The Secret to Life

My friend and coworker at the evil corporation called it a festival, something I’d heard about but had never actually attended. The idea of sleeping in a tent and not showering twice a day sounded suspiciously like volunteering to be homeless for a weekend. But when I handed Jess a $100 bill for a ticket a week prior, I had a Cheshire cat grin on my face.

I was legitimately excited for Fantasyland 2016, an ever elusive state for me during this period of my life. A combination of my boyfriend’s obsession with folding laundry, corporate America, and of course the cough medicine addiction was slowly eating away at the little bit of soul I had left. Dancing with a bunch of society’s misfits in a field in the middle of nowhere sounded like an elixir for my dull life.

Plus, there was the matter of the drugs. Festivals are notorious for their easy access to drugs. I was looking for something hallucinogenic, something to give me some insight into what I was doing wrong. Why my life had started to feel like a claustrophobic’s nightmare where all of the walls are slowly closing in and they can’t do anything to stop them.

Denny drives me to the field in the car I bought but can’t drive. The hour long trip is surprisingly pleasant, considering Denny is butt-hurt that I told him he couldn’t come. At this point he’d ruined enough outings for me to know better. Fool me 100 times, shame on you, fool me 101 times shame on me. Denny drops me off at the entrance, which is made up of a giant Styrofoam castle.

I purposefully didn’t bring a phone charger because I never like having one on hand after ingesting psychedelics. Mostly because I disliked professing my love for my Primary Care Physician over voicemail, or calling the Starbucks at the William Penn to tell Jen’s manager that she’s a national treasure.

Jess told me that they’d have my ticket at the front entrance, but I end up just walking in with my backpack and pillow. I guess it’s hard to police an open field, but now I’m pissed I spent all that money on a ticket for what is beginning to look like a meth addict shanty town built next to a creek. I guess if I’d ever been to a festival I would have known that this was almost a perfect definition. I call Jess and her boyfriend every five minutes until I see her silver Scion at the front gates.

I drink cans of Mike’s Hard Lemonade while Jess and Bobby set up our tent. I am of no help because I spent my teenage years reading books and snorting coke in the basement of my parent’s estate. After four drinks, I grow restless and end up inflating our mattresses with an electric pump.

As soon as our new weekend home is finished being built, I pull $300 out of the backpack embroidered with the evil corporation’s logo – swag I’d been given for being better at my job than my coworkers, which somehow made me feel worse about my life.

“Drug’s please!” I tell Bobby, and hold out my cash with a smile.

Jess already told me that Bobby could get me drugs, so asking him is just a formality at this point. I guess I should mention that Bobby is the DJ on the main stage tomorrow, so he is basically King of the creek dwelling meth heads. The fact that Jess is dating a 35 year old DJ makes me question our friendship, but we all make bad decisions sometimes. See: my entire life.

Bobby stares at my cash and gets all weird. I look at Jess for reassurance and she nods, signaling that I’m not wrong for asking. Turns out Bobby is being weird because he wants me to think he’s cool for being able to procure illegal substances. I refrain from rolling my eyes and telling him that the only reason I’m asking him is the same reason I sent my girlfriend into the projects for heroin at 17. Because I’m selfish and hate talking to drug dealers, who never seem to understand that I’m not interested in meeting their kids or playing Xbox with them.

“I was thinking ecstasy for tonight, and mushrooms for tomorrow” I tell Bobby when he stops being weird.

“But I’m open to substitutions”

I know this is no time to get particular. I feel a number two coming on, and all I’ve seen is portapotties, a contraption I won’t be able to use if I’m only operating on alcohol and antidepressents. Bobby leaves to procure my party favors and Jess and I sit outside the tent and drink.

“Isn’t this better than going to AA meetings together?” she asks.

“Obviously….are you still fucking Zach?…and that other guy?”

“Obviously…how did you take out all that cash without Denny noticing?”

“I pulled it out of my 401k” I say, yanking a bud light from an unopened case. “I’m going to need you to hold on to any change in case he goes through my wallet when I get home”

Jess starts laughing.

“It isn’t funny” I yell. “I’m a prisoner in my own home!”

“So break up with him”

“I will when you breakup with Bobby”

We continue drinking in silence until Bobby returns with my drugs. Bobby, who I’ve secretly nicknamed gnome, doesn’t return with my drugs, so much as he returns with an equally chubby loser wearing a backpack. He herds us into the tent and chubbyloser2 unpacks his bag and starts weighing out Molly.

For the inexperienced, Molly is in theory supposed to be pure MDMA in powder form, the chemical that makes up ecstasy tablets. In practice, its often just meth, methadrine, bath salts, or one of 100 other shitty chemicals someone made in the bathtub of their trailer. Normally I wouldn’t have tolerated such an amateur hour, but Bobby has a test kit (and who am I kidding I would have done the molly either way), so at least I know it is actual MDMA.

We snort the Molly and end up laying in the field and rubbing ourselves when our legs temporarily stop working. No one sleeps and Jess yells at me for peeing next to our tent. The next morning Bobby gets me mushrooms, but neither he nor Jess want to do them with me, which is fine.

“I think I’m going to save like a third of them” I tell Bobby.


“Because I’m trying to be responsible here”

“I think it would be irresponsible not to do all of them…what are you going to do with a small amount of mushrooms?”

He has a point, so I take all of them and lay on an air mattress in the tent while I wait for the come up.

The Psilocybin kicks in, and I can see the music as patterns in the trees when Jess takes the cover off the tent. I watch as they pulse in tune to the bass while I start to think about some of my recent choices. And I’m not talking about the drugs.

The shiny new life I’d constructed over the past two years felt emptier than the one I’d been unhappy with when I was 20. I had everything the people who loved me wanted me to have, what was I doing wrong? More importantly, why was I trying to make everyone around me happy at the expense of my own?

I end up having what some would call a spiritual experience and decide that I have figured out the secret to life. Having consumed mushrooms on occasion in the past, I know I’ll forget when I finally come down, so I write my revelation on a scrap of paper. I put the scrap in my pocket and enjoy the rest of the trip, content that I have finally found the answers to all of my problems.

Bobby does his set, and Jess and I hide in the tent since his music is terrible. Eventually, we pack everything up and leave.

They drop me off outside the Alcoa building, and as I’m walking inside I go through my pockets so I can get rid of any incriminating evidence before Denny strip searches me. I pull out the scrap of paper and all it says is:


Sadly, I know exactly what I meant by this. Sure there were the current set of obvious lies, like hiding the drug use and anonymous sex from Denny, and the drinking from my Mom, but I knew I’d hit something deeper during my mushroom sabbatical.

This…the stability, the job, the school, the boring boyfriend, the responsibilities…wasn’t who I wanted to be, and I needed to stop lying to myself.

When I get back inside, up in the sky, I sit on the floor to play with the dogs. Denny walks in from the bedroom and notices that I seem upset and asks me what’s wrong.

“I just really missed you”

I didn’t miss him, not really, what I’d missed was not being confronted with the reality that I’d chosen the wrong life and couldn’t find an easy way out. The down comforter, granite island, and skyline views all but guaranteed I would never leave on my own, and I hated myself for it.

So I did what I always do when overwhelmed with a harsh reality, and I went to sleep.