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Linda in the Sky with Diamonds

A tale of love, drugs, and madness.

By Alvin AngPublished 11 months ago Updated 7 months ago 25 min read
Top Story - June 2023
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"Starry Night Over The Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

When I met Linda at the shophouse I was already drunk.

I was only twenty years old then, twenty and terrified of women. I had just got out of two terrible relationships and had no desire to get into another, so when Linda invited me to spend the night with her I almost refused—and I would have refused her, too, if she didn’t tempt me by offering me drugs.

See, I’ve always been a curious child, the kind of child who drove my teachers mad, mad with questions like:

“Why is the sun a star?”

“Why is a whale a mammal?”

“Why is the sky blue?”

Why, why, why, why, why. I was an insatiable curiosity machine, and at that particular point in my life I was very curious about psychedelic drugs.

Well, today is my lucky day, because Linda offered to smoke weed with me, but lucky day or not I don’t intend to get into another relationship, and as I lurched out of the cab and into the balmy Singaporean evening I had to remind myself I was done with women. No women, Calvin! Remember, no women, because you’re going to end up wasting your time, you’re going to get your heart broken again. Far better for you to focus on your own damned self and on your own damned life, women and sex and relationships be damned.

But a seed of uncertainty was in my head as I ascended the well-worn steps of the shophouse, and when I knocked on the door and it opened to reveal Linda’s pretty face the tiny seed of uncertainty blossomed into full-blown doubt.

I was nervous around women, yes, I was even a little scared of them, but I was particularly terrified of beautiful women, and Linda was very beautiful. She had bewitching eyes. Rosebud lips. A full figure and an avalanche of overturned ink for hair. Yes, Linda was very beautiful, so beautiful I had to get buzzed to even talk to her.

I met Linda at Universal Studios. We both worked at the theme park on the weekends, me to earn a quick buck, her to chase her acting ambitions. I remember the night I met her as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was shy because it was the first real job I had, and because I was shy she was the first person to break the ice, to say hello to me. After that first hello, we became friends, but somewhere in between, we became something… more.

Our texts grew more flirtatious. We gave each other lingering looks in hallways and longer-than-necessary touches on arms. And every night after work we would hug each other goodbye, and every time we hugged I felt her curves, so swan-smooth and snug in my arms, and I smelled her hair, like so many strands of wild roses in my nose, tickling and intoxicating me in equal measure; and it’s true what the sages say about the cyclical nature of the universe, because then and there my recollections became reality when Linda saw my flustered face and was once again the first to say, “Hi.”

Hi! What a word, a greeting of unparalleled eloquence, a sigh exiting those songbird lips. Being as drunk as I was her hello almost floored me, and I had to grip the door-frame to steady myself.

“Hey, are you okay?” Linda said. She sounded concerned.

“I’m fine,” I said, and saying that I remove my shoes, pulled the front door all the way open, and entered. As I did she gave me a hug, and with her face buried in my shoulder she said, “It’s good to see you again.”

“Likewise.”

We disentangled, holding each other at arm’s length, suddenly shy. Then Linda’s face lit up with a child-like grin. The grin made her look very impish and ridiculously cute, and I was about to tell her as much when she said, “So, are you ready?”

I nodded. I had, after work one day, passingly brought up my interest in trying weed, never expecting Linda to pull me over to a private corner and say, “Well then you’re in luck because I just so happen to have some.” So there I was, a lucky man in an old shophouse with a beautiful girl, about to have my first taste of marijuana. I take the seat Linda offered me and took in the sights.

It was a small apartment, decorated in a quaint but stylish manner. Several pieces of art hung on the wall, most of them replicas of Van Gogh. Aside from the prints, the apartment was sparse, even spartan. It contained one room, one sofa, one shower, and one bed. I tried very hard not to look at the bed.

Linda was dressed in form-fitting yoga attire, and she looked good. She looked very good. While looking very good she sat beside me, handed me something, and told me to put it in my mouth.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s LSD,” she said.

