I think I screwed us in the 1960s

I’ve started writing this hundreds of times and never gotten to the end. The first few times I tried, I did it on paper in a notebook because the internet hadn’t been invented yet. I burned the notebooks. This is the first time I’ve finished and not destroyed what I’d written. If nothing else, this act of creation without destruction is a small victory to me, but I know you hardly care about that. Nor should you. You should care about what you’re about to read because if what I say is true, your generation may be in some serious shit. I’m in my late 70s, no wife or kids, not many friends, and although I’m not quite on my death bed, I’m certainly nearing the end of my life, so my personal stake in this is low, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t weight heavily on my soul in an existential kind of way. We all keep secrets, some darker than others, and this has been my darkest.

The story starts in California way back in the 1960s. For those unfamiliar with that period in history, the one word I’d use to describe it is turbulent. Just imagine the straight-laced world of the 1950s you know from television crashing head-on into what you probably associate with hippie culture, namely radical politics, protest, heavy drug use, rebellion against authority, and conspiracy theories, but also comradery, selflessness, and the genuine belief that it is possible to change the world for the better. I was a university student at the time, so you could say I was in the thick of it, but I wasn’t at one of the true hotbed schools like Berkeley. That said, there was almost no way to be young and alive in California and to keep away from the upheaval. It was literally all around you, and it sucked you in. There wasn’t a Friday night when you didn’t listen to a speech by Abbie Hoffman, take LSD, or hazily conspire to take down the establishment to a background of folk tunes, and then go out to bar where long past midnight some guy in a black suit tried to recruit you for a plastics corporation or the CIA. Or so he said, or so you remembered the next morning.

It was actually at one of these bars that I met my first real girlfriend, whom I’ll call Edna. Edna wasn’t a hippie, she was in town taking typing classes and working part-time as a receptionist, but like me she had become infatuated with the scene. Edna was only the second girl I’d slept with, and after a few months of going with her I started having trouble maintaining, then even getting, an erection. Back then it wasn’t like it is now, when even polite people talk about erectile dysfunction and you can get medication to help with it. Back then there was nothing except a whole lot of embarrassment. At first, Edna and I thought it might be stress or lack of sleep causing my problem, then we suspected alcohol, but despite taking a fairly systematic approach and eliminating the possible causes one by one, we couldn’t figure it out. Within weeks, my sex life just stopped. You can imagine how devastating that was to a young man.

Let’s rewind a bit. About six months before meeting Edna, I had met a guy named Jerry in one of my political science classes and we’d quickly become friends. Jerry and I would regularly meet up, talk about everything from music and world revolution to UFOs, and generally goof off together, and he’d always have a decent supply of weed for us to smoke and Grateful Dead bootlegs to listen to, which was fantastic. Although I’ve never had a truly best friend, Jerry was definitely my closest friend during my early student days in California, so he was the person I eventually turned to for help with my sexual problem. I remember that it was late at night after getting stoned immaculate, as Jim Morrison would say, that I told Jerry about my erectile dysfunction. He listened as I struggled mightily through the telling of it, and without laughing or making light of the situation told me not to worry too much, that it would probably go away on its own, but if I didn’t want to wait and wanted help now, I should go see a man he referred to as Gerbil.

Gerbil was about ten years older than us, originally from New Mexico and had been studying chemistry at Berkeley until about a year prior, when he’d been expelled after being caught synthesizing hallucinogens in a school lab. Faced with the possibility of going back to New Mexico without a degree, Gerbil had decided to pursue the American Dream instead. He set up his own lab, kept his clientele, and expanded his operation. Drugs, incidentally, is how Jerry had first met Gerbil. And through Jerry is how I met the guy. That’s one other unique thing about Gerbil: even compared to the regular paranoiacs, he was paranoid. You couldn’t just see him. You had to be introduced by someone he trusted and he had to “vet” you, which included a brief interrogation and sitting silently while he “read your mind.” My vetting lasted about half an hour. After it was over, Gerbil relaxed and I explained my problem to him. It was easy because he was like a magnet for deep truths. You wanted to tell him the embarrassing stuff. Long story short, he told me I was far from the first guy to be suffering from this type of condition and that he had a tried and tested solution.

