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This is a story about a hallucination I once had. It could have been an out of body experience, I suppose. Or a waking dream maybe? I know it wasn’t like an LSD hallucination. I’ve had plenty of those. You know, staring in the mirror, watching your face bubble. Like, one time, I went to see a movie on acid and started to freak out because I kept seeing Sylvester Stallone’s face, even when I closed my eyes, hours after I had managed to stumble out of the theater. I was convinced that Sylvester Stallone’s face had been etched in fire directly on my brain.

Thankfully, it wasn’t permanent.

But, no, the hallucination I want to tell you about wasn’t drug-induced, at least not directly. It also wasn’t a religious experience either. I’m no hippie. I have never talked to angels. Thankfully. Here’s what happened: I just sort of floated out of myself. My ribcage opened on hinges and I floated out. A balloon, a fog, a ghost. I floated and I could see myself — my — body and I could float through walls.

I felt this for a few seconds 8 years ago. I guess you could say I astral projected. Yup. I projected my soul or consciousness or whatever over the astral plane, which is another dimension, or so I have read. Yes. That’s what that thing was. It was not a fever or God. It was, simply, astral projection. Sometimes people spontaneously combust. Sometimes people unzip their guts and become a cloud for a little bit. A cloud with eyeballs.

I remember floating up towards the ceiling, then looking down to watch me — real world me, me a stack of meat with fingers — crying, head in hands, wearing boxer shorts and sitting on the edge of a futon in front of a TV. Then I sailed away, through a wall, into another apartment, where I watched a another man, crying, head in hands, wearing boxer shorts and sitting in an old recliner in front of a TV.

And then that was that. It was over. I returned to my body, which spent most of it’s time in an apartment on the fifth floor of an old walkup apartment building in Astoria, Queens. This happened to me.

I’d like to make a few points if you’ll let me:

My first point is don’t do drugs. I’ll level with you: they’re fun as shit. But if you’re really attracted to drugs in the first place chances are you have some underlying issues like you’re fucked up in the head due to brain chemicals you can’t help or a shitty childhood you couldn’t control. I don’t want to be a prude but don’t do them if you can. Or do, I don’t know , you’re an adult, do what you want. Just don’t smoke hash at 2AM in a gypsy cab if you can help it because the next morning when you’re hungover your brain will do some pretty goofy things.

My second point is: if you find yourself a floating, formless and invisible apparition don’t panic. It’s perfectly normal. It will last for just a few seconds that will feel like an eternity. There are plenty of things we can’t explain in this life that we shouldn’t even try to explain. If, one day, you’re floating and looking down at the broken world just go with it. Take the time to really look at yourself if you can.

So here are the important takeaways: the night before Barack Obama was inaugurated I was at the bar drinking when I ran out of drinking money and accepted an offer to smoke hash from Hakim, who drove a gypsy cab in the years before every pocket had a computer that could hire any person with a car to drive them around. It was nice of him to wreck me because I was broke. Junkie broke. I had already sold everything I could sell for money — CDs, books, my stereo. He offered to gift me a buzz after Bobby turned me down. I had bought that Irish jackass so many drinks in the past before closing time and the one time I ask and beg — the one time — for a beer or a shot and he gets all superior and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” on me. I was trying to find work. I was 51% trying.

It was a bad time. The economy had jackknifed. War #1 was a horror show. War #2 was a nightmare. You couldn’t watch the news without, eventually, watching a scrolling list of American killed or wounded. Not to mention all the men and women and children killed and wounded during our ill-advised occupations. When I went to bed January 19th, 2009, shit was fucked.

I woke up January 20th, 2009, around 11AM. I was hungover and, you know, still unemployed. I had passed out fully clothed. A few weeks before I had dragged my futon and television set into my one bedroom so I could convert the living room into an office for tax purposes. I did not understand those tax purposes at all. I had overheard a successful freelance writer talk about how he had to carve out workspace in his loft because of the IRS and I did likewise. I would have been better served paying my back taxes instead, as I learned a couple of years later, when my credit card got declined at McDonald’s because the state of New York had put a lien on my bank account.

So I woke up in time to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration from a futon and say what you want — because you will — but seeing that man being sworn in did something to me. I don’t know what. Look: I was also dehydrated and that hash scrambled my brains for sure. But I just started sobbing. Blubbering. Crying over politics is embarrassing as hell to admit. What do you do? And don’t let anyone tell you differently: George W. Bush was a bad president. I won’t get into the Republicans. No. No I won’t. Okay, I mean, maybe “do unto others before they do unto you” is not a moral position. But whatever. Bush was shit and Obama was promise and I cried and I know I cried — ugly scrunched up face cried — because I was hovering overhead.

I cannot tell a lie it was weird.

From there I took a trip. I floated through walls and saw different couches and a woman smoking a cigarette at a kitchen table and then I floated out of my apartment building and floated along the rooftops of Astoria, Queens and suddenly I was in Bobby’s crappy bedroom in a row house on Ditmars that his mother owned. Bobby was, no lie, old. Early 40s maybe? A giant hairless pink-skinned Hulk who use to brag about knowing a neighborhood guy who could get things and do things. I watched him cry, the big loser, sitting in his recliner because, you know, he had voted for McCain. A war hero. Bobby was no hero but his dad had been. Bobby also hated black people.

But it’s America. Lots of white people hate black people. This is not a secret. It’s basically the country’s tagline. It is the truth.

The next thing I knew I was back sitting on my futon with puffy eyes. Obama was talking. I was hungry. I felt real messed up. I swear this is true. To be honest, it probably was the drugs? I could have still been high. That hash was from Morocco. Or, I don’t know, I could have briefly lost my mind. A couple years later I would sober up. I would get steady work. I would be in a relationship. I would lose those last two things, eventually, but not the sobriety. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. There’s a new inauguration coming up. Republicans are back. I know this isn’t the place to have a partisan debate. Also, you know, politics isn’t football.

I’m going to watch the inauguration. I probably won’t cry. I’m more emotionally stable these days except for when I occasionally scream at the people I love. I wish though, I wish I’d have another out of body experience. I wish I could astral project my ass out all over America.

I just want to float. A balloon, a fog, a ghost. Float over the rooftops and across the East River and up, up, up over the skyscrapers of Manhattan and then just float float float.. Spend the next four years watching Americans laugh and sob and pray and fight. You won’t know I’m up there. No one will. I’ll wave and you won’t see me.

Written by

Editor, Humungus. I won two James Beard Awards once for an essay about Taco Bell. Let’s be friends.

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