“LSD?”

“LSD.”

“I thought we were smoking weed.”

“This is better than weed,” Linda replied.

She had a twinkle in her eye, and well, well, well; I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve heard of LSD, of course; I’ve done my research. Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as Acid, is a potent psychedelic drug often associated with the counterculture movement of the ’60s. It was made famous by bands such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles, and by intellectuals such as Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley. The drug is also famous for inducing powerful hallucinations.

This was a little outside my comfort zone, and to buy myself some time to think I asked, “Well, what does it do?”

“It will help you see.”

“See what?”

“Beyond the illusion of things. Beyond the veil of life. LSD will help you peel back the world and see things for what they truly are—not what you want them to be.”

She said this so earnestly I couldn’t help but laugh—but Linda was being completely serious. Well, I thought, I’m cooked anyhow, and then and there a peculiar recklessness came over me. I took what she handed me and held it up to the light. It was a piece of tin foil. “The LSD is inside the foil,” Linda explained.

She told me what to do. Step one, unwrap the foil. I did so gingerly, peeling back the piece of folded aluminum to expose the first drug I have ever seen in my life. The LSD came in a piece of blotter paper the size of my fingernail. The paper was colorful, and there was a design etched on it: a bright green pyramid topped with a single all-seeing eye. The eye was open, and the open eye was radiating golden sunbeams everywhere.

Linda moved on to step two: place the tab of LSD under my tongue. I did as she said, and a moment later, she too, unwrapped her piece of tin foil and popped the little piece of paper daintily into her mouth.

“Now what?” I asked.

“Now we wait,” she replied.

*

I knew the drug was working when the world began to bend.

The smell was the first thing I noticed. Linda was sitting cross-legged on the ground, fiddling with a speaker. She had lit several sticks of incense, placing the burning sticks in a rough semi-circle around the apartment. The air smelled of woodsmoke and fire, and I surprised myself by liking it. I told Linda as much. She laughed and said, “That’s because I’m not burning any old incense. I’m burning sage. Sage helps purify the environment. It helps clean up the setting, and a clean setting prepares your mind for a better trip.”

I don’t know what that meant, but whatever she was doing, it was working. I felt calm and relaxed, calmer and more relaxed than I had been for weeks. My body felt very light, and at first, I chalked this floaty feeling off to my drunken state, but then I realized my mind was clear and sober. I felt more than just sober, actually—I felt aware, hyper-aware, more aware than I had ever felt in my life. An incredible feeling of happiness descended upon me, and I laughed and said to Linda in a loud voice, “Hey, I think I feel something!”

“Good, it’s about time, too.” I peeked at my watch and noticed that 45 minutes had passed since I put the tab of LSD under my tongue. The paper had dissolved into a mushy pulp. I asked Linda whether it was okay to swallow it. She said yes, and we each took a gulp from her water bottle and swallowed. The water felt good and refreshing, like electricity going down my throat.

Then Linda said, “There, finally fixed it.” She hit a button on her phone and a tendril of music wafted out of the speakers towards my ears. The music was foreign; Indian, maybe, sung by a lady with a hauntingly beautiful voice. And although I did not understand a word she was singing, I felt curiously moved by the music, by the emotion she was expressing through her voice. I turned around to compliment Linda on her taste in music—then time lost all meaning entirely.

Linda was dying. I mean, she was still beside me, alive and well, but her face was changing, swirling, doing impossible tricks before my eyes. I saw her black hair turn silver, saw crow’s feet cluster like cobwebs around her eyes, and there was no denying it; she was aging right in front of me, growing old, dying, then becoming young again; and all the while she was not looking away but right back at me, and I saw that her immortal eyes were the only thing to remain unchanged.

I was incredulous, and we did not speak, she and I, just sat there for a few minutes that might’ve been eons, looking deep into each other's eyes as a strange woman croons to us across time and space in a tongue I did not know. Then Linda opened her mouth and began to sing, and when she did I felt as if somebody had taken a hammer and rang the gong of my soul.

