"You can get a high on a mantra. But I’m holy on acid."
Joan Didion, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”
Lucy’s over when Jonathan calls to say that he’ll have to flake on the whole day; the news station wants him to do a segment on the protests. She is, naturally, indignant on Mina’s behalf. “People are always protesting. They’ll still be protesting tomorrow. It’s the first day of your last summer,” she says, like it’s a national holiday. Which, after the kind of year at Berkeley Mina’s had, feels about right.
“It’s not his fault,” Mina says. “They need someone who blends in with the crowd, and Jonathan’s the youngest one there.”
Lucy groans, throws up her hands theatrically. “That’s where the similarities end. He’s as square as they get, Mina, he might as well own up to it. It hurts how hard he tries.”
“Come with me to Alastair’s party this afternoon,” Lucy says, looking a little apologetic but resolutely not saying anything about it. “He’s got a new place in the Haight, it’ll be such a downer if you don’t come. Alex Grayson will be there, you can glare at him for allowing his news station to send Jonathan on assignment, if it’ll make you feel better.”
Mina sighs, lets go of her plans to spend a day with Jonathan not stressing out about classes. She hasn’t had a free day with Lucy in just as long. “Yeah, sure.”
“Groovy. It’s going to be so much fun, you’ll love it.”
“Groovy,” Mina says. The word feels foreign in her mouth; Lucy only started saying it last month, though it was inevitable that Mina would pick it up as well. She thinks it’s not a coincidence that saying the word forces her mouth into a smile.
“Everyone started without us,” Lucy says with a pout. “We should probably leave after this, so we’re not out of sync. Luckily Alastair’s not too lost yet. Daniel Davenport is gone, though.” She offers one finger up to Mina’s lips, a tiny paper square balanced on the pad of her fingertip. Mina licks it up, frowns at the metallic acid taste that coats her mouth. Lucy eats her own tabs, then grabs Mina’s hand and shouts to the room at large, “Goodbye, beautiful starpeople! Have a far out trip. We’re off to catch good vibes.”
They’ve just entered Golden Gate Park when Mina becomes aware of her stomach, the great hollowness of it pushing against her other organs but also how small it really is (the size of a closed fist, she remembers). Her vision lurches, bends a little. “Oh,” she says.
Lucy, who’s been staring fixedly at the signpost, makes a hmm sound.
“Where are we going?” Mina asks. The question takes an unusually long time to travel to her mouth.
“This way.” Lucy points. “There’s a map farther in, I think.”
“Will you be able to read it by the time we find it?”
“Probably not,” Lucy says, then bursts into giggles.
The park is impossibly beautiful. Mina’s glad for Lucy’s hand in hers, the strange sensation of someone else’s skin (the foreignness of someone else’s hand, like her own hand doesn’t know the shape of itself) grounding her. Otherwise she’d be lost in the towering trees around them, the vibrant swirl of colors, the patterns that grow and shrink and dissolve and reform. The sun casts moving shadows, and Mina feels as though she has been displaced in time, like she is watching years go by in the span of seconds.
“It’s so rustic out here,” Lucy muses. “I keep expecting Teddy Roosevelt to come out from behind a tree, carrying his big stick and riding a moose.”
Lucy’s voice sounds like it’s traveling through fog, but when Mina hears it it sends waves through her entire head. She agrees, thinks a thousand thoughts before she says, faintly, “Groovy.”
Lucy smiles. Mina smiles back, her mouth still tired from all the grinning she did earlier. Lucy tugs on her hand, wide glassy eyes already turned on another landmark down the path, and Mina feels close to her on a level she’d never articulated before, somewhere at the intersection of spirituality and history, a niche of understanding only Lucy could fill.
“So, what do you think?” Lucy asks. They’re sharing a joint. Her chin rest on Mina’s head, which rests on Lucy’s collarbone, and Mina has never felt more comfortable. She’s mostly cogent now, but the world still spins on the inside of her eyelids and Lucy is so warm. Her mind buzzes.
“Magical,” she decides. “Like looking at the world through a crystal kaleidoscope.”
“It’s always like that. The world always looks like that, if you slow down long enough.”
“I think you might have done this too many times, Lucy.”
Lucy’s laugh ruffles her hair, and Mina can feel her chest expand under her head. “Next time, we’ll go to the beach.”
Next time, they go to the beach. Mina dutifully eats the tabs Lucy gives her, which make her queasy before they knock words right out of her head. Her entire body feels floppy.
They exit from the west end of the park to a technicolor shoreline. The edge of America stretches before them.
