War raged in Viet Nam . Robert Kennedy was shot (only a couple months after Martin Luther King was shot). Nixon and Humphrey were running for president. The Yippies were planning to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. People in general were inflamed or bewildered over insurmountable problems, judging by what Huntley & Brinkley said in the evening news when I watched with my dad.
But I had just turned 16, so the biggest worries directly affecting me and most of my friends were: (1) that our brothers, our boyfriends, or ourselves might be drafted, or (2) whether we would pass the driving test to get a license, and if so, whether we could get a car, or (3) all of the above.
Declining to continue going to church every week with my parents turned out not to be a problem. I appreciated that they were not the kind to force these things. Maybe it was because they were confident that I had been fully enculturated, by church and by church-school, into The Truth. To wit: God is up there in Heaven. Everything of The World is somehow tainted by sin, and cannot be trusted. The World is a backdrop on the stage of a great, historic battle between God and Satan. Through nature, God teaches us certain lessons, but nature is only His puppet, with no genuine force or meaning of its own. And most importantly: If we believe and behave, we will be Saved, and taken away. We do not belong here. The World is not our home.
So what did I do that summer? Briefly I had a job as a lifeguard, but that’s another story. Mostly I hung out with Bobby. He was just a couple of years older, but old enough to have his own car, a little money, and long hair.
Bobby’s girl had gone away, and so had my guy. I wasn’t ready to jump back in and neither was Bobby. We’d both been burned and so it was, I suppose, that we were drawn to each other.
Bobby and I would ride around town in his old VW Beetle, neither of us saying much, just watching what passed by and thinking our own thoughts. Listening to music on the radio: Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name? … ‘Tis then when the hurdy gurdy man comes singing songs of love … I’ve been waiting so long, to be where I’m going, in the sunshine of your love … Jumpin’ jack flash, it’s a gas gas gas…. No alcohol for either of us. Bobby smoking weed. Going to the Dairy Queen, or Hot Shoppes, or the 7-11. Going to the movie “Mantis in Lace” and fleeing the theater when it turned absurdly gruesome and we couldn’t take the “LSD-fueled” blood-baths.
He wasn’t my boyfriend, it wasn’t like that. We were just spending time together. Helping each other heal from broken hearts. Or maybe just trying to find a place in The World.
He would offer: Would you like a toke?
No, thank you.
Cool, no sweat. But why not?
Because it will lead to LSD! I repeated what my grandma’s Reader’s Digest said. Pot leads to LSD. And LSD leads to insanity (as “Mantis in Lace” had tried, so disgustingly, to show).
Okay, Bobby would reply, not convinced but not arguing. Cool.
Then one evening as we bugged along, without warning even to myself, I blurted out: I want to smoke pot!
He swerved. Parked the car. Turned it off.
No, I don’t think you should.
But I insisted. I want to do this. Now.
So he went to a phone booth and called his brother. His brother was going to be out, so we had a place.
And there we sat on the living room floor, and smoked marijuana.
Ate ice cream directly from the container, standing by the open freezer door.
Listened to a Rolling Stones album and, Wow!! Mick Jagger was exaggerating his enunciation specifically so that I, personally, could understand the meanings of the songs.
After a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few eons, I was drawn to the window. I parted the blinds and looked out into the suburban street night.
And then. Right then. I knew.
The World is a Being, and I am of it. The night-black trees are connected, entwined, with everything . I am of everything. The diamond-bright street lights are sending vibrations my way and everything is communicating with everything else. There is no ruler, no puppet-master, no man-behind-the-curtain. Nobody ready to pull the plug on existence.
The World is Whole. Alive. Beautiful. Incalculably old and astonishingly innocent.
I am ecstasy itself, because The World is my Home.
© Bette Ojala, 11/18/2014