Linda knew the words to the song, and she sang along with it, hitting each note with crystal perfection. The words coming out of her lips were a tangible, physical thing; cutting through me, reverberating through me, grabbing me by the roots and shaking me alive. I felt as if there was a full-fledged orgasm going through my body, and I told Linda, “Oh my God, I must be high. I feel like I’m cumming!”

“Yes, Cal, we’re high. I feel like I’m cumming, too,” she replied, her voice soft, throaty, and low.

We lay down on the floor and leaned our heads against the sofa. There was so much to take in. The world was spinning, Linda’s face was shifting, and the music was loud, elvish, and ethereal, hitting me in a way music had never done before. I saw Linda slumped on the floor beside me, her head resting on the crook of her folded arms, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of love for her. This was a creature of the world, just like me, and she had taken a risk, a chance to invite me to her apartment so we could partake in this experience together. Then, as if sensing my thoughts, Linda opened her eyes to give me a small smile and a slow wink. I felt love and gratitude wash over me like hot summer rain on my skin, and suddenly my clothes became very uncomfortable.

The cotton shirt I was wearing felt overly tight and needless, and feeling uncomfortable I scratched at it, pulled at it, and when it got too much I told Linda, “Hey, this sounds kinda weird, but I feel like I need to take my shirt off.”

She immediately sat up and said, “Take it off, then, baby, take it off!”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Cal, don’t fight what you feel. Feel free to take your shirt off!” she said, laughing, and I laughed along with her and took my shirt off. My shirt slid over my stomach, over my chest, over my head, and I could feel Linda’s fingers on my body, helping to free me from my cocoon. In a few short seconds I was free, and like a free man I cast my shirt to the side, laughing all the way.

I didn’t need it now. I was a man who had grown too big for his own skin, a snake who had to molt to grow, and now that I have overcome my discomfort to be reborn I felt like a god who had burst out of his chrysalis. Reveling in my newfound freedom I smiled and stretched my hands above my topless body, and the air-conditioning felt cool and good against the humming of my naked skin.

I opened my eyes to see Linda staring at me with hunger in her eyes.

“Nice body,” she said, biting her lips.

I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Thank you, Linda, you’re very kind.”

Linda looked up at me meaningfully. “You’re a fighter, right?”

Back in those days I was a fighter, a near undefeated MMA fighter with a four-and-one record, so I told her the truth. “Yes,” I said.

“You know, I’ve always had a thing for fighters. They’re so…scruffy, so grungy, so…hot.” Linda said, all the while looking at me with those bewitching eyes. All of a sudden, the air-con felt too cold and the foreign song was much too loud and oh my god, did Linda just preposition me?

You could have her right now, I thought. You could have the girl of your dreams, hot smooth Linda whose curves fit so fine in your palms; Linda with the banging body and the terrific smile, she who smelled like a cocktail of wildflowers even after a long day’s work. Don’t lie, Calvin, don’t tell yourself you haven’t thought about it, because you have: you’ve dreamt of her in the middle of the night when no one was looking, you’ve thought about her in bed with you, you and yours alone, her head on your shoulders and her lips against yours, your bliss and secret pleasure.

But she was so much, too much. She was a daydream in a dress, a beauty and an aspiring actress, and a beauty like her is not meant for the likes of me. I’m nothing but a broke, young fighter with nothing to his name, with nothing to offer except a sub-zero bank account and a twice-broken heart. I’m broke and I come from a broken family, and I knew that nobody who comes from a background like mine could ever have a girl like this; not even if he wins one thousand fights, not even if he was the last man left standing in the world, and it is true that pity is the thief of desire, because my yearning for her left me then, like so much water tumbling from a bottomless cup.

I do not answer her. I looked past her instead. I pointed at a painting and said, “Oh my god, is that Van Gogh print moving?”

