August 2, 2021

Celebrating the Coolest Local Stuff

By Shannon Bond

Man fading into starry night.

I pull the lump from my chest and slap it onto the yellow speckled top of the kitchen table. The black and gray mass flops over with a suction cup sound, growing as it rolls.

“On your trip, if you see a monster,” the therapist said, “don’t run from it. Confront it and ask it what you can learn from it.”

 “What can I learn from you lump?” I ask, placing my hands on my hips.

In the office, I feel the therapist take my hand. She is sitting in a comfortable red chair beside the blue couch where I am stretched out with a black mask over my eyes and white headphones over my ears. She is my psilocybin tour guide, my LSD Jedi, nudging me farther down the rabbit hole. I am told that other cultures have been using mushroom magic for thousands of years. And now we have clinical shamans for the digital age.

Before she unleashed the chemicals in my veins, we explored my past. We rooted out demons and monsters. Now, far away from the blue couch and red chair, the growing lump of gray and black matter pulses in time with the classical music pumping into my headphones. It grows rapidly, overtaking the kitchen. Melting into the yellow curtains, taking the walls away as it expands. I am inside the mass now, looking out to the universe beyond.

“Come on lump, what can I learn from you?”

Scenes race through the pulsing gelatin all around me. I see my daughter snatched away by a stormy faced man. I see the cancer slamming back into my wife’s body. I see her SUV smashed by a careless driver in a black pickup. My infant daughter screams in the backseat. I see an engine flameout next to me as we fly over Disney World, or Iraq, I can’t tell which. Bullets fly through schools and theme parks below us and my social media feed pulsates with glee.

I am holding my phone but wrench my gaze away from the stream of terror to step through the valves of my heart. Dragging my feet through gristle and grease, I cling to the pulsing red walls, trying to pull myself through the hardening muck. I reach the end of the valve and squeeze out into the night. Blood pumps into the vast black sky around me, drifting to the stars above, while analysts debate the political affiliation of the shooting victims at the local elementary school.

“You are not my tragedy, lump. You are my anxiety.”

Far away, the therapist squeezes my hand and I wonder if I am thrashing or making noise in that far away world. As her grip increases my body dissolves like a trillion particles of red moisture floating on an exhaled breath.

I cease to be. I have become. I am everywhere and nowhere, all things, and nothing. The self I was is no longer. The many constructs of me float away and dissolve. My amygdalae have surrendered their fear.

A soft cello rhythm spreads me out into the universe.

I open my eyes and lift the soft mask away from my face.

The music stops and the therapist smiles down at me with questioning eyes.

“How do you feel?”

I breathe a sigh of contentment and say, “like nothing.”