The summer Erin and I started dating was the first time I took mushrooms. We were at my house after school. My parents were still at work. We’d just had sex. Erin said, “Ok, I’m bored. Let’s go to the mall.”
For whatever reason. The way the sun was shining through the living room. The way I had drugs in my room upstairs. The way it was a free moment where I felt my mind stray to questions with unknown answers. I knew we had to take drugs before we went to the mall.
Erin didn’t like weed. She didn’t like being high. She didn’t like when I was high. She didn’t like the way it made me laugh about everything. We needed something else.
I had an eighth of mushrooms. I hadn’t tried them yet. The time never felt right. Slayer and I talked about taking them at a concert but he couldn’t drive and I didn’t want to be stuck in Charlotte. I showed the bag to Erin. “What about this?”
She said, “I have to work later. I can’t go crazy.”
She took a stem from the bag and chewed it up.
I took three stems and two caps. I said, “You’re smart.”
Erin didn’t trust me to drive. I was fine with it. Erin would take care of us. She would get us to the mall and back. She would keep us out of a bad situation.
I trusted her even if the feeling wasn’t returned. And that meant I could act like an idiot while she kept us safe. I could dance to her music and put my head out the window and sing her songs. I could close my eyes and talk about the way the sun made my skin feel. We had a 15 minute drive and my mission was to make her laugh.
I didn’t really feel the mushrooms until we’d been at the mall for about 30 minutes. I’d been playing it up. Trying to crack Erin up. Walking goofy through the stores. It was all nerves. Something big was about to happen and I didn’t know when.
We were in Victoria’s Secret. Erin was looking through an underwear sale. 5 for $25. It was too good to pass up. I followed her. And I touched every panty I saw. Every style. Every color. I rubbed the fabrics of thongs and boy shorts and g-strings. Lycra and lace and silk and every other insane material that felt like heaven and pulsed neon to the beat of “1,2,3,4” by Feist playing in the store.
I was lost in that moment for a lifetime. Unaware of what underwear did or what Victoria’s Secret was or how a man in public should act. Let alone a man with his girlfriend when she’s buying intimate clothing items. Until Erin stepped a few displays ahead of me. And I didn’t follow. And a floor assistant asked me, “Can I help you with anything, sir?”
I realized how I looked. I wasn’t following the underwear store guy code. I wasn’t averting my eyes. I was fully immersed in research about how great the garments felt. Muttering to myself to Erin to anyone in earshot, “Oh god. They’re so soft.” Everyone outside of us contemplating calling mall security if I took a step toward a mannequin or push up bras or, God forbid, a customer.
But I felt certain of one thing. If I was high enough, nothing mattered. I didn’t blush. I didn’t feel like a pervert creep fingering unmentionables in public. I just laughed. I laughed until my eyes watered. Until everyone was uncomfortable again. The man touching the leopard LOVE logo shorties was crying now.
The floor assistant curled her lip and squinted. She cocked her head. Luckily, I was in the right mindset to understand the meaning behind her face. It said, “These people aren’t on your level. They’re playing tic-tac-toe and you’re on your expert Go shit. Maybe take it easy on the panties and use your pockets instead.”
Then her voice said, “You good?”
And I was. I put my hands up. I dropped everything. Even if I could argue that I was doing nothing wrong. That I was just interested. That it wasn’t sexual. That I’d just forgotten how to act in public and what part of the body underwear covered. It wasn’t worth freaking out the tactilely repressed.
I was happy to play the martyr. I knew I wasn’t some sex freak pursuing a demon panty perversion, doomed to be beaten into an impotent mush by mall security. I was just on the right drugs in the wrong store.
In a few hours, I’d be back at my house sober with my relatively normal sexual urges and Erin would be on break at the Arby’s in University City texting me, “Work’s been a lot better today. Mushrooms were a good idea.”