So this one time my friend and I were going to hike up the back of Half Dome and camp there and so of course we tried to get an 8-ball of cocaine to take along with us. All we could get was a sixteenth, which is half of that, but that’s still a lot. So we went to Yosemite.
My buddy had just been released from Leavenworth; I was in junior college or something. Anyway on the way up there we snorted a bunch of it and our noses immediately started shooting blood all over the dashboard because the coke was cut with fiberglass or whatever. Pretty harsh, and not very effective besides. Did not deter us from continuing to snort it for 3 hours in the car.
You’ve seen Yosemite, or pictures anyway? Trees and stuff. Birds. We got there and parked and started hiking, giant backpacks and high summer sweat up this incredibly steep fucking trail, and noseblood all down our faces and staining our T-shirts like we’d been beaten with bats. We hiked and hiked and stopped to snort poisoned cocaine and hiked and hiked and finally we couldn’t hike anymore because we were really going to have to sit down and finish this coke.
About halfway up the back of the mountain we noticed that there were too many tourists going by to give us reasonable privacy in which to do our cocaine in the middle of the trail. So we headed off the trail. You could have tracked us easily through the woods by following the spoor: blood-smeared pine trees and gore clotted on the rocks and every few yards a small piece of sneezed-out solid tissue. As we crashed through the brush I felt a tickle in my nose every time I moved my foot and I looked down and saw a cylinder of thick bright red snot swinging between my nostril and my shoe. I batted it aside and when the snotrope snapped my ears popped.
Pretty soon we came upon a grassy lawn shaded by trees and a river with a treefall bridge across it. We had no permit and this was a no-camping zone to boot so we pitched the tent and for no reason kindled a brushwood fire with some of our extra energy and sat down on a rock and chopped some big-ass lines and rammed them up our hemorrhaged nostrils. It was July, hotter than a sinus infection, plus we were all drug-greasy, so we threw off our blood-splashed jeans and jumped into the river and splashed around and nasally inhaled mountain icewater to cool the fire behind our faces.
I had been in the water about a minute, minute and a half, before I thought it was high time to seriously address the issue of the remaining cocaine. So I start climbing out and I’m naked, halfway between the riverbank and the tent, when I notice this bear cub on the tree bridge. It was really really cute, just a baby, and I couldn’t figure out what that was in his mouth until I recognized it was my shirt, soaked in blood and bear slobber. Aww, I thought, and headed to the campsite to make sure he hadn’t eaten the cocaine. I saw that the tent was moving around, the nylon walls shaking, and I looked behind me to make sure my friend was still in the water. Because (being my friend) he was of course a genius, from midstream he was throwing pine cones and clumps of mud at the baby bear. So when I turned back I was only a little surprised to see the mama bear lurch out of our tent towards me.
I was between her and her baby, and the baby was screaming now because my buddy had splashed it with a bunch of cold water. That didn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that I could see, balanced on a stone right in front of his mother, the broken hand-mirror we’d brought, a bunch of damp dirty-pink coke smeared all over it. The bear saw it too, and we went for it at the same time. I saw that she was going to get there first and it was a close thing there for a minute as to whether I was going to fight her for it. I’m no coward but she had a few pounds on me so I went back into the river. But I sure let her know I wasn’t happy about the situation.
From the water I watched mama bear eat the mirror and spit it out whole, only without any of our cocaine left on it. I started crying and shouting. Then she looked at her cub, who wasn’t screaming anymore because my friend had stopped fucking with it, and she went back into the tent and ate all of our clothes that had blood on them which was all of them, shoes, everything, except a pair of board-shorts each and a pair of sandals between us. She ate our entire two-Snickers food supply and our flashlight. She ate the floor of the tent, which we had bled on, and half of one of the sleeping bags. She ate my wallet, which aside from my driver’s license and credit cards was stuffed with gummy red bills that had been up in the raw meat of my nose. She ate my friend’s car keys, which also had blood all over them from spooning up dope. I was going to have to climb down the mountain barefoot and half-nude and starving and it really irked me that I would have to do that with no cocaine. I looked around for a young tree with which to stab the bears to death, but the realization that there were to be no more drugs on this trip, not even chocolate, depressed me such that I just sat sobbing in the water.
The mama ambled onto the treefall bridge and collected her baby and the bears walked off into the woods to find a nice place to shit out our campsite.
Boy did I have a headache. I spent the night shivering in a scrap of ursine-saliva-smeared Gore-Tex, whining to Jesus about how I was going to be a better man as soon as he made the pain stop. My friend kept calling me a faggot for crying. Maybe army prison toughens you up, but I suspect he had simply lucked out and not snorted as much battery acid as I had. Life is unfair like this.
At dawn we abandoned everything where it was, left the fire smoldering under a limbful of bone-dry Ponderosa needles, left the strips of mauled Nike sole and the savaged tent, and ran slipping and flopping down the mountain, hair stuck up in drugsweat swirls, faces grimed with mosquitoes drowned in the blood that still bubbled out with each panting mewling breath. One of my buddy’s flip-flops exploded on a steep turn and pitched him ass-first into a manzanita. From the trailhead, our feet shredded, we got a lift in a Ranger’s pickup to the parking lot, where I broke into the car and my friend hotwired it with a trick he had learned as a motor pool grunt and we drove home and got some speed this time, because, you know, you can’t always depend on getting good coke.
Later I became a theater critic.
About the Author: Jason Rohrer was educated in California, New York, Russia and Bulgaria. He reviews film and performing arts for stageandcinema.com, contributes to American Theatre Magazine, and co-hosts the podcast Jason and Todd Talk through Lousy Films. He tweets as @RohrerVacui.