There is a pause in my head for a moment, and suddenly I am no longer on a drug. By this point my understanding of the situation, and the resulting anxiety has congealed, and is just another part of my personality. As a result, this rush of reality is not appreciated, adding nothing in the way of perspective. I am still a white kid, lost in Camden on a bicycle, two tabs deep into some remarkably strong LSD. I begin dealing with my current predicament by finding some relief in some choice ELO lyrics, and it occurs to me that the acid must have kicked back in. The phone in my pocket contains lists of people who would drop what they were doing to come rescue me, but it is dead.
Fuel cells. Aquarium. Sweat.
Every street corner brings new spectacle to deal with. The people I see are my peers, but there is definitely some vague stereotyping jammed up in my brain that I haven’t been able to get at. I apologize to them under my breath as I pedal faster to quickly leave them behind. They look like actors that have been cast to be inner city thugs. I feel bad for thinking that, swallow, and take a left, as there are slightly more traffic lights in that direction.
White newscaster. Running fire hydrant. Menthol.
Who put these things in my head? Is that guy actually staring at me? Yes. Wait…no. Is it legal to ride on the sidewalks with a bicycle in this city? The sun has been setting since I got here. Was I even safe in the light? Who would I ask this question to? I don’t want to offend anyone. I should come back here when sober.
Riverline ticket. Smeared ink. Thumb print.
I see an overpass, and what looks like the Delaware River just beyond it. I let loose a shout of joy, and look around nervously for someone who noticed. In a flash this whole thing turns from an affair of confused terror to a funny story I can tell everyone later. Relief drains from my shoulders into my pockets, and for the first time in my life, I am content with leaking.
Black shoes. Yellow stripe. Gun. Badge. Hat. Sneer. Aviators….no mustache..
I squeeze hard on the brakes, place my foot on the curb, and stare, head down, at the street. I think that cop saw my eyes. The whole city is suddenly quiet as a snow covered suburb. I am left impotent, I stare at a used condom that looks empty, and wait. The realization that the stance I have adopted is wrong hits me, and I look around for somewhere else to be. To my left, the opposite direction of the cop, I notice an alley that isn’t fenced off. I swing my leg over the frame, and begin calmly walking the bicycle into the dingy passage.
Brick. Dumpster. Cat clues.
The walls of the buildings that are now hiding me from trouble stretch out into the distance, and it seems as though they slope inward, constricting the space available to me and my bicycle. I move the bicycle out further in front so we might be single file. This hinders my movement, and ultimately proves to be pointless as I come to the other end, and leave the alley without issue. There I find that darkness arrived while I was in there. I remember to turn right onto the cracked sidewalk, and then congratulate myself on remembering that. Suddenly there is a homeless man engaged with me, but I have missed the introduction and pleasantries. I am confident that he is speaking my language, but have no actual evidence to support this claim. On trained impulse, I ask him politely to repeat himself. It seems that he has seen my skin color as an indication that I will have extra money that could be given to him. I realize that he is probably right. I already have my train ticket home, and there is still some money in my wallet. And even if there wasn’t, I could give this guy all my money, and probably still bounce back by the end of the month. There is also my savings. I could just give it to him. Then I remember that he might spend that money on drugs, and that sometimes matters to some people. But I am on a drug. Would he want some of what I’m on? Is it appropriate to offer this man drugs? Would that offend him? We’ve now been staring at each other for a minute and thirty eight seconds.
Holes. Callus. Newspaper.
I begin to explain a few things to this man, when I hear a police siren in the distance. The panic plumes out of my soul and through my eyes, terrifying him. I see his face contort and I’m off. Pedaling as fast as I can past him, I turn briefly to scream “I AM SO SORRY!” as I tear towards the river. The other denizens I pass are a blur, but I am sure I am offending them somehow.
Spokes. Concrete. Jetsam.
The river smells bad enough to make me disappointed even as I beam at it for being my savior. My fetid point of reference. The lights of Philly ripple in the currents of the river as I lean my face against the chain link fence wrapping up Route 30. The traffic behind me roars and cascades in stereo from right ear to left. An ambulance jolts me from my trance. I mount up, and head for a slightly safer part of New Jersey forgetting my intentions to find the train.