This is the full 34th chapter of my book Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw. I have decided to share the whole book here for free. The book is already available for purchase at www.raveoutlaw.com, and the mobile game is coming soon, www.immortalgames.co.uk.
Chapter 34 - Rites of Passage (Spring 2011)
It was weird, Enzo seemed to be having a lot of trouble with me getting out of the game. I am not sure why, it wasn't like I was making him much money or was much use to him anymore since I had no venue or crowd to offer him. I think that whether he explicitly realized it or not, he enjoyed the power that he had over me. I depended on his supply and his favors to keep my business running, and my bills paid, and I think that he became threatened when that dynamic in our relationship began to change. That year at Moonscape, he kept on making a bunch of passive aggressive comments, but I tried my best to ignore it. I was feeling confident about my life for the first time in a while, and I would hopefully have my book finished soon. I wasn’t in the mood for his negativity. Luckily, Moonscape was a big place with a lot of distractions, so it was easy to ditch Enzo and wander off if he got too snarky, which happened a few times that night.
A few weeks later, everything with him came to a boiling point though. Those sorts of hostilities always find a way of coming to the surface. He insisted on taking me out to a random festival a few weeks before my wedding, even though I really didn't want to go. He said it would be my bachelor party, even though I told him I didn't want one. I hate traditions, especially ones that involve me being the center of attention. He laid a massive guilt trip on me for not hanging out with him enough though, and he made me feel like I was being a shitty friend because I was so focused on my job and my book. I reluctantly agreed to go with him because he made me feel guilty, but I still had a terrible feeling about spending a whole night with him. The festival was pretty far from home too, over two hours away, out in western Maryland somewhere. I tried to invite Jerry and some other people, but everyone had to work or couldn't make the trip so I would be on my own with Enzo and his crew. The ride was chill, we all just smoked blunts and talked about the old days. Before I knew it, we were pulling onto the dirt road where the festival was located.
When we parked, Enzo pulled out a few sheets of acid and said, “Yo, I got this bomb L that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Let's all take a ten strip and go hard tonight, it’s on me.”
I should have said no. I should have considered the importance of set and setting. I should have been more careful about trippin around someone who I no longer trusted, but I wasn't. I thought that maybe some doses would help the time pass faster and make the ordeal a bit easier to handle.
“Cool, I'm down to trip. Let’s do it,” I said.
Enzo reached into his glove box and pulled out a small pair of scissors and cut the sheet into strips and handed one to each of us.
When we got out of the car and started walking around, it was already dark, and it didn't seem like there were that many people at this party. There couldn't have been more than 100 people there, and that was including the staff and DJs, which meant that we were going to be spending a lot of quality time together. Everything seemed cool at first. Enzo even kept on feeding me more acid throughout the night and was asking me all these questions about my book and my research. At first, it seemed like he was genuinely interested, but then sometime late in the night, his attitude took a dark turn. He wasn't just making passive aggressive comments like he did the last time we hung out, but it also seemed like he was intentionally trying to scramble my brain. He kept on telling these bizarre stories that went nowhere and often involved gruesome themes like burying bodies or someone overdosing. Most of what he was saying was gibberish. Sometimes the sentences that he said were just a jumble of words that no possible meaning could be derived from. The things he was saying were nonsensical, but after every few sentences, he kept asking “Do you know what I mean? Do you get it? Think about it!”
At first, I thought he was just trippin and stuck in some kind of loop. I thought he was legitimately confused and having trouble talking, but then he started getting personal, and those messages were crystal clear.
“Everyone in Philly hates you, they all make fun of you behind your back. They call you Good Vibes clown shoes,” he said, looking into my eyes with a mischievous grin.
“Excuse me? What did you just say?” I asked.
“I said that I like to smoke crack and watch moo-moos on choo-choos. You know? Cows on trains? Sorry, I didn't mean to mutter under my breath,” he said.
“You were pretty loud and clear dude it sounded like you were making fun of me,” I shot back.
“Nah it's nothing like that, you are reading too much into things, you are just tripping, you ate like close to 20 hits or something tonight, and this shit is bomb. You know you do tend to read too much into things, that is why you are always spouting off about all this crazy political shit,” he said.
“What did you say about clown shoes? And there you go again, do you have a problem with the things I believe in? I want to know!” I insisted.
“You can't hear right man, I didn't say anything like that. You always think everyone is out to get you. Even Caylee thinks you’re crazy, you embarrass her with your activism shit, she told me that,” he said, still maintaining fierce eye contact.
