Well, it's official – we're all on drugs. At least I know I am.
After our dosing this morning, my brain has been floating in a haze all day. I feel like I'm stuck in a loony bin, with all these restrictions and a lack of sharp focus. Please, don't let me go bananas here, Dr. Nelson.
Today's episode in the "white room," our new nickname for it, was a trip and a half. I was floating through space, cosmic and mind-bending. I knew it was all a dream, but damn if it didn't feel like I was truly cruising among the stars. Time twisted – seconds stretched into years, and the whole thing felt like an endless ride. The twist? I was fully aware I was in a dream. This wasn't your run-of-the-mill dream where you're just a passenger hopping between scenes with zero clue it's all in your head. Nope, I was wide awake in there.
Luckily for this one, we all managed to make it through the second dose unscathed. Miraculously, we're all still standing—though I won't go so far as to say I'm thrilled about that. Cough**Rudy**Cough Thankfully, today's dose didn't feature any horror-filled reactions.
After a while, they herded us into the common room for what they called a "group introduction session." Bonding boot camp, right out the gate on day two. Dr. Nelson laid down the law and asked us to dish out some personal information about ourselves. We formed a makeshift circle and Randy made sure to sandwich himself between me and Emily who was on my left. On Emily's left was Chuck, then Ben, then Chester, followed by Frank. Oh, and let's not forget Rudy, who scored the prime seat right across from me – what luck. On Rudy's left, we had Amanda, then Lynette, and the line-up continued with Kyle, Michael, Walter, and Jeff, who ended up as my right-hand man.
And of course, Dr. Nelson picked me to talk first – how charmed my life is.
"My name is Jack McCoy, and I'm a gambling addict."
Smooth move, Jack. It slipped out like a prerecorded message. To my surprise, Amanda, the short-haired feminist lady, gave me a friendly nod – either she's been to some kind of an anonymous meeting or she's just genuinely nice.
I kept it simple, mentioning my Revere, Massachusetts roots and my various odd jobs. No need to tell the gangster debt part, right?
"Thank you, Jack. Randy, please go next," Dr. Nelson said.
Randy looked around like a deer caught in headlights, then sucked in half the room's oxygen through his nose before speaking. "Hey, folks, I'm Randy, and right now, I gotta take a massive shit," he announced, and laughter erupted from all corners of the room. Bravo, Randy. Keep the bathroom talk coming.
"I got me a wife and two kids at home. Stupid bitch was threatening to divorce me if I didn't get a job, and uh, that's how I got here," Randy continued, shamelessly sharing his life's ups and downs. You gotta admire his honesty, though.
"I used to be a janitor at the high school, but I got fired for hitting a student," he confessed, looking down at the floor.
"Why did you hit the student?" Dr. Nelson inquired, appearing behind Randy like a curious ghost.
"He was a real piece of work, tormenting this kid, giving him a hard time, and shoving him around," Randy grumbled, clearing his throat. "My brother was gay, and he used to be on the receiving end of this sort of crap back when we were young. He was a good man. I lost him a few months ago in a brutal car accident. The guy behind the wheel was plastered, and... well, no, hold on..."
Something's gnawing at him, that's for sure.
"Anyway, every time that jackass bullied this kid, all I could see was my little brother. It was like he was right there, and then I just... I just lost it," he finished, voice breaking with a sniffle.
Dr. Nelson, now staring at Rudy's hair in apparent disgust, thanked Randy for sharing and expressed condolences for his loss. Awkward silence followed.
Next up was Emily, who stood up and professed that she's not in it for money because "she's like super rich" but wants to see what this drug does to her brain, like enhancing her memory or something...
"That's fucking stupid!" Chester interjected from a few spots away. Chester, the dapper car salesman with the perfect teeth. He's the guy you meet for two days, and you already can't stand him.
Dr. Nelson quickly attempted to shut Chester down, but Chester wouldn't back down.
"We don't know what the hell this drug is going to do, lady. I mean, look at what happened to that girl yesterday!" Chester ranted, getting louder and louder.
Randy, our hulking defender, stood up, marched over to Chester, and loomed above him like a furious giant.
"You give this girl the respect of keeping your fucking mouth shut. You hear me, pal?" Randy thundered.
The guards twitched towards us, but the doctor waved them off. Randy the Savage, my new nickname for him.
Chester, not wanting to wrestle the human mountain of hair, cowered down. "Whatever, man," he mumbled, wisely choosing to back off.
"Thank you, Randy. Please go back and sit down," Dr. Nelson calmly said, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Emily picked up where she left off, mentioning she didn't feel anything from the drugs except it put her to sleep and when she woke up she felt groggy and unfocused. I guess she didn't get the dream package in her doses.
"Thank you, Emily. Chuck, the floor is yours!"
I swear Chuck could wrestle a bear and come out on top. He stood up, towering over us with his barrel chest and tattoos.
"I’m Chuck Meyers, former US Marine, and, uh, I do steel framing for the city. Or I did until my back gave up on me, and now I'm chilling here. Thanks, y'all." The man is to the point, I'll give him that.
