Love cannot be imprisoned. —Timothy Leary, 1969
I always thought my belly button was ugly, it sinks in deep. I have the type of belly button that can swallow up enormous amount of lint. I wanted a belly button that was just a slight scar on my tummy, not a belly button you can sink your finger in. Well my belly button was to come in handy during the time I visited Timothy Leary in prison. He was incarcerated in the bowels Folsom Prison near Sacramento. His cell was below ground in the section reserved for convicted murderers.
Timothy Leary was not a murderer; he had been sentenced to five to ten years for possession of 00.1 grammes of marijuana, to be precise, a roach found in the ashtray of his car. The prison officials were having a field day; they placed Timothy Leary in a cell next to Charles Manson the mastermind behind the Sharon Tate murders.
During my three and a half years visiting Timothy in 23 prisons and jails (he was constantly moved so as to make his prison time harder and more traumatic for both of us), I was to learn that the bureau of prison is staffed with people who spend their time figuring out ways to humiliate prisoners and their visitors.
Almost every time I visited TL in prison, I was stripped and searched, cavities and all, singled out because I was guilty of being in love with “The most dangerous man in America,” the one who, according to Richard Nixon, had killed more people than the Vietnam War.
One day while we were exchanging a goodbye kiss at the end of the visit. Timothy whispered in my ear “Bring me some acid.”
On the drive back to San Francisco, in the evening after the visit, I began to wonder how I could fulfill his wish without getting caught.
When I woke up the next morning, a fresh idea entered my mind, my belly button was the ideal hiding place for tiny tabs of transparent “Clear Light” acid.
In those days I had a friend who was an acid chemist; each time I saw him he would give me small transparent vials that contained each a thousand tabs of “Clear Light.” I carried one of those vials in my purse at all times. Everywhere I went I seeded the L.S.D with people who wanted to try the experience. Once when I was at the bank I seeded the cashier. The following week my favorite bank employee was gone, I imagined she had actually “turned on, tuned in and dropped out” from her boring bank job. I thought of her hanging out in the Height Ashbury, with flowers in her hair, listening to the Jefferson Airplane.
The following week I dressed for the visit, a long black skirt and a red tee shirt. The colors of Tantra, the ancient Indian practice of sexual union.
I carefully placed several peaces of transparent film soaked in Lysergic Acid inside my belly button. This, I thought with a feeling of defiance, is a cavity they will not search.
On the way to Folsom from San Francisco, just as we were driving through the city of Vacaville, I started to feel a slight change of perception. I realized some of the substance in my belly button, aided by pearls of sweat, had seeped through my skin and into my system. The California sky had turned deep blue, the color of the Lapis Lazuli stone. The friend who was driving me knew nothing of my altered state but I now perceived his feelings as clearly as I felt my own. As we passed huge fields of alfalfa, I saw the grass like hair upon the land, and this made me think of my mother. When she did not like my hair color she said I had green hair.
Folsom prison appeared to me like a medieval French dungeon where my prince was held under lock and chain. I wondered how the admission and search would go. Would my amplified fear cause me to do something that would threaten my access to the prison?
Everything went smoothly, that day they did not even bother to strip-search me. I walked down the yard with the other visitors. I felt exhilarated, I was smuggling dangerous drugs into their maximum-security prison. This was a victory over the cruel system that kept my lover away from me. I heard the clunk of heavy metal doors and Timothy appeared dressed in an orange jumpsuit and Adidas shoes. He still had that spring in his in his step that spoke volumes about his indomitable spirit.
We were allowed a hug and a kiss at the beginning of the visit. I had moved two tabs of acid from my navel to my mouth; I had already taken my dose so I gently passed them from my tongue to his. Our eyes met in a deep look of complicity. A strong feeling of anxiety flashed through me. This must be the worst “set and setting” for an acid trip anyone could chose. Love, I felt, would work it’s exquisite magic.
” My darling wife,” Timothy said. I smiled; this man was everything to me. A few months before, I had anchored my whole existence into him. Leaving my old life in Europe dangling in the distance. The visiting room at Folsom was our world, our bubble of intimacy. We sat together at a small table, and for four hours we imagined we were at a sidewalk café sipping champagne cocktails in the sunshine. The other prisoners, their wives and children, acted like normal families on a Sunday outing. The guards watched closely, making sure there was no illegal touching during the visit.
Timothy’s eyes met mine with a great look of tenderness. I could feel he loved me. Even in this dangerous atmosphere I felt protected by his presence. As the full force of the acid began to flood my brain, I cried softly, ” I yearn for you, I long for you, get out of here, I need you.” Timothy’s eyes where soft but the gray of his irises was the color of steel. “Soon, soon I will be with you, we will make a baby together and be lovers forever.”
Underneath the table our feet where touching, sometimes the guards turned a blind eye to these games. I felt the passion in his foot climb up my skirt and ravish me as if we where lying in a luscious bed together. An orgasm shook my body, my eyes narrowed with pleasure, like those of a cat purring with ecstasy. Tim’s eyes were locked into mine. We were both travelling on a moonbeam shining on a silver spider’s web. There was no more prison, no more freedom to be given or taken away. We were inside each other outside of time and space. Tim whispered, “Come into me deeper, deeper.”
I let myself slide into the endless abyss of his being as he opened his heart to me like no one had done before. I was a newborn baby lost in the gaze of the mother, undifferentiated and totally blissful. I could not talk but I could love beyond love, beyond any sense of separation. Timothy guided us on this extraordinary escape from prison, like Houdini breaking away from his chains, he was free and we were together beyond the restraints of human laws.
I heard the guard announce the end of the visit “Five minutes before termination.”
Finally we could embrace each other. Timothy said “We will be together again next week, I will write you every day.” We held each other, I felt his warm breath on my lips, his body was strong from the hours of yoga he practiced in his cell. Every atom of my body docked onto his .
Then he skipped out the door and into the belly of the dungeon.
I felt like I was waking from a dream, the story of the last few hours disappearing into a fog inside my brain. I walked towards the gate of the prison sad and elated at the same time.
Image by “mangu” wanders by, courtesy of Creative Commons license.