“What!? She told you that?!” I shouted, he was really starting to get to me now.
“Who told who what? Why are you yelling? What are you talking about?” he said laughing innocently.
Tears were welling up in my eyes now, “Dude you’re fucking with me, please just stop, please. What did I ever do to you? I just tried to be a good friend. Look, I know I can be a dick sometimes. I know I can be militant about my beliefs. I’m sorry that I took so much time away from everything to write my book! I'm sorry I can't work for you anymore! I’m sorry about the money I owe you! What do you want from me?” I cried.
“What's wrong friend? Are you ok? Are you upset that you’re never gonna finish that book, and if you do, you’ll never get it published?” he said in a patronizing tone of fake consolation.
“Come on guys please stop him! Aren't you hearing this!? Tell me I'm not crazy,” I yelled, turning to Enzo’s crew. The four of them stared at the sky in silence, until Ash spoke up in a low monotone voice and said, “Not at all John, I don't notice anything out of the ordinary, I don't think you’re crazy John.” His gaze was fixed on the stars as he spoke, but I could tell from his voice that he was in on whatever sick game that Enzo was playing with me. It seemed like the crew was in on it, or at the very least they were ordered to stay out of the way. I turned to Enzo again and pleaded with him to stop, but he just played dumb, while continuing to push all the psychological buttons in my head that he learned about during our friendship. It seemed obvious that he was trying to break me down, he was trying to hurt me. He was mercilessly bringing up all of my insecurities and all of the demons of my past, my relationship with my family, my rough childhood, the failure of my business, my eating disorder, everything, but he would always act like he wasn't saying anything wrong and that I was just trippin and overreacting, or that I was reading too deeply into things or mishearing him. Eventually, it became more than I could take, and I just started running, I had to get away from him, I had to turn it off. I came to a campfire where I hung out for a few minutes, I was shaking and crying. There were only two or three people around the campfire, but they seemed to understand that I wanted to be left alone, so they didn’t bother me.
There really was hardly anyone at this festival, and it was in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if they brought me out here to kill me, after all, Enzo did say something about burying bodies. This is what they did to Manifest the night he freaked out, now it all made so much sense. This is what he meant when he said that they “psychologically attacked” him. These guys were using the sacred psychedelic experience as a tool to manipulate friends and punish enemies, no wonder he thought they were the Illuminati. As I thought back on my relationship with Enzo, I began to realize that this sort of thing had been happening for a long time. Once I knew what to look for, it was easy to see how he was playing me all along. My mind flashed back to the many times where he manipulated me or tried to humiliate me in public, and I felt like an idiot that I didn't see all this coming. I experienced this type of toxic friendship before, and it was always the same pattern, I should have spotted the warning signs. As I sat there trying to piece it all together, I noticed a group of shadows in the moonlight, walking down the hill towards where I was sitting. It appeared to be Enzo and his crew. I immediately got up and took off towards the woods, I didn't want any more psychological attacks. I hung out in the woods on the outskirts of the festival grounds for a while, hoping that they wouldn't find me.
The moon was bright in the sky that night, and I only had the small light on my flip-phone to guide my way. I don't know how long I hid out there, but eventually, I headed back up to the camp in hopes that Enzo and the boys were ready to go home. When I got back up there, they were all chilling and laughing and asked me where I had disappeared to, as if nothing had happened. I asked to leave, but Enzo said, “No way man, It’s still early yet, this party is for you, it's your night, let's keep on having fun.”
Once again, that devilish grin popped up on his face. This party sucked, and he knew it, he was torturing me. He knew that I was in hell and he wanted me to stay there. For the rest of the night, he continued to make passive aggressive remarks, but not nearly as blatant this time, he was being more cautious. I tried my best to stay strong through the night since I was trapped and he was my only ride home. As morning broke, the party finally came to an end, but he waited until the very last minute to leave, even though the party sucked, and I asked to leave multiple times because I was obviously in the middle of a mental breakdown that he orchestrated. The ride home was equally terrible, I sat in the back seat and tried to act like I was sleeping, but for the entire ride he was muttering under his breath about how I was a crazy piece of shit loser that no one liked, and nobody took seriously. He told me that even my soon-to-be wife thought I was an embarrassment and talked about it behind my back. I just sat there with my eyes closed not responding, trying to prevent tears from escaping my eyelids. I didn't know how to respond, this guy was the type who might drive us off a cliff if I said the wrong thing. The only thing I could think about was getting home and getting out of that car. Oddly enough, when Enzo did finally drop me off, he began playing nice again and acted like nothing happened. He kept on trying to start conversations and make it a long, drawn-out goodbye, but I told him I was tired and ran into the house. I stormed through the door crying and began calling out for Caylee. She came running from the other room with a concerned look on her face.
