Part One in a story I'm puttering with
Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ. I couldn't be sure of my senses, or even awareness of senses, or even what senses were. I think I remember learning about that in elementary school science class, or was it something I saw on TV? I remember something vaguely sexual about the whole experience. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on but I really can't blame myself because I was only in fifth grade after all.
God, the cooties were terrible. I still have nightmares from time to time.
I kept staring at my hands hoping that I could just fade out of existence and reappear someplace a lot less confusing. Confusing isn't really the right word for it. Awkward? Obvious? Maybe it didn't matter.
I glanced up from my musings, trying to figure out what I was going to say before I knew the question.
I have a hobby. It involves dissecting the elements and re-assembling them in my own image. Oh, wait, not my image; that would be egotistical. Maybe some other image like Mona Lisa or David or Richard Simmons. I would try to explain but the whole idea seems preposterous. I mumble something somewhat reassuring adding “I'll be all right, mother.”
Would I be, would I ever really be “all right?” Too many questions and not enough answers to be had. Musical chairs of answers. The loser doomed to exist in purgatory until the next time, if there was one. That always seemed to be the last question on my mind. I stared at my hands and then at mothers stew. I could see the past, present and future staring up at me in small, carroty and potato-shaped bits. I felt a tingle in the back of my brain, I didn't want to deal with her right now.
“Mother, do you ever think about your place in the universe?” I tried to break up the ice forming around the edges of my mind.
“Oh don't start that tripe again. Shut up and eat.”
If eating made any sense right now I would.
“Quit nitpicking,” I replied absentmindedly.
“Who is it that you are always talking to?”
I felt her eyes through the back of my head. How much did she know, exactly? All or nothing or somewhere in the middle. Did she know I would end up this way? Somehow, I was eating again.
“Thank you,” at least that's what I intended to say as I got up and walked too the door. I couldn't handle much more hiding. I kind of figured my hiding was obvious and that I shouldn't worry because she knew. Maybe I was being purposely deceptive because it felt natural at the time.
The doorknob felt slippery. I couldn't quite place where I had felt the same thing before. I tried to grab on to the thought, tried to make it manifest itself once more but it ended up dashing away with the breeze. The desert heat beat instantly upon my face and stung my eyes. I squinted as I fumbled around looking for my sunglasses until I realized I had them on.
“Christ on a cracker, that took you long enough!”
I jumped out of my skin and spun around, surprised to find the smiling image of my good friend and roommate glaring at me from the passenger side of a nearby car. In the short while I was lost within the confines of mother's kitchen, I had forgotten what she looked like. The fender was missing on one side and the other side didn't match the rest of the body. There was a curious dent in the hood that I know I didn't cause, but I could have.
“What did you do, forget I was out here?”
I silently slid into the driver's seat, not wanting to admit the truth. I shouldn't be driving in my state of mind but I knew I didn't have too much of a choice.
“Did you bring me any?”
“Any what?” I mumbled to the tune of the song on the radio
“Food, that I know you must have scarfed on while I was sitting out here in the blazing heat, listening to shitty top-40 radio”
“At least you had the sense not to let the battery die” I observed.
“Not that it matters, you have to roll start this pile of rusty shit anyhow”
I was about to reply with venom until I realized he was right. The ignition switch was broken long ago. I have a fuzzy memory that the debacle involved a trip gone bad and reality collapsing in on itself temporarily. Push starting the vehicle was almost as automatic as turning a key, and I found it strangely satisfying. I often wondered, if I was presented with the opportunity to own a car with a functional ignition switch and an actual key, would I use it or would act on a subconscious impulse and destroy it? Is self sabotage a hobby?
“What is on the menu for next weekend, mate?”
“Fuck,” I blurted, “This weekend isn't even over yet!” I had an inkling it was still Sunday. Mother always served stew on Sunday.
“True that. We still have a few hits and a shit-load of weed to work through,” my companion said through a cloud of thick, purple smoke.
What the hell was this, a contest? Some sort of drug-fueled brawl?
“Pushing the limits of reality and telling it to piss off, eh mate?” I felt a firm, but friendly slap on my shoulder. I stared out over the dashboard, suddenly fascinated with the road and everything in front of me. The road was straight through a deep valley, surrounded by sagebrush on one side and a lake on the other. The lake resembled an overgrown mud hole and was always crowded with birds of varying types in the summer. I thought it was pretty, but was too concerned about appearances to ever mention it to anyone. “I wonder if the lake will ever just disappear and not come back.”
“Aww there you go with that existential bull crap. Life is too short to be occupying our brains philosophizing about huge, water-filled holes.”
“That water-filled hole could be whats separating us from annihilation,” I said, speeding up the car just a little bit.
“Hey, do you want to get pulled over? Knock it off, crazy ass hole!” I was shaken awake by a punch to the arm. I replied by turning the radio up and focusing on the road. It must be Sunday because there isn't much traffic. The speedometer bounced angrily, unable to continue it's clockwise journey. Maybe I was going a bit too fast for the conditions. Another cloud of purple smoke lazily spun its way through the cabin. I inhaled deeply, hoping to catch somewhat of a second hand buzz.
I got the feeling that the people in the cars I passed were staring at me. Maybe not at me specifically, but at the whole environment I was surrounded by. The car looked like it was being held together by prayers and duct tape. The passenger was gloomily puffing on a pipe, alternating between staring at me and gazing off into the horizon. I was fairly sure that every hiss, every pop, every auto-tuned note could be heard for miles, rattling and radiating from our rolling disaster area. I felt myself start to hum along with the song on the radio, even though I didn't really care for it.