"Thank you, Chuck. Next up, Ben," Dr. Nelson called out, directing the spotlight to the shy and awkward Ben.
"Um… so, I’m here to pay off my student loans, or at least a good chunk of 'em. Oh, I’m Ben, by the way…" Ben's freckled face was apologetic, like he thought we'd yell at him for speaking.
Dr. Nelson probed, "Hello Ben, what were you studying?"
Ben giggled nervously, "Uh, that’s the thing, nothing really. I got student loans for an online school and used the extra cash to hit up Las Vegas and try my hand at being a... a... stand-up comedian." His face turned red like a ripe tomato, and we couldn't help but wonder how that Vegas adventure went.
"Tell us a joke!" Michael chimed in with excitement.
Ben froze, staring at the ceiling, desperately searching for a funny bone to tickle. Finally, he gave in, "Okay, um… a man was at a bar drinking, when a genie sat next to him and said he could grant two wishes. The man thought, 'No way!' But he gave it a shot anyway. First wish was an endless glass of beer. Poof! The genie granted it, and the man was chugging away like a frat boy. But guess what? The glass never emptied! So, he took a big gulp, put the glass down, and it was still full. The man was over the moon! Then the genie asked for his second wish, and the man thought for a bit. He looked at the genie, then at the full glass of beer, and said, 'Well, I guess I’ll take another one.'"
Kyle and I laughed, but it seemed like the rest of the room was still trying to process it. Poor Ben, tough crowd.
Ben looked around, shrugged, and said, "Yeah, well, that’s why I’m here. It didn’t go so hot." He sat down and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. How the fuck does a kid that shy get the ambition to be a stand up comedian? Baffling.
"Thank you, Ben. Now it's your time to shine, Chester," Dr. Nelson said, with a hint of sarcasm.
Chester, the wide-eyed big talker, flashed a smile like he was about to sell us something we didn't need. "I’m Chester, currently from Boston, originally from Sacramento—"
Californian, huh? That explains so much.
"—I am here for the money. I’ve done many of these trials in the past, and let me tell you, this one is the strictest. But hey, rules are meant to be broken, am I right?" He chuckled, and winked over at Emily. Her annoyed look was priceless.
He kept on yapping, and yapping, and yapping. I swear I saw dust gathering on some people's shoulders, waiting for him to finish. Even the flies started to drop dead from his endless drone of nonsense.
Finally, Dr. Nelson politely thanked him and moved on to Frank.
Frank, the mysterious Asian guy, looked like he'd rather be elsewhere. He's been eating his meals in the corner, always in a hurry to retreat to his room. When Dr. Nelson called on him, Frank just shook his head and bowed. Silence speaks volumes, and Frank's silence said, "I'm here for the free food and to avoid small talk." No need for words when you've got your priorities straight.
Dr. Nelson barged into the circle and stood in front of Frank. He patted Frank's shoulder like they were old pals. "Okay, Frank, maybe not today, that's fine. Rudy, your turn, buddy."
Rudy, the creep with the smirk, looked around the room, probably trying to psych us out with his mind tricks.
"I am Rudy," he said, giving each of us the stink eye. "And that is all I am going to say."
Well, thanks for the riveting speech, Rudy. Maybe you'll write a novel next.
Dr. Nelson gave him an awkward nod and kept circling around the group. "Amanda, you're up next."
Amanda greeted us with an enthusiastic, "Helloooo everyone. I'm Amanda, call me Mandy if you want." Her voice had that loud projected vibe, like she was accustomed to speaking to large groups. Please, God, don't let her start lecturing us on the patriarchy I thought.
"I'm a veterinarian, and a recovering alcoholic," she confessed, and my eyes widened. Of course, she's been to meetings. "I lost my practice because I was too drunk to actually do my job," she admitted with a wince. "I'm sort of here for the money, but I'm also here because I've been sober for 3 months now and it's driving me up a fucking wall. I will take the money, but I really hope – I really, hope—"
Her voice trembled, and my heart sank. This woman has been through some shit.
"—that whatever this Formula 35C is, it gives me a way out of this darkness I feel. My daughter died two years ago, and I just can't get past it," she said, and tears started flowing like Niagara Falls.
I felt like a total douche for judging her earlier. Here I was, thinking she was just some tough feminazi, but she's dealing with some heavy stuff.
She covered her face, sobbing, and Dr. Nelson handed her a tissue. He patted her on the shoulder and whispered something in her ear. She smiled up at him through her tears, and I swear I saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
"Thank you, Amanda, thank you. Lynette, it's your turn," the doctor said.
"First off, honey, I'm so sorry for your loss," Lynette said, giving a slight hug to Amanda. Amanda quietly said thank you and hugged her back. Then Lynette faced the group again. "Alright, folks, I'm Lynette. I'm a single mother from Dorchester. Got three kids and I need this money for real. None of my little rascals know I'm here. I told 'em I was going away for a little while for a super-secret job. I ain't letting them know about this nutty experiment stuff."
She nodded. "That's it. Lynette's done talking."
"Thank you, Lynette. Kyle, your turn, young man." Dr. Nelson said.
