The only people I fear in this world are psychopaths, because society has no defense against them. The famous ones kill dozens, sometimes hundreds of people, and these are just the sub-par psychos who need to be up close for the kill and have childhood issues. The rest of them are running nations and armies and businesses. Psychopaths are better at all these things because they don't care what happens to anyone around them. I've relied on my friend Amy, who's worked in the psychiatric field for a while, for medical definitions:
A psychopath is someone with pervasive antisocial personality traits, though these traits may not be obvious. Other people are 'things' to a psychopath, and concepts of guilt and remorse are completely foreign to them. They have no capacity for empathy or love or sadness, not toward themselves or others, though they do feel anger, hatred and disgust; they generally don't feel fear, as in believing they are superior to everything else, they have nothing to fear. Psychopaths are almost always ‘loners,' but they are often very charming—think Ted Bundy—they are unable to maintain close or long-term relationships as a result of their complete inability to acknowledge the needs, let alone individuality, of others.
This is quite distant from suffering from psychosis or having a psychotic episode. I had a psychotic episode. As Amy points out, there's no such thing as a psychotic, there are people suffering from psychosis, and these people are not psychopaths. The popular put down "psycho" exacerbates the confusion. Now, someone who going through psychosis may kill you just as horribly as a psychopath, but they did it for different reasons. The person with psychosis thinks you're a demon or something, the psychopath just thinks you're in the way, or too ugly.
Amy on psychotic breaks:
A psychotic break is a sudden break with reality in which the symptoms of psychosis are present—people who have no underlying genetic predispositions, 'organic' or 'functional' factors, experience these, as do people with psychotic disorders. Whether you're someone who's lived with schizophrenia for 15 years or a Dutch housewife, a psychotic break is caused by a sudden trauma (watching your child be obliterated by a high-speed train) or significantly increased stress (out of smokes AND money, this, for most people suffering from schizophrenia, is something very seriously bad). The symptoms experienced by people suffering from psychotic breaks are no different from those experienced by suffers of a persistent psychotic disorders or drug-induced psychosis, and as with drug-induced psychosis, if you've suffered one psychotic break, you're more susceptible to suffering others in the future. A psychotic break IS NOT the same thing as a nervous breakdown, it's a break from reality, whereas a nervous breakdown is your realization that your personal reality is crumbling away from you. With a psychotic break you likely wouldn't care about your personal reality and might be thrilled to have it crumble.
The good news is I was never nor shall ever be a psychopath. The bad news… well, you read it. And you may understand why I tried not to think about this for six years and waited another five to write about it.
What the psychopath and the person having an episode have in common is they're not following the rules as we know them, one because he doesn't care, the other because he's forgotten them. It takes a while to catch them because nobody actually believes, can't believe, that someone no longer understands cause and effect.1
Part 6, or "The Mission"
The Mission is probably a strong phrase. But there were a few. Something was really, desperately important and I had to do something about it, for the sake of the world, for the sake of all worlds! Whatever that something was was a little shaky, but I was confident I would sort it out.
The next few days are a bit of a blur.
The best of it was the 69 car. It was a bright summer morning, and I sat outside with my loaner bass guitar, taking in the autonomy. My disciples had led me to the quest and I only had to figure out what to do with it. The sun beat down in waves, and there was, randomly, a jalopy parked outside my apartment, painted in dusty blue with an orange 69 on each side. My vision was simple. My roommate was a consummate DJ, and he would start the party here, and it would join with the other DJs starting parties along the east coast, and each party would grow, the dancing would mix as the beats beat out the newer, funkier rhythm of life across the Eastern seaboard, and I would help make the connections and sew up the edges in this hippy heaven.2 The 69 car was just the evidence, the concrete object that proved this heaven was on its way. There's a touch to the visual experience of an acid trip that make the world look as if it's suddenly 3D and you've just been seeing 2D your the whole time before. This was still there, even though whatever the acid might still have been doing to me was overwhelmed by the not sleeping for nine days. Maybe there's a common element to certain kinds of madness. But I was way beyond visuals and simple LSD revelation; every photon was the story of a star, and every breeze was a message from the universe. Everything meant something, meant something vital to the grand puzzle I was chosen to unravel. Each note I inexpertly plucked out of my shitty bass was key, and had to be the exact note to carry the message back to the breeze, the sun, and every living thing on Earth so we could build heaven.3 This also involved a girl I was friends with in college, who was kind of the queen of the druggies, so we'll call her L.A. Queen. I'd never been particularly obsessed with her, or even especially interested, pretty and sweet as she was, but for some reason, in this hippy heaven, she was the absolute most important being in the universe, and I had to find her as soon as possible so we could oversee this project together. Her being in California didn't help, but we do not do these things because they are easy.
