After the rocky first year of our marriage, Ally and I set plans to meet in Manhattan for one final bender before signing the last of our divorce paperwork and returning to our respective corners of North America.
My French-Canadian bride and I first met two years prior, walking through the International terminal at LAX, then both headed to Montréal. The intervening months brought two larger than life personalities together in a relationship that would “end” in marriage.
We managed 13 days of cohabitation before separating.
Moderation, as anyone could see, was not our trump card.
After my plane touched down at JFK, I began to wonder if reconciling might be possible. The planned finality seemed like a game of chicken.
Neither of us wanted to blink first.
I passed a New Yorker waiting for his luggage wearing a t-shirt that read, In a relationship, make sure you’re the crazy one.
The irony was not lost.
Outside my relationship, life could not have been better.
My psychopathic boss recently sold his business for more than $100 million.
You would think that a guy who spent the last five years working for the two luxury rehabs in Los Angeles would be deeply committed to sobriety, self-awareness, and thoughtful living.
The contents of my carry-on luggage painted a slightly different picture.
Liquid LSD, molly, 2CB, a sativa vape pen, and two bars of Xanax for the comedown seemed to suggest a rehab client, rather than a rehab employee.
Ally texted from LaGuardia that her flight had been delayed. She would arrive in the city later than anticipated. Not that this one was at all her fault, but sticking to any plan had never been my paramour’s strong suit.
Due to my recent windfall, we booked an Airbnb in Gramercy Park.
When my taxi arrived, I stepped out in front of an UN-flagged compound on 17th street. The building had a metal barricade surrounding the entrance and a dark SUV with Consul plates parked amid an otherwise placid Manhattan street.
The building’s elevator had a little bench inside, as well as posters hyping several new UN programs. I took a seat and felt slightly notorious, at least during the four-floor ride up. Stepping out into the hall, I met a neighbor, 30ish with stubble, walking his tiny dog.
“Thanks. You staying at Amanda’s place?”
“Yep, the wife and I.”
“Cool. Did you see the Trump painting downstairs?”
“Can’t say I did.”
“It’s worth a look. Enjoy yourselves.”
And the elevators slid shut.
In typical fashion, Ally and I found ourselves in colorful company.
Dropping my bags, I swept some quick looks around the gorgeous one-bedroom apartment to discover that our Airbnb hosts were Amanda Ungaro and Paolo Zampolli, both Ambassadors to the UN, representing Italy.
Additional Googling revealed Zampolli had famously introduced American media personality Donald Trump to his current wife Melania.
Great, I thought, what better place to ingest exotic chemicals than under the nose of a close friend of the empire.
Ally’s texts arrived as she did, with a deliberate clamor, the way a parade or a circus might begin.
I brought the weed.
Are you going to come down and help me with these bags?
If her tone seemed a bit caustic, it wasn’t because of some pent up animosity toward anyone in particular, more like a generalized anxiety toward life in its entirety.
I exited the elevator and peeked down the hallway, where the neighbor suggested I look.
There it stood, a massive oil-on-canvas portrait of the current American president, Donald J. Trump, his eye narrowed, blond quaff begging so many questions, a tight-lipped smile revealing nothing.
Well, I thought, I guess that fits.
Ally and I met with a smooch, I paid her cabbie, and back up we went.
“Look,” I pointed, “A friend of our Airbnb host.”
“Holy shit, what is this place?”
“Our host works for the United Nations.”
“Trump has friends at the United Nations?!”
“Nothing surprises me anymore.”
We knocked out quickly, both exhausted from traveling.
The next day we had planned a litany of proper NYC adventures.
I stirred first, showered, and dressed for our first outing, a spa in Downtown Manhattan.
When Ally woke, brown hair a skittering mess, I was rolling up knee-high dress socks.
“It’s comforting to know you’re going to die first,” she grumbled.
“It’s comforting to know your comedy skills will support us both into our golden years.”
To say we were spicy and overly confident around each other was an understatement.
Ally once talked me out of buying an island fortress off the coast of Wales.
I once talked her out of sneaking a bottle of sake into a family brunch.
Before we met, I never realized how shut down I had become. Regimented, structured, logical, and nearly robotic, like a species of living corpse.
Now, at the other end of the spectrum, it seemed like only a complete fool would be committed to her personal level of insanity, but with g-d as my witness I was, am, and continue to be that fool.
I had something to prove to my stuffy, backwards family, to my predictably authoritarian boss, and now, evidently, to a personal friend of the embattled American president.
Our first planned outing was to Aire Ancient Baths, a self-described Mecca of relaxation (and mixed Yelp repute) in Tribeca.
We decided to take the liquid LSD first.
Even when microdosing, acid takes about twelve hours to pass totally through your system. Unless you like staying up all night tormented by your own thoughts, it’s generally best to get the show rolling early.
A microdose, on our terms, is diluted 9 to 1, with alcohol, in our case, Vodka.