In the split second before Linda turned to look, I saw a mix of emotions pass through her face like a storm cloud over the sun. I saw confusion, disappointment, and a very brief flare of anger. Then her face smoothed over and became a calm, still pond with her feelings hidden deep beneath the surface. She said, “Yes. Art looks amazing on LSD. You should go over and take a closer look.”

I did as she suggested, and to my surprise, the Van Gogh print was moving. Starry Night was an ocean in the sky, with streams of bright blue currents swirling in between neon yellow stars. Venus was high up on the right, facing off against the Dark Tower low on the left, and The Morning Star was shining fierce and bright against the dark, like Lucifer before the Fall. The fact that Van Gogh had painted it while he was locked up and hallucinating was not lost on me, and there, staring at his work, I knew then that he was a genius, a peerless prodigy, and I felt an odd sense of kinship for this poor painter I have never met.

"The Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh. Source: Wikipedia Commons

There was a self-portrait of Van Gogh hanging right beside Starry Night, and it’s true then what Nietzsche said, because as I gazed at the long-dead artist, he too, gazed back at me with eyes like haunted light bulbs. His eyes burned beneath the red glare of his hair, and it mattered not that death and the passing of two hundred years separated us, because he was there, in the room with us, this shophouse in the 21st century. His art had made him immortal.

Van Gogh was an indisputable genius, yes, yet at that moment I couldn’t help but wonder if he had known love beyond his art. He had a brother who loved him, a woman who spurned him, and he never got the recognition he so rightfully deserved; all this I knew and more, and there, staring at his portrait, at the effort of a talented man striving against death, I felt proud that I came from the same brave race as he did, the Race of Man, this brave man who spent his life painting paintings of incomparable beauty.

Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Tears streaked down my cheeks, wetting them, staining them. Linda saw my sobs and came up to me, and without a word she enveloped me in a hug, and there we stayed, two still statues standing before the watching eyes of a master.

When we separated I could feel it. I could feel it rising from within me like a leviathan from the deep: desire, desire and a love for her and all things, and there was a reckless passion burning in my chest when I leaned in close to her, half-expecting her to spurn me as so many others had before.

But she did not spurn me, this girl of my dreams. She kissed me instead; me, Calvin Yang, winner of four fights and nurser of a broken heart that was even now beginning to heal. Her lips were cool and sweet like frozen raspberries, and as we kissed we tumbled towards the bed that I had tried so hard not to see. When we landed on it our hands found each other everywhere; on each other’s cheeks, on each other’s skin, under each other’s clothes, and as our clothes fell off the air was alive with magic and the sound of passion.

At the peak of our love and pleasure, I could hear, beyond the moans of our shared ecstasy, that the music in the background was rising and climaxing, in tandem with us, this haunting melody sung by a lady whose name I still do not know.

*

When it was all over, I held Linda in my arms.

We were both naked and cold, we had the duvet wrapped around us and nothing else, and there, with her head on my shoulder like I had dreamt of so many secret nights before, we began to talk of strange and wondrous things.

We spoke of death and the meaning of life, of the creation of the universe and of the nature of God, but the most wonderful thing we spoke about was our hopes and dreams for the future. She shared with me her dreams of becoming an actress, of owning her own little art gallery featuring the paintings of the greats, and I told her all about my desire to win a belt, of becoming a great MMA champion—but the strangest thing was when my words left my lips, they rang out cold and hollow.

Linda sensed my confusion. She stood up, and still naked she strode to her bag and retrieved a deck of cards. She shuffled them, then handed them to me facedown. She told me to pick three, any three.

“What are they?” I asked.

“They’re tarot cards,” she said.

She could see it in my eyes. She could see the disbelief, the unuttered phrase, “But tarot cards don’t work!” etched in mute words across my pupils. But I could see it in her eyes, too. I could see her thinking, “Did you think, Calvin, before this trip, that you would see my face melt and move? Did you think you would see the world in a lonely painting, and feel all the pain and glory of the universe condensed in a single singing note?”

She had a point, so I did what she told me and drew.