I decided I had to become a man.4 And to become a man, I had to put away childish things. I went to my apartment and threw out my security blanket, a bunch of photographs, a shell that my first crush painted for me, a few other irreplaceable tokens from my past, and the three or four porn magazines. Porn turned out to be not as engaging as you might think, though it did inspire me to think that the dominatrix in one of the magazines was waiting on the island across the sandbar and I had to go find her. Fortunately, the morning I tried, it was high tide, and I couldn't walk across water yet.5
Later, I ran into a waitress from one of my jobs. This girl had a boyfriend and an obvious crush on me, and though I liked her well enough, I wasn't going to let that come to term. At least, sane I wouldn't have. Crazy, I made it extremely easy for her to drive me around and eventually end up back at my place, where I somehow managed to put on a condom and fuck her brains (or more precisely my brains) out on the floor of my apartment.
I give two thumbs up to sex while insane. You're not just having sex with a girl, you're having sex with the essence of womanhood, all women, you are fulfilling the purpose of your being and all being, you are touching the goddess, the giving creator of all things, you are the giving seed, the father, the son, the HOLY SHIT THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED.
She wandered off and I didn't see her until a few months later when all this was over. It turned out that sleeping with me did fuck up her relationship, and discovering I had been crazy when we'd hooked up did not improve her mood or our relationship.
I stole my roommate's bike and rode a few miles out of town. Here, I was like Corwin, from the Amber Chronicles, by Roger Zelazy. I recommend the first five books in this series, not so much the second five. This is relatively obscure sci-fi, so I'll sum it up: the universe is an infinite number of shadow universes stretching between The Courts of Chaos and Amber, which holds the pattern. All universes are some mix of the chasm in the Courts, representing entropy, and the pattern in Amber, representing order. The inhabitants of the Courts and Amber can move through the intervening universes, or shadows, by altering particular features of the landscape in their minds, so to get back to Amber, they'll just insert features of Amber into their journey, change the color of the sky, put a forest around the next hill, and so on, until they're home, or wherever they want to be.
This is what I thought I was doing. The fact that the landscape didn't change at all from the landscape I'd travelled down a thousand times didn't phase me; I could pick out certain new things I'd never noticed before to support my improbable thesis.
I bought some scratch tickets and scratched them the way a monk would rake a rock garden, thinking that the undiscovered key to scratch tickets was pure focus, an act of will: with each scratch, you had to select the branching universe within which there would be winning symbols underneath. Even by crazy-logic standards, I should have been selecting this universe before I got to the store, but whaddyagonnado. When the scratch tickets inevitably disappointed, I thought this was a lesson from some god in humility, and I stashed the tickets to check them later for other messages.
I called a cab after that, since taxis were the secret navigators of the shadow universes, and could take me wherever I needed to be. While waiting, an acquaintance stopped off in his car to grab a few things and offered to give me a ride. I said no, since I had the cab, and since this person was obviously a temptation to set me on the wrong path. The more insistent he got, the more I was convinced he was a trickster demon and a thief,6 so I waved him off. He shrugged and drove away, and I got my cab. The cabbie smoothly took me back through the shadow universes until I got home. My roommate was very confused about where his bike had been.
I had quit a job just before everything had started, and I wanted that job back. Well, not precisely. Actually I had decided that the true love of my life was my old manager at that job, Rose. We'd gotten along pretty well at work, until I'd ruined her day by quitting on my off day, whining about how much I hated it. Honestly, I hated ViperLady, the other manager. Even though she turned out to be pretty chill company when not at work, working with her, and having those giant, angry eyes bulging out of over-tanned skin while she stabbed at you with ridiculously long nailed digits and yelled at you with a smoke-hardened voice before she even understood the situation was too much.
Rose and I had no attraction to each other at all, that I can recall. She liked big men, and I'm barely above hipster and supermodel on the sapling scale. I liked other twigs, and she was full-figured, in an attractive way, not the euphemistic way. She was also 29, and considered me a boy, and I considered her out of my age range. We had good smoke breaks together, and that was about it. I have no idea how I got to soulmate from this foundation, but there you go.
I went out to get my job back and was accosted by an unbelievably drunk 50 year-old woman. She may have been a hard 40. She wanted some action. She was barely walking straight so I figured I had to help her, all while removing her hands from me as she tried to get frisky. I eventually sat her down outside the restaurant job I still had, at least until the exact moment I showed up with and unbelievably drunk 50 year-old woman on my arm. My coworkers were duly unimpressed. My boss was stoned, as he was always stoned.
"I don't know what to do with her!"
