SHORT FICTION

why you are probably feeling as much anxiety as you are while sitting on the greyhound bus on your way home from being in a different city


//


because you wake up in the bed of the person that you almost had sex with last night and they are already awake and are downstairs talking to their roommate. you are so hungover from the vodka you drank last night that you feel as though your body is moving very, very fast, like at some infinite speed, probably the speed of light and you are quickly losing mass. you lie there on the bed feeling like that and listen to the conversation happen downstairs. you either cannot make out what they are saying or you do not care but you hear the person that you almost had sex with come back upstairs and you keep your eyes closed and pretend to be asleep. you hope they will lie down next to you and you will be able to kiss them and be held by them and have sex with them now, in this moment, with you feeling like your body is at an extreme speed like this, but instead they just set a glass of water down on the bedside table next to you and you make it seem like that is what woke you.


"why are you here again?" they say.

"because you invited me," you say.

"well, will you leave?"

"okay."


you put your clothes back on slowly and carefully and nothing feels anxious or bitter. it feels sort of happy and it is obvious that the person that you almost had sex with is pretending to be more affected by this than they really are. you are sure that when you leave they will make themselves coffee and put on some music and they will be alive the same way as they were before you came over last night. before all of the shots of vodka in the street on the hood of their car, before the laughing loudly as you stumbled into the house, nervous of waking the roommate, before the abandoned kissing on the edge of the bed.


at the door, outside, you do not kiss, and you wonder if it is supposed to be like that. you are staring at one another and then you hug and say:


"i'll see you again."

and they say: "we'll see."


you turn and walk away from them and are conscious of them still staring at you and what they might be thinking, but you do not look back, you just keep going and exit through the gate of the complex and walk out into the street and realize you have no car and no phone and no way of going anywhere right now. and you feel okay about that. 


you are in the backseat of your friend's red mercedes. the passenger seat has stacks of books on it, probably 'classic' literature. that is why you are sitting in the backseat. you feel nauseous and you can hardly breathe and you keep rolling the window down and then up because the wind from outside is so intense on your face that at one point, fifteen minutes ago, you were convinced the wind would blow all the skin off your face and your friend would look back at you, and there you would be, this horrific naked face of muscle, sinew and bone.


"i don't know what i expected, you know?"


your friend is turned around and smiling at you. they have been talking to you for awhile and you have not really listened.


"yeah," you say.


you close your eyes and focus on breathing as you feel the car turn. with your eyes closed, using what senses you have, you can gather that you have turned into a parking garage and that the car is parking. 


you get out of the car and so does your friend. as you go down the stairs from the garage to the street your friend talks. you get to the bottom of the stairs and leave the garage and step out onto the sidewalk. it is very bright outside. people are moving in many directions and you can hear all of their conversation and all of their silence at the same time, rushing at you in a single line. into your ear canals all at once. you follow your friend across the street and into an office.


"i just think i'm doing it 'cause it feels good," they say.

"isn't that why everyone does anything?" you say and then put your hand on the wall and you can feel the wall's pain. it did not want to be the type of wall it has become. it is a sad wall. you almost cry but stop yourself and then look at your friend who is watching you lean on the wall.


"you're real hungover, huh?" they say.


you get onto the elevator with your friend and a blonde woman who looks so average that you do not even register her as an individual, just a thing, steps on. she tries, what appears to be very hard not to look at you and you do not care about looking at anything except her. she is more attractive than you. and she is average. you do not even want to think about what that makes you.


you get off the elevator and think it says floor 6, but it says 9 and your friend stops you in the hallway.


"it smells like what it would smell like in here." you say.

"i know. these places always smell like this. look, will you wait out here? if i get these i don't want them thinking i'm giving them to anyone."

"okay."

"is that okay?"

"i just said okay."

"i know but i thought you were saying it like you were mad. you can come in if you want, i just think it'd be better if you waited out here is all."

"i said okay. i'll wait here."

