We all have stories we tell ourselves since time immemorial; narratives we repeat to ourselves throughout our lives until they form part of our philosophy and become the ultimate driving force of our rationale.
Mine was this: I used to believe that each person is a half of someone else — a belief fueled and sustained by the Greek mythology which Plato mentioned in the Symposium; that humans were originally created with two heads, four arms, and four legs, but were split apart by Zeus and were condemned to spend the rest of their lives looking for their other half.
When my parents separated during the summer of my freshman year in college, I witnessed the greatest attack against my carefully crafted ideals on love and relationship, so much that it frightened me to death and sent me running away from home, since then searching for all the reasons why heartbreak existed in the spaces where love was supposed to be.
I plunged fearlessly into people’s hearts, probing for answers. But all they ever did was come and go — these men, the boys inside of them. The rhythm of their footsteps oftentimes made me nauseous, the pulse in their promises worn out with abuse.
They trudge in and out of your heart like they would step inside a convenience store to grab a bottle of refreshment, and then slam the door behind them mindlessly without leaving an assurance or a chance. They always say the right words in all the right places. They always tell you promises and you always tell them lies. I don’t need you. I don’t love you. I don’t believe in love, until your actions and your intentions prove otherwise and make you look the part of the fool because you are, you always have been.
Like a fool, I did not hesitate to pack my bag and take the midnight bus en route to the city of my childhood dreams, because they say you ought to snatch the slightest of chance for love and for all of its spontaneity; because they say you ought to gamble if you ever wanna win.
Part of what the acid showed me that day was more of a remembrance — the smell of pine trees, the sight of lush leaves, the blow of the biting cold all brought to memory the landscape of a city which used to be home to me and which housed a lot of good memories.
I remember taking a stroll along Burnham Park at one point in my trip — the sun shining miraculously upon me like there was no tomorrow, the trees humming in unison as I pass by each of them with summer glee. I remember this beautiful bursting feeling that I was a child once again and that I was part of the blood and force that flows through the city. I remember smiling from ear to ear with that jerky juvenile smile and sucking up all the good energy from every stranger I meet down the road. For a moment, I was alone in the city. And I was wild and happy and free.
At another point, a street artist came up to me and offered to give me a henna tattoo, and I remember laughing lavishly, thinking how good of a feeling it was to be with no one and to fall in love with the whole world.
And I thought that was all there is to the trip until ———
Things began to take an ugly curve as the sun began to set and the darkness began to take over like a black plague, sending me into a spiral loop.
A sea of faceless strangers huddled into a massive crowd along the busy stretch of Session Road, seconded by the bright neon street lights and the thundering sound of traffic. Before I even knew it, a murderous kind of fear snatched me defenselessly and crept cruelly into the crevices of my still stoned eyes.
I was frightened beyond belief, as I turned my back and walked recklessly as far away as my feet could take me, if only to escape the petrifying projections in my head. In an instant, the landscape of the city transformed into an intricate maze, each street leading to a dead dark end.
In a sober mind, I can navigate the city with ease since I could perfectly recognize and remember parts of the city from my childhood memory. But at that night, I was as lost as ever, and no amount of memory stood against the horrifying hallucinations which momentarily became the default state of my mind.
I saw their strange faces melt and morph into a formless mass, retaining only the sharp outline of their crimson eyes. I saw shotguns pointed straight at me, ready to blow my brains at command. In my head, I was convinced that I murdered somebody and that the entire population of the city was out to seize me.
So I ran, ran, ran like a mad man.
Along the sidewalks of Session Road, I was split into two: one as a merry little girl walking hand in hand with my father one sunny Sunday afternoon in history, and another as this drugged dysfunctional human that I have become.
I spent the rest of the night in bouts of blackout, as I blinked my bloodshot eyes repeatedly only to find myself in the middle of a grandstand, in the middle of the traffic, streetlights blinking, headlights flashing like fluorescent lights in a prison cell, condemning me to my crime.
When I finally circled my way back to Burnham Park, there lay before me the saddest spectacle of my lifetime. With my own eyes, I watched in horror as the entire park burned and blazed like a bed of coals, setting the grass and the trees to fiery flames, and sending soot to the pitch black sky.
I was destroyed.
Around the same moment that I was losing myself, I knew that I was losing someone else too, and all I could do was watch as it happened. Only during the comedown, on a bus bound back to Manila, would I begin to realize the truth which I have known all along: that no amount of calculation was ever needed to crack the lonely equation that it was over; whatever it is was over long before we even started the game.
We didn’t go through all of that just to be strangers again, did we? But perhaps we did; perhaps we did.
A wave of revelation slapped me solidly in the face as I hit the peak of my acid trip. I thought about the hours, the days, the months I have spent in therapy trying to believe in psychiatry, trying to convince myself that if I heal, people will be more accepting of me — family, friends, lovers, acquaintances, the sum of humanity welcoming me into their lives with no regret or reservation like for the first time in a long time, they know that they want me to stay.
LSD revealed to me that night the most brutal reality: that I was inconsequential in the eyes of one person, a truth so simple that sometimes I forget it is true; that it is time that I abandon the narrative of ideal love and all that romantic irrationality with which I have clung so desperately for most of my life; but most of all, that I learn to love myself because the reason is love.
Healing is no easy task. But then again maybe that is easier than waiting — waiting for someone to love you back, or waiting for the love you have sent out to the Universe to return and come home to you — because whether it’s the seven years I wasted on someone waiting to be married, or the seven seconds it took to turn away and escape down the busy stretch of Session Road waiting for someone to hold me and tell me “hey I’m here it’s okay” it does not change the truth that, at the end of the day, we are still alone.
We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand in the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to infuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain.
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954)
Psychedelics has opened my mind to the interconnectedness of the Universe where life and all of its intricacies flow freely into One, and at the same time also taught me that in the heart of this singularity lies the central truth that as humans, each of us has our own journey to take, a road that only ourselves alone can travel — ourselves and no one else.
At best, our search for spirituality is a solitary pilgrimage. And no person, no event, and no experience can substitute for the things that we learn through our own efforts and through our own encounter with the world.
I once told myself that maybe LSD wasn’t for me. But I’ve seen things, felt things like no other earthly experience has ever granted me before. How do you go back to living as if it was nothing? How do you go back to living with your old self? The answer is you don’t.
At the back my head, I think I heard someone say “We’re all tripping. It’s never gonna end.”
You wake up to a brand new world.
You’re still tripping. It’s never gonna end.