Chapter Thirteen: The Dose
And this slow spider that creeps in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and I and you in the gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things-- must not all of us have been here before?
Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Vision and the Riddle
There was no zing to the drug snorted into my nasal cavity, only the palpable clump ingested back there in the center of my head.
Sari was now going to use the recurring frustrating dream of my childhood racetrack to do some dimestore psychology on me. She told me to sit back on the couch and relax. Take a deep breath. And another. Don’t have any expectations or concerns. Close my eyes, think of a relaxing place if I have to: maybe my bed, someplace in nature. Create a world of no concerns.
The summer evening as it was felt fine and so did the couch. I felt my weight pressing into the cushion, nothing but my lungs moving. The light background murmur of summer insects outside. The couch’s Freudian implication had crossed my mind but I didn’t voice it. Sari never seemed to appreciate my dumb side jokes.
In terms of the drug I still felt nothing, but I wouldn’t expect to with it barely in my system. In truth I didn’t know what to expect.
“Racecar is palindromic,” Sari went on, “I want to use that. I’m going to spell it aloud. As I do I want you to picture each letter, notice how the word circles around to form a whole: a regular, eternal loop. R-A-C-E-C-A-R.”
I did what she told me to do, pictured the letters as she went through them.
She went on for a while, keeping the same pace, maintaining an even, smooth voice as best she could. Soon the letters lost their focus as I became entranced by her voice, the physicality of her mouth making these vocalizations, teeth and lips and tongue making vibrating and hissing sounds. The spoken letters became disembodied, took on shapes like floaters across my field of vision. Then she stopped.
“Okay, we’ve settled into a good space. Now I want you to picture one of the toy race cars. Just the simple shape of it. Give it a color. Now picture its wheels. They’re rubber, you can see the weight of the car flattening their bottoms. These wheels are not leaving the track, they’re clinging wheels. Now see the track: it’s nothing but parts of plastic from a box that you’ve put together.”
She continued like this, walking me through the constituent parts, focusing on their details, warming me up slowly to this object of childhood dread and the nightmares of adulthood.
“When you place the car on the track the wheels attach as if it were magnetic. You could tug at it and it’s not coming off. Now take the controller and slowly squeeze the trigger, the slightest pressure so that the car only drifts forward an inch. You keep squeezing and the car moves forward easily, gently as if pushed by the wind, yet it is grounded firmly to the track, its rubber wheels adhering.”
We did a loop around the track, then again, increasing the speed gradually. My visualization was so vivid I started remembering other details I had forgotten: thin bits of plastic on the edge of the track left over from the factory; how the track had a dotted line in the center dividing the lanes. Sari suggested there might be sounds and scents. And yes, there were. I heard the buzz of electricity and the smell of it: the ozonic charge of static and hot plastic.
Around the car went, faster and faster but Sari kept an even tone, “The car’s getting so fast it’s hard to keep up with it, a blur when it passes close by, but it’s clinging nonetheless, it can not come off. Your finger is still pulling the trigger slowly and it’s almost at the extent of its range. Now pull the trigger all the way and the car is flying around as fast as you can imagine, a spinning dot. It’s amazing, it’s so impressive. You’re the one doing it, your determination and force of will is equal to the car’s wheels. We’re all impressed by it. Your dad thinks so. He knew it all the time, knew Cliff would master it, dominate over this harmless plastic toy. Feel that car Cliff, feel the control.”
It was as she said: a sense of confidence and accomplishment. The fucking car booked around and nothing was stopping it. It was entirely controllable. And I felt my dad’s affirmation, his sense of pride in me, a sense that there was never anything to worry about.
We ended with the car slowing down and the track being put away in its box. Sari had me breathe and relax then told me to open my eyes.
When I opened my eyes it was like I stepped into another reality, one of high definition, with better lighting, crisper color and a crackling energy—the way the real world reasserts itself upon exiting a movie theater. Then I knew I was under the effect of the drug.
Sari sat across from me like some radiant seraph of that psychological underworld from which I had emerged. She asked, “Do you feel the drug?”
I just nodded.
“One way of describing the Mix is this: instead of lucid dreaming, where you are asleep and controlling your dreams, with the Mix you are awake and can control daydreams, but they have the fluidity of dreams and maintain their connection to the subconscious and its fertile psychological garden.
I just sat there saying nothing.
