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David Berman’s “The Summer Before the Night Ecstasy Became Illegal In the State of Texas”

MY FRIEND KYLE always had a lot of money and could get me into the expensive kind of trouble without the trouble sticking. He didn’t mind paying for me if it meant raising hell with loyal company. We were seventeen. You only needed one reason to be friends at that age. I figured we had at least three. So we broke the law every day in every way and laughed our asses off at the fucking stupid world.

In late April we began to hear rumors about a new drug in the Metroplex. It was in the gay bars. Kids at the Arts Magnet were getting it. Certain people at certain parties had it and it was magical.

They called it X. It was supposed to make you unaccountably happy and tolerant of everyone from headbangers to rich fucks. Even “douchebags.”


AS I SAID BEFORE, ecstasy was still legal and as such carried virtually no stigma. Kyle’s uncle kept a jar of tablets on his desk at his car dealership. Law-abiding adults were taking them at North Dallas cocktail parties. They were even sold behind the bars like cigarettes and openly hawked on street corners downtown.

That summer, I crushed two sports cars with my homely Buick, received six speeding tickets (three in one day), two tickets for public urination, impregnated a Collin County judge’s daughter, and had a bottle of MD 20/20 broken over my head. Approximately none of it registered with me. A very real fault of the drug. I’m going to skip the scenes of me chasing daisies and singing to stray dogs from still bulldozer cabs. I was exercising horses that summer for cash, and X hangovers were A-OK for barreling over the dull scrubland.


Fifteen years on, I can honestly say I’m glad it was outlawed. After three months of its use I had lost all discretion and was prepared to trust just about anyone. Worse yet, it was turning me into a joiner. That’s not who I am. Anyway, ecstasy was not to find its true customer base until years later, when the strangely passive kids who grew up in the child protectorate of the U.S. eighties and nineties came of age, craving depersonalization. Apparently it helps them dance. They’re a very attractive lot. Have you seen them dance?

I’m sort of honestly agog at people who do not do drugs, or haven’t done them. Maybe not all the time, but perhaps in a concentrated manner for a little while, at least. My ski vest’s got buttons like convenience store mirrors and they help me see, that everything in this room right now is a part of me. I think it builds empathy and character. Prolonged use does seem to sort you, as Berman points out, as a follower (bad) or a leader (probably worse in the context). The water looks like jewelry, and it’s coming out the spout. As trite as the Roger-does-acid plot was, it does bear out the essential American male myth of escaping the bored, halcyon days of his life by means of a skyhook for the mind, a way of better seeing. God must be carving the clouds into animal shapes. The system created by visionary seeing is stymied by (among other things) the containment of visionary seeing by an even larger system whose role is to be the biggest system. It cannot be, but it tries. That is why you end up with mostly bad, 85 octane speed when you thought you bought molly. That’s probably for the best these days, but you could imagine it being better. It’s sunny and 75. It feels so good to be alive.