“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” – Ernest Hemmingway

Let’s take that as read, eh. I was told a similar thing by a green-dreadlocked girl once, right as she handed over two tabs of acid. They were my first. She made me promise to share the experience with someone I cared for and trusted. I didn’t. I took it with a friend who would have given his eye teeth to screw my girlfriend at the time, and wouldn’t have taken a moments pause before he got to business. I knew this, but it was still a good trip anyway. I’m a believer in the right approach to psychoactive drugs. You take them by the horns and let them know who’s boss. It’s that, or they ride you like a whipped horse.

I’ve never had a bad trip, LSD-wise. My brain is wired for it, I guess. So, maybe Ernest got things wrong? Or was he referring to something else? Hemmingway was a Colonial, animal-butchering, ape. Acid can’t have ever wormed into that brain. It would have been a waste. Electric Convulsive Therapy, yeah, but not acid. Choose your poison, I suppose…

He didn’t mean acid. Obviously.

I’ve been on plenty of trips (physical) with people. I’ve mapped igneous features in Arran in the pissing rain, honeymooned in Madeira, holidayed in Marrakech, and slept rough in a wood outside of Colchester. They all share a common feature: considering the company,  I’d have enjoyed them better on my own.

Marrakech is a hot place full of rags and dust. I was thirty two. It’s hard to get booze, easy to get hashish, and even easier to be arrested or run over. I bought booze from a man who delivered it to me in the Riad in brown paper bags at three times the UK price. I’ve made less covert drug deals. I drank it all on the roof terrace, under the stars. My companion moaned about the temperature of her beer and about why I wasn’t a go-getter. Even drunk on holiday, she’d cut right to the bone about some shit she saw as changeable in me. More booze; an easy, dependable plan. She always went down to bed early, leaving me up there watching meteorites coming out over the Northern Sahara and thinking of ways to put her on the plane and stay forever. Or maybe bury her out there in the desert where even the sidewinders wouldn’t find her.

I got hit by a car doing about four miles an hour in a Souk in Marrakech. I had a bruised leg. The car lost a headlight. Nobody claimed. The place was perfect. It needed someone like me to appreciate those subtle differences that only mean something to people who want out of the drudging, failing, West. You don’t always have to fit in.

Early evenings I’d walk about the Medina hoping to be robbed. I went down all the darkest alleyways, got lost on purpose, moved entirely off the tourist circuit, wanting the thrill. Nothing. No-one even spoke to me. Groups of men would see me coming and move off inside of thick oak doors. I was easy prey, but then I’ve never seen the inside of a Morrocan prison. Some deterrents are better than a switchblade, or the prospect of a right hook from a fat, bald white man in shorts.

In the Jemaa el fna, boiled goats heads sat on dirty plates, steam and smoke cast thick clouds over the locals and the few tourists. Story Tellers told lies to wide-eyed boys. Dentists pulled at dark mouths with bent pliers. Pick-pockets moved in the crowds with quick hands and easy smiles. Twenty Watt bulbs rang in strings and tangled over the food stalls. High on a stool, I ate a dinner of small snails from a filthy bowl while the locals watched and laughed. I tipped him too much. The snails tasted like bits of rubber and they looked like fecal matter floating in a sewer. It was a shit meal, but a great night. She was back at the Riad.

At the airport as we left, she was frisked intimately by a female police officer. Right in front of everybody. Hand down the pants and fingers searching the private places. She looked uncomfortable for the first time I’d seen since we’d been together. Small joys and all that. Karma works in the most mysterious and wondrous ways, I’ve found.

I had the chance of a job out there – overseeing a few Riads – but never took it up. I’d be on my own, but eventually I’d meet someone and there’d be another journey into incompatibility, and mutual loathing. The end was always the same. So I stayed put. At night sometimes, I’d dream of acid companionship. Safest trip of all.


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