"okay, be right back."


you watch them go in this brown door and the carpet is green and the lamps on the wall are fake and brass-colored and there are reproduction monet paintings with plastic frames everywhere. you do not know why they chose to make this place look like this. why they choose to make all these places look like this.


then you have to pee so you do not care anymore about the decor. you are dizzy and have to pee and make your way to the end of the hall. you approach the bathroom. it is locked. you try it again. still locked. you are mad. you are very mad. you wonder why you are so mad at something like this. you hate this door. you hate that it is locked. you stand there for a moment staring at it furiously wondering: ‘why is this fucking door locked?’


this is why the door is locked:


at 6am this morning a man who has a ring of keys to all of the doors, who has worked here in this office for twenty five years woke up for the first time in his life and felt different. he had not spoken to his ex-wife or his son or his adopted daughter in ten years and he had created this carefully designed ‘fabric of happiness.’ at work the employees never saw him without a smile. his neighbors in the apartment complex would say that he was the friendliest, most compassionate man they had ever known. his ex-wife left him because he drank often, did not seem to take things seriously and was unmotivated. he was also not providing for his family she had said in many arguments. she had insulted him, neglected him and broken him down in so many of these fights about his inability to provide for the family that he started to drink even heavier. one morning after work he came home and she was gone and so were his children and in her note to him she made it very apparent that she had no intention of ever coming back. in fact she had been cheating on him and was moving to seattle with a young man who had fought in afghanistan, had post traumatic stress disorder and was on four different medications. he was a good man. she was in love with this man. this man had a career and a hobby. he took photographs. portraits. he took one of her topless by a lake and that picture was attached to the note. he made her feel beautiful and he made money. he could provide for her. he made her feel happy for the first time in years she explained. the man who had the key ring with the keys for the door woke up this morning and he was going to contact his ex-wife and demand to see his children. it had been too many years. there had not been a day that had gone by that he had not thought of them. he still had some of their clothing from ten years ago. sometimes, he would lay their clothes out for them on the couch as he would often do before they had school the next day. he woke up this morning with a slight hangover, went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of scotch and then he sat down in his armchair and stared at the wall by the door. and then he took another long drink and he set the drink down and something felt strange in his arm and then his chest and he grabbed at his chest violently and scratched it and he felt scared and guilty and in no way did he feel okay. and then his hand fell and his face became very red and his eyes sort of rolled back and then forward and he let out a big breath, gritting his teeth, chewing his tongue accidentally, breaking the skin, blood pouring down over his bottom lip…and then he died. he had not missed a day of work in twenty five years and because of that no one really thought about calling him. some people even thought they had seen him that morning. they expected him to be there. to unlock the doors. to clean the floors. to smile at everyone. but he was not coming today.


this is why the door is locked. but you do not know that. so you just slowly walk back towards the office your friend went in and you lean on the wall, breathing, trying to feel better.


your friend comes out of the office smiling. they shake a piece of paper in front of you.


"got it," they say.


you cross the street and go into a pharmacy and your friend drops off the paper at the counter and you both wait. they get a diet soda from a vending machine and you look through a magazine with celebrities in it. all of the celebrities are getting old, you think.


"so what do you think i should do?" your friend asks you, sipping from the bottled soda.

"give up," you respond staring at some bright yellow text in the magazine that says either shocking! or outrageous! or plastic surgery!?

"really?" your friend asks.

"yes. it doesn't sound like they want from you, what you want from them." you say and turn the page and then close the magazine and put it back.

"well, yeah, they want sex and i just want companionship."

"i guess that's what any relationship is anyway," you say looking at the ground.

"exactly."

"so, why are you asking?"

"i don't know actually."


you are the one holding the pill bottle when you get into the mercedes in the garage and you feel about as bad as you have all day.


"you're still gonna sit in the back?"

"yeah, i don't want to move those books," you say.

"i'll move them."

"no, i feel sick. it’s okay."


your friend drives fast but there is traffic. you think something like: the sky seems like it would rain if it was a different day and time altogether. then you wonder how much sense that would make to someone else if you said it to them. and then you do not care about it anymore.


at your friend's apartment you look out from the balcony at downtown. people walk the streets and are drunk and high and it feels like there is a general sense of purpose to all of their lives. you turn around and step into the apartment. the apartment smells like pee because of your friend's two small dogs. you sit on the couch and they get out a wine glass and fill it with tap water and hand you a pill. 


"have you taken adderall before?" they ask.

"i don't know," you say and put the blue pill in your mouth and take a drink of water and it goes down. 

"now i have," you say.


your friend smiles and takes theirs. and that is all that happens in the apartment right now.


it has been thirty minutes and you are on adderall. you feel positive and focused and a little fuzzy and you itch your scalp and your friend is talking at you nonstop. they talk to you about something they want to do with either their music or their writing or their painting or their filmmaking and you hope they do not expect you to be listening.


"when are we going to this party?" you ask.

"you wanna go now?"

"i want to. do you?"

"yeah, if you don't wanna talk anymore. do you feel high?"

