With my back to the wall once again, I take the ayahuasca with both hands.
I can deal with the palpitations this time, I know that they’re coming. I’m ready for the wave of light, the immense heat and perspiration, the nausea, the numbness; I know they’re imminent and I know they’ll pass. The anxiety is just a fraction of what it was the first time. It’s the same shaman, Jauriman, and this time I find his presence a lot more soothing. He was kind to me before and helped calm me when he sensed my fear; I know I can trust him. He sees me differently too. He knows that I’m not here out of intrigue anymore, that there’s more to this than just some tourist ticking another box or looking for a buzz.
Despite all this, I know what the ayahuasca can do. I’ve seen where it can take me and I still carry the wounds. The fear of closing my eyes has kept me awake for nearly a week now, pleading with the bottom of a bottle for exhaustion. What the fuck am I doing back here?
There are a few more people in the ceremony than before, one of whom speaks English. He’s young, twenty maybe. He sits opposite me and asks me if this is my first ayahuasca.
”No,” I tell him. ”It’s my second.”
”You look scared.”
”I am scared,” I confess. His eyes close and he rubs his hands on his knees as he exhales. I realise that this is his first time and probably not what he wanted to hear. It’s at this point I want to tell him what to expect, so he knows not to be afraid when his heart begins to feel as though it might explode and his skin burns like fire. I wish I had said something.
The ceremony starts and it’s almost a carbon copy of the first, to begin with. The same meticulous order; the whistling of the smoke into the bottle, then into the glass before being passed around the circle, which was much bigger this time. I drink first and am relieved once the liquid passes my lips. The taste of the ayahuasca is truly one of the worst things I have ever experienced. I look up to see the young man drink last, he winces and instantly reaches for his bucket. Soon he will vomit, quite violently before soiling himself. I really wish I had said something.
For me though, things are considerably different from my first experience. I keep bracing myself for the wave of physical trauma, but nothing happens. The visions are almost instantaneous and, of course, it’s my mother again. It seems I was under the very unique misconception that the ayahuasca was a bit like an iMax. I checked my ticket again.
Her form is nothing like before. She’s just a woman who appears to be in a great deal of pain and demands a sympathy I can barely afford. Before long, she’s joined by two others, both of whom are clearly recognisable to me. One of these women is my sister and the other is the woman I was once married to. Oh yeah, I used to be married.
A sense of abandonment from all three women had left a considerable scar, one I’d only ever care to acknowledge in two instances; my mother and my ex-wife. To admit to harbouring these feelings toward my sister brings about a shame greater than any feeling I could ever hope to convey or ask forgiveness for. It was a juvenile emotion, one that saw a twelve-year-old boy question, albeit briefly, why he had been left to fend for himself in a circumstance he felt he did not possess the resources to survive in. At an age so young, nothing is more important than comfort and love, and these I lacked sorely.
Honestly, I think that the ayahuasca does little more than bring the deepest emotions to the consciousness and force us to deal with them and respond accordingly. Once again, I was left in a room with nothing but my darkest fears to comfort me but instead was presented with a solution, a way out. I have long since forgiven these people for abandoning me but never before had I thought to ask for forgiveness. From a wife who deserved so much more than to stand beside a man who insisted on tearing his world to pieces. From a woman who was forced into motherhood under circumstances I will never have the capacity to comprehend. And from a teenager who did nothing less than love her brother with every ounce of her while fighting for her own survival.