Waking Up In A Strange Place
A Hippie Afterlife
Ten years after forging friendships in the belief that they could change the world, Peter McCarthy resurfaced to wonder if he was the last hippie standing.
Peter McCarthy's Last Testament
Before leaving us for good, Peter McCarthy sums up his crazy life and many adventures.
Waking Up In Darlene's Bed, Alone
Waking Up In A Strange Place
The door at the top the stairs I'd stumbled up, I remembered, was only a step or two outside the bedroom. If I stretched up on my toes and the floorboards weren't too creaky...or, if I just dashed out fast... Chances were, I might never have to see this girl again.
Alas, I wasn't going to do anything hurtful like that at all. I just calmed myself with the knowledge that I could. Lessons from personal history as well as my immersion in Fifties decency would never allow me to get away with it. Even the Sixties hadn’t fully pushed the Eisenhower out of me.
The music had been with me from the moment I came out of sleep, dancing, notes brightening with the increase in natural light. Briefly, I sensed everything as clear and connected, but the more I woke, the muddier and more distant things grew. Now, I felt as though I'd been ejected from some warm, familial place, plummeting here, crash landing in the middle of Middle America.
Be awake and be a freak at sea on this oceanic wasteland, I wrote in my head.
I wanted to run hard and to hold the fading music longer.
After another ten minutes of debate and inner wrangling, the panic and sadness ebbed, and I was at last ready to accept things as they were. I gathered my jeans and shirt from the floor where I’d flung them and, now, reassembled them on my body, like drapes. In the mirror, I looked like the guy most people took me to be again, relaxed and with reasonably good intentions.
In sleep, the world had been mine, the old one, the one with Lizzie in it. Sometimes, awake or asleep, I just ached to have those prairies, oceans and plateaus back.
“Good morning,” I said, scratching my head as I entered the kitchen, pretending I was just now waking up to this bright blue day.
I'd traipsed right into someone else’s life, a life completely unlike my own. The middle of some kind of America. Bland Land. You couldn’t really blame Darlene. A product of our public education system in the decade immediately following the revolt, she’d never been encouraged to know much about her own life. She'd just been inducted as one of them, plunked down in the pod.
Darlene smiled. She was a different, more wholesome person in her own place in the daytime, a child under her immediate care. She was good-looking in a fresh-scrubbed way.
At the moment I interrupted them, she was leaning over her son who she'd situated in a highchair. She was wiping up the carnage from another in a months long series of confrontations with breakfast. She wore a perfectly acceptable, powder blue robe over, probably, nothing.
“Bobby,” Darlene sang, “this is Uncle Peter. Can you say, ‘Uncle Peter?’”
Uncle Peter–Oh, God, I thought, I’d finally landed there.
“Some breakfast?” she asked, glancing at me and smiling, uncombed, thick brown hair bouncing with every motion, the song still in her voice.
I had to do this. It was the right thing, and I'd made a pact with myself anyway.
“Sure,” I agreed, smiling.
I really had no distaste for her at all or even for the circumstances. She was just one of them, and I was not. This wasn’t any worse than the many other places where I also did not belong.
“Thank God, my check’s coming in a few more days,” she remarked idly while leaning into the refrigerator.
Darlene was scrounging around for enough acceptable items to constitute a legitimate morning meal. Bobby was looking at me with his mouth open and eyes popped out. I couldn't resist grinning at his excitement, and titillated, he smiled too.
Someone in me watched at a distance, increasingly mortified, paralyzed at having drifted so far from where I started.
This, I thought, trying to have a laugh at myself, this is how morality got invented. Properly deployed, it kept you out of unforgiving situations such as this one.
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Other sample chapter you might like...
Kirkwood to Colorado, May, 1965 from Traveling Without A Passport
Resisting the Viet Nam War in 1968 from The Garden of What Was and Was Not
But in the Dark Years Before Hippies
Kennedy had been assassinated. Blacks were dying for civil rights. The American Dream was in ruins, and Peter McCarthy was struggling to find out where he belonged in the dark years before the hippie dream.
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