The Berkeley of my twenties was an era of experimentation. My experimentation was pretty tame, though, and limited to food, sex, and pot. (They didn’t call me White Bread for nothing.) I wasn’t even much of a smoker. Back in college I had made an attempt at coolness that ended after a case of strep throat that was so bad I needed oxy to help with the pain. Smoking just didn’t taste the same after that.
My roommates were much more bold in their experimentation. They reveled in their mostly-harmless Free Spirit lifestyle. I was never sure what I was going to come home to. And that wasn’t even taking into account whatever Burt had come and caulked lately.
After one particularly heinous day at the vet clinic that included a puppy sick with parvo virus and a Chow that tried to take my hand off I trudged up the stairs and shouldered my way through the front door hoping for some decompression time with Sarah Beth. However, I rammed into a woman I’d never seen before. She was smack in the doorway swaying and writhing to the music of Mazzy Star. I started to say, “Who the fuck are you?” but only got as far as “Who-” when it hit me that she was buck naked. The only thing covering her was her long red hair and it wasn’t doing that great a job.
Just as I determined she was a natural redhead my roommate Duncan can pirouetting through the living room. Naked. All 5 limbs flinging around. He saw me and crooned, “Heeeeeyyyy,” pure joy on his face. “Yoooouuuu!” He twirled to me and gave me a big, full-body hug. He leaned back, grasped me by the shoulders, and looked me full in the eyes like he was looking for my soul. “You,” he said, layering the word with about 500 pounds of meaning.
Then he twirled away to a shirtless guy with stringy blonde hair who was petting one of our cats named Tank. He was so focused on Tank’s black fur he didn’t even register the penis that almost slapped him in the face.
I shut the front door and came a few more steps into the living room. Van, our new Goth-wannabe roommate came bursting into the room from the kitchen wearing nothing but his baggy tighty-whiteys. “You guys! The water! You have to try the water! It’s the best water ever! It’s like water, but water.” And he ran back into the kitchen.
Raj was the only one fully clothed, wearing his typical uniform of black jeans and black t-shirt. His feet, however, were bare. “The air,” he said, gulping in big breaths. “It’s sparkling. It’s sparkling in my lungs. It’s making my lungs sparkle.” He knelt down to Sarah Beth who was sitting on the couch. “Am I sparkling on the outside?”
“You sure are,” she said. She hadn’t even looked up from her book, Growing Mushrooms for Fun and Profit, but Raj seemed totally satisfied. “Cooool,” he said and started taking huge breaths again.
I plopped down next to her on the couch, “What. In. The. Fuck,” I asked.
“They’re on E. I’m the watcher.”
She turned a page, “I make sure no one thinks they can fly or that the cat is edible.”
“Who thought the cat was edible?”
She nodded over to Blondie with Tank. He was trying to lick Tank’s fur.
“He tried to shave your cat earlier so he could wear the fur.”
“That’s why his shirt is off. If you look closer he’s got dried glue on him to hold the fur. Don’t worry,” she said to my horrified face, “He only got a little bit off. Vishnu and Buddha are locked in your room for now.”
“I’m going to check on them. You should probably check on Van. He seems to think the water is amazing,” I said.
She sighed and hoisted herself up off the couch. “Yeah. We don’t want another flood.”
I got up from the couch and hurried downstairs to check on my cats. They met me at the door, meowing with indignation. Well, Buddha met me at the door. Vishnu, the one with the survival instinct, was hiding under the bed. She’d probably been there since the first pill was swallowed. Buddha, however, was a sucker for love and was sporting an inch square bald patch in the middle of his back.
I changed out of my scrubs and into some clean jeans and a t-shirt. After soothing the cats and carefully locking my bedroom door I rejoined the group upstairs.
The music had changed from the slow angst of Mazzy Star to something faster with a thumping bass line. Everyone was dancing. Kind of. They were all bumping and grinding and jumping and twisting around and into each other. Van was wet – I hoped only from his adventures with the sink. Duncan and Redhead were still naked. Raj was gliding his feet across the floor moaning, “smooooooth,” with every step he took. Tank had finally made his escape from Blondie, who was now rubbing his torso along different vertical surfaces – walls, curtains, people – and he was purring.
I had never, ever seen anything like this before. It was like watching a car crash. I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to.
When Blondie came over and started rubbing both sets of cheeks against Redhead and Van I decided it was time to take myself over to Mark’s house and offer to cook him dinner.
I have no idea what happened after I left and I don’t want to know. But I was never bored.