David was crazy.

I don’t mean in the On the Road, beatnik friend, crazy personality, kind of way. I mean it in the clinical sense. I don’t think he started out that way, it was induced by overuse of a drug called PCP (an animal tranquilizer). He just loved the stuff. He snorted it, in powder form, constantly. It wasn’t really the “magic dust” it was cracked up to be.

I tried it some, when I was at the age where the Who’s 5:15 was my theme song. I was “out of my brain on the train” more than a few times for treks to San Francisco on the Amtrack. But PCP was a drug with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, as far as I was concerned. Just a little too much, once, was all it took for me to become a Reaganite and just say no. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, but I could think. And all those thoughts were paranoid. I thought that if I closed my eyes I would die. Sight was the only faculty that was still working as I lay paralyzed and paranoid, after running to every room of the house to look out the window and see if “they” were coming to get me.

I never understood David. He was my brother’s wife’s brother, and though he claimed that the brotherhood reached out to me there was always something sinister back behind him. He would rip off anyone with no trace of conscience. As I said, he was crazy. After a number of sociopathic episodes, he was diagnosed as a paranoid psychotic. They gave him thorazine. As a confirmed drug lover, he was anxious to spread them around to all of his friends, particularly if he could trade them for dust. My brother said, “It’s kind of a weird high, wanna try it?” Ever the experimentalist, I had to give it a go.

Thorazine was actually quite a lot like PCP in bodily effects, with only one important difference. It makes thinking a very unprofitable proposition. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t think of anything. It was one of the scariest drugs I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so voided, so non-human in my life. Not an experience I’d like to repeat. Though the drug was milder than PCP in most ways, I just cannot imagine existing for an extended length of time without having thoughts. There isn’t anything on the planet scarier to me.

A few nights ago, I woke up with that feeling. There wasn’t a thought in my head. I couldn’t remember any dreams, I hadn’t written anything in my sleep, I was just a void. It made me think of thorazine. I thought about visiting friends in ward 3b of Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield after they had been sedated with thorazine as a matter of standard practice. I thought about how much they didn’t even seem like people I knew at first. They were just there, taking up space. It seems to me that thought is the primary quality of human existence, and to be deprived of it is a darker place than any jail. For a second, I thought of David.

He beat his mother, and held some of his siblings hostage before he was finally interred. I didn’t visit him. David wasn’t a friend of mine. He was just there. Taking up space. Something not quite human, but not quite animal. Someone with chemistry gone horribly wrong. I don’t know what happened to him, but I feel fairly certain it wasn’t good.

I made up my mind to put those thoughts out of my head, and write about the one positive memory of David I can think of. I’ll do that a little later. There was a picture, and a first for me on that day. It was a crossroads time, where I could have gone a certain direction, but didn’t. I went to college instead. Though that path ended quickly, at least it diverted me from the realm of thoughtlessness.

I don’t think there is anything worse in life than experiencing thoughtlessness, either as a witness, or as a victim of it. I can’t universally condemn drugs, but some drugs, I can.

No thorazine thoughtlessness for me, thank you. Even the memory of it was chilling.