"yeah, i think i do," you say and stand up and feel very high all of a sudden.


you are in the car again. the backseat again. of the car again. you are not sure how long you have been driving but it feels like you have to be almost there. and then the car slows. your friend cannot find a spot to park. they are angry and practically yelling and then finally you both see a parking meter just across the street and the car quickly turns in and stops and your friend gets out of the car and slams the door and it takes what seems to be either no time at all or several minutes for your body to exit the vehicle.


you both cross the street and your friend calls the girl having the party on their phone. she answers and comes outside.

“hi,” she says and smiles and her eyes are brown and are doing that thing where the light from the street lights are like little glowing orbs in them. she seems to look right into your eyes for a long time and you are not sure what that means.


you and your friend follow her along the street and then through a wooden gate that leads to a sort of canopied garden of trees and bushes and flowers and to a pathway that leads right up to the door of her bungalow. there is music playing inside and the windows glow gold and there is smoke billowing up from the patio to the side of the house and she opens the door and you instantly feel dizzy.


everyone greets you and is very cordial and nice and there is a young man with a rigid chin passed out in an armchair and a giant chalkboard above him with writing all over it. some drunk guy hands you a piece of chalk. his arm extends to you in what you think to yourself could be described as ‘mechanical.’


“you hafta draw, or, um, write something on the board. everyone hasta do it when they come here.” he is smiling at your face and almost nodding and his eyes are big and dilated and bloodshot.


“everyone,” the girl who’s house it is agrees.


your friend looks at you and sort of shrugs and smiles.


you take the chalk and place it on the board and you draw exactly what it is you are thinking about at that moment. and it is not nice or pretty. it hurts for you to draw it in fact. and no one understands what it is. and they probably are asking you about it and the music is probably turned down and everyone is probably standing behind you staring at what you drew asking you what it is with their eyes.


“can I get a drink?” you say staring at the board.


“yeah, let’s all do some shots,” the girl who’s house it is says.


in the kitchen a couple is kissing and then stop and start talking as if they were not doing what it is they were doing. everyone sort of laughs. except you. you do not feel like laughing. not right now anyway.


everyone is holding shot glasses around you and their hands are in the air and someone is saying something about making a toast. and then your friend hands you a shot glass and you take it from them and try to force a smile but it looks more like not a smile at all.


“to life!” some guy says with a sleeve tattoo raising his shot glass in the air. 


“to life!” everyone agrees tapping their glasses and then drinking the alcohol quickly. 


‘these people are happy people. healthy people. these people enjoy life.’ you think to yourself. ‘to life!’ you think as you take your shot and the alcohol enters your mouth and goes down your throat.


in this moment neurotransmitters in your brain send out tiny signals causing you to feel euphoria. excitement. then the alcohol makes its way down into your stomach where a small portion absorbs and enters your bloodstream as the rest passes into your small intestine. from there it moves through a large blood vessel into your liver where it causes your liver to stop metabolizing everything except the alcohol and since your liver cannot process the entire shot of alcohol that you took standing there in that dimly lit kitchen, the liver lets the rest flow on to your heart. here, in your heart, the muscles pumping blood relax and all of your blood vessels all over your body relax and expand causing more warm blood to travel up and touch the inside of the surface of your skin so you start to become sort of red in your cheeks. at this same time some of the alcohol travels along this artery into your lungs and so now with every breath you breathe you are breathing alcohol. this newly oxygenated, alcohol-laden blood flows back into your heart through a vein and your heart sends it up through the aorta to the upper part of your body. to your brain. when it gets there it starts to disrupt all the impulses of your nerve cells so it makes it difficult for you to think clearly or move properly. essentially brain damaging you.


but, you are not conscious of this. you are conscious of the music that has become very apparent now. it is a song you like and you feel okay for a moment standing there listening to the song remembering something it reminds you of that makes you feel nostalgic. and then you start to feel sort of sad and think about how many people and things you miss from when you were younger and then you notice your friend is going outside so you take this opportunity to pour yourself either one or two more shots and try not to think about that stuff or what to do next.


you walk into a bedroom and pass a guy sitting on the bed staring at his feet. he has a shoe on one foot and not on the other. he does not even have a sock on the other foot. it is a bare foot. you enter the bathroom in the bedroom and close the door and look in the mirror. you think ‘how have i gotten here?’ and then pee in the toilet. your stomach feels upset from alcohol and adderall and for a moment you think about taking a shower but then just leave the bathroom.


for some reason most of the people at the party are now in the bedroom and it is very loud. you move towards the bookcase in the corner and the girl who’s house it is asks you if you read and then you ask her if you can go outside and she says:

