Amerijuana by Hugh Dunome
MY MOUTH WOKE ME UP. It was wide open, resting on old carpet decorated with last night’s party, covering the floor of a decades-old RV in the middle of a desert. For reasons related to the mess on the floor, the camper’s door, like my mouth, was wide open and the sands of the Mojave had let themselves in, taking the liberty of feeding me an early breakfast. I was lying in misery, too paralyzed to move, as the buzz left my body so quickly you could smell it.
It was freezing and the wind was slapping the open door off the side of the RV. My head was thumping and I didn’t have a blanket. Or a shirt. My pants were missing too. Dawn was slowly taking over night and the stars were punching out for their shift as I scrambled to make sense of what was happening and just where the fuck I was.
Water. Pee. Advil. Clothes.
I didn’t care what order they came in, but I was desperate for all of them. Any of them. Pee won. It was too much of a journey to walk three feet to make my way outside, so I just stumbled into a standing position and shot it out the PHFWAPPING door hole. Mid-stream, I assessed my situation. The camper was a mix between a murder scene and a gay orgy. Bodies strewn amongst bottles and trash – two half-naked dudes sharing a small mattress with no sheet in the back and another sprawled face first on a couch with his legs somehow still on the floor.
Thank God – I knew these people. I’d never in my life been as excited to see a half-naked man. Ben, on the couch, was snooling, which is when you’re snoring out of your nose, while simultaneously drooling out of your mouth. I was relieved that I wasn’t alone and impressed that he was hydrated enough to actually drool.
Mmmm. Drool. Need. Water.
I shook, reholstered and pinpointed the Advil, along with the first Solo cup I could
find. In the battle to quench my thirst, I made that liquid disappear faster than a Dyson on a late-night infomercial. Unfortunately, it was straight gin. I surged for the door, knowing that the booze I had just put down was about to rise much faster than the sun. However, Ben’s pasty, naked-man legs got in the way, tossing him from the couch to the rug and and sending me flying out the door while projectile vomiting. Luckily, the ground where I landed was soft and I had plenty of puke saved up from last night’s’ drunken power-grazing to break my fall. Unluckily, I landed on my ribs, knocking the wind out of me, in the spot where I had just peed.
It was like an arts and crafts project where glitter sticks to the glue on paper — but a drunk naked man was the paper, dirt and sand were the glitter, and a you-call-it mix of vomit, urine and a dabble of blood as the glue,. I flailed around the sand as though I were wrestling a snow angel, trying to catch my wind while still puking. My lungs were imploding and my stomach was exploding. Noises like that cannot be replicated. It sounded like Chewbacca was fucking an entire petting zoo as I fought the violent panic of not being able to breathe.
“You okay, man?”
I recognized the pasty man-legs in the camper’s doorway as Ben’s, and I finally inhaled for the first time in what seemed like a week. I tried to stand, but immediately collapsed back into my wet, chunky, bright-orange sand mess. It was evident that I had been the one who ate all the Doritos.
“(Chewbacca moan)…. Yeah….I’m cool…(goat orgasm)…I was just…(piq queef)…I just…the cup had…(Chewbacca faking it)…then….I fell…”
“…dude, your legs are gross.”
“Oh my god that fucking stinks… Is that fucking PUKE?”
“And pee. Can you get me some water?”
“Huuahhh… I can’t… huuahhh …puke makes me puke.”
“Just breathe through your (one last farm-house whinny) mouth and toss me a bottle.”
(Hiding from inside the trailer, holding his nose)” “… Huuahhh … We don’t have any.”
“We’re in a fucking desert.”
“We forgot it at Walmart, remember?”
“You got pissed and yelled at Dave, remember?”
“….There’s beer or tonic water…?”
“Fuck…I cut my knee… Beer.”
“I’m just gonna leave it by the… huuahhh… door… I can’t come out there.”
And there I sat, naked in the sand at sunrise, sipping the saddest, warmest, most disgusting Bud heavy of my life. We were in the middle of a vast valley pocked with boulder groves and tiny trees, surrounded by silhouettes of jagged peaks. The valley seemed peaceful, but lonely too. Maybe I added to that.
Six months earlier, I quit a job in banking with a fancy-sounding title and salary, ended things with a woman, sold everything I owned and moved across the country in search of life’s next big thing or happiness or success or love or whatever the fuck I thought was important at the time. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy with who I was six months earlier, and I wasn’t happy with sandy orange puke guy either.
And those other guys in the camper?