I’ll never forget the moment when he held out the pill bottle to me. His smiling, unshaven face, the sunlight streaming in through the dirty windows, and the pills themselves, oblong and delicately off-white in their little glass home. When I asked how much I owed him, he shrugged and said that for a friend there was no cost, then laughed and added that he had more than enough money anyway. After all, he said, he was making truth serum for the CIA. “Just make sure you follow the instructions,” he said. “And remember: you were never here.”

When I got home, I read the instructions, which had been typed out on a strip of paper and taped to the outside of the pill bottle. They were simple enough but odd: Insert one (1) pill into urethra at least one hour prior to intercourse.

I’ll spare you the awkward details of my first time doing the insertion. What you need to know is that the pills worked. God, how they worked! Never before, and never since, have I had an erection as hard and for as long as when I used those pills. In the past twenty years I’ve tried Viagra and all the others, but nothing even comes close. It was like fucking with the world’s most sensitive steel rod, and you could go for hours!

Edna and I sure made up for lost time, but pretty soon Edna wasn’t enough. We’d go at it two or three times, she’d call it quits for the night and I’d still be raging to go. I’m not proud of it now, but I started meeting other girls just for sex. Any girls who’d have me, really. At bars, meet ups, between classes, at concerts, everywhere. There was no emotional connection but physically it was bliss. I loved it, they loved it, and I guess later they dubbed it the Summer of Love.

I wish I’d counted how many pills Gerbil had given me, but I didn’t. All I knew was that I was going through them like a knife through reheated butter. From what I remember, one pill was enough to last up to forty-eight hours, but I was using them almost non-stop, and the supply was depleting. I was probably addicted. It was after I’d used about half of my initial supply that Jerry asked over coffee one morning whether my “problem” had gone away. I told him it had and more than hinted at how my sex life had exploded, and he told me that was fantastic news. Then he lowered his voice and told me Gerbil wanted to meet up. I agreed, he told me the time and place, and I never saw Jerry again. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Gerbil and I met a few days later in what remained of a hangar on an abandoned airfield. It was beyond city limits, and Gerbil seemed to make a big deal of that fact. He told me he’d recently purchased the land way under value and was planning on building a bunker on it. Because that sounded like just the craziness he’d be into, I took him at his word. When I told him how well the pills had been working and that I wanted more of them, he wasn’t surprised. He said he was thrilled and handed me another bottle of pills identical to the first. This time, however, they had a price. But it was the kind of price that wasn’t paid in dollars and that made my horny young mind spin with possibilities. Gerbil was organizing a series of orgies and he was giving me the pills in exchange for taking part in them.

Back to Jerry: disappearing for a few days wasn’t unusual. He went on benders from time to time during which he’d unreachable and absent from class, but those usually lasted a few days, after which he’d show up groggy and with stories to tell. After a week, I started to worry, but even then it’s important to remember the times, both in terms of technology and perspective. We didn’t have cell phones you could call anytime you wanted, and it wasn’t unheard of for people to “drop out” of society. I had a professor who suddenly disappeared for half a semester, and when he came back he told us he’d gone on a walkabout. Still, I expected Jerry to tell me if he was planning something like that. He’d said nothing and now he was gone. I started asking around but realized I didn’t actually know much about him. From what I gathered, he was still enrolled in university and still living at the same address. He just wasn’t there.

My relationship with Edna was falling apart at the same time. I was bored with her, and she was getting bored with life in California. She was honest about wanting to move back East, and we both knew I wouldn’t be going with her. And although she never said a word about it, I’m sure she knew I wasn’t being faithful. Hell, even free love has a cost. I can’t say we broke each other’s hearts, but I will say that as I’ve aged, I’ve imagined more and more often what my life would had have been if we’d stayed together. I went on to love again but I never found a true love. Edna, especially in those early times, may have been the closest I ever got. Ironically, we loved each other most when we couldn’t be physically intimate.

