I was in the bar again, another weekend, it’s post Christmas, and this one was the worst that I can remember, out of the 30 I’ve seen. It’s true, it does get to a point when you just can’t go home again. I’m sure it was the fact that we had non-family guests over for the first time I could remember, both of whom had recently lost their fathers, and neither of which had much in the way of family to stay with during the holiday. I shouldn’t get mad that they invaded my house, since they had less than I did and needed this. But it’s still my house, and I didn’t like having them there.
I knew things were headed downhill that night, since it was the third bar I’d been to. Beers and dinner at one bar, then PBR and a pack of cigarettes, now I’m here again, this second kind of home. A crew of regulars and friends of regulars came in, so it felt like the right kind of energy. Drinks. Smokes. I’m still coughing a lot from a bad illness, but I don’t feel like doing the right thing tonight. Drinks. Smokes.
“How was your Christmas?”
Late in the night she came into the bar. She’s the one I fell too hard for, the one I couldn’t stop thinking about, and the one who’ll never feel the same way about me. I tell myself too often that no matter what, I should keep her as a friend, but it’s a lie that I’ve heard often enough that it becomes more believable than the actual objective truth. She meets what I guess is her new man, and I see in her face a growing love as she’s talking to him. Sure it hurts, but it’s genuinely beautiful to see that.
I imagine a dialog, with my more rational self:
I know I have to. I can’t. I don’t want to.
Just do it. I promise you it will get better.
But it hurts too much.
It’s going to hurt. Suck it up. That’s what life is, and if you’re going to live like a human you’re going to have to deal with it. This will stop hurting once you’ve moved past it.
But why can’t things just be the way I want?
You know there’s no reason why and no reason why not. It doesn’t feel fair, but that’s how it is.
A group of marginal friends came in quite late, and called me over to them at a lounge table. It was approaching closing time, so it’s time for a round of shots. We talk about books and drink whiskey. What next? the question gets asked; one volunteers her house and the remaining whiskey she’s got there. The group agrees, we leave.
It’s not pissing down rain any more, so that’s a relief as we try self-directing this group of drunk young people through the wet streets to the house we’ll be at. We somehow split into at least two groups, but we all arrive together. The place has the hallmarks of creative young people living in quaint squalor. More drinks appear, and the music gets turned up loud — heavy electronica, IDM. We’re dancing around crazy, I’m drunk, and it feels great around these people. They’re all sweet, or at least I’ve seen enough of who they are that they don’t worry about what I might see anymore. We have enough in common through the silly pain we’ve both been through. War buddies.
The bong comes out, and I dive in for a chance at it. One hit, shouldn’t be too big a deal. In short order things start to go wrong after breathing in the smoke.
A colored disc fills my vision, white, red, yellow and orange in the middle, purple and red on the edges. It looks like digital fire, it’s a roiling, violent mass, but it has some very apparent quanta on its surface. It’s not pixelated, it’s more like it’s been woven with colored, burning ribbons. It grows to encompass my entire vision, and then it’s as though I’m inside this mass, so all I can see are the burning, twisting ribbons of that fireball, and all I can hear is violent static deafeningly loud, everywhere. This is my new reality, I remember thinking, I will be experiencing this horror forever.
The fire seemed finally to dissipate, how long after it appeared I have no idea. Details of the room and the house began to resolve again, but time was fractured. You’ve taken something and it’s causing you to hallucinate, I remember thinking to myself, your body will absorb it and things will slowly come back to normal, just relax and hold on. I wanted more than anything for my old reality to come back. That reality seemed so distant, so quaint and normal and so completely outside of my current experience.
I saw the same people, doing the same things: coming in to the room, going out of the room, dancing a bit, being helped down onto a couch, picking up cups off the coffee table, over and over and over again. It felt like this was happening for days, such that I got worried that I was sitting on these people’s couch for this many days, and I thought about how to apologize for being there so long (and missing days of work). Things around me disappeared into indistinctness, then came back again, it was disappointing to see that same Christmas tree, the same musical instruments on the wall, the same corner of the table in front of me, the same damn coffee cup. It irritated me that the reality in my purview was that same one that kept fading back in and out of focus.
People brought me a glass of water. When it was first given to me, I sipped at it, but I could not feel my hand, or my face, or the water as I drank it. Some knowledge that I needed to drink it to get better took root, and I drank at it, with caution knowing that I couldn’t feel any of the body parts involved very well at all. I succeeded the first time, I think, with the water, and it did get easier to drink it as time went on. I grew more and more aware of how dry my mouth was, before I was aware of much else.
I was watching the windows of the house, because I knew that day would have to come, and maybe go again, so light would have to come in through those windows. It seemed too unlikely that the windows would stay that same inky black for so long a time. It was just proof that this wasn’t happening in what I had known to be real time. I had been terrified of moving at all, so I spent most of my time in a slouched sitting position on a couch. It wasn’t until someone told me that I could lay down that I tried doing that, which seemed to work out fine once it was done. I didn’t sleep immediately, but it was easier to wait it out laying down.
The group, still jubilant as far as those still awake were concerned, found me again and dog-piled atop me, for a photo op. I was conscious of this, but cared very little about it. I could barely move a muscle, so I let it happen, trying to form a wry smile for the camera. It might be a good picture.
Things quieted down eventually. I fell into a fitful sleep, which I interrupted every so often to mark the progress of the sun — at first, the lack of progress — as it shone through the windows. Light seemed to be leaking in, then not, then leaking in again, which shouldn’t happen in the space of a few hours on Earth, but I’m still unsure of time through this period.
I awoke in the morning, the house still. I lay there on the couch for a while, fitfully closing my eyes briefly. Someone else, who had passed out on another couch nearby, awoke, collected herself, and left. I checked the time (and the day) on my phone after she departed. About a quarter of nine, and it was Sunday, as expected. I get up and depart into the early morning, I don’t see anybody else as I’m leaving. The walk home is cold, indistinct, and seems to take much longer than it did. I arrive home mildly in shock. The experience was so long, terrifying, and defeating that I could hardly process it.
I could be happy if she’s happy, and if she doesn’t hate me.
Liar. You’re holding out hope. Move on like I told you to.
I woke at around noon. I couldn’t sleep any more, and went to sit in a café and try to compose myself again. Coffee, a bagel, and more coffee. Things still felt distant, anything touching my skin was still difficult to feel. I was living half in the memory of what I’d gone through, half in the present, pondering life, what I was seeing and feeling, and what that finality of death might be like. The only thing I was sure of was that the coffee was cold, and in a moment of need, of something to ground me again, I found nothing.