Four drops equals roughly 4/10 of a hit of old school, hippie-style tab ‘o acid.
An Uber dropped us in front of the spa, and after signing some paperwork and dressing down into swimsuits, robe, and slippers, we entered a candle-lit, stone walled, vaulted ceiling chamber that resembled the set of a movie. Eyes Wide Shut, perhaps.
It seemed to me like a welcoming enough place to relax and as the jittery first inklings of our exotic substance took hold, we were both laughing madly, causing the usual scene.
“Did they tell you about the massage?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess they come find us. Were you offered the wine ritual?”
“What’s the wine ritual?”
“I’m afraid to ask. If we spotted some weird sex thing going on in a side room, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”
The various pools, steam rooms, and cold baths were lovely. I couldn’t help but chuckle overhearing Ally’s male masseur repeatedly asking her to relax.
Sadly, neither one of us were offered a happy ending, so we returned to opposite dressing rooms, and agreed to meet in the lobby.
Between the rub down, the drugs, and the hot water, I was reduced to a walking jelly.
“Sir, how was your experience?” A clerk in a white polo approached me with a clipboard.
“Outstanding, thank you.”
“If there’s nothing else you’ll be needing, I’m happy to present you with the check.”
“Of course,” and the clipboard was handed off.
Normally, I would have just signed right away, but the nagging memory of a comment by Ally almost prompted me to remark, Ok, just produce my wife and I’ll sign the bill.
And then, of course, out she sauntered. Silly, I thought, she was obviously the crazy one in the relationship.
Refreshed and still euphoric with lysergic bliss, an Uber scooped us onward to our next destination, the Richard Rogers Theater, for 7th row tickets to Hamilton.
Some people might have questioned the significant investment in a relationship slated for planned euthanasia, but that was how we lived, good to the last drop, even if it meant a drop of blood, or the final few strokes of ink on divorce paperwork.
We hustled through the lobby together, with two minutes before curtain up, but were delayed by distraction.
“Ooh, sangria,” Ally cooed.
“And for you, sir?”
“No thanks, just the one.”
In we went. Hamilton entertained like no other; song, dance, and some improvised laughs at the current Commander-in-Chief’s expense.
At intermission, we both beamed at each other, forgetting for a few moments the business end of our trip, and embraced the happy moments that seemed light years away.
“We should take the molly,” I suggested.
“Yeah, the acid’s wearing off.”
Down it went.
After another thirty minutes of entertaining American historical stagecraft, the familiar gloop, gloop, gloop, of molly, the love drug took hold.
A year and a half before, it was while on molly in West Hollywood where I first confessed my love for Ally. As long as you have enough water in your system, it’s a wonderful experience.
This time through, I forgot momentarily the moneyed Manhattan surroundings and began pawing childishly at Ally’s brown hair.
“Stop it,” she hissed, in an abrasive whisper.
I gigged and slumped in my seat and the show roared on. With the last few minutes of Hamilton unfolding, Ally quickly stood up, then back down.
“I think I need to use the washroom.”
“It’s almost over.”
“You’re right… I’ll be right back.”
After a few minutes, with no word from my blushing soon-to-be-ex-bride, the curtain fell, the crowd rose, and the cast bowed.
How could she miss this, I wondered.
Then Ally returned.
“I threw up.”
“In the lobby.”
No matter how much the tickets cost, how far geography we managed to bridge to bring us both back together, here we were, par for the proverbial course.
Outside the theater, Ally excused herself again, to return the sangria to the gutters of Manhattan.
I took a short stroll.
Leaning against scaffolding, Ally caught the attention of a New Yorker in a beanie, hastily walking by.
“Better out that in, ma!”
We laughed and I called an Uber, ready for bed.
After splitting the Xanax and adjourning to the balcony of our Airbnb for a shared cigarette, Ally turned to me.
“What’s next for you? In your next relationship?”
“My next relationship? You think anything will ever compare to this?”
“I know, I was thinking that too. What if we didn’t sign the divorce?”
“We could keep it under glass, with a quill next to it or something.”
The next morning, we arose promptly at noon, and shuffled downstairs in search of brunch. We found a spot a block away on Irving Place and quickly sat down.
“You really want to do this,” I asked, “Keep it together?”
“Sure, why not. I still say there’s something wrong with you, if you want to be with me.”
The waitress brought a coffee and an orange juice to the table. We sipped and reflected.
“Ugh, what is this, tap orange juice?” I quipped, “I like it when the orange juice has floaties in it.”
“It’s deliberately disgusting. I’m trying to provoke something.”
“It provokes something all right. My gag reflex.”
“Oh, you still have a gag reflex?”
After brunch, I called yet another Uber and Ally hailed a cab, returning to opposite corners of North America, still married.
To this day, neither one of us are entirely sure who the crazy one in the relationship is.
Zachary Elliot is a writer/photographer based in Los Angeles.
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