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psychedelicadventures.com

 

Justine
b. 1954
writer
resides in Westchester County, New York
born and raised in Yonkers, New York

 

  Lovers' last night in undulating Umbria

 

On June 29, 1973, I was eighteen and completing a year of Italian studies at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. My English boyfriend Martin and I had decided to take our first trip together on our last night in Italy before leaving for our respective homes in London and New York the following day. We’d fallen madly in love nine months previously and could think of no finer way to bed farewell tot our beloved Perugia.

Our closest friend Peter volunteered to babysit us that night to make sure that all went smoothly. Peter would stick to pot and wine, relinquishing the pleasures of the acid that Martin and I would take. Although I’d been smoking pot and hash, drinking wine, and doing uppers and downers during that school year, dropping acid was something I had never done, and I looked forward to it with giddy anticipation.

An Italian friend Roberto insisted that we use his apartment for the trip. People who do acid know that it is preferable to trip in a place that’s pleasant, interesting, fun and safe. Roberto’s flat was sensational, with gigantic floor-to-ceiling plants and trees everywhere, psychedelic posters, Dali-esque objets d’art, a king-sized bed on a canopied outdoor patio, flowers, candles, incense, and a fully stocked bar and refrigerator -- total luxury for us students.

Peter met Martin and me there at eight p.m. Roberto graciously left to give us our privacy, since we didn’t know him very well and might have felt awkward tripping in front of him. Peter brought records by the Rolling Stones, Janis, Jimi, Leon Russell, Jethro Tull, Cream, Blind Faith, the Allman Brothers, Humble Pie, Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa, Osibissa, Loggins and Messina, Fela Ransome‑Kuti, and just about everything else we’d been listening to all year.

We dropped the acid around nine after relaxing first with a couple of joints, wine and about forty cigarettes each. (I learned that year that eighteen-year-old bodies can take tremendous abuse, and, of course, we thought ourselves immortal). For the first hour or so, we felt nothing and complained to Peter, who assured us we’d be tripping soon.

Then I looked up at the wall and everything on a particular poster was swaying. The daisies were keeping time to “Purple Haze.” Then I began to see squiggly-looking creatures crawling the walls. -- totally benign and non-threatening, just fascinating. It was like being beamed to another planet where everything had a life of its own.

Martin seemed to be having similar experiences, and we began laughing and pointing out all these wonderful sights to each other. Everything seemed to be moving and dancing for our enjoyment. Meanwhile, Peter entertained us with the finest music ever composed, and showed us “traces” -- bright swirling streaks following his arms as he swung them around and around, sort of like the running lines of light made by car headlights in photographs taken at regular or slow speed.

At some point Martin and I traveled to some place we called Babyland in which we played with each others’ fingers for hours and believed ourselves to be infants. We laughed and we cried and it all felt good.

At dawn, we left the apartment, still mildly tripping at five thirty in the morning. We walked the deserted, cool cobblestone, ancient streets of Perugia back to our own apartment. The only other people around were a couple of street sweepers. Back at our flat, I threw open the shuttered windows and looked out upon the magnificent rolling green hills of Umbria. The sun was brilliant, and somewhere off in the distance church bells were ringing. As I gazed upon the distant tiny town of Spanolla, it suddenly collapsed upon itself and disappeared into the earth. Unless I’d just witnessed some catastrophic act of God, I was still tripping!

That morning, after we parted, I hallucinated mildly all the way to Rome on the train. I looked out the windows the entire ride and watched the trees undulate, even though there was no wind. The Italian countryside had never been more beautiful to me, vibrantly green and peaceful. The acid intensified my sadness tremendously. I was saying goodbye to a man I was completely in love with. We’d shared every experience for almost a year. We felt like one person, as though we were married.

I cried all day and collapsed into bed when I arrived in Rome. He was coming to New York in a few weeks, but our future was uncertain. Of course, being eighteen, we were convinced that we were fated to be together forever.

That September, I went to England and enrolled at the University of London. I stayed a few months, but things had changed by December. It just wasn't Italy anymore and we weren’t living together. I went home at Christmas and never went back.

I did see Martin again, two years later. We met up in Florence. I was hoping to recapture some of that magical Italian experience, but it didn't happen. There were money problems, traveling problems. Nothing seemed to work out. That was the end of our great love story.

When all is said and done, what I remember most about our last night in Perugia was the laughter. I felt I’d discovered a glorious new world, one that I planned to visit again. The experience was truly joyful and it remains one of the most memorable and cherished in my life.

 

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