Every one of her cards was beautifully illustrated, and the first card I drew had a hand holding a branch painted upon it. It was the Ace of Wands, Linda said, and this card meant that I have new opportunities coming up, new ideas for growth, particularly in the intellectual or artistic sector. A good card.

The second card I drew was stranger. It was called The Queen of Cups, but the catch was the card came out upside down. It featured a stern-looking lady dressed in a gown and a tiara, holding up a golden chalice. It was The Queen of Cups in reverse, Linda said, and this meant that I am not in tune with my emotions, particularly when it came to my feminine side. I thought of my previous fear and troubles with women and had to agree.

The last card I drew was stranger still. It was an armored skeleton sitting atop a pale horse, and when I handed the card over to Linda, she became very quiet. “This,” Linda said in a soft voice. “Is Death.” But then she smiled a forced smile and said, “Now, look. Death isn’t exactly a bad card. It’s…complicated. Death signifies an inner purging, a killing of the old to make space for the new. All in all, the Death card foretells a great personal transformation about to take place.”

Then she clapped her hands, slapped her cards back together, and returned them to her bag. When she came back to the bed to kiss me I quickly forgot all about them.

But Linda’s tarot cards proved to be deadly accurate. I would, after that night, indeed go through a great personal and spiritual transformation…and so would Linda.

*

I got together with Linda shortly after that. We spent a year together, a year of perfect bliss where we explored different countries, different substances…and each other.

We did MDMA in Malaysia, smoked weed in Thailand, and ate mushrooms in Bali. All that was fun and dandy, but the drug we always returned to was LSD, the tried-and-true staple that brought us together in the first place.

And it was after one of these LSD trips that Linda started to go insane.

It was a trip like any other. Objects were flowing, the world was bending, and Linda’s face was morphing in and out of existence; but when I woke up, she was…gone. She had awoken long before I did, and she was just lying there, staring at the ceiling. God knows how long she had been awake, or what mad patterns she saw dancing across the concrete sky, but after that, Linda was never the same.

In the months that passed the Linda I knew ceased to exist. Gone was the bubbly, driven girl who aspired to be an actress; gone was the lover of art who wanted to own her own gallery to spread her love of aestheticism to the world. In her place was a stranger; a sad, cynical woman who was often mean and spiteful for no reason at all. She would lash out one moment, weep the next, and would sometimes go on endless tirades about how people were conspiring against her, or how there was no real, innate meaning for our existence here on this Earth—so why bother to live at all?

I stayed hopeful. I stayed with her, cared for her, and all the while I prayed that someday this stranger would be gone like a bad dream and Linda, my bright, beautiful Linda, would be returned to me again.

But it was not to be. Linda didn't get better, she only got worse, and one day, after a particularly hairy day where she threatened to commit suicide, I brought her to the hospital. There, the doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. They gave her a cocktail of medications, scheduled her for weekly therapy sessions, and I felt, deep in my heart of hearts, a secret hope flare anew. I kept wishing for Linda to get better…but she never did.

The worst moments were not when she was raging and crying, not when she was ranting against God and Life itself; it was not even when she was threatening to throw herself off the top of a building so that she could, in her words, “Be reborn anew far from this lesser plane of suffering.”

No, the worst moments came when she became lucid.

It happened in the morning, always in the morning; a morning when she would start awake and her eyes would be filled with clarity and a terrible sense of confusion. “What’s happening to me?” she would ask, her eyes big and round and filled with fear. “Why can’t I keep these bad thoughts out of my head?” And I would try not to weep. I would hold her in my arms just like the old times and tell her everything was going to be okay.

And everything would be okay—for a time. For a few hours, for a few days, the girl I fell in love with would be returned to me. Those hours and days were short—but they were long enough for me to fall in love with her all over again. But as time went on her lucid moments grew few and far between, and soon they disappeared entirely.

I couldn’t help it. I was in pain, so much pain, seeing the woman I love succumb to the darkness, becoming a shadow of her former self, and I am ashamed to admit it, but it was too much for me. I left her, towards the end. God help me, I left her towards the end.