My boss gave me an evil red eye. "Throw her back?"
At that point, DrunkWoman fell off the bench I'd put her on and I called the cops. The cops showed up, thankfully not the cops I'd run into the previous week, and started looking after her.
"How do you know her?"
"How did you meet her?"
"She jumped me on the sidewalk five minutes ago."
"Uh huh. What's she on?"
"I have no idea. Looks drunk."
The cop shrugged and said he'd handle it. I think they were making her touch her nose when I left to continue my mission.
I met Rose out back while she was on a smoke break.
"Oh ho. What do you want?"
"My job back."
"That takes balls."
"I have to ask ViperLady."
ViperLady said no, but Rose just told me I had balls! I went skipping out, knowing that I had finally found my soulmate. I was only mildly perturbed when I ran into DrunkWoman again on the way out.
"Come on. Doncha wanna gets a drinksh?"
I sighed and sat down next to her.
"I found my soulmate. I'm in love."
She held my hand.
I looked down at her arm and noticed a tattoo of a rose on her arm. Of course! Now everything made sense: this was Rose in a disguise, here to test my dedication.7 I gave her a sly smile and said, "It is."
"Aright," she said, and smiled back. I got up and left her on the bench, waving to me.
What happened next was eerie. There's an explanation I'm sure, but it was one of the very strange things that I cannot work out. I don't ascribe supernatural qualities to them, since I don't completely trust my memory and I absolutely don't trust the interpretative powers I was exercising at that time, but two seconds later I turned around to make sure she hadn't passed out again, and she was gone. I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. However this woman, who was barely able to walk, managed to cover the 100 feet it would take to get out of my field of view, or fall somewhere I wouldn't notice her in open ground, I'll never know. At the time, it confirmed my theory that she was Rose's spirit form testing me.
I didn't show up for my next shift at that restaurant, and they didn't call. I never saw anybody from that job again, aside from the waitress I'd slept with a couple of nights before, which was too bad, because the waitress I actually wanted to sleep with—before I lost the ability to discern distinct identities in other people—was this cute Russian named Anastasia, who seemed to like me because I put up with her extremely broken English for more than 20 minutes at a time. We even had a date lined up to go whale watching. Once I forgot about my soulmate,8 I realized I had to go with Anastasia to the ocean to see the whales. Actually, let me reiterate:
Had to Go.
With the lady Anastasia.
With the Power of my Eyes.
Traveling back in time would be involved. Why or how was unimportant, as Anastasia, being a magical princess, would figure it out somehow.
The next time the whale watch boat went off, I chased after it, but I was too late. I shouted "Anastasia!" in front of a bunch of confused tourists. I assumed I'd simply missed the boat, and she was on to her quest without me. At the time, I had a pewter ring with whales carved into it. I consistently wear a ring on my right ring finger; this was the first. It had been dipped in the waters of several oceans, been with me when I lost my virginity, and blessed by the pope.10 I assumed this ring was part of her nature, so I threw it into the sea after her, so she'd have her talisman on whatever journey she was on. I didn't even know if she was on the boat. Well, no, I knew she was on the boat, there was just no actual evidence of the fact, as there was no evidence for most of the things I believed at that point. I think I thought she was actually a whale,11 and had to go back to her people.
So that was the end of that, and I never saw her again. To think, had I just not done acid, this whole summer might have been the story of me hooking up with my hot Russian coworker.12 Oh well. On to the next obsession.
I got back into my L.A. Queen phase. But since the actual L.A. Queen was probably in L.A., I had to slap her identity onto whomever was at hand, and that was a girl whose name I can't remember, so we'll call her Jess, since I've known a lot of hot girls named Jess. My relationship with Jess, prior to this point, consisted of us working together at the job I quit, an occasional conversation, her pity and condescension, and me staring at her ass. I'm not even an ass man, but this was a great ass.
So I went to the restaurant and asked for her, since it wasn't creepy at all, no, she was actually L.A. Queen in disguise, and was just waiting for me to figure that out. Keep in mind I just quit this job, asked for it back, didn't get it, and had been running all over town acting weird for the last few days. There is no possible way word of my goings on hadn't spread all over town. They sat me down with a couple of dinner rolls and said she was busy, then twenty minutes later told me she had left.. Looking back, they probably put me someplace they could keep and eye on me and told her she could leave early. I didn't grasp this at all, naturally, so I went to where I knew she lived, still thinking she was someone else.
When I finally caught up to her, she took one look at me and decided I was tripping out, and just a harmless shy kid with a crush. 100 hours or so prior, she would have been right, and to her credit, she was close. She had no idea I thought she was someone else. She talked to me patiently, asked me if I was tripping, which I denied, and I tried to mumble my way through the infinitely complex explanation for my behavior in a way that would make sense but still follow the rules of The Game.