Dave – College friend. Super smart. Blunt. Genuine. Competitive. Usually wins. Dickhead. Loves to drink. Likes to fight. Usually loses. Big Thinker. Bigger Dickhead.
Charlie – Dave’s roommate from England. your typical egomaniacal Investment Banker. American Psycho with a shittier suit and a better accent. Will buy you a beer only to later kick you in the nuts for no reason. Lies frequently about: His women, his wallet and his weiner. Once watched him lose $4,000 in 3 minutes at a roulette table and cry. Insecure.
Ben – Dave’s cousin. Real nice guy. Accountant. Makes sense. He was available and said yes to the trip.
And the plan?
Los Angeles – Rent RV – Joshua Tree – Drugs – Sleep – Drive – San Diego – Party – Sleep – Tijuana – Drugs, Party, Drugs – Sleep – Los Angeles
Complacent, horny, and unhappy, with just a little disposable income from working on Wall Street. It was a recipe for disaster. Or fun. A rag-tag team of whoever was available and down to get fucked up.
“Hey, I’m bored.”
“Me too, wanna come to California and do some drugs?”
“FUCK Yeah…Let’s get an RV and drive to Tijuana.”
Male subtext for:
“I miss you – I’m confused about my identity and where I’m supposed to be in life.”
“Tell me about it, brother… I don’t know how to handle this… want to escape both physically and mentally?”
“Absolutely. Let’s also escape emotionally by visiting the sinning hell-fires of Tijuana. We can bond for life and repress how we really feel by doing bad things together.”
“This is exactly what I need right now! Thank God… someone to enable me. It gives me hope knowing that that someone else can empathize. I love you.”
We were all smarter than our own good, thought we were even smarter, and were struggling to identify like anyone in their twenties. We thought a trip to Joshua Tree followed by some Tijuana trouble might shed some light. Don’t tell me you’ve never been there. Unless you’re reading this and you’re not in your twenties yet. In that case, go eat whatever you want and not get fat, whine about Homecoming Court and masturbate 5 times a day. I was a teenager once.
“Can you pack a bowl? And throw me the paper towels so I can wipe this shit off me.”
“…We don’t have any paper towels… we forgot them at Walmart too… OHH Shit, I found the water!! We stopped at that 7-11, remember?”
Part II: Hi(gh)king
When the sun had finally crawled over the mountains, and after a much-needed hose-off, the group convened for a breakfast of gas station powdered donuts, a warm hair of the dog and hot, heaping bowls of Sour Diesel.
The new plan was to go for a long day hike through Joshua Tree National Park. The old plan was to go for a long day hike through Joshua Tree National Park on mushrooms. But the guys were flying in from the east coast and I couldn’t find any boomers on short notice. I did however manage to score a shit-ton of medical marijuana snacks by asking my neighbor, who had his weed card.
“Ya, brah, fer sure! Whaddya’ need?”
“I trust your judgment, here’s $200.”
“WE’RE GONNA BE FRIENDS.”
We never were. Brownies, chocolate bars, rice crispy treats, and even weed-laced–goldfish filled the tiny RV table. Like edible treasure, we each buried one in our mouths, grabbed what was left of the water, stuffed two beers and a bottle of water into our cargo shorts – because they were still fashionably acceptable at the time – and headed off toward some boulders in the distance.
After 45 minutes of walking, we reached them. The desert has a funny way of messing with your sense of distance. We thought we’d be there in 15, tops. I was definitely still feeling last night, but the throbbing in my head eased as the blood pumped through my body. We scrambled up to the highest point that we could reach, cracked a beer and took in the sights.
If you’ve never had a chance to visit JTNP, here are some nouns and adjectives to describe this place: hot, dry, sun, beige, dry, hot, stars, mountains, rocks, sun, repetitive, hot, sun, beige, rocks, dry, rocks, beige, hot.
Dave and Charlie added to the serenity,
“I think you got ripped off, dude. Those brownies are bullshit.”
“Yeah, man. I don’t feel a thing. Who robbed you?”
I wasn’t feeling anything either and started to side with them.
“Neighbor downstairs. He’s a white guy with dreads in his thirties who longboards everywhere, so I just figured…yah know…he’d know.”
“…Never trust a white guy with dreads.”
Hmmmmm. We’re smart. We can figure this out.
“Maybe we just didn’t eat enough?”
So we each buried another and washed it down with our last warm Bud. We decided to push on and collected our things to make our descent to the desert floor. As I reached the ledge of the boulder, something seemed different. I only remember climbing up maybe 35 feet, but the ground now seemed twice as far away… and it was… slowly sinking away from me.