Ah, here comes the man with the long hair and the 666 tattoo. Let's see what he's got for us.
"Hello, fellow lab rats! I am the one and only Kyle, and I'm here for one simple reason: to get freaking high, babypop!" he declared with a giant shit-eating grin.
The room filled with chuckles and nods of approval.
"Is that all, Kyle?" Dr. Nelson inquired.
"Yep, Doc, that's the short and sweet version. The money's nice, sure, but I'm on a quest, a mission to find that mind-blowing, life-altering chemical concoction that's nowhere to be found on the streets. You feel me?" he responded, laughing like a proper drug fiend.
Oh, we feel you, Kyle. We totally feel you.
"Alright, Kyle, I get you. Moving on! Michael, show us what you got!" Dr. Nelson said, clearly eager to keep the ball rolling.
Michael sprang up and struck a pose in the center of the circle.
"Hey there, my fellow friends!" he announced, spinning around to lock eyes with each and every one of us. "As you know, I'm from the land of the coffee and the cocaine – Colombia! I landed in this great country seven years ago, and let me tell you something, I'm passionate about cooking!" His grin radiated like a supernova. "Once this experiment is finished, I'm gonna whip up some mind-blowing dishes for each and every one of you because the grub we're getting here is, how should I put it, dog food quality!"
Randy couldn't hold it back and groaned, but the rest of us couldn't help but chuckle.
"Gracias, gracias! And hey, if any of you dare to challenge me to a battle of wits – aka chess – bring it on! I'm always game!" he added, throwing a dramatic wink our way before gracefully returning to his seat.
He's definitely got charisma. Maybe I should polish my dishwashing skills 'cause when this shits done, I wanna be first in line for a job.
As Dr. Nelson shifted his attention to a man named Walter, I realized he was like a hidden character, the mysterious old dude lurking in the shadows all this time. Walter was older, like he had just stepped out of a time capsule from the 1960s. The thick glasses and hermit-like vibe had me half expecting him to start reciting a bunch of hippie moon-star talk.
Everyone's gaze fell upon Walter, and he seemed lost in thought, rubbing his knees like a guy trying to conjure up some long-lost wisdom from his bones. Finally, he looked up and spoke.
"Good day, everyone. I reckon I've got a darn good idea what's a-brewin' here," he said, and Dr. Nelson paused behind Rudy, waiting for Walter to explain himself.
With an eerie intensity, Walter hissed, yes, like a damn cat. Then he covered his face with his hands and nervously peered around at each one of us in the circle, eventually fixing his gaze on Rudy.
"Deviant, sicko!" he suddenly shouted, pointing at Rudy.
Next, he turned to Chester and bellowed, "Lying and lustful cheat!" He continued on like a psycho fortune-teller, throwing insults at each one of us. Lynette was a fornicator, Randy a brute, Emily a murderer? Jeff a poisoner, Chuck a pervert, Amanda a drunk, Ben a homosexual and then he fixed his gaze on me and screeched, "Self-loving Scoundrel!"
Ummm. What the fuck. We were all taken aback, stunned into silence.
"That's all I got to say," he concluded, looking back down at the carpet.
Randy, never one to hold back, couldn't resist. "Hey, you old fuck, what about you?"
Walter lifted his head, locking his giant magnified eyes onto Randy, and launched into a sermon. "Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness. There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth." he declared, chomping his teeth at Randy like a rabid dog.
Randy just stared at him, shaking his head. "Fucking whack job," he muttered, speaking for all of us.
"All right, folks, that's enough soul-searching for today. Let's wrap it up with you, Jeff," Dr. Nelson smoothly interjected.
Jeff, affectionately known as the "poisoner" thanks to our devoutly religious friend, sat right beside me. He cleared his throat, looking a tad nervous, and said, "Uh, I'm Jeff, hailing from Malden. I'm 22, and I thought, 'Hey, why not make some quick bucks with this trial?'" He shifted in his seat, shooting me a desperate glance as if I held the secret to conquering stage fright. I gave him a supportive smile and nod, like I was his personal life coach. "Anyway, I bailed on college, and this trial is really rough, you know? I'm dying for a cigarette and a joint to ease my nerves. I mean, half the room is with me on this one. I could use some coffee too."
A chorus of empathetic nods and muffled agreements swept through the crowd. I totally felt his pain; a cigarette and a strong cup of joe would've been a godsend at that moment.
Dr. Nelson thanked Jeff for his honesty and instructed us to carry on with our routine until further notice.
The rest of the afternoon was dull. I took a nap and then had a slightly depressing dinner – a Caesar salad and garlic bread. It beats protein shakes, but not by much. I thought about starting a card game in the common room, but my lethargy got the best of me, and I decided to return here for some more shut-eye. I swear, I'm walking around like a sleepwalking zombie.
Well, I guess we'll rinse and repeat the whole shebang tomorrow. I'll drop you another line then to let you know how things are rolling. Right now, though, I'm just really, really tired.
Man, that fucking Walter. Can't shake the things he said outa my head.
Catch you later,