“But it’s important to be aware that experiences are product of drug, to keep things in perspective. Because the most powerful effect is to be convinced that it isn’t the drug but real…”
I stopped listening to her when I saw Rayne. She was looking at me with wet cheeks and she handed me a tissue for mine. I had been crying and didn’t know it. She had those sad but happy eyes she looked at me with in the bookstore days before when she found out I was adopted. And she again put her hand on my cheek, watched me with that dreamy stare, her lower lip pouted out like it did, like some perfect flower petal.
I put my hand on her cheek and thought of how much I loved her, but even then knew not to speak those words after less than a week of dating.
We must have sat like this, looking into one another’s eyes for some time because Sari stirred, “I’ll let you guys have your moment.” She clicked on her phone and thumbed about it as if waiting for a table in a restaurant. Didn’t the drug effect her? Shouldn’t she be her own distracted fairy realm like I was? Was I just not noticing it in her? If I hadn’t seen her do that drug line I would have thought she hadn’t done it.
Rayne put her face close to mine and we kissed lightly. I took in her scent, saw beautiful galaxies in her emerald eyes, earthen browns and limpid blue tides of paradise, saw my alert silhouette reflected in their glaze. A complexity of emotions overcame me out of nowhere. Rayne was everything I could hope for and I was so happy to be there at that moment in her presence, but there was a tug of grief that the moment could never last, that I didn’t know what would happen with us. Wherever it went I knew I wanted it to be with her. And from the searching and dancing of her eyes, the quivers of her mouth, I knew she was feeling the same things.
“Okay kids, study hall's over.” Sari was clapping her hands to refocus our attention, “Believe it or not it’s been half an hour. I’m sure you’re enthralled with your love for one another, but I don’t want to spend the night being the third wheel. Let’s talk about something.”
I forced my stare off of Rayne, away from her brown hair that curled naturally at the ends like the fine roots of an ancient tree in a rarefied temple from which tantras from a higher spiritual realm issued. I looked at Sari who was looking more clinical and stern than before.
She powered off her phone and put it facedown on the arm of the chair, “Cliff, tell me more about your Nietzsche research. And don’t go all academic on me. I want to hear what really excites you about it.”
When I put my mind to it I was met with an aphasia, a blockage where thought normally formed and produced words. Sari was watching me. My assessment of time was broken. It could have been a second or several minutes.
Sari leaned forward in her chair and stared into my face. The smooth glow on her face from the setting sunlight reflecting off the kitchen floor, her slow careful movement forward, her bright mesmerizing eyes—it all made her look like a Sphinx. Her voice came out like chill air from a freezer door left wide open, “Cliff? I want you to say my name.”
It took more willpower than I expected to summon the faculties of speech. My lips contracted slightly, but my organ of speech was suffering from performance anxiety.
I turned my head to Rayne to check on her well-being and through her reaction to get a reading on mine. She looked back dreamily, placidly, Leonardesque in slight smile and pose.
“Cliff. Over here.” It was Sari snapping her fingers in my ear.
I regarded her and she hadn’t moved. Her expressionless doll-like face was unmoving inspecting mine, only her blue eyes flitting about into mine. “What’s my name.”
Her face struck me as certainly a mask and her scrutiny made mine feel like one. I said without effort, “Personae.”
“What about them?”
I didn’t have anything else to say about it. I thought it was obvious.
“Does it feels like we are wearing masks?”
I said nothing.
She crumbled her mask with a frown. Concern? Annoyance? “Do me a favor and say my name.”
The first syllable was like a hill I had to bike over but which was then all downhill. “Sa-ri.”
She smiled, “Good. What day is it?”
It came to me easily enough because it was the first week I was off for the summer,, “Monday.”
“Good. Who’s the President?”
“This is your first time using the mix so some disorientation is to be expected. Maybe we shouldn’t have given you a full dose. You exhibit a higher tendency toward introversion. You have to snap out of it, get interfacing. We need to channel this experience.”
I understood clearly everything she was saying. It was just that my mouth didn’t want to move. I was also getting distracted by wistful effects of sunlight on doorknobs, glowing dust motes; the sense that I could feel the bay water from where I was on the couch, that I could hear it, feel its textures, how the sky’s blue interacted with it, nourished its underwater plants. I imagined I could—no, that I was—traversing its expanse like a bird, all fifteen miles of it. I swore I saw details I’d be able to find again and prove it was an actual astral projection.
