Wednesday, January 11, 2006
PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5
The only good thing about the prior night was that since we’d gone to bed so late we didn’t have to share the tent’s awkwardness for too long. In the morning I tried to engage her in small talk but she was treating me as if I were public enemy number one. She seemed to find fault in my every action, my previously endearing mannerisms now her pet peeves, my words just wrong. Now, there are many things I suck at but predicting behavior based on inferences and context clues is not one of them. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you attention to detail and comprehension are to me as natural as eating Mexican food and throwing lefty. In short, I knew where this was going, and knew to expect more of this before we got there.
We left the tent without exchanging pleasantries and I joined my team.
Disappointingly, our team was to continue playing cupcakes until our last round, when we’d get to play a bunch of duders whose manhoods were clearly defined within the biking shorts they wore. This whole thing with my girlfriend was really starting to get to me, but a cruel glimmer of hope sparkled its chatoyant light in my eyes when she and some of her teammates came to watch the better portion of our last game. Perhaps I became distracted at this thought of harmonious resolution, because despite playing pretty fucking well all game I spaced at the game’s most crucial moment and we lost in a barnburner.
As soon as the game ended, the talk immediately shifted to the night’s revelry, and the hedonism danced in the pupils of friend and foe alike. I was still bumming about my romantic situation, and this perhaps guided my fate towards its predictable conclusion. I allowed my stress to steer my decision making, so when I was introduced to the game of “punch the bag of Franzia and chug it” it made sense to me. It was a release I could comprehend, and I played it with élan. I must have gone twelve rounds with that bag, and the night would show it won in a no-brainer judge’s decision. I for one drank somewhere between two and three liters of wine worth about four dollars in fifty minutes.
I staggered to the showcase field for the day’s final game, but was intercepted by two damned harbingers of malaise. The first was my friend Don Steg with a Tupperware of pot brownies, and being famished, I ate four. The second was my friend on Sockeye, one of a few, who at this moment was in full Wade mode. His smile revealed his shiny teeth, and I made the error of focusing on their ethereal glow rather than the words he was saying. I drifted back into the conversation in time to hear “shrooms at the party for you,” and before I knew it, he was walking in the opposite direction and I was still nodding my head affirmatively.
I watched Team USA and Canada play in a close but boring game of Ultimate. Like hornets and their stingers, neither team was fully willing to invest itself knowing a rematch the following day was likely. After the game, my girlfriend disappeared like the vapors and I found myself in the pleasant company of Bill Denver and other world’s team members as we headed to the showers in preparation for the party. In case your acumen is not as honed as mine, let me say that at this moment I was fucked up. I was a stone’s throw away from TAFS, “take a fucking seat”. In fact, as I showered amongst the cocks of some of the best players in the game, I thought the pressure of the showerhead itself might knock me over. These next few paragraphs are pieced together from witnesses to my actions and caustic moments of blurred memory. More or less I blacked out, but remember some of the important scraps.
The plan: Head to the party with Bill Denver, my teammates, and there dance, eat salmon, find my girlfriend, and share a few moments where alcohol might ease our tension. The reality: I arrived with my team, but within five minutes of entering the building, Wade found me. Then I remember him holding me by my long hair and pumping mushrooms into my mouth like a goose being prepped for fois gras. There is a moment where I found Ben Wiggins and remembered searching my pockets for the whittled toothbrush handle I’d prepared for just this meeting. Not finding it, we engaged in what I’m sure was an intelligible discussion on the finer points of Minimalism and its impact on architectural design, but the next thing I knew my roommate and friend Parker Krug was pulling me away because it seems the conversation was going to end with Ben, myself, or the both of us dead by our own hands. Then the shrooms really kicked in, and I started arguing with Idaho about who the fuck knows, maybe who’s more Mexican or who’s shanked more people or some shit. The next flash imagery is of me in line to get salmon, and someone scooping some onto my plate.
Now, despite the fact I was on enough controlled substances to subdue Hunter Thompson, you must remember this about me: I am a thinker. And the thing that was owning my brain was how much the current situation with my girlfriend fucking sucked, and how it was going to continue getting worse as the tournament progressed.
Some time later, it could have been the following instant or an hour afterwards, I remember someone tugging at my leg. I couldn’t make sense of it, but slowly came to and realized I was in an ivy bush face-down in my salmon dinner crying my eyes out at the beauty and ugliness of life and my friend Michael Bryce Whitaker was trying to talk to me, console me, and pull me out of the shrubbery. I love this man as a brother and say without hesitation that had he not pulled me out my chance of surviving the night was a coin toss. I truly believe this. Knowing the kind of man Whit is, I am sure there are others out there who have been in similar peril and been rescued by Stanford’s own Jiminy Cricket. I owe him my life. I rose to my feet still weeping like a Sicilian widow and in that state proceeded to be led to the buses that were shipping people back to the fields. That was not a world I was ready to enter, a metal drunk tank on wheels and me with snot dripping out my nose and ranting about everything going on with my girlfriend at the top of my lungs.
