Today was a strange day for me, tonight was stranger. I met a girl, a girl I thought I’d never see again. She was definitely there though, standing in the middle of the high street, spinning around in circles with an umbrella slid down the back of her yellow volunteer’s jacket. She spun in circles then stopped, laughing as the umbrella continued to spin, shooting water in all directions. I couldn’t help but laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t laughing at her. I think it was the child like sense of wonder she seemed to have, as if she was gazing through a kaleidoscope for the first time. I couldn’t believe it was her after all this time, out paths had finally crossed again.
She looked over and smiled at me, before lifting the umbrella above my height.
“Would you like to step into my office for a second?” She asked. Cute. I openly stepped under the umbrella.
“You know we’re standing under shelter.” I told her as I pointed to the ledge protruding from the top of the building.
“Umbrellas are fun though aren’t they?” She said as her gentle blue eyes met mine. She hadn’t changed much since we last met. Still had those dreadlocks in her hair. Still a little absent-minded. Still had an innocent smile, a beautiful one at that. “What’s your name?” Really? Did she need to ask? I suppose it had been quite a few years. Five? Six? I lost count.
“You know my name, and I know your name is Acacia, as in the tree.” I told her. Her face was slightly startled for a second, then her smile returned.
“Look, there’s a statue of a man with boobs. That’s kind of strange.” She giggled as she pointed at a gargoyle like monument on the building.
“Don’t say you’ve forgotten me.” I continued, ignoring her previous comment. She laid her hands on my face and closed her eyes. An action that would have provoked a reaction from a stranger, but not me. She closed her eyes then opened them sharply. She had an expression as though she remembered, before it faded to a smile and she said,
“You know, some blind people actually use face touching as a recognition tool. The charity I work for actually work one on one with blind people in order to help them, and those around them, cope.” She didn’t remember. I was about to give up before saying,
“Acacia. Don’t you remember Jamie?” Her face went blank, as though she was staring into space.
“How do you know my name?” she asked.
“Don’t you remember me? It’s Ant. I was friends with you and Jamie. The three of us were real close.”
“Oh, Jamie.” she said with a less jovial tone than before. I even detected a hint of sadness. “I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“You guys were inseparable. What happened?” I asked her.
“You don’t know? Jamie’s dead. He died.” she said putting her hand to her face. “A while back.” I was in a little shock, back when I did know him, I knew him well. Distressing Acacia was never my intention but I had to ask,
“What happened?” Drugs I assumed. She then proceeded to tell me all about his death, taking up most of my afternoon. She never did remember who I was.
When I got back to the office, everyone was asking where I’d been. I’m the straight-laced, combed-haired, middle-management type. I get to the office at eight thirty, half-hour before I start, and leave at five thirty, half hour after I finish. I had left for lunch at twelve and arrive back at half-four. The staff had been worried. A change in pattern unnerves people, and when someone as straight laced and boring as me disappears, every worries. I was fine though. Despite people’s views about me being boring, I have a past, as most do. I didn’t get to be a thirty year old office manager without a journey. That’s what she reminded me of, Acacia, the journey.
I told the higher-ups of my bad news and they offered to let me leave. I refused. I told the office that I would stay late to finish the work I had missed. In all honesty I didn’t need to, my work isn’t that demanding. I’m the manager of a small office working in stationary for a major distributor. I won’t say which one as it may cause trouble for me. I just wanted to be alone in the office, I wanted to have some space. Sure enough everyone trusted me. By ten o’clock the last person to leave, the cleaner, had left. I was alone.
As I sat on the expensive recliner of my ever so familiar office, I reached into my pocket and took out a small ball of cling film, wrapped around a yellow Fruit Pastille. The little sweet was doused with LSD, or acid. I hadn’t taken recreational drugs for a few years, but I still knew where to get them. After Acacia told me about Jamie’s death I made a phone call to a close mate of mine from school, he arranged it for me. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I had reason for carrying drugs into my office. No one would question what I was doing. I wouldn’t have to go home to my wife and explain, she would be furious if she knew. Instead I though the best place was my office, with the door locked, where I felt safe. I put the sweet into my mouth and left it under my tongue. For those that are not familiar with the concept, the drug seeps into the bloodstream through the mouth as the sugar dissolves. Those who don’t know me may read this with surprise. Surprise that someone as boring as me would ever do such a thing. Those who do know me may also be surprised. Surprised that I’d ever dabble in drugs again after my life has become so well organised. Well the reason I dabbled again, is a strange mixture of nostalgia and respect for my deceased friend. When I knew Acacia and Jamie, the three of us took a lot of acid together. This was my way of remembering him one last time, the way I should remember him.