*

It has been a long time since I last saw Linda.

The last I heard she was living a quiet life in an insane asylum. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think of a certain night in an old shophouse, many years and an eternity ago, a night where Linda and I made love under the watchful eyes of a madman—a night where Linda, seeking to foretell my future, drew us the Death card.

The tarot cards were right after all, because Linda was not the only person to die that night. I became a changed man, too. I have, since then, gone on many different dates with many different women, with varying degrees of success, but one truth remains: I am no longer terrified of women. LSD did let me see beyond the illusion of things, and I see now that men and women are not so different, after all. Women, I concur, are just like men, except they are better than us in every conceivable way.

I also have no desire to fight again. I have, after that night, strangely lost the competitive wind in my sails, and having lost the passion that had kept me going for so long, I soon became lost. I wandered around. I drank too much. I hooked up with woman after woman, openly and indiscriminately, until one day, nursing a hangover and feeling very alone, I suddenly thought of Linda.

An image of her came to me, random and unbidden, and I thought of her not as she is now but the way she was and always will be; a wild and wonderful thing, a force of nature like a sandalless girl in the rain, and I thought, “Somebody deserves to hear her story. Somebody deserves to know how beautiful she was, the story of her rise and fall, a sad, bent flower lost in the storm.” This thought was followed up by another one which went, “But nobody else was there the night you and her tripped. Nobody was with her when her mind started to go…so if you want her story to be heard—to be accurately and totally heard—you must be the one to write it.”

And so I started to write. It was nothing but practice at first, but I soon grew to enjoy it. Writing gave me a feeling that fighting never had, a feeling of peace and serenity.

I slowly but steadily built a following online. One thousand followers turned into two, two thousand followers turned into four, and the words that I typed, so clunky and verbose before, are now coming out as smooth and as swift as the wind.

As the years passed I even managed to write a novel; and one day, one fine, sunny July day, the site that I was writing for suddenly announced a writing challenge. One of the topics of the challenge was romance, and right away I thought of a night in a shophouse so long ago, of the Van Gogh prints moving on Linda’s wall, of our love and her slow descent into madness, and I knew that the time is now.

I sat down at my laptop and began to write.

Painting
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About the Creator

Alvin Ang

👑 Writer of scandalous stories. Author of "National Service: Confessions of a Skiving Soldier" and "Confessions of a Singaporean Weed Smoker." Buy my books here!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (12)

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  • Meg2 months ago

    This bittersweet tale was beautifully written! Thanks for sharing such your story, one of the best pieces I have read on Vocal

  • Excellent and Deserved Top Story, we are featuring this in the Vocal Social Society Community Adventure on Facebook and world love for you to join us there

  • Wow. I have not been so captured by any story or writing for a long, long time. If ever. This was an emotional rollercoaster. How you must have both suffered. I send you love Calvin. I send love to Linda too and pray the universe helps her to escape this darkness that enveloped her x

  • Mark Graham10 months ago

    Great emotional writing. I think this could be a novella and maybe even use it in a drug counseling session if so desired.

  • Oh my goodness! This was so mesmerising! So beautifully written! Congratulations on your Top Story! I've subscribed to you!

  • K. C. Wexlar10 months ago

    good stuff!

  • Ruth Stewart10 months ago

    Beautifully written, a wonderful piece. Thank you.

  • KJ Aartila10 months ago

    A gorgeous story - I don't even have the words to express my appreciation - just thank you for sharing this beautiful trip and honoring Linda. That's special. ❤️

  • Great job and Congratulations on your Top Story❤️❗

  • Melissa Ingoldsby10 months ago

    I am falling in love🙈🥰❤️👌another excellent piece

  • sleepy drafts11 months ago

    Wow! This was so beautifully woven. There is so much texture in this story... kind of like van Gogh's work, lol! Amazing work. ❤️ Thank you for writing and sharing this piece! 💙✨

  • J. S. Wade11 months ago

    Wow. This is a compelling journey! Masterful story telling. 😎

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