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‘We don’t have to stay out here. You can see the way it’s going to go. Maria Pia is getting what she wanted…’ Agata’s words seemed to come from a distance, even though she was speaking into my ear.

’We don’t have to stay…’ I echoed, wondering why dumbly repeating her words seemed to bring new significance to them.

‘Come, I’ll show you around the house…’ said Agata, standing up and reaching for my hand as if she were suddenly my older sister. We walked inside, or rather ‘inside’ peeled back, then wrapped itself around us. She took me through rooms that were mostly empty, or had one or two bits of bric-a-brac in them. Their vacancy preserved and amplified our footsteps. We played hide and seek, then we were kissing.

We went to her room. It was at the top of the house. I stumbled on the stairs several times, causing Agata to stop and help me to my feet, because having fallen, I was inclined to stay where I was. Her room was small, a Romany’s caravan, the walls lined with hangings. The sound of the others fell away as the door closed. Our breathing, its rising cadence, filled the space and contained us like swaddling. She straddled me and we fucked. What we did was slow, very slow; the merging of us seemed to be a place we had come to dwell.

When I awoke the room seemed bigger than I remembered it. Agata was awake. In fact I had kept her awake, calling out in my sleep and thrashing around in the narrow bed. I could remember dreams that were intensely coloured but I couldn’t begin to recount any of them. I said I was feeling thirsty.

‘That’s probably the LSD,’ said Agata. I must have looked nonplussed. ‘You didn’t realise?’

No, I had not. Something in my brain got stuck on pounds, shillings and pence; there’d been a robbery? Surely that was what she meant? My experience of drugs went as far as sharing a joint at a party. LSD was quite a new thing. I knew it was serious: it meant dicing with your mind, stepping into the unknown, a decision not taken lightly. I began to feel panicked at the idea I’d been mickeyed.

‘It’s OK,’ she said. ‘You’ll come down. It’s OK. It’s beautiful when you feel good with someone. I’ll look out for you.’ I detected again the steady practicality in her voice. I gave in to it; she was in control. There was nothing really to get scared about. We drew ourselves into an embrace; Agata’s face became a massive cinematic close-up.

A while later, I asked, ‘LSD? What’s the deal? I didn’t know.’ I hoped my voice was steady. The words came from outside somewhere. They had a smell, earthy, or was that us, our sweat? I wondered when the strangeness of everything would end. I was bored with it – and stuck in it.

‘Matteo’s drinks…? I told you he was a chemist. He knows how to make it. Maria Pia’s séances are like an experiment for him. He even makes notes about them…’

‘Did you take some?’

‘No, I don’t take it any more.’ Her face clouded as she said this. She literally became tight-lipped. I inferred that it was not always ‘OK’. I felt a warm flush of gratitude, of peace. She had looked out for me, as she had said. The feeling grew into something strong, like singing, high and pure in the distance. I felt like walking around, and still that thirst, an insistent presence.

‘I’m going to get some water.’ Agata looked at me, I think trying to read whether I was capable. ’It’s fine. I’ll be back in a minute.” I got dressed and went out.

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