“Oh my God…the ground is getting lower!”
No. We were getting higher. And higher and higher and higher. It hit us like a heat-seeking freight train that ran us over one by one, then put it in reverse and ran us over again. We clung to the rocks, unable to judge if the ledge below was four feet or forty. Nothing seemed normal and everything felt funny, but like ha-ha funny, and it was hilarious and we said whatever came to mind.
“My feet feel wet.”
“But… They… can’t be wet… we’re in the desert…”
“…I’m telling you, I’m pretty sure my feet are wet.”
It took 30 minutes to climb down what took us 3 minutes to climb up and we huddled up against the rocks in the only spot of shade that we could find. The sun was as high as it could get that day, but we weren’t. The brownies continued to heighten as our ability to constructively communicate rapidly declined.
“We should go home.”
“You want to go home?”
“No… I mean… I mean… like our home… for the trip.”
“Ohhh… to the…. not bus… the car… that we have… but it’s bigger than a car…”
“Yeah, the RV… we should go back to the RV.”
Our minds were melting and the heat didn’t help. The water was gone and keeping the group together and on pace was like trying to herd a colony of feral cats with two heads and three dicks.
“Everything fucking looks the same.”
Like a painted set of a city street spinning on repeat in the background of an old film, the shrubs and the rocks and the Joshua Trees started to repeat themselves and blend into a bright beige smoothie where shade wasn’t a thing. I was on Nature’s treadmill and I wanted to get off and hit the showers, but my legs just weren’t listening. The camper was nowhere to be found, and after another hour of walking, we realized it.
“Fuck. We’re lost.”
At the same time, we noticed something else unexpected – massive black storm clouds in the desert rolling our way. High as we were, we still knew that we were in prime flash flood territory and the RV was parked on very low ground. The brownies had an influence on my word choice.
“Those clouds are very mad at us.”
The party turned to paranoia and we each panicked in different ways. Charlie showed his inner character, whimpering like a puppy, while Dave paced in circles pulling at his hair, repeating,
“I wish you could feel how I feel right now.”
That would be the key to peace on earth. The second brownie made Ben mute and he just sat down, sweating in the sand dirt with his arms cradling his knees. I stood silent as well, not because I was playing it cool, but because I just internalize everything until I collapse – ask any of my ex-girlfriends. I spoke boldly as a leader should and urged them to keep going,
“You guys… I… we just… flash flood… I think… I mean… we need to keep going.”
We pulled ourselves together – at least on the outside – and started to jog in any direction, hoping for a miracle. Three hours had passed since we left and the clouds offered welcome relief to our sunburn. As it started to drizzle, the falling drops pinged our bodies so hard it felt like they pierced our skin and cooled us from the inside out. We climbed to the highest point we could find and scanned for home base. We didn’t see an RV, but we did see something in the distance.
“…Just a couple of antelopes.”
It wasn’t. We stared hard into the distance as the rain picked up. What was that?
We could roughly make out a few people scrambling to pack up a tent. We had no idea if that’s where the camper was, but haste was made and I swear the faster we ran, the harder the rain responded. As a lioness chases the weakest gazelle of the pack, the storm was hunting us and we were the lame game running for our lives.
Our visibility was worsening and the ground was getting soft and slippery as we ran up a hill and down a hill and up another and boy my legs sure do feel silly and fuck that’s a cactus and past a bush and then over a hill and,
The ground had given way beneath my feet and I tumbled head over heels down the hill, through bushes, over rocks and landed on my hip. As my vomit had broken my fall earlier that morning, the RV keys and long wooden keychain now did the same as I landed hard, digging them into my thigh. It was too painful to move or make words, so I just moaned in the mud and listened to something familiar.
Dave had been following in my footsteps and came rolling down the same path through the same bushes to land directly on top of me, sending the keys again into my leg and pushing more moans from my mouth. He interrupted our muddy cuddle session.
“Dude, good job!”
I assumed he was complimenting me on how I knew how to hold another man, but he was already up, out of our bed and running away – men, amiright? There it stood, 100 feet behind me, our awaiting chariot. I hobbled over, pried the keys from my leg, unlocked the RV door and we all piled in. We stripped off our soaked clothes and decided what to do, butts out.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here!”
We were all way too out of our minds to drive, but we didn’t have a choice – the road we had parked on was carved through a 20-foot valley, which had now turned to a quickly rising riverbed already a few inches deep. We were calculating risk-takers and we reviewed the facts to make a logical decision on who should drive.
“You smoke the most weed, man…. and didn’t you used to drive a truck?”
