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  • I’d forgotten to wear my glasses, but I forgot about forgetting when we entered the theater. Every weekend at our college they converted a big lecture hall to a movie theater. Tonight was “Elvira Madigan,” a foreign film. I was perplexed by what appeared to be Chinese subtitles. Charlie was quiet and attentive, but after a few minutes, I nudged him and whispered, “Why did we come to see a movie in Chinese?”

    A moment passed as he kept his eyes on the screen. Then he turned to me and said, “I think it’s in Russian.”

    Another minute of watching the Russian subtitles sans glasses. Then a second nudge, “Charlie, why would we want to see a movie in Russian?”

    “I don’t know.” he answered. “Want to leave?”

    We got up and made our way out the aisle and back into the night.

    I forgot to mention that it was the first time I’d taken LSD. Earlier on that January 1971 day, I’d registered for the draft and it seemed an auspicious way to punctuate the rite of passage.
    Before “Elvira Madigan,” in Charlie’s dorm room, the two of us had practically dissolved like sugar cubes in a river of kaleidoscopic hysterics.

    That little blue pill siphoned images from every nook in my memory bank and paraded them into a funny-house hall of mirrors. Suddenly every worry, every regimentation and constricting rule appeared short, fat, and silly in its reflection.

    There I was in preschool – getting taught to sit in a circle with other children; there in kindergarten waiting on one leg and then the other, in line for the toilet; in first grade anxiously wondering how to avoid getting paddled when I couldn’t possibly know all of Mrs. Fenton’s rules; worrying in bed about the electric chair my Dad had explained while lying on the couch reading the paper (how can a person live a full lifetime without committing a crime that sends them to "the chair"?); where to hide my first red “F” test paper that was burning a hole in my schoolbag; how to send laundry my first time at sleep-away camp and know it will come back (easier just to put some under the pillow and some at the bottom of my footlocker); how to look old men in their faces and shake their fleshy hands at the synagogue like my Dad wanted me to do; there - in another line - walking silently to the bomb shelter held open by Mr. Armstrong, the school janitor; there I am making an earnest contract with God - promising to stop masturbating after ten more times – meekly renewing the promise every ten days; there, in Talmud class poring over arcane laws, trying to grasp one Rabbinical rationalization after another (a virgin girl must marry on Wednesday nights so she can be quickly divorced by an angry young husband at the Thursday morning court if she does not shed blood on the matrimonial bed); and there at the post office signing a form that could have me shooting guns and bombs at Vietnamese people with all the same clarity as that shooter in the tower at the University of Texas.

    We were at a Catskills comedians’ convention where all the one-liners came from our life stories.
    Without any words, Charlie and I knew we were both on the same page and laughter washed the room like a summer downpour. He yanked off the blankets and sheets from his perfectly-made bed and that triggered another wave of hysterics. He tossed the garbage can across the room and the tears rolled from our eyes as we laughed and laughed. We looked at each other from the respective, bedding-free mattresses, unable to get a full sentence through the laughter. We rolled on the linoleum floor. We opened a package of Hostess cupcakes I’d brought and mushed the cake, frosting and creamy insides in our hands, examining the results like the Three Stooges masquerading as surgeons.

    We’d transported to a world where it was totally okay to burst out laughing in courtrooms, at church services, funerals, or in the middle of S.A.T. tests.

    It was as if our lives were being projected on the dorm room walls like hilarious home movies or spit out like daily “Pogo” comic strips.

    Everything made perfect sense - in a perfectly nonsensical way.

    Eventually the laughter gave way to a fulfilling hyper-satisfaction. Our brains were still on hold while some deeper dinosaur-ish consciousness lit the way.….as though we each had a hundred eyeballs and stereophonic eardrums beating cosmic rhythms. We could proceed with “normal” life but inside we’d experience it differently, like Clark Kent at the “Daily Planet.”

    I said to Charlie, “so what do you think is playing at the weekend movie? Want to go?”
    “Why not?” said Charlie.
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