by Louis Gallo
I’d always resisted because the thought of losing reason, of irrational mayhem, terrified me more than disease or nuclear annihilation. But by twenty-two the mind per se no longer thrilled; I’d studied Plato, Kant, even that monster Hegel—and seemed no better off. Not that I wasn’t curious or aching to be cool. Long hair, beard, wire-rim glasses, I had them, so all I lacked was the temptation, which soon came in the form of two girls who invited me out to a farmhouse in Nebraska, just the three of us in a cabin beside a field bloated with cows, a mile or so into the fecund heartland.
Soon enough they break out the joints, toke and pass one to me. Not cool, but I resist, tell them that I’d tried before (a lie) and the fumes have no effect. Then the blond leans over on the sofa where we had squeezed together and kisses me. “For me?” she asks with the sweetness of honeysuckle and jasmine. Ok, ok, I say, but just a little, and mimicking her, suck in a lungful, hold it steady, then exhale in a gush. I do this maybe four times; it isn’t much. Fifteen minutes later I shake my head, see, nothing . . . I must be immune.
The brunette asks me to fetch a bag of pretzels from the table and some orange juice in the fridge. No big deal, sure, but really, I say, I don’t feel a thing. Then I stand up. The world swirls beneath my feet as I grope for the pretzels. I lose all sense of direction and offer them a hall tree. The girls giggle in another dimension. Where are we? Who are we? What time is it? The vestiges of thought explode like confetti. I feel vaguely nauseous but don’t care because the new feeling, like a first orgasm, is better. Vertigo doesn’t count, the noble mind is a fraud, that joyous confusion, beautiful and hungry . . . recalling, with once again the agency of reason, I can’t say whether I passed out or not, if we all had sex or not, how long I laughed stupidly, whether I threw up or peed on one of the cows . . . though I remember the girls, Lenore and Ulalume, and send them a belated thanks.
We’ve lost touch though I’m tempted to Google their whereabouts. And, alas, I no longer touch the stuff, though it has nothing to do with the paltry triumph of reason or moral reform. Just makes me cold and jittery, horrified, and like some shaman of old I’ve seen my bones shattered on inevitable crags, I’ve seen enemies oozing out of the plumbing, I’ve heard the wails and shrieks of demons. And I forgot to say that when I left that cabin I wound up driving my Fiat Spider not on the interstate but across some meadow toward a pond and had no idea where I was or how I got there or what would happen next or if anything ever happens next.
Louis Gallo’s work has appeared or will shortly appear in Wide Awake in the Pelican State (LSU anthology), Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review, and many others. Chapbooks include The Truth Changes, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He was awarded an NEA fellowship for fiction. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.