When I was 27 I took a job driving a leopard skin van around the country promoting Kraft Cheese to college students. I’d show up to some university quad in a uniform consisting of whatever I was wearing that day plus gloves decorated like paws, a visor cap with a foam leopard’s head, and these hind paw-like things I was supposed to slip over my shoes but didn’t fit so I never did.
At almost every destination there’d be groups of girls—models in training—eager to develop experience as promoters. Promote they did. I’d fill their arms with sleeves of cheese and tubes of wiz and basically let them do my job for me.
Except the t-shirt contests, which were my favorite part. I’d gather some jockos or freshman with big backpacks and make them kneel before me while I pumped tubes of warm cheese into their mouths.
The rules were very simple.
“First one to cave is a loser.”
And I’d pump and pump until one of them choked cheese onto themselves and I’d thrust the wrist of the winner into the golden sky and crown them triumphant.
“All hail. The almighty, all-knowing cheese leopard God. Congratulations. May your cheese kingdom have no end. Here’s a t-shirt.”
“Now where’s a good bar?”
Shockingly they didn’t drug test me for this job.
It was only a matter of time before I’d find myself in the bathroom of some place called Slippery Slope with one of the models, Chris, who’d purchased a baggy of cocaine from a guy named L’Roy.
Chris made a line on the edge of the sink.
“You want some?” I felt Chris’s hips lean into mine.
I took a drink of my drink. “I’m fine.”
Chris said: “You smell like cheese.”
Then her head dipped down to the sink, nose assaulting the powder. “I’m not going to do all of it, so if you change your mind.”
I thought of the little red pills I swallowed earlier. They weren’t doing anything. Maybe I should have what Chris was having?
“Oops.” Chris laughed. “I did all of it.”
When I was 27 and a half I spent two months living out of a leopard skin van outside Austin, Texas, just doing drugs and having sex with Chris.
“Take these.” Chris gave me a baggy full of mushroom capsules.
I burst from my man cocoon and poured into the red Texas soil. The sunshine grew sharp and strange and I saw God all around me.
Days turned into more days. We lived off the cheese in the van and organic micro greens from the co-op in town. I felt spirits in everything.
Before they found us, L’Roy and the people from Kraft, before they pulled us back—in our last moments Chris took our final slice of rubbery cheese and held it high until it eclipsed the sun.
“Get on your knees.”
“This is my body.”