Loading icon

The Line in the Sand

Poetry & Prose | April 29, 2013

Calvin rolls a joint, ignoring the two girls building a sand-castle a few yards closer to the ocean. “Don’t you ever get bored here?”

“Of course I do,” Michael responds. He burrows his feet into the warm sand. “But look at what’s around us: a beautiful beach, barbeques over fire pits, a boardwalk with roller coasters at the end of the beach. There’s plenty to do.”

“I suppose.” Calvin sparks the joint, puffing smoke. He’s tan from spending so much time on the beaches of California, his brown hair stained blonder. God knows—some boys spend their whole lives in paradise.

“You just need the right attitude.”

“Or good enough weed.”

“Exactly,” Michael chuckles.

“Still, it feels so laid out. Nothing exciting seems to happen.”

Michael shrugs. “I’m just looking for a good time, and you can find that almost anywhere.”

“We lie around doing nothing all day.”

“Not entirely true. We also blaze,” Michael jokes, passing the burning joint.

“Blazing is too easy,” Calvin responds. The two girls building a sand-castle near the ocean remind him of what it was like to be a kid. Everything was new, exciting, meaningful. Taking a hit, he sighs as the familiar tingly euphoric feeling returns. Watching waves crash but restless.

“Let’s do something wild,” Calvin begins, a glimmer in his glossy blue eyes. “Sure, it’s beautiful here, but let’s mix things up. Let’s experience.”

Michael nods.

“We need an adventure,” Calvin continues. “Something to stop this boring routine.”

Michael puts out the joint in the sand. “So we’re going to need more drugs.”

Calvin grins, smoke still drifting out his nostrils. “Exactly.”

#

“A half ounce of shrooms, six tabs of LSD, three grams of molly, an ounce of coke, two ounces of weed, a bottle of whiskey, a handle of tequila, and a 30-rack of beer,” Michael lists, going through the contents of his duffle bag. “This is the best I could do.”

Calvin nods.

“What’re you writing?” Michael laughs.

“I figure this should be documented,” Calvin responds. He pauses, staring approvingly at his work.

Michael shakes his head, amused. “C’mon, lets go.” He zips up the duffle bag and throws it over his shoulder.

Calvin closes his pocket-sized notebook and puts on a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses, with a peculiar antiquated shape — two small circles for the frame. Like John Lennon.

“Look at you,” Michael jokes. “Ridiculous.”

“Not at all.”

“You’re a spectacle.”

“No. Life’s a spectacle.”

Calvin motions for Michael to look at the printed Google maps sprawled across his desk. “Here’s the plan,” Calvin explains, pointing. “We journey south and eventually reach L.A.”

“Any specific stops in between?”

“None in mind,” Calvin says. “If we plan the whole thing out, it’d defeat the purpose of everything we’re trying to do.”

Michael raises his eyebrows skeptically. “And what is that?” he asks.

“Experiencing something that isn’t so boring and rehashed,” Calvin says. “This is about experiencing something new.”

Michael laughs. “There’s nothing meaningful about doing drugs. End of the day, looking past the philosophical bullshit, I don’t think it goes much deeper than a basic fact: drugs feel awesome.”

“We’ll see,” Calvin says. Staring at the pine tree brushed up against his window, he notices the subtle flicker of a black phoebe bird hopping from branch to branch, and a squirrel gnawing on a nut. The breeze rustles the leaves. The blue sky stretches, scarcely interrupted by clouds. Calm.

They pick up their belongings and leave the room. Michael starts the car. Calvin closes the front door, taking care to lock it. He hops into the Honda and they drive into the bright day, a lightness floating in the fresh air. Not a care in the world.

#

“I’m at my peak,” Calvin says. “God, these are some good shrooms.”

“It’s beautiful,” Michael says, gazing towards the sunset on a mountainous ridge. The depth of the horizon seems infinite, each particle of each sun ray floating. Michael giggles at nothing in particular and Calvin joins him. “It’s so beautiful,” Michael laughs, a few tears spilling. “Jesus, I’m getting some serious visuals on those trees.” He points down to the redwoods below them.

They laugh, hallucinating. The trees throb, as if vibing to a beat. Michael looks around, realizing everything—the sunlight, the bushes, the trees, the birds, the ocean—pulsates to the same rhythm.
“People stigmatize drugs,” Calvin begins. “But I say we’re getting closer to finding truth. Look at this sunset. Have you ever seen anything so meaningful?”

Michael shakes his head, returning his gaze to the sunset sinking into the ocean.

“Never.”

#

Jaw clenching, pupils dilated, Michael jolts his head in various directions, searching among the crowd of thousands of people. Disneyland was a terrible idea, he realizes. He checks the time.