"What's wrong? What happened? Are you OK?" she asked.
"No. I don't know what just happened. They all hate me, everyone hates me," I cried.
"Who? Who hates you?" she asked, trying to console me.
"Enzo said everyone hates me, and that you think I am an embarrassment because of my activism," I told her.
"What?! That crazy fucking crack head! That is absolutely not true, and if I had an issue with the way that you lived your life, I would talk to you about it. I certainly wouldn't be talking to Enzo about something like that," she explained.
It made sense, she didn't even really talk to him unless I was around, he was just trying to get inside my head, and it worked. We sat there for a few hours, and I cried in her arms as I told her about what Enzo and his crew put me through the night before. I never had a friend hurt me so bad and mess up my head so much. The events of that night left me with crippling social anxiety that I am still coping with today. I already had a fair amount of doubt and worry about how people perceived me and my ideas, and that night just ripped all that wide open. What made matters worse was that he acted like he never said any of those things and that I was just crazy and tripping and misunderstanding him. He told all our mutual friends that I just freaked out for no reason because I couldn't handle my drugs. He was definitely lying though, I knew it and so did everyone else. Me and Jerry have taken hundreds of trips together and never once has anything remotely like that happened. He was totally gaslighting me, but with the added complexity of psychedelics thrown in there. Gaslighting is basically screwing with someone's head and manipulating them to make them feel like they are crazy, and this usually comes after some type of psychological abuse, it's a way of covering it up and throwing the blame back on the victim. I didn't know that term at the time, but I really wish I did, it might have made the whole thing easier to understand. It would be a whole year before I was comfortable with eating acid again, and even then, I would mostly trip alone. It took me a long time to heal from that night, and even now I have a problem trusting people, but I still learned some valuable life lessons that are hard to put into words. What he did was wrong, but there were many ways that I could have protected myself from what happened, many steps along the way. I may have even provoked him by being rude and dismissive because he didn’t have the same obscure philosophical interests as me. Although, he may have treated me like that regardless of what I did. When I finally opened up about the situation with others, I learned that Enzo and his crew were known for that sort of thing. I was told that they brainwashed people for sport, and they called it "crystal washing." This is exactly what the CIA tried to use these substances for during the Cold War. For months, he was learning all about my deepest fears, insecurities and secrets, on those nights when I was rollin and wanted to talk about everything. Then when I was trippin and feeling introspective, he would strategically use the information that he learned about me to plant doubts and destructive ideas in my head. His psychological attacks were rarely ever overt, he did everything in a very indirect way that was hard to notice, but looking back, I could tell he was actively trying to get inside of my head for a while. Now everything that happened with Manifest made perfect sense, although, since he was already unstable, it was much more damaging for him than it was for me. It wasn't just us either, there were at least a half dozen other "crystal washing" victims that I would eventually hear about. It should go without saying that I immediately cut Enzo out of my life and vowed to never speak with him again. He made the process as difficult and dramatic as possible, as narcissists often do, but it didn't take him long to realize that I was never going to forgive him. I ultimately determined that he was trying to control me so he could use my position to get access to certain people and protection in clubs, although I can’t say for sure what his motives for treating me like that were. Perhaps he was just a sadistic narcissist and I rubbed him the wrong way or bruised his ego or something, who knows? Whatever the motive was, that experience was truly traumatizing, but I couldn't let it get the best of me. I had a lot of things in my life to be happy about, and I was about to get married.
Caylee worked tirelessly on our wedding celebration for over a year, and everything ended up perfect. The ceremony was in the middle of the woods on Caylee’s family’s property. We incorporated as many different spiritual traditions as we could into the ceremony, with rituals that combined imagery from various different places in the world. Caylee wore a rainbow dress and all the decorations matched, everything was colorful and entirely untraditional. The boutonnieres were even mushrooms instead of flowers. When the sun went down, we had people swinging glowsticks, and fire poi as a few of my friends took turns DJing. The weather was perfect the whole day, aside from a thunderstorm that came through at the end of the night and sent everyone home, but at least it stayed away long enough for us to do our thing. It was an amazing day, but it was just a formalization of the love that I always had for her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me in so many ways and I was ready to start the next phase of our life together.