The first of Gerbil’s orgies that I attended was held in the middle of the desert. There was music, drugs and absolutely no inhibitions. It was the most exciting experience of my life, and I loved it. Gerbil himself was never at the orgies, but almost everyone seemed to know him, at least by reputation. I don’t remember how many orgies I ended up going to, but it was over a dozen, each in a different location with new women, many of them intoxicatingly exotic to me. Foreign students, bored housewives, groupies, intellectuals, stewardesses, and wanderers from all around the country and the world: India, Russia, China, Europe, Latin America, everywhere. I still have no idea how Gerbil organized these things or convinced so many women to go to them, but he did, and I must have fucked nearly all of them. The pills were my fuel.

Sometime during this hazy period of hedonistic pleasure, the police found Jerry’s body in New Mexico. Apparently he’d hitchhiked all the way down there, spent a few weeks living on a ranch and overdosed on a cocktail of drugs so strong he must have been halfway to heaven by the time his organs failed. Foul play was ruled out, and no one in New Mexico cared if a longhaired hippie had killed himself accidentally or on purpose. There was no funeral as far as I know. About a week after Jerry’s death, I received a letter from him in the mail. Judging by the gradual degradation of his handwriting, it had been written in several sittings. Most of it was personal and there was a lot of pain behind the words, but it was the last sentence that has stuck with me because of it’s plain brutality. Four words: They’ve fucked us.

I fucked away my breakup with Edna and the loss of my friend. Orgy after orgy.

It was while sitting in a bar on a hot Wednesday night in the middle of July that I discovered something that chilled me to the marrow of my bones. I was down to my last pill and imagining the best way to take advantage of it, waiting for the perfect piece of ass to walk in through the door. I had a mug of beer in front of me, not my first, and I was absentmindedly walking the pill up and down the tops of my fingers, when suddenly I lost control and it fell straight into my mug. I must have been too drunk to react, because instead of fishing it out, I watched instead as it descended into the murky depths while giving off a spray of infinitely fine bubbles. I didn’t know how a pill should react in beer, but something about this reaction seemed off. When it had settled at the bottom of the mug, the pill started shedding something other than bubbles: namely itself. Tiny pieces flaked off and floated to the top, and the pill began to tremble. Soon, dark spots became visible beneath the off-white colour of what I instinctively began to conceptualize as a shell, until the entire casing was gone, leaving only a trembling black insectous creature! Immediately I knew it was organic. Even more: alive! I watched mesmerized as it struggled in the liquid, scurrying towards the edge of the mug but unable to climb the glass sides. Finally, I put my fingers in and lifted it out. It was small but unbelievably hard between my fingertips. I couldn’t crush it. I held it briefly against the overhead light, its body wholly opaque, before it slipped out, hit the unswept floor and scurried away. I scrambled after it, much to the cruel amusement of the other patrons, stomping forward on the floor before falling to my knees, but with no luck. It was gone. Returning to my seat, I thought, Just what the fuck have I been pushing into my urethra?

I had no pills and the only evidence of anything abnormal was my own boozy memory, so I had nothing. Except a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was horribly wrong. I tried contacting Gerbil in my usual ways, hoping to get more pills to experiment on and either put my mind at ease (“You hallucinated, idiot.”) or get my hands on something I could send to a lab, but all my usual ways were indirect, like asking for permission to speak, and permission was being denied. Gerbil stopped responding. Eventually I grew desperate enough to visit the abandoned airfield, which was the only address of his I knew, but it was empty and unchanged. When I went to the land office and asked about ownership, the clerk told me the land belonged to a man named Beaconfield who was mostly likely long dead. Because I didn’t know anyone other than Jerry who’d known Gerbil, I had nowhere else to turn. There’s only so many times you can ask a stranger if they know a man named after a small rodent. Eventually you give up.

And so Gerbil was gone, my pills were gone, Jerry and Edna were gone, and soon the 1960s themselves were gone, metamorphosing into a sexless 1970s for me, then the 1980s, 1990s and the new millennium. All as if someone had snapped their fingers. To say my life was dull would be an understatement. I had work, and followed it around the country, but I had little else. Forged at a time when we all wanted to remake the world, I had remade nothing and found myself leading a life of comfortable insignificance. But despite my memories fading, they never completely disappeared, and I spent many evenings wondering, trying to piece together clues, and always unable to shake those four words of Jerry’s: They’ve fucked us. Was I scarred by a friend’s suicide? Sure. But it was more than that, often in the form of sweat-inducing nightmares about tiny black insects crawling around my insides.

