo senior year. He had to get a word across his stomach in Old English, while we all were getting our last names, he got a word of Ozzy’s choosing. Feminist. Tattoo bets can be pretty incredible and props to Philip for not backing out of it.
“I knew who was playing the show and I forgot. I couldn’t tell you now even if my life depended on it,” Said Martin, pulling his hood over the back of his head.
“It doesn’t matter anyway, we’re going to miss most of them at this rate. Bands have started playing already. Does it seem like we’re going slower than normal? Oh. Did I mention Viggo said he is going to meet us at CB’s.” Said Ozzy, flipping through CDs in a booklet. “What do you guys want to listen to?” A hobby for Ozzy was to burn copies for people. He would hand you a stack of burned CDs from shit he just bought and give you a detailed review about how and why you needed to hear this particular band or album. You need to hear this shit, he’d say. He would be so excited about that sort of thing, unlike me, Ozzy was excited about most things.
“Raekwon,” I said.
“Cannibal Corpse,” Martin said.
“Cradle of Filth.”
“Capone ’N Noreaga,” Philip suggested.
“V O D.”
“Ghostface,” I said.
“Madball,” Martin said.
Each name mentioned were sound choices. I would have been content listening to any one of those options but Ozzy rifled through compact discs as I thought about cassette tapes while sitting behind him. The doomed fate of the cassette tape. How many things in a person’s lifetime can become obsolete? One day things can just become utterly useless whether you like it or not. A cassette tape was almost like a moment in time in itself, like an old lover or a specific smell. Even then in the car I could visualize particular cassette tapes I owned over the course of my life and how they made me feel. A white Metallica cassette or the untouchable Raekwon purple tape, those two momentous things brought joy with it. The world knew. I could see the way in which I wrote the name of whatever band and album I recorded onto a blank cassette in a graffiti hand style on those thin stickers. A cassette tape could evoke a memory like any other thing could, I was being sentimental, I know. I thought cassettes looked cooler than compact discs. A piece of plastic. Film, coated in some chemical, stretched over two spools. It was fascinating that any sound, let alone music emerged from it. Props to the Philips company, who invented the compact cassette tape in 1962 in Belgium. Though it was destructible, as everything is, and even if that memory of that specific song, or scene, or girl you were with when the music came on, if those memories could live on even after you wore it out or broke it, or worse, when you tossed that medium aside for the next bullshit trend such as the compact disc, well it was something special while it lasted.
Everything dies, everything passes on, everything fades away, everything gets played out. Some things in life just tear you up a little more than others do when the time comes to move on. I missed cassette tapes just as I would miss some people. It was only a matter of time before something else comes along and kills the CD or someone you hold dear to your heart passes away or betrays you. Everything has a life expectancy, a dusty and short shelf life, a small measure of time to do whatever you possibly can before the lights go out.
“I wasn’t really taking requests. Wu-Tang is forever. Mother. Fucker. I shitted on your hood, kid. I shitted on your hood.” Ozzy slipped a burned copy into the slot in the face of the dashboard. “Peace to cats who mack knowledge.”
“Street astrologists,” I chimed in.
“What if the feeling when you start peaking is actually what it feels like when you die? Like the moment right after you die, or right when you’re in the process of leaving this life form, what if it’s that propulsion that your body kind of feels when your tripping, like astral projection or some wild, crazy shit, or maybe that’s how your energy feels when its coasting through space into distant galaxies, or some fucking parallel dimensions or through a wormhole or something. Bugged out, right? Like what if tripping is a small window, a glimpse into the afterlife.” Ozzy was into far off places in his mind.
“You might be peaking now, bud. What about the soul?” Asked Philip, a bit snappy.
“What about it? The energy inside us or the energy that we might possibly become is, for lack of a better word, the soul or it could be a type of soul. When that proposed soul leaves the body, these vessels that host the soul, maybe then it travels through the universe once it’s freed. I don’t know. How rad would that be though?” Ozzy was very pleased with his hypothesis. He pulled his hood on, tilted his head, closed his eyes tight and went somewhere else in his mind and smiled before coming back to us in the car.
“I don’t know about you but when I die I’m going to heaven.” Philip declared, as if he already deserved a slot. Philip desperately wanted heaven to be a real thing.
“There is no heaven,” Ozzy laughed. “Come on, Colm, get in on this. Let Philip have an earful of truth. Check him.”
“No one wants to hear my opinions on theosophical views,” I said. We have had these discussions hundreds of times before and they served no purpose, plus I couldn’t stop playing with my hair. I was feeling a bit fidgety, the tips of my fingers were starting to tingle, and it made me anxious. My trip was underway.
“You’re a hundred percent right. I don’t. I don’t want to hear anything you have to say on the matter. I don’t want to hear anything from any of you dicks,” said Philip, arms crossed, pouting like an oversized baby. “I know it’s all real and you can’t tell me nada.”
“I’m really just thinking about cassette tapes right now.” I said, as my stomach was beginning to get uneasy with the onset of the mushrooms. And something was stuck in my tooth which was annoying me and so I repeatedly dug at it with my tongue.