Lucy takes off her shoes and runs into the ocean. It’s windy enough to be cold; San Francisco’s eternal spring sets Mina on edge, overwhelms her senses. She sits on the beach and waits, pokes hills and craters into the sand and watches it glitter and tessellate.
Lucy reappears. “The ocean moves too much. Those windmills, too. I’m feeling a little unglued,” she says. “Oh yeah, I was wearing shoes.”
She offers her hand to Mina and helps pull her up. She puts one arm around Mina’s shoulders. Mina wordlessly leans toward her and slings her arm around Lucy’s waist, sensing that after encountering the vast ocean and the dizzying sky, Lucy must want the comfort of human touch. Heavy-limbed, they walk farther down the beach. The fog-shrouded cliffs in the distance look like a painting, the salt lines on the sand from high tide look like a painting, the world recedes into paintings.
After an eternity of walking, Lucy says, “Tilting at windmills.”
“Couldn’t remember the phrase. I was getting lost trying to remember.”
Mina presses her fingers into Lucy’s ribs, why?
“It’s kind of a downer, let’s not talk about it. Those cliffs look nice.”
Mina asks her about it when she can speak again.
“It’s lame,” Lucy dismisses, but Mina insists so she continues, “Sometimes I think I love in vain. But love can’t be in vain; it’s free, and just having it is a gift. So I was going in circles over how I felt and shouldn’t feel, and then I was going in circles trying to remember what to call that going in circles.”
“Is this about Alastair?”
“Oh, god no. He can go with whoever he likes, I don’t care.”
“Don’t you want to marry him?”
“For tax purposes, maybe.”
Mina gives her an exasperated look. “Why not marry someone you love?” she asks.
“Can’t,” Lucy answers with a smart toss of her hair, “I’m too counterculture. I don’t need The Man to recognize when I’m in love with someone. I’ll only marry for practical purposes. Though I’d marry you if I could, Doctor Murray.”
“I’m not a doctor yet.”
“Well, deal’s off until you are,” Lucy says, with a slant to her mouth so mischievous that it comes back around to sincere. Mina thinks it wouldn’t be too bad being married to Lucy for tax purposes. At least she knows Lucy would always be on her side. “What about you? Do you think you’ll marry Harker?”
“I—I’d actually completely forgotten that he existed until now.”
“I’m sorry I brought him up then.”
Mina ignores her and considers the question. “I’d like to. I do love him.”
Lucy’s smile thins. She says with a wistful voice, “Yes, you do.” They stare out at the ocean a little longer before she asks cheerfully, “Ready to brave the return trip?”
“I’ve been seeing someone. Besides Alastair,” Lucy confesses over dinner, when they’ve both come down a little and Mina can stomach the idea of food. She still feels like her senses are a few steps behind her body, which makes the close, bright lights of Chinatown an interesting experience.
“I knew it,” Mina crows. “You’ve been cagey since Daniel’s dinner party. Who is it?”
Lucy hesitates. She stares straight at her food, shoves her dumplings around with a pair of chopsticks (Mina wants to know when Lucy got so good at using them).
“Come on, why bring it up if you’re just going to cop out?”
Lucy mumbles something.
It takes her a full thirty seconds to understand exactly what she means. “As in the Hare Krishna? Lucy,” Mina gasps, half-scandalized.
“I’m not ashamed of it,” Lucy says vehemently, and Mina puts her hand over hers, squeezing to reassure her.
“No, don’t be, but I didn’t think religious was your type. Does she chant when you…?”
Lucy has the audacity to blush and look pleased with herself all at once. Her hand turns over under Mina’s, squeezes back hard. “Yeah,” she says, her voice betraying none of the great faith she’s put in Mina, “but she doesn’t say, ‘Hare Krishna.’”
Mina laughs so loud she draws stares from the rest of the cramped restaurant. “Is she the one you love in vain?”
“Nah, you’re right. She’s not my type,” Lucy says with an easy grin.
“Then who’s that mystery character?”
Lucy falters. She hesitates again, and Mina’s about to sigh pointedly when she answers, “I’ll tell you that another time. When we haven’t been doing drugs all day.”
It’s a flimsy excuse. Mina makes a note to revisit the question the next day, but forgets entirely by the time they meet up.
At the end of summer, they go to the park again. Mina leads this time, and she takes them all the way to see the bison in the meadow before Lucy flings herself into the path of a sunbeam and declares herself too tired walk the whole trip this time. She begins working intently on a daisy chain.
Mina’s never been so aware of her own jaw before. How much work her brain does to keep up with a mouth! She clenches her teeth and feels every minute muscle contract, relaxes and feels the positioning of the muscles at rest. A jaw dropping open takes more muscles than keeping it closed. She wonders if there is a greater tension, a physics of the body, that keeps one human being together and whole and structured inside its elastic skin-bag of livewire endings instead of stretching apart and falling all over other bodies.
