Once Thistle had his water, he sipped and swallowed, and then began breathing slowly. In through his nose...out through his mouth. Repeatedly. He found that if he tried to talk without relaxing, the words tended to fight with each other over who should come out of the mouth first.
Synthetic creaking rose from the nook as the restaurant patron adjusted himself in it. His right eyebrow arched high into his brow while the left one was stabbing at the bridge of his nose. But he was focused, interested. Listening.
"There was a house," said Thistle. " It was a simple house; two story, late 19th century construction, painted all-purpose white, perched on the hint of a slope in the middle of a pocked and gopher-infested one acre lot. It had come under general misuse in the past twenty years. Downstairs held as its tenant a Vietnam war veteran who had to drive out of town in order to go drinking, because all the local bars had thrown him out one too many times and, as he put it, "can eat shit." The upstairs was rented out to college students, and sustained the life of at least two and as many as six people over the course of a semester, depending on the quality of the drugs. It was a very metaphysical, psychologically transcendent location, and so it had a grand effect on the minds that played there."
The restaurant patron watched Thistle pause and sip his water. The glass was half-full. (Or half-empty, depending on your perspective.) The patron was fixed in his condition; same perplexed expression, arms propping up his head, elbows matted in with his placemat. He thought about stopping the old man to clarify things, make sure they were understanding each other. Who could know where he might go with all this? Maybe the answers to the questions would come without them having to be solicited. His breathing was slow and continuous; circular.
The more than empty and quite less than full glass of water settled down into the meniscus of condensation waiting like a primered gasket on the waxy finish of the restaurant nook's table. Thistle wiped the dampness transferred from the glass to his fingertips onto the tips of his mustache and spread it down along the sides of his face; thumb, finger, and excess moisture converging at his chin.
"It was at this house that I learned just about everything I'd ever wanted to learn one day," he continued. "I had arranged for the day off from work so that I could spend it with my friends. They wanted to do some LSD."
The restaurant patron leaned back. "LSD, huh?" he offered, intimating his discomfort, eyebrows spreading wide. His breathing became tensed.
Thistle's mind began to reel with remembrance and formulation.
His breathing was slowed, somehow louder, like wind being funneled. But the thoughts were racing, and his eyes closed. Visions and consciousness began swimming, treading in a thick, dark sea.
Thistle's world was rocking now, between reality and the imagination. He was still talking, he knew, but he wasn't sure to whom, or exactly where he was. His vision faded to shadows, his voice became monotone and muffled. He was remembering too much. He was treading water in an ocean of thought. But this ocean wasn't like any of the large salt-water arrangements found on earth. This was more like a stew-- there were all kinds of things floating around with him. It was full of things bobbing up and out of the surface, and he took note of them, distracting his attention. There was a television, the old wooden console kind from the 1960's, it's screen spitting fuzzy lines jaggedly across itself horizontally as it swam in the liquid. There were large vegetables, like uber-tubers from space-age future farms. The water was eerily warm-- hot, even, like bathwater. Or Broth.
He thought about the sensation of floating in a large stew. About the sensation of being cooked. His mind being fried to a crisp. He thought about death. About escaping the stew. About what was containing the stew. A large cauldron? Yes. A pot. If he could reach the edge and jump over--
The cauldron was particularly hot and rough that day. It was inflamed. It looked the same as on any other day. But that was surface judgement. Inside the cauldron, there was action like never before.
Something was stewing the stew. Cooking. Mixing ingredient with ingredient. Chemical with chemical. Chemical reactions between essential oils of garlic and apple skin and tumeric were bubbling nonsensically. Who put that in the stew? No matter. It boiled on.
Thistle had decided that just this once it was okay to call in sick. To get the day off. He didn't want to be sloughing drinks for the aristocracy at the country club anyway. This time was his, for him. He wanted to live his unrestrained life. Just this once.
"Well, you finally did it," went a voice in his head as he spun through cobwebs and vines of fear and unknowing. "Just one more time, you had to push the limit, had to explore the unexplored, chance losing your grip. Well, congratulations, man. You're insane. Not a damn thing you can do about it now."