So sometimes when I’m daydreaming I get these weird snatches, just like a sentence or one particular snapshot of a scene, with zero background or context, and I decide to type it up. And sometimes it’s dead and goes no where, but sometimes if I just keep rolling with it I churn out something kind of nice.
Additionally, sometimes during finals I stay up way too late and I don’t do my work and I get one of these ideas in my head and I write instead.
“You’re not,” he told her, sudden, confident.
“What?” she replied.
That’s literally all that went through my head as I was taking a break from my American Fiction essay. And so I wrote it down and even though I have no idea what the hell that could possibly add up to, I just kept going. And so this is the 3-page work that came from it.
“You’re not,” he told her, sudden, confident.
“What?” she replied.
“You’re not.” And she didn’t know what he meant. Wasn’t pretty, wasn’t thin, wasn’t downing shots in the bedroom, wasn’t dancing in the living room where they’d pushed all the couches aside so there’d be space to move and gyrate to the rhythms of suffocating bass and electric pulses.
“You’re not real.” She frowned, drew back a bit. Not real? What was he trying to say?
“You’re just drunk,” was her response, shaking her head, honey-brown hair shaking along in affirmation.
He smirked at her. Not smiled, smirked, and he backed away and disappeared, consumed by the darkness and the crowd of bodies with silent laughter on his lips.
She felt nervous. Maybe it was just the buzz of the whiskey in her belly, but she felt sudden little jolts cover the hair on her arms and a persisting internal flurry, like her body contained something foreign and restless and alive.
It was silly, but she wanted to ask someone, to tap them politely on the shoulder and ask, “Do I exist?” But the music hung thick in the air and it seemed to block all her words, and in that mass of human forms and their constant movement and the pressing and the heat, she couldn’t seem to catch anyone’s attention.
And jostled and kept prisoner in that makeshift dance floor she thought at first she’d just give herself to the music, pulse to the beat until that internal fire died and the people dispersed and that high from the alcohol and the music and the people and the smokey air began to recede. She let her hips swing, arms sway, head bob slowly and what might be sensuously but how would she know for sure. The flickering, multi-colored lights played across her skin and she felt like a rainbow squeezed through a prism, light fractured and broken into all its individual pieces and scattered broken and beautiful across the room.
She felt herself melt into that darkness between strobe flashes, nothing separating her from them as they lost themselves in sound wave. The bass pounded and it drilled out all her thought, her body moved of its own accord in some trance-like surrender and she just felt like letting her arms outstretch and falling into this web of light and sound and form, where shapes failed to begin and end.
The dancing grew faster, and the space filled up, and soon there was no room left for air with all the people compacted into that singular space. Desperate for breath, she felt herself torn from that musical half-sleep, and she again was in a room full of whiskey-breathed college kids and a half-assed DJ wannabe. “I need air.” No one heard, no one answered, but she hadn’t really expected them to. She pushed her way out into the kitchen, where her housemates would still be throwing back burning shots of vodka.
“Pour me something?” she asked, eyes blinking fiercely in the florescence. The fridge hummed while the bass from the living room snuck in through the open doorways. None of them answered. One sat woozy at the table, the other was pressed up against a cupboard by a shaggy-haired boy with a frat boy sweater and ripped jeans. She ignored them, picked up the Svedka and poured herself her shot, right to the brim. She knelt down, stared it down at eye-level. The liquid rippled in the wake of her breath, like a little miniature lake existing only in the realm of that one little glass. She pictured sea gulls soaring on the wakes, little fish and deep-sea krakens swimming in the depths. Then she clasped the glass in her hands and drank down the world.
With fire in her insides (funny how a liquid could scorch you like that) she stumbled into the next room. “Hello?” she called to the crowd in general. They stood around, boys and girls, sipping from Solo cups and casting longing or furtive or irritated glances at one another. No one looked to her. “Hello?” She approached the nearest figure, a tall boy, shoved him drunkenly. There was no response; physics didn’t even seem to register her God-given powers of momentum as the flesh of her palms pressed up against the fabric of his sweater.
She swallowed down the liquid in her throat, moved to the center of the room, called out again, weakly this time, “Hello?” No answer.
She shut her eyes tight, and the blackness was swimming like a mirage so she opened them again, but nothing had changed. At a loss, breath unsteady, she ran out into the darkness of the yard, let the bite of cold air rush over her exposed skin. She sank down to the pavement, back up against the panelling of the garage, and there she waited, hours. She watched each member of the party filter out of the house she thought was hers, in groups and in pairs and alone, until the sun had crept over the horizon and it was early dawn and the sky was white and tinged teal and violet.
A door slammed and out appeared a boy, the boy who’d spoken to her earlier. He sidled up to her, sat down next to in silence.
“You were right,” she breathed, her voice cracking with a weight too heavy to be described. “I don’t exist.”
“I know,” he nodded sympathetically. He stared straight ahead at the white-washed fence, faded a little thanks to wind and rain, car exhaust and too many icy winters.
“I thought I did.” She turned her head to look at him. “When did I stop?”
He shrugged. “Who knows. Might have been days, might have been years ago.”
Years. She blinked, concentrating on one singular spot, one lonely blade of grass that seemed to expand and fill her whole vision.
“You laughed at me,” she told him blankly, unmoving.
He smiled with lips parted, his canines sharp and pointed. “Sorry. It’s a little amusing.” He paused, fiddled with his coat buttons. “I’ll admit, I’ve been watching you for weeks. I saw you in class, studying your text book, and I just found it so funny. Here you are, stressing with the rest of us over some test, and you’re not even real.”
Her gaze was still unmoving but the blade of grass was starting to swim a little.
“I’m sorry,” he continued, “that was insensitive of me.”
“You should have told me,” she whispered hoarsely, barely audible over the sounds of early morning suburbia.
Another shrug. “I did eventually.”
“How do I fix it?” she asked. The air was too crisp, it hurt to inhale.
“How do you start being real again?” He laughed. Not cruelly, but not kind either. “I don’t know. Notice the things that are real. Look at what makes them that way.” He pressed against the garage wall and lifted himself up off the ground. That blade of grass was real. It was green. That made it real. It bent to the breeze. That made it real. It was torn at the top from some insect nibbling at the stalk, or some small animal. Those were all real.
As he walked past she called out to him. “Are you real?”
“Me?” He grinned again. Smirked. “I’m as real as they come.” He gripped her tight on the shoulder, pointed out towards the horizon, where the sun began to peek over bare gnarled trees and slate-gray rooftops. “I’d start with the sunrise.”
A veil of color, a gentle rain of sunkissed auburns and tangerine yellows, sweet and citrus on the paleness of the frozen, pre-winter barenness of the landscape. Fragile whisps of cloud that refracted those pale pinks and oranges in a sky that was silver and quartz. A halo of yellow-white ringing and obscuring the sun as it peeked over the tangled bows of the treetops, as it carressed oh-so-lightly the roads and buildings that rambled into the distance. And the darkening figure of the boy as he shuffled down her street, hands in his pockets.