In the early 2000s, I saw a political ad for a candidate vying for the U.S. Senate. There was nothing unusual about the spot, but a few seconds caught my attention. They showed a series of photos of the candidate as he was growing up, attending school, graduating, etc. In one of them, he was with his mother, and my heart nearly stopped when I recognized her as Edna. I don’t know what emotion I felt first, but I settled on hesitant happiness as I jumped online to confirm what my eyes had shown me. Although I didn’t find the ad itself, I did find an interview with the candidate, including one with a gallery of photos, and in one of them was the confirmation I was searching for. Edna’s face, older but still beautiful, stared at me from behind her son’s electable smile. I was breathless. My happiness became joy. It was wonderful not only that Edna had done OK for herself but that she’d done extraordinarily, because it takes a certain kind of success to raise a future statesman.

On election night, I made popcorn, drank beer and cheered on Edna’s son as if he were my own. Shortly after the polls closed, CNN projected him as the winner. For one night, my own insignificance didn’t matter. I shared secretly in someone else’s relevance.

A few months passed in the afterglow of this beautiful discovery. Sometimes I even had fantasies about contacting the senator to offer my congratulations, which would be a reconnection with Edna, but I always knew this was impossible. I was nobody to her, a shadow from the past. She probably didn’t even remember me.

The reason why I mention this is two-fold: because I want to write and relive the happy moments, despite their way of decomposing into dread; and because Edna was merely the first of many. Over the next year, I recognized the faces of three other women I’d had sex with in California in the 1960s. I may not have known or recognized their names, but I do have a memory for faces and I was certain about theirs. All three were the mothers or grandmothers of successful people: a politician, the CEO of a pharmaceutical corporation, and a lawyer. What are the chances?

Over the next months and years, I started to actively research the background of anyone who had recently attained a high level of success, or more accurately, a high level of influence: of power. Most were guarded about their pasts, many enigmatic, but some made public just enough of a thread of information for me to pull loose, and whether in photos or on video, what I kept finding were the faces of my former lovers, women I had met while cheating on Edna or, more often, women I’d fucked at Gerbil’s orgies.

In time, I realized that the web extended beyond America. I found world leaders, generals, economists, industrialists and policy makers scattered about the globe, yet whose foremothers had all been in California with me! It was insane. I felt insane, wacko like the worst conspiracy nuts I’d met in the 1960s. Yet, just like them, I was convinced I was right, and what was right was too weird to be coincidence.

Today, the people whose mothers and grandmothers I fucked rule the world, and the singular way in which they are all working toward the same goals terrifies me to the very core of my being. To everyone else, they are unconnected individuals. To me, they are connected, and it gnaws at my mind, this question that I know I will never be able to answer: What are they and to whom do they owe their allegiance?

But I no longer search for them. I have accepted reality, and I don’t know what difference it makes to know exactly how many of them exist. I still have no evidence. I can’t go anywhere with a story relying on an old man’s memory of his own LSD-fueled sexual exploits. I’ve tried, and gotten laughed out of the room. The best reaction is sympathy for being a senile old man whose mind is playing tricks on him about his past. And that’s without mentioning my own theories involving parasites, mind control or aliens.

Yet those words: They’ve fucked us.

How I wish I had been able to hold on to that tiny black creature!

Or stopped myself from putting it in my body.

But I couldn’t and now I’m here, posting my story somewhere at least a few people will read it. Maybe you’ll believe me, maybe you won’t. I don’t know if I want to give a warning or a confession, but either way I’ve done it now. What finds its way to the internet stays on the internet.

I hope for your collective sake that when you find this years later, you’ll be able to have a good laugh.

I know I’m not laughing.

I truly believe that in the 1960s I participated in something whose conclusion will be the ruin of mankind.