Julie breaks from the huddle. She looks at once thrilled and dead serious--we have a mission. "We have to find Pez," she whispers.
It doesn't take long. Pez is grooving near the doorway to the dance chamber, moving his hands and head to the beat, rapt in conversation with a young black man in harem pants. "It's all about communication," I hear him say as we come up. He turns toward me, sees who I'm with, asks, "How are you, man?" Candy fills in the blank for me.
Pez pulls me aside, and we go for a walk. He tells me to get $30 in my right hand. I pull a clump of cash from my jeans and try not to be obvious about peeling off a 20 and two fives as we move into the middle of the crowd around the water booth and then stop. Pez is wearing yellow glasses and a long, brown-leather coat with two deep front pockets. He puts a hand into the right one, pulls it out and presses his palm into mine. We shake. He slips me a small packet and takes the cash.
"Gotta be careful," I say, trying to sound cool. Pez smiles. "This isn't careful. This is a modicum of discretion. Enjoy yourself." He melds back into the party.
I move out of the crowd and peer down at my purchase--a small white tablet wrapped in clear plastic. Candy and Julie come up and hand me a cup of cold water. I take out the pill and ask them if I'm just supposed to swallow it. "Chew it up first," Candy says. The taste is bitter and chemical. I chew for as long as I can stand it, then reach for the water, swish a mouthful around and swallow. Suddenly, the lollipops and candy canes so many of the ravers are sucking on make more sense--this stuff tastes like shit.
"How long before I feel something?" I ask.
"About 20 minutes," Julie says. "We took ours at 11 and arrived about an hour ago."
I look at my watch again: 12:28. I write down the time, and Candy looks at me like I don't get it. "We're going to go find something to do," she says, already drifting away. "Come find us when you've arrived."
Arrived? Where the hell am I going?
I assess my situation. My friends are goneagain, and I've just ingested a powerful psychoactive chemical. Second thoughts are irrelevant at this point, but I'm having them anyway--nothing to do now but wait. I take another spin through the dance room, but the music is too hard, electronic and repetitive. Back outside, I see Pez conduct another transaction. I'm already bored with just muddling around, so I strike up a conversation with him. Ecstacy is the obvious topic, and Pez, like most people on MDMA, is eager to talk.
"E is your premier drug in the underground," he says. "Acid is running a close second, and then mushrooms. And, in the underground, a lot of people mix their drugs--especially candy flipping [a combined hit of LSD and MDMA].
"Seventy percent of my E comes from the coast: L.A., San Francisco, a lot from San Diego. You hear about Dallas every now and then, but out of six shipments, five will be from California. Usually, there's anywhere from two to four kinds of Ecstacy circulating in Phoenix at any given time. And they all have different whereabouts. Once in a while, someone will get prescription MDMA from Amsterdam, but most of it is made in labs.
"The problem with street drugs is that greed is so unpredictable a factor. I've seen people press crystal meth into a pill, put a drop of acid on it and sell it as MDMA. Real Ecstacy lasts three to four hours, but people who've never done it take some speedy crap, and they're up for eight or ten hours and think they got the best hit of X ever. People are selling horrible shit as Ecstacy in this town. They're starting to realize that the underground crowd doesn't like the speedy stuff, so they're cutting it with heroin.
"If you take something and it really hammers you and makes you not want to do anything but sit in a chair and feel good, or if your nose gets cold and damp and your legs cramp, most likely you got heroin in your X."
By this time, I'm flexing my calves, have a hand on my schnozz and am seriously considering a dash to the bathroom for the two-finger throat treatment. I must look like I'm wigging out because Pez claps a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Hey, man, the key to the door is to know your source, and you know me. I'm cool. That was pure MDMA."