Trying to avoid eye contact with the parents and children around him, he pulls another piece of a gum out from his pocket, knowing full well it won’t be able to stop his jaws from clenching. The result of too much molly. Wired and euphorically tripping.

He tries to remember when he lost Calvin. Furrowing his brow, he realizes he can barely remember any of the events of the past five days with clarity. He rehearses facts. They took mushrooms and hiked in the mountains. They got wasted the next day and railed lines of coke before going out to the bars. Then a night in the LA clubs on molly. Or did they rave in Santa Barbara before LA? Michael shakes his head at himself. Of course they raved at Santa Barbara first—it’s on the way to Los Angeles.

And now LSD and molly at Disneyland. Feeling the LSD kick in, Michael calls Calvin’s phone again, hoping for an answer.

#

“Where the hell did you go?” Michael demands, grabbing a seat across from Calvin. Calvin’s sitting calmly at a table in the middle of a food plaza, wearing a fur jacket. Kids and Disney characters and adults all around. Everything bright and dreamlike.

“I’ve been here the whole time,” Calvin smiles.

Michael shakes his head in disbelief. “Are you feeling it?”

“Definitely.” Calvin lifts his sunglasses to show Michael his state of mind, his radiant blue eyes pushed to the edges by his dilated pupils.

“This is too far,” Michael insists.

Ten feet away, by the neatly trimmed bushes and trees separating the food tables from the main path of the amusement park, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger greet passing-by kids.

Calvin stops writing. “This is exactly what we set out to do.”

“We set out to do drugs, but Calvin,” Michael sputters. He loses his train of thought. The bush to his right pulsates green. For a moment, everything looks like leaves. He shakes his head at himself. “But Calvin,” he repeats, returning his gaze to Calvin, voice trailing off. Concentrate, he thinks to himself. Shakes his head again. “I can’t even think straight. As soon as the LSD–”. He stops himself and lowers his voice. “As soon as I reach the peak of this trip.” He pauses. “I’m not going to be able to keep my shit together.”

Calvin grins. “Isn’t that exciting?”

“It was at first,” Michael agrees. “But this is too far.”

Calvin looks past Michael to the spectacle around them. Castles, cartoon characters, catchy tunes, roller coasters, shops, food, and thousands of people—each and every minute detail a swirling movement of color.

“Look around us,” Calvin instructs. “Appreciate the newness of it. Disneyland has been here for decades, has been experienced by people in the same way hundreds of millions of times. But we, we’re making something new out of it.”

“Stop this vague bullshit,” Michael stammers. “There’s nothing new about what we’re doing—we’re tripping on drugs. Our parents have been doing it since the ‘60s.”

Calvin grins, his rose sunglasses enflamed by the sunlight. “It’s not what we’re doing that matters. It’s how we do it,” he explains.

“What,” Michael stutters.

“We’re turning living into art.”

Michael pauses, speechless.

“Our lives used to be boring. But out of nothing we’ve created excitement. We’re experiencing things in ways we could have never imagined. We’ve come so far,” Calvin says, his voice a crescendo. “Think about what we felt hiking in the mountains on shrooms. Have you ever experienced a sunset so full of meaning? That glimmering pink and orange star sinking into the ocean, a new world—night—being created.”

Michael shakes his head. Still speechless.

“It’s poetry,” Calvin insists. “It’s turning the everyday into art.”

“We can’t go on like this forever.”

“Maybe not with the drugs,” Calvin agrees. “But we’ve opened up a door of possibilities.”

Michael stares at Calvin in disbelief.

Satisfied, Calvin opens his journal and writes.

#

Calvin and Michael lie motionless in the sand, exhausted, brain-dead from their excursion. Michael’s never felt this tired. He feels gaping holes in his brain. He stares out into the ocean, an empty and dull nothingness glossed over his gaze.

His finger drags gently through the sand, gradually making a line. The cool breeze blows the sand softly. The sloppy line becomes an etch before fading away into small dunes of sand.

Two young boys sprint towards the water, passing a bright red ball between them, letting the weightless blowup toy fall unhurriedly to a spot only a few feet away from Calvin and Michael. Smiling, eager to experience the day on the beach, the boys charge forward, kicking the ball towards the ocean, laughing and shouting.

“Less than a week ago, we were 400 miles north on the beaches of Santa Cruz,” Calvin mutters. “Look at how far we’ve come.”

The kids play by the water, families spread out along the beach, people work the merchandise stands on the street. The bike-riders, roller-bladers, tanners, and restaurant waiters—all appreciate the cloudless sky, the gentle breeze, the warm sun.

And no one seems to notice the two college kids lying in the sand, unmoving.