Thankfully, miraculously, as we approached the line waiting for the bus my guardian angel sent Will Henry by driving his car back to the fields, and instantly recognizing I was in need of assistance, offered to drive us back. Bless his heart and a million apologies because at this point the shrooms were peaking and I was spilling a diarrheic soliloquy about my love life that he didn’t need to be burdened with. Nonstop. Without exaggeration I talked for the next two hours without pause. We arrived at the fields, and this is a moment I won’t forget, because it is when you are at your highest despair that your true friends reveal themselves. My Colorado roommates, a girl I’d wronged, people I’d ditched to play on my Potlatch team, they came to me and welcomed me and looked after me by their tent until I started coming down. I’d not seen my girlfriend since the end of the day’s games and the only thing I wanted to do was lie in the privacy of our tent and sober up, and maybe even steal a nap if the demon dreams of hallucination would allow it.
I unzipped the flap, entered the tent, and collapsed in a heap on the sleeping bags. How long I laid there I don’t know, but I remember slowly coming to and all of Team USA and others were shot gunning beers right outside. Amongst cheers and jeers and crushed cans I thought I made out the voice of my girlfriend, and decided I would compose myself and try to socialize a bit. I snapped to, opened the tent flap, and stepped outside deliberately and coherently. She saw me emerge and shot me a look of horror, disgust?
In night’s uncertain shadows it was hard to read. She was talking to a former teammate of mine and a fellow Wisconsin alum and seemed insulted I would interrupt the conversation with my emergence.
“Hey, what’s up? What’s everyone doing?” I mustered, and she replied coolly and accusingly, “What are you doing?”
“Just coming out to rally and hang out,” I replied, but I’d not finished the sentence before she and my former teammate turned their backs to me and began walking in the opposite direction. I may have said something to the effect of wanting to talk with her and she may have said something to the effect of saying I was fucked up, I don’t remember if that part happened or not. What did happen is she continued walking without hesitation or a glance back, and I sat with Tully and others and contemplated the scene.
I retreated back into the tent defeated and looking to sleep. Again I laid there for some time and when I emerged from the tent once more my girlfriend was nearby still continuing the conversation from before. I know she saw me, and I know she wanted no part of me because they again walked away, this time to the red truck and sped off. To where, I didn’t know. I was exhausted and my mind was working with the clarity that always comes at a shrooming trip’s end. I was alert and everything around me was in a focus sharp enough to cut me.
I’m not sure how long I sat by the tent. I had no idea what time it was. It was that time of the day when the shadows worm out of the ground against the morning’s sunrise. Light and dark were in limbo as were the thoughts of frustration and compassion that flickered in my head. I decided to lap around the fields to get blood flowing and some fresh air, but when I reached the opposite end of the field, by the far parking lot, a most peculiar thing happened. I thought I was hallucinating again because there, parked one hundred yards away, I swore was the red truck. The red truck I had come to the fields in, the same one that had sped away as I emerged from the tent moments before. I approached cautiously, hesitantly.
Have you ever had a moment when you’ve come down from your trip, and you see something you know is real, but inside you hope against rational thought that you might still be tripping, that it might be something your mind is painting in your vision but is not really there?
When I was no more than forty yards away I saw her, I saw them. They were in the truck and she sat up quickly and made eye contact with me. Her face was anguish, alarm, shock, anger, all within ten seconds, a grotesque Marcel Marceau act. We just stared at each other as I continued to walk towards the truck, and he feigned fatigue and looked around the inside of the truck for something he could stare at. Slowly, she adjusted herself and stepped out of the truck. I was ten yards away. We faced each other like Western duelers and it was some time before either of us spoke.
“What do you want me to say?” she asked.
“I don’t know. What can be said?” It was obvious to both of us what was happening but we would waltz around the situation.
“I don’t think we should be together.” It was an observation that didn’t need vocalizing, but she found it a better alternative than anything else.
“That’s obvious. What should we do right now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come back to the tent with me, please.” I was pleading. This all felt so terribly awkward, so childish.
“Because I don’t want to.” At the time this comment seemed terribly juvenile, but months later as I think about it I realize it was the perfect riposte for the conversation we were having.
At this point we both just wanted to be away from each other, and he was looking in the truck’s dash for some ejector seat button that would jettison him away from all this ugliness. I took my leave without saying another word and walked back to the tent. She opened the door and returned to the safety of the truck.
As I approached my tent, Kyle Weisbrod intercepted me and I broke down the hour’s news. I told him I just wanted to lie down, but he convinced me to drive with him and his peerless fiancé Sarah Gravelin to breakfast, where I could eat some food, rehydrate, get ready to play another day of ultimate, and contemplate the emotional sinkhole I’d walked into these last 40 hours. We got in the car and drove away, the first break from the fields I’d had since arriving. My eyes squinted from the morning’s effulgence.