A couple of hours passed before the full effect of the acid was in motion, although I felt rather giggly. Anyone who has experimented before can say that no two trips are ever the same, but mine was vividly familiar. I sat in my expensive black leather recliner and gazed as the office melted away slowly before my eyes. The objects just dissolved into nothingness, piece by piece, until only myself and my chair existed in a vast expanse of space. There was darkness all around, interrupted by dots of lights. Planet Earth was below me, and I had my back to the sun as I drifted outward. An object appeared in front of me as I continued my orbit, a projector screen. A few low quality images flickered on the screen and I was drawn toward them. I was focusing all my attention on the mini movie playing, trying hard to work out where I had seen it. The pixels became sharper as I focused hard. My seat floated close to the screen and the screen grew larger, so large that it completely engulfed my vision. Jamie and Acacia were in the movie, and it seemed to be filmed in first person. Moments later I was sucked in completely. I was no longer a man sitting in space watching a movie, but an actor in the film. I now understood why it felt so familiar, I was reliving a memory in vivid detail.
Jamie, Acacia and myself were sitting on a hillside in rural Spain. I had met the couple a month previous whilst travelling through Europe and had decided to travel with them. We moved from country to country, commune to commune. The hippy communes that Jamie and Acacia frequented were known as Rainbow Families, and were new to me. Everyone in the group would donate money to the so-called Magic Hat, which would go toward buying food for all. I was told that if you did not donate money, you were free to donate kisses to the hat, the promise that you would help the group with labour, cooking and cleaning. The hippy scene was alive and well, although not tolerated as well as in the sixties.
I loved the smell of grass on the hillside, though it was overpowered by the smell of Jamie’s weed. He sparked up a joint and passed it to Acacia. This day was ure bliss. I remember Jamie wearing daisies in his blond dreads, a contract to Acacia’s brown ones. As we all smoked and sprawled out on the grass, I remember looking to the sky. The clouds moulded with the blue background and the sunlight seemed to drip through the mixture. Everything was so blissful until suddenly I felt a grave emotion, a horrible sense of doubt. I was doubting myself, the others, and everything we were doing. I doubted our lifestyle.
“I’m thinking of returning home.” I told them.
“Stay!” said Acacia. “You can’t leave your Rainbow Family we love you.”
“I love you guys too but I’ve been travelling for about a year now. Never knowing where I’m going, what I’m going to do next I’ve loved it, it’s been amazing, but I’m starting to worry about my future. I’m starting to need a bit of stability, or I may never return alive.” I was ranting but in a mellow way. Jamie knew what I meant, I could tell by the way he looked over at me, he had felt the same way. That was when he said,
“Why do you fear for your life?”
“I don’t know.” I said. “The lifestyle, the low-budget, the drugs, the free love.”
“All these things you enjoy.” he said.
“Yes but there’s no future with them and they could potentially be the death of me.” I know he understood, although he wouldn’t have expressed his desire to go home in front of Acacia, she needed him. He then told me something I would always remember.
“Whichever path in life you take, life is always fragile.”
Reliving that memory was a strange experience. For the most part it was a true testament to what happened, but when he said those final words, it could have all been a lie. In my head, the past could have been anything. The same movie repeated in different scenarios. Jamie, Acacia and I would be soldiers at war, or holiday makers, or students in university. In every situation that one line would remain the same, and it would mean the same thing. Whichever path in life you take, life is always fragile. Did that convince me to carry on travelling? To stay with my Rainbow Family? No. A couple of weeks later I said my farewells and went home. From what I understood, Jamie went home about a month later. We tried to keep in contact, but by the end of the second year we lost it.
The hallucinations, the memories, ended after a few hours of repeating in random, obscure scenarios. I know now that the travelling memory was the only true one, but at the time I believed every one as I watched them unfold. Myself and my recliner had floated back down to Earth, and back into the office. Although the hallucinations had stopped, I could still feel the fuzzy effects of the drug as I reflected on what Acacia had told me.
Jamie had moved back home and gave up his life as a travelling hippy, telling the others that he missed his family. Acacia went with him, but couldn’t follow suit on his abandonment of the drug taking. She carried on taking all sorts while he found himself a job on a building site and stayed clean. The two of them were apparently happy together, surviving the test of time, despite their differences. Acacia started fundraising as a charity worker to pay for her lifestyle and her habits, Jamie took care of the rest. The two of them seemed to have a kind of messed up fairytale ending to the travelling hippy story that was their twenties, but then it happened. A health and safety hazard on a site led to Jamie falling down a lift shaft. He was neither drunk nor high, yet he died instantly on impact. This is the news Acacia gave me. She never did figure out who I was. I’m not sure what upset me more, his death or her forgetting who I was. I will never forget them though. Jamie was living proof, or rather, dead proof, of his own motto. Whichever path in life you take, life is always fragile. His words will forever echo in my memory. Rest in peace Jamie, your fragile life was cut too short.