She wasn't having it. She patted me on the shoulder and said I had to go away.
Suddenly I realized that she wasn't L.A. Queen, she was my twin sister! How could I not have known? It was so obvious. Before she ran upstairs, I tried to confirm my theory.
"Are you my twin sister?"
She laughed. "Uh, no. Jesus."
And she vanished. I would love to get her version of this story, but sans fame on my part and saintly patience on hers, I have no way to find or convince her, if she even remembers.
I went home. Bereft of women to obsess over, I started drumming up more fiction from childhood to imprint on my consciousness. What better than the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
I don't know what exactly my mission was when I walked out of town. I was drifting, swapping delusions with abandon, but I knew this wasn't my world, and when I ended up in the College of the Atlantic parking lot and saw a Ford, I knew that Ford Prefect was a metaphor for a car, a car to the galaxy.13 I tried to break into one,14 but to no avail. I heard a car coming into the parking lot, so I hid under metaphor Ford until it passed.
I saw the stars. They were calling to me. I could see the depth between the far and the near, the blackness and the hidden galaxies behind the blackness.
I called a friend. I can't remember his name either, and didn't keep in touch, though he probably would have understood. He was a 30-something musician Jake and I had hung out with for a while until he said he needed to hang out with friends his own age. I respect that, looking back, but he was kind of an awkward dick about it. I wish I could look him up; all I recall was calling him on my cell phone and saying something along the lines of
"I need your help. I'm on a mission. Can I come over?"
"Uh… phew… um, Pete, are you okay?"
"Okay, look, I don't think that's a good idea. I think you need to go home and get some rest. Okay?"
And I hung up.
I wandered back toward home. The conflicting universes I was living in were breaking all over my head, and I had no idea what to do. I decided there were two paths, one leading to the hippy heaven and all earthly pleasure with L.A. Queen, one leading into the night, the stars, and some secret on the far end of the darkness. And I had to choose. I was walking through the woods near College of the Atlantic, along a path running to the bridge over the stream, and as I knew I had to make this decision, I looked up for a sign.
I saw a shooting star. And I saw it split into two shooting stars above me.
For all my delusions, I never saw anything that wasn't there. Aside from a strange taste to my visual landscape and the intensity of everything I saw and the meanings I attributed to it, there were no hallucinations. No green aliens, no dinosaurs or trees attacking me. No ghosts or lizards or people turning into bats. No people who weren't actually there. The documentation and witness reports generally agree that every physical thing I saw was actually there, and even if I thought a pen was a wand with which to rewrite the future and past, I did actually see a pen and understand it was a writing instrument.
There was no one with me to verify the splitting star. But I have every reason to believe it happened. Nowadays I write it off as an astonishing meteorological coincidence. At the time, it was the universe telling me that I didn't have to make the choice. I got two wishes. I could follow both paths, and all paths, forever. I could have everything. I could do anything.
I pass into local legend as "The Naked Guy."
1 Not included in Amy's writeup was the DSM IV disorder "psychobitch." This also includes a disassociation from reality, and appears to be incurable, though the effects on society caused by those suffering from psychobitch syndrome can be offset by pairing them up with those suffering from the equally prevalent "douchebag" disease.
2 Bear in mind, I'm relating everything I can remember, verbatim.
3 FYI, I'm drunk now. Turns out writing this has been somewhat more psychologically taxing than I imagined. No fears of going crazy again, since I've spent a decade building defenses against the patterns of thought that first led me down this path, but alcohol is a key component to those defenses, so bear with me.
4 Yes, at 20. This is funny, but I'm not sure if it's funny because I was so young or because I was so old. America fucks you like that.
5 Though I tried.
6 He may very well have been a thief. There was a lot of that going around, but I don't think he intended to rob me on the spot.
7 This was particularly crazy logic. DrunkWoman would not have tested my dedication to monogamy if I was single and stumbling wasted.
8 This took about an hour, tops.
9 At Tanagra.
10 This actually isn't that hard. You just go to the Vatican, stick something in an envelope, and the pope does a mass blessing over the envelopes every Tuesday or something, then they send it back to you.
11 This is not flattering, and in fact she was the usual kind of stick figure I run after.
12 And to this very day, despite all efforts, I've never slept with a Russian.
13 This is extra hilarious if you know how Ford Prefect got his name.
14 I do actually know how to break into cars, but I've only ever done it for friends and myself when one of us locked the keys in by accident. I didn't even have to break into the car that eventually earned my probation during this little episode. Foreshadowing.