E = mc² in Cancun
She stared at me with her eyes wide open in her drunken stupor: “Are you serious?”
She broke herself free from my supporting hand. I had helped her up to the room upon receiving a hint from one of our hosts, something the other hostel mates were too kind to admit. Noone particularly enjoys an obnoxiously drunk at their dinner table.
She got out of her exhausted outfit that reeked of sweat, Mayan liquor, and veiled vomit. The cinnamon concoction she had been sipping on the bus for her itchy throat was a lot stronger than she had anticipated. The walk back from the bus stop and the little she managed to eat had steadied her a little. She threw herself into the shower. She couldn’t afford to be out of her senses if I was about to go out of mine.
“How much longer do we have?” she asked as she dressed in her evening outfit. She was a woman of delicate taste even in the most rugged of settings.
“He said half an hour about twenty minutes ago.” I felt nothing. I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. It was my first, after an excruciatingly long wait.
As she painted her face for the night, I looked at the other half of the blot paper in my hand with a great dilemma. It was not hit, not even a little. Andy’s instructions were to start with half and have the other half if nothing happens in the first half-hour. I deliberated. There was fear of the unknown. And then, there was the excitement of a greater proportion – for the discovery of the unknown. The explorer won.
I have always been curious about psychedelics. The seeker in me was drawn to experiences beyond the confines of what we call reality. I had read about the various kinds, read literature on experiments, and on experiences. LSD had been on top of that list, and I was waiting keenly to open the doors of perception to the beyond. I had to know. For my own.
We made our way to the second-floor balcony that overlooked the cityscape of suburban Cancun with low-rise houses and tropical trees surrounding them. At a distance were glimmering street lights of the main street. The nearly full moon hung low at the sky not too far. Moon was sober and composed after freshening up. She was sharing a cigarette with Mike, a new acquaintance who I didn’t know would end up a dear friend in time.
A cigarette in my hand, I leaned on the parapet embracing the nightfall. The air was filled with the smell of fresh earth from the evening drizzle, the muted chatter of lovers in the park beneath, and the excited cries of children chasing each other. I felt tranquil within. With parked eyelids and a faint smile, I took a breath of the cool sea breeze preparing to return to the conversations behind me. When I opened my eyes, the world had changed.
The city stretched out before me like a modernist oil painting. The houses were brushed in two dimensions on the canvas with geometries strangely obtuse and a color palette tending to the gray hues. The moon was closer; the brush strokes more evident on the deep blacks that outlined the sharp edges. In that moment of awe, a wide grin broke out on my face. It had begun.
Light seemed to have a peculiar quality. It was no longer confined to the edges of its boundary but stretched along as I moved my glance leaving a trail. In adventure, I moved my head around and watched the streetlights move about like a swarm of fireflies. That was not all. It was an open canvas and I could play with my reality as I pleased.
I found my attention to a particularly bright street lamp. In a sudden flare, a single ray stretched across the sky like a thread of light. I drew an invisible wall and the ray bounced back. Another wall and the ray kept bouncing back and forth forming a beautiful array of light streaks. I brought the strands closer together, and now I had a sheet of light before me. From a zero-dimensional point of light had stretched to a one-dimensional line, and hand-wrapped itself into a two-dimensional sheet. It was my universe and I could do as I pleased. This was too fascinating.
So, I started folding the sheet of light much like one would fold paper. A few folds in, it had turned into a block of light. I was like a glowing cube before me. I started with an infinite spool of thread coming out of a point – the lamp. I had weaved the thread into fabric and folded it into a three-dimensional object.
My ninth grade physics came back to me. I had something fluffy and porous. I could see the dim twinkling stars beneath my cube of light. So I started squeezing it and packing it in together until it was but a small dark ball. I could no longer see through the ball. It was hard and opaque. In fact, it was something that I could now hold in my hand. It was matter.
Time stopped. It had all happened too soon, and I was still trying to gather what I had just done. I remembered Mr. Keifer in his thick white mustache and half a beaker full of coffee in his handwriting Einstein’s famous E=mc2 on the squeaky chalkboard. He spoke in my memory but I couldn’t hear the words. I didn’t need to. The universe had just unfolded its mystery before me.
I had created matter out of light.