Both of those things held true. I did smoke the most weed – by far – and once I did spend almost a full week driving a ‘super-cube’ truck for a film production company.
On the fifth day of work, it rained. I crashed the truck. I got fired.
“Yeah, I guess there’s only one man for the job.”
After all, Charlie didn’t have a driver’s license, Dave lived in Manhattan without a car and Ben still hadn’t spoken since lunch. I sat behind the wheel, took a breath and shook my head to gain my wits. It was either sit here in a storm with an unknown fate or get the fuck out of there with destiny in our own hands… just at like 15mph, because I was still tripping balls… and Wow… hands, haaannndss… that’s a weird word.
“San Diego is close.”
The wipers were on full blast and we crossed double yellow lines as the storm blew hard against the side of the RV. The rain mixed with hail and it filled the cabin with a roar as ice balls connected with moving metal. We could barely make out road signs, but we knew that San Diego sat southwest of us, so I pointed her in that direction, even though we were unknowingly taking every wrong road imaginable.
We continued as desert turned to mountain and we crawled up a pass. The rain remained, the day was now gone and our headlights were on. They swang left and then right and then left again as the road curved and we ascended, illuminating the road and the edge of our surroundings. To our left was another lane carved into the side of a mountain and blind curves hid the cars ahead. To our right was a sheer cliff without a guardrail. The drugs made 30 mph seem like we were traveling at the speed of light.
Dave was sitting shotgun, trying to navigate a paper map, and Charlie was up in the compartment that sits above the driver, looking out the window and shouting alerts to me in a new language that the brownies had designed every time a car passed close and we hugged the mountain’s edge,
My knuckles were white as I whipped the wheel and worked the pedals – I was terrified, but too focused to let it show. After another gut-wrenching, butt-clenching hour of vehicular horror, we finally crested our last pass to civilization, signified by the glowing valley of lights sparkling below us. The rain stopped and we all exhaled.
“See guys, I knew we were gonna be just fine.”
Ben broke his silence that had lasted half the day. On a normal drive in a normal car with normal substances, this trip should have taken two-and-a-half-hours. It took us six. We managed to find an RV park south of San Diego. Cracked out from weed and adrenaline as we limped into our stall, I killed the engine and turned to Dave…
“When it comes to weed… always trust a white guy with dreads.”
PART III: Breakfast
I was sitting in the back of a cab on a scorching Saturday morning, squished in between two large, sweaty men I was slowly starting to hate, trying to fight off their stink with even more of mine as we crawled in a long line of ants towards the U.S./Mexico border crossing.
“Jesus Christ, is there some amazing Saturday brunch special in Mexico that we don’t know about?”
The cabbie only responded by being a shitty driver. Each jerk of the brakes was a tug at my intestines and every turn sent my stomach tumbling, along with the few scattered thoughts my brain managed to eke out. I swear he was going out of his way to make the ride as uncomfortable as possible.
It was Day Three of my bender. I was somewhere between still drunk from last night and stoned from my morning smoke to shake the headache and start the day. In hindsight, I was acting out – prior foresight had planned on it. Like a massive weekend bender as a life Band-Aid to add some clarity to what the fuck I’m supposed to be doing. This comes off as backwards thinking to most, but sometimes it takes going to my saddest places to find perspective and hope again. Like the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn”, except this is self-perpetuated by some internal sickness that likes to taunt the dark back into my life when it could easily be sunny and 72.
The cabbie braked hard to avoid a car that he almost hit. He should really find a new job. As we flew forward in our seats, so did Dave’s frustrations.
‘…The fuck is the skinny Teabag-wank sitting in the front while I’m covered in your fat fucks’ sweat?”
He was referring to the skinny Brit. The four of us had now spent 50 straight fucked-up hours together in a mobile space smaller than a studio apartment. The cheer and camaraderie had quickly melted into a pool of mutual dissent marked with quick caveman jab-grunts, fueled by the fact that our only sustenance in the last few days had been served by either Frito-Lay or Anheuser-Busch.
‘Suck a dick.’
‘You suck a dick.’
“…Not my fault you’re a fat, sweaty daft cow…
…who sucks dick…”
Boiling Point. Dave did what we all wanted to do to Charlie and his smug British face. He looked at me, smiled, put up each hand with the “OKAY” sign, and then leaned forward, screamed like he was jumping off a cliff, and used every bit of built up tension between his thumbs and forefingers to flick Charlie in the back of of his oversized, pompous English ears.