Lucy holds up a meticulously finished crown of daisies. Mina lets her drape it over her head. Lucy leans back to study her handiwork.
“Very pretty,” she pronounces. “Like a true flower child.”
Mina feels an intense wave of wonder for her. Part of it is the crystal kaleidoscope: in her sunny island, light sparkles off her skin; the breeze whips her hair into poetic waves; the rainbow tie-dye spiral on her shirt grows and shrinks like it breathes. The rest is just Lucy. She looks flush and brimming with life, with something secret and vital and thrumming. “You look full of magic,” Mina tells her.
Lucy stares at her for a moment (a minute, five), face curiously blank.
Infinite seconds later, Lucy tips forward and rests her forehead against Mina’s. “I’m freaking out a little. I need to make sure you’re still here.”
Mina pulls her closer, wraps both arms around her, and Lucy huddles into the empty spaces she creates. A different kind of physics, she thinks, between a body and another body, the senses they have for each other. “Better?” she asks.
“Lucy in the sky with di-iamonds,” Mina sings to her.
“Tomorrow’s your last day of summer,” Lucy says. They are curled up in Mina’s bed, staring at the lava lamp Alastair gave Lucy for solstice, which she left at Mina’s later that same day. “Did you have a good summer?”
“I did.” Mina’s exhausted despite not walking so much this trip. Her brain feels tapped out.
“Groovy.” Mina breathes deep, contented. “How are you feeling now? After that bad patch near the meadow.”
Minutes pass before she speaks again. “What happened?”
Lucy is quiet. She’s fallen asleep.
Mina’s about to do the same, when Lucy says, “I’m not sure. Suddenly, you became the only tangible hold I had on myself. And then I wanted to really make sure you were real, otherwise there wasn’t any proof in my being real. I’m glad it was you. Anyone else, and I might have just decided I didn’t exist, anyway.”
She’s not sure how she knows it, but it feels like one of the most Lucy ways to say that Mina’s important to her, intensely dramatic-sounding and half-cryptic. “Well, then, I’m glad too.” She lets her thoughts wander down rabbit holes until she feels like she’s falling into the blackness inside her head. “If I fall asleep now, will I wake up still tripping?”
Mina yawns, and all the muscles in her jaw stretch luxuriously. “Guess I’ll find out.”
Over breakfast the next day, the idea strikes Mina, and she doesn’t hesitate to run it by Lucy. “I think I’ll propose to Jonathan.”
Lucy, looking strung out and still wearing her wrinkly tie-dye shirt, frowns into her orange juice. “How radical.”
“Radical? Me? Sitting in the same room as you and I’m radical?”
“Yeah. I’m just playing around, you’re—you’re proposing. Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” Mina says decidedly.
“Fantastic. Am I your maid of honor?”
“He hasn’t even said yes.”
“Mina. Brave, lovely Mina.” Lucy looks up at her through her eyelashes. “He won’t say no.”
“Will you be my maid of honor?”
“Yes,” Lucy says nonchalantly. “I’ll throw you the coolest bachelorette party.”
“Okay.” Mina laughs, surprised at how easy that was. “I thought you were going to say something like marriage is so suburban, or something against Jonathan.”
“It is suburban, and he isn’t worth a tenth of you, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t, or won’t, make you happy. And I want very much for you to be happy.” She finishes her orange juice with one long gulp, and looks at Mina with a blatantly fake smile.
“Are you okay?”
“Just feeling queasy from yesterday. I don’t want to be a drag when you should be focusing on Jonathan, I should go.”
“Not if you’re feeling sick—”
Lucy stands abruptly and picks up her bag. “Ask him today. I’ll see you tonight to celebrate? Come to the Mermaid Cafe, I’ll buy you a bottle of wine.”
She leaves in a confusing hurry, her entire face unreadable and her body held stiffly.
Mina feels like she’s missed something.
Which is even more confusing, because this entire summer she’s felt closer to Lucy than ever before, like she knows Lucy better than she knows herself. Lucy never acted like this around her. She’s definitely missed something. She goes back over the last three months, looking for clues, but the LSD, as much insight as it gave her, skips over entire stretches of time and blurs the rest.
She has to rely on half-lucid memories, like going cold into surgery without any guiding markings. There is a corner of Lucy’s mouth that she recognizes. There is the tone of her voice snatched from another time. A thought catches, slips. Mina chases after it with an instinctive certainty. She follows it with a confidence greater than any she’d ever had while wielding a scalpel.
Her mind lurches, bends a little.