“Come on Cliff, stay with me.” Sari’s slightly cool hand was gripping my jaw, realigning my persona with hers. “Talk to me about Nietzsche. What was the name of that guy you found? Lister?”
“Leuschner.” Words were becoming available.
Sari settled back in her seat. “What do you know about Leuschner?”
I could talk. “Not much. Next to nothing, really. Son of a baker. Probably never left his hometown.”
Then her phone rang and she picked it up, looked at it. Sari looked at Rayne and said, “It’s Jerry, I have to take it. Rayne, talk to your boyfriend and keep him focused.” She walked into the kitchen.
I looked at Rayne and she seemed similarly lost in thought. From those reveries she said, “I’m always telling Sari that psychiatry was her true calling.”
Rayne looked out the window toward the bay. I looked at nothing in particular. A thought was nagging at me. What had Sari just asked me? It was about Leuschner, what I knew about him. Embarrassingly little. What substance did I base my theory on? A single phrase in an obscure letter? It did seem a bit tenuous. But at the same time there was something about those phrases, the time and place, that left me with no doubt. Hell, if you look at Leuschner poems you see the same words and pet terms Nietzsche used: weight, fate, spirit. They share the Gothic imagery, the echoes of Faust and of course that symbol-laden alpine setting where Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is constantly descending and ascending.
Yes, my entire thesis was based on some intuitive assumptions. I had thought Nietzsche and he had possibly met in person; now I was thinking there was no doubt about it and that it was there at Sils-Maria on Lake Silvaplana, the place where Nietzsche said the concept of the Eternal Recurrence came to him. There’s even a huge rock he mentions where the epiphany happened. You can go there today and visit it, a shrine for all: would-be, lapsed or die-hard nihilists. Karl Leuschner lived only a few mountain tops away, next door in terms of Switzerland. The revelation at the lake, Leuschner’s proximity: the coincidence is just too great!
It was in those mountains that the dwarf clung to a struggling Zarathustra’s back, dragging him down with his gravity, and it is where Zarathustra encountered the shepherd boy with a snake in his mouth, saw how he overcame asphyxiation by biting its head off and then cackled about it as if the experience recreated him into something greater, an existence on another plane, a higher one, that of the Ubermensch, the Overman, the one can handle the full existential blast of the Eternal Return all the while creating and living by his own morality.
I saw Nietzsche on the path circling around the lake, hiking, brooding, mental intensity boring out of his eyes above that mustache on steroids. That landscape was the source for those later sections of Also Sprach Zarathustra--nothing was more clear to me than that--and I saw it, saw the path before me, how he trudged down it, a panorama of ragged mountains encircling those heights. Glacier-cooled air, summer scents. On such a path Zarathustra imagines a gateway labeled MOMENT and leading off from it two perpetual paths that nonetheless lead back like the circular path around the lake. It represents the eternal recurrence, the idea of an Eternal Now, his antidote against the depressing dwarf and the idealism that disappoints humanity.
Maybe his meeting with Leuschner was the impetus to those scenes between Zarathustra and the dwarf. Wouldn’t that be a kicker if Leuschner was a dwarf? Or Zarathustra! Yes, that’s it! A mystic poet living in the mountains who speaks of gravity and eternity and fate? Karl Leuschner was Nietzsche’s Zarathustra! Leuschner was the Mephistopheles to Nietzsche’s Faust, the bearer of superior knowledge. He was Zarathustra, the one delivering the “abysmal thought”, the concept of the Ubermensch, the new incarnation of man who can wrap his head around the eternal recurrence, that consummation of the post-God human.
And standing there at the end of my sidewalk like Nietzsche on his rock before the encompassing lake, I took in the eternal sky, bruised and fading, sliced and cicatricose with coursing contrails, felt it encircle the globe and meet my back. I became the Ubermensch, I took in and embraced in the eternal moment, my entire life. I willed that it all happened again and again in exactly the same way. R-A-C-E-C-A-R-A-C-E-C-A-R.
“Cliff! Cliff, what the hell are you doing?”
Rayne and Sari were at my sides and Sari was doing that snapping thing in my face again, “Cliff, come back to us.”
I came back all right, beheld these beautiful women aglow in sunset and eternity.
I didn’t say it but I thought it: this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.