Altered Perceptions

by Katzmarek

Tags: Ma/Fa, True Story,

Desc: : A true story set in the early seventies. A disasterous night out becomes a critical moment in the life of the author.

© 2003

'Chukka chukka... BLAT... chukka chukka... POP... chukka chukka... '

Will it start before I run out of hill? I didn't know or particularly cared.

'Chukka chukka chukka... POP... POP... chukka chukka... BANG... '

The chicken wire baffle sounded a tinny rattle from the otherwise straight-through exhaust.

I don't know why we put those things in the pipes in those days. I think it may have been the law banning loud exhausts. It never made any difference to the volume, as I recall.

I reached the bottom of the hill and still the damned thing hadn't sprung to life. Not that it cracked the bubble of euphoria in which I floated. A bus failing to take the corner and depositing glass and passengers in an untidy heap would have seemed hysterically funny.

LSD, containing a decent amount of 'Speed' in the mix, had that effect. 'Disassociative' was the term some shrink used. To laugh hysterically at a traffic accident was, 'disassociative behaviour.' Damn! Here's me thinking I was just antisocial.

I pushed the bike around the back of the Florists, hoping it wouldn't be seen. I remembered a pal who'd chained his Triumph to a water pipe outside his bedroom window. He used the thick safety chain off a railway wagon, I think, his dog was leashed to the back wheel.

In the morning, no motorcycle, only water gushing out of a sawn-through water pipe and his dog looking sorry for itself.

I lit out for town through the old road tunnel. The same tunnel I was going to blast through on the modified Yamaha. The thunder rolling along behind me like a Black Sabbath concert and the kaleidoscope of flashing colours from the mercury-vapour lamps, prismed out in my vision by the chemicals.

The light still bathed me with its brilliance. It warmed my body and made me throb with wellbeing. The rolling cars below, thronging their way to the suburbs sounded like the rush of water from a broken fire hydrant.

A drunk, pedaling along on an old bicycle wove up behind me and I stuck out my thumb. He stopped and I hopped up onto the crossbar. He wobbled and swayed as he struggled to propel the over-laden contraption forward, I used my outstretched foot to keep it off the wall of the tunnel.

By the end of the kilometre long tunnel, my chauffeur was blown by the exertion and the Carbon-Monoxide. Leaning over the railing, gasping, he threatened to puke a half-bottle of Scotch onto the commuter traffic.

'Generals gathered in their massAAAAS,' I sang at the top of my voice, 'JUST like witches at black masses.'

An extravagant Tony Iommi air-guitar sweep of the arm and a 'DOW DOW.'

'Evil minds that plot destrucSHUUUN... WEEEOW... DOW DOW... sorcerERS of death's construction... '

A perfect Ozzie Osbourne vocal, or so it seemed to me.

I floated along on my magic carpet through the crowds of shoppers in the city centre. A group of teenage girls, taking up the whole pavement as teenagers do, came strolling towards me. I thought I recognised one of them and stretched out my arms in preparation for a group hug.

They were absolute strangers and parted like the Red Sea with comments like, 'wanker, pervert,' and 'it takes all sorts.' Words that reminded me of my unhappy high school years.

Words that told me of what a sin it was to be different, to be smarter, and to be chronically shy. The sin of 'homo' and the sin of knowing the answers in class.

I decided to visit my local. At least it was my local when I lived in the area. It was clear across town, but when I arrived there I was not tired, buoyed as I was with chemical energy.

The pub was filled with people I knew, from work and from the neighbourhood. I was hauled to a table and a handle of draught placed before me.

They liked me there, filled as it was in those days with students, longhairs and freaks of every sort. Time would come when the pub would be modernised with chrome and black vinyl and no one went there any more.

Two pints later and a guy I used to work with suggested we head back to his place. That was a metaphor for the sharing of a few joints in privacy.

His house was on the other side of the public gardens. They had a flowering Cherry blossom tree there, a gift from the Japanese government, and it was floodlit at night. Naturally this was a magnet for every wasted hippie in the region, stretching out in the grass and looking at Lucy and her diamonds.

The gardens lay on the side of a hill. The terrain, here is like Gallipoli's Anzac cove, rugged. Like that piece of Turkey was blessed with a temperate climate and covered with a capital city.

Somehow I hiked up the steep slope, or rather floated, and reached the top. The lights of the city spread out like a carpet below, twinkling in the summer's night.

The old 1920's style house was quite typical of the area. This was well before the 1980's when so much of the city was bulldozed for glass towers and motorways.

Molded ceilings, the floor 'tongue and grooved' with native hardwood, the smell a mixture of mildew and coal gas.

We toked a couple of logs of Buddha. You could buy a stick for $20 in those days. Thinned out with tobacco, Aussie style, you could get about 20 joints.

Pretty soon the top of my head was burning and I was taking less and less interest in the conversation, that is, if there was one. Instead the dilemma of the heater and the open window became the most important thing in my life.

'Why would someone have on an electric heater AND a window open.' It didn't make sense and it was very necessary for me to solve the problem.

I still hadn't found a solution when the bomb went off in my head. One moment I was sitting on a stool pondering the great question and the next moment a woven straw mat lay inches from my face. A growl came from somewhere and deep down I knew it was my own voice.

Some psychiatrist said something about 'depersonalisation.' I remember the tapes being wiped, all my reference points marking me as distinct from everyone else in the room, gone. For what seemed like an age, I couldn't remember anything, even my own name, let alone where I was.

It crept back slowly, first MY name, then someone else's, then where I worked and where I was. Two, then three, until eventually 5 Pentobarbital hauled me back from outer space.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / True Story /