AAAAAHHHUUUGGGGGHHHRRRAAAWWWWWWWRRRRFRR…FUCK YOU FUCKING… FUCK!!!…BLOODYSTEEEWWWPID DICK FUCK!!!
Charlie freaked and swung his arms behind him while struggling with his seat belt, like a bound man being stung by bees, trying to punch Dave anywhere he could reach. Dave simply flicked his ears again.
FUCCCCCCCKKKKKK!!! ……JESUS…YOU’RE FUCKING DEAAAAA…..
I’m pretty sure he was trying to say ‘dead,’ but that’s when things really escalated. Dave got Charlie in a classic, from behind, taxi-cab chokehold as our ambiguously brown driver screamed words in a language I didn’t know and Charlie’s face morphed to purple. These two were roommates in a tight NYC apartment and it was clear that whatever was happening went much deeper than who thought the other should suck that dick they had been debating about.
Ben jumped in and tried to get the three of them to stop yelling by yelling as loudly as he could,
“EVERYBODY STOP YELLING!!!”
Surprisingly, it didn’t work. People kept yelling. Charlie kept struggling. Dave kept taunting,
“What’s up now, ya Limey bitch?”
I just laughed. The cabbie did not. He hit his brakes as hard as he could, wrenching, the now seatbelt-less Charlie from Dave’s grasp and and into the windshield as the three of us in back tumbled around like a bag of loose nuts, which is exactly what we were.
Our driver was quite persistent that we exit his vehicle, but Charlie had him beat. He was already outside, pulling at Dave’s door, and welcomed him with a half-landed curbside punch in the face, which quickly spilled onto the sidewalk, where Dave tackled Charlie into the grass. Ben tried to pull them off one another as they tumbled, but it actually looked like he just couldn’t decide which one he wanted to doggy-style dry-hump.
I handed the still cursing cab driver $50 on a $28 fare, casually walked over to the tumbleweed of men and threw my body into the air as high as I could for a classic pile-on. As I finished my descent and my weight crashed down on them, you could hear the air leave their bodies from any hole it could escape.
The cars stuck in the same traffic fueled the fire by honking their horns in horror and encouragement at the free show. We rolled around the grass with only shouts of profanity to pad us as a passenger popped her head from a sunroof, arms above her head and bellowed deep like a farmer calling pigs to supper.
“WHHOOOOWWEEEEE…. KICK! HIS! AAAAASSSSSSSS!!!”
And for some odd reason, in that moment, those words transported us back to ten-year-olds. The fighting turned into an ultimate wrestling cage match, which turned into rough housing, descended into general grab-assery and finally giggles. Like children on summer break, we laid on the grass, limbs intertwined, tears streaming down our face from laughing, exchanged occasional slaps, and tried to catch our breath between laughs at the ridiculousness we had had just put ourselves through. We were covered in grass stains and Charlie had lost his shirt in the battle. It was 10:30am. We looked insane.
“What the HELL are you guys doing?!?!”
The laughing stopped. I looked up to see a fat man in his forties with a mustache and eyeglasses dated by two decades dressed in a sleeveless white dress shirt and a tie he should have been ashamed of. His nametag read Glen. After a long, silent pause, I responded straight-faced,
“I lost my contact lens.”
Everyone lost their shit, except for Glen, of course, who clearly knew that I was full of it. He pointed to his left and with intensely wide eyes, he whisper-yelled,
“Take that shit somewhere else. It’s Saturday morning and I’m slammed!”
The grass we were using as our MMA Octagon also moonlighted as the front yard of a Denny’s restaurant. We looked to where he was pointing. A long line of families was spilling out of the restaurant door no more than 30 feet from us and had just served as our audience while eagerly waiting to be seated and consume their Moons over My Hammy®. Some smiled. Some frowned. Some laughed. Most held their children close to them.
“Actually, Glen, it looks like you’re Grand Slam®’med.”
“…. Table for four, please.”
Amazingly, he let us eat there. In fact, we finished and paid before some of those families even sat down – pretty sure that Glen wanted us out of there ASAP, even though I know he loved the Grand Slam joke deep down inside. He probably used it on his monthly regional sales call and got a laugh from all the other Glen’s and Keith’s and Doreen’s on the line.
It just goes to show you – if you act like a total jerk in a cab, proceed with reckless abandon in public and traumatize children with a shirtless, ghostly pale Englishman before they even have a chance to color their placemats, you often get what you want before those around you who are acting like boring old normal people following the rules. You just have to pay double for cab fare.
Read this and other raucous ramblings in SN8:Nightmoon – available on Amazon!