Saturday, April 5, 2008

~ the toxic shrub

[… continued from earlier post]

Returning to those improvised demi-drugs which a certain character-type may consume before he or she can access or afford grown-up drugs…

- Bulbs, for instance, [which I never tried].

- Pure & Simple, [which I'm ashamed to say I did].

- Nutmeg, said to be used by ‘drug-starved prisoners’ and sailors at sea in the absence of alcohol, [I never tried it, not seriously].

- And poppy seed tea, [which I did not try because, thankfully, I had not heard of it
at the time].

My HSC literature teacher, Brother McCarthy, a furious, opinionated Christian Brother, [who was certain an unattributed painting in the school lobby was a Tintoretto,] was speaking in class one day on the subject of intoxicants. I can’t recall the context, though certainly he would have been forbidding their use.

He made mention of the shrub ‘oleander’. He told us it was used in classical times to induce hallucinations and my ears pricked up. I knew the location of an oleander bush. It was right outside my parents window.

That night, predictably, I plucked some of its deep-green, leathery leaves. How many to consume? Circumspectly, I decided on just two – at least for starters - which I minced up and cooked with rice and vegetables.

Heaven knows where Brother McCarthy got his information, but he should have been more mindful before broadcasting it. Or perhaps it was a subtle policy conceived in the deep and ancient vaults of the Order, designed to rid the Earth of people like me before they reach maturity.

I was lucky I didn’t die. No, really. Down the track, I learned that oleander was a deadly poison. Consider these snippets from Wikipedia:

Oleander is one of the most poisonous plants … contains numerous extremely toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people … especially young children … The entire plant including the milky white sap is toxic … in some cases only a small amount can have lethal or near lethal effects … Oleander bark contains rosagenin which is known for its strychnine-like effects … There are innumerable reported suicidal cases of consuming mashed oleander seeds …

What I experienced was wracking nausea. Throughout the night, I vomited green bile out my bedroom window as my digestive tract roiled and spasmed. I told my parents that I’d eaten something that disagreed with me – and that was nothing less than the truth.

So, as you can see, from an early age I sought out any and all forms of altered consciousness with determination and ingenuity. As my body matured, I sought oblivion as avidly as I sought out sex.

My parents weren’t big drinkers, but they had a humble bar, consisting of various spirits and liqueurs. Of late, through lack of use, this had been removed to the shed.

On a few occasions, I had purloined bottles of my father’s beer, but had never really succeeded in getting a decent buzz on. What I wanted was to get solidly, thoroughly spiflicated - so one night, after my parents retired, I procured an empty milk bottle, crept out to the shed and filled it with just a little vodka, just a little Drambuie, a little vermouth, a little Benedictine and so on – so that the theft would go unnoticed

I left the house and made my way down to the region my friends and I had named The Quagmire. This was a zone of clay pits, degenerate plant life, rampant blackberries and mounds of dirt and building materials. Through it meandered the Grey Creek, which at that time was stodgy with effluent, sudsy with detergents, and which infused everything in its vicinity with a sweet faecal aroma.

I chose a dreadful mound of earth and perched myself upon it.

As I forced myself to drink the monster cocktail, I gazed out on the wasteland which was to become the Monash freeway, my mind constructing romance out of the reeking desolation. At that time in my life, I did everything with a sense of drama. As I drank I envisioned myself as a lonely, alienated teenager, stark under the nearby streetlamps of Foster’s road, betrayed by the dull monotony of the city, an unknown hero wrestling with conformity, deranged by his own genius …

Of course, this time I succeeded in rendering myself legless. I staggered home, crawled in my bedroom window and vomited my guts back out the way I came. Never again would I be able to bear the odour of Benedictine …

But once more this subject has proven itself too meaty for a single post. I’ll be back with more on gutter-drugs before you can say Jack Robinson.

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jape said...

Banana skins? You haven't smoked banana skins? Much as you try to imagine something happening, nothing does. Except a sore throat.

dysthymiac said...

absolutely 'Toxic Shrub' - all gardeners know that oleander is poisonous to pets/animals/horses etc. it's not the only poisonous plant found in normal suburban gardens either.
glad you are still with us - peace and love ...

Sam Sejavka said...

How well I know that feeling of 'trying to imagine something happening'

Would nightshade be one of those other toxic plants? And rhubarb leaves? What else?

Sam Sejavka said...

Think I deleted a comment by mistake. Sorry. Post it again if you can