“But why? And why is there no heaven? I’d love to hear this. You fucking asshole.” Said Philip, whose favorite pastime was arguing. He would argue over anything. Anything. “I just threw all my tapes out.”
“You just said you didn’t want to hear but I’ll tell you, Phil. There is no heaven because it’s make believe, bro. I am not a fucking brainwashed little child. Just use your fucking head, man. There is no heaven. No hell. No God. No Easter Bunny. None of it is real. Grow up. Come on, man. Think about it. ”
“Fuck you! You’re so full of shit. You don’t know anything about anything. And I don’t believe that you don’t believe in these things. I think you’re lying to yourself with your drug induced rants. There has to be a God.”
“I really don’t believe in anything and how as we approach a new millennium can you believe that a God or Gods really exist? Aren’t we supposed to be enlightened human beings by now? Do you believe in Zeus? But I suppose a non-belief is still a belief.”
“If there is no God then explain why I’m not out there just killing people left and right.” Philip got louder as he spoke, that was kind of his thing, “Colm, you believe in God, don’t you?” Philip was firmly aligned with the notion that whoever yells the loudest is right. I thought one of the best things about our friendship was that although we share similar interests we were all very individualistic as well, and most of our discussions were interesting if not humorous. We had varying opinions on most things, especially the subjects you’re not supposed to discuss: religion and politics. And with respect to Philip you can add feminism to the list.
I told him not so much in regards to believing in an actual God and Philip turned up his nose at me and shook his head with disdain. “I prefer to focus my blind faith in the existence of aliens over deities.”
“I love you, you’re my boy, Philip. I will always love you, friends ever since I stole your lunch money in P.S. 79 but you’re a fucking idiot. This is your argument. This is how you prove God exists? God keeps you from killing people. This is really the thought process. God is your moral compass and that is how you know he exists. Pretty flimsy, bro. ”
“Well, God and religion keep us all civilized, clearly.” I said.
Ozzy winked at me, “Jesus Freak.”
“One. Ozzy never stole my lunch money. I’m older than you. That never happened. So stop saying that it did. And two. Why does it have to be Jesus freak?” Philip was getting red in the face and head. Philip was holding on to what was left of his hair. He started to thin really early in high school. The angrier Philip would get the funnier we found him. This was how it had been since elementary school. I can not confirm nor deny any theft of any lunch money. I honestly had no recollection of said event. “I don’t call you assholes satan freaks.”
“Honestly, I might’ve stolen your lunch money.” Said Martin, laughing.
“I didn’t coin the phrase ‘Jesus freak’, I can’t take credit for it but It’s a thing. Anyway. So what would it take for you to commit murder? We don’t want to upset your God but what would it take for you to disregard his commands? What would it take to break his imposed rules? We know you wouldn’t kill someone who stole your lunch money cause I’m alive and well.” Ozzy brought the back of his hand down slowly from the top of his head to the bottom of his jaw.
Philip finally cracked a smile. “No, you dick. It would have to be something really bad. And yes, It would have to be way, way worse than stealing my lunch money. No one stole my fucking lunch money. Enough already with the lunch money.”
“So what’s a reason that would be good enough to defy your God? You are aware that an astronomical number of people have died in God’s name since the dawn of time. You realize people die everyday for God. But you think God keeps us from killing each other. You actually said that out loud. You’re ridiculous, dude. You wouldn’t want to upset your boy, unless you had a valid reason so what would be justifiable in order to kill a person?” Ozzy was in rare form, he wasn’t letting it go.
“I mean, I would kill someone if they hurt my family or if I had to protect myself. If I had to.”
“So self defense.”
“Self-preservation.” Martin said.
“Can we talk about something else. This is getting dumber by the second and I’m beginning to trip pretty hard.” I didn’t want to listen to them any longer, even though my views were more in line with Ozzy’s, there was no reason to preach, or to force the issue. Everyone should be free to believe what they want. There is no point in wasting energy on people who are beyond intellectual reason, no offense to Philip, I loved him like a brother and accepted him but he was not the brightest star in the night sky. Intelligence aside, you can’t argue with a person’s beliefs, it’s a pointless argument. Who cared about what four knuckleheads from Queens thoughts were on any topic? We had no impact or affect on anything, so what did it really matter what any of us thought about any topic especially concerning the existence of God. Our opinions were worthless like our lives. Maybe the only thing Ozzy was right about was the mushrooms, they were unbelievably potent and the onset did not take long at all.
“Let’s talk about how rad Soilent will be tonight.” Said Philip.
“The truth is I don’t have a problem with what you believe in, I enjoy the debate and I respect your opinion, whereas you actually have a problem with what I don’t believe in.” Ozzy was still speaking when Martin turned up the volume, drowning him out to end the conversation.
For Heaven’s Sake thumped through the stock speakers, while Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and Cappadonna dropped their verses inside the Malibu on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. I let my physical form blend into the fabric of the seats as I looked at the lights we passed on the highway and tried my best to follow the trail, they were like long, endless flowing fluorescent catenary.