“yeah, everyone’s out there smoking, i’ll be out in a sec.”


you close your eyes in front of her to try and get your balance and when you open them you are on the patio but there is no one out on the patio except you. you can smell the tobacco and marijuana and the bricks under your feet are sticky with liquor. you feel very claustrophobic standing there outside on the open patio and decide to do something. you climb through the wooden fence at the back and make your way through, past a cluster of bushes into some sort of atrium. another canopy of trees and plants with a cobblestone ground. now, right this moment, looking around you, the moonlight coming down through the trees onto you, you feel ‘at peace.’ you feel that no one before has ever been here. you have found somewhere special. some place people cannot find you. you can breathe and feel this overwhelming sense of happiness and excitement and you almost shout out in this unrecognizable joy. grinning, you rub the back of your neck and touch your hair and lift both your feet one after the other and let out a small laugh and then 


to your right, you see something move in a bush. a creature. you are startled. you hear it breathing in the bushes. you are scared suddenly. you can hear its breaths and you can hear your breaths. they are the same. you and the creature’s breaths are synchronized. you step closer to it and can make out its face or eyes or torso. it is very dark and seems to have scales or feathers or fur. it does not seem normal. it moves quickly into another bush and you are again startled and stumble backwards towards a wall and then you have a realization. you are able to establish where you are very easily. it is now very clear to you that you are in someone’s backyard. you are standing, drunk and high on amphetamines on some stranger’s patio. in their backyard. 


and you do not really think anymore about the creature. and think more about how embarrassed you are as you go back through the fence to the party feeling unsure about almost everything.


in the bedroom two middle aged gay men who introduce themselves to you as ‘the fags of the city’ ask you if you want to do some very expensive and pure cocaine and you do not even say yes you just follow them to the bathroom.


in the bathroom they start to tell you about your life as you take turns passing a square plastic board of some sort around snorting line after line of cocaine. they explain to you why you have interacted with the people at the party the way you have. as you grind your teeth they explain that because of your situation as a child it explains your feelings now as an adult. they make you feel like a child and as the cocaine courses through you with the alcohol and amphetamines your moods come in waves, varying literally between 


happy sad confused scared angry nervous anxious calm peaceful relaxed amused bored excited concerned worried indifferent miserable eager surprised inspired delighted thrilled exhilarated disgusted embarrassed envious cheerful content grateful guilty greedy humiliated ashamed manipulated jealous energetic proud playful powerful strong capable confident able relieved hopeful satisfied hostile suspicious doubtful cautious hesitant empathetic sympathetic compassionate fascinated depressed etc.

make musical


there is a knock at the door. it is the girl who’s house it is. she is shouting that “people shouldn’t be doing drugs in my bathroom.” she is mad and pleading and by the sound of her voice, she is crying. she bangs on the door several times and with each bang you think something new.


with each pounding of her fist on the door you think some new ‘life altering’ thought.


you remember that you cannot remember why you are here in the first place. in this house. in this city. why did you come here in the first place? what were you trying to do when you came here? because right now at this moment, in these very, very brief moments of thought, this ‘moment of clarity’ you cannot think of any reason you should be here anymore. and so, staring at a corner of the bathroom floor, where the walls meet the tile, you decide to leave.


outside your friend does not seem upset that they had to leave the party. they apologize for some reason and then so do you and you think about how you did not really see them the entire night and then you think that you are pretty sure that you have never really seen them ever in your entire life. and that is all you can think about while you ride with them through the city in the back of their car. 


you pull up to the greyhound station and you get out slowly and your friend comes around the side of the car and they hug you. tightly. as if you are saying goodbye forever. they are probably talking to you but you cannot hear them or anything for that matter. you think about the phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’ and that is the only way you can describe how your friend leaves because they are already gone and you are left standing outside in the wind staring at nothing as the sun rises.


when you purchase your ticket it is very hard for you not to think that every single human being in the station is staring at you. but you somehow make it through and go and sit down in a chair next to an old woman who has musical coughing spasms and cobwebs in the creases of her face. people walk past you and they seem to be part of a statistic, but you cannot really explain to yourself what statistic they are part of. then you spend several minutes wondering if you are in that statistic too. then you spend several more minutes wondering if other people in the station are wondering about statistics or if they are all just living. not wondering about themselves, outside of themselves, making themselves a number like this. then, as they call for everyone to board the bus, you spend that time in line and getting on the bus wondering if you are even inside yourself anymore or, because of all these thoughts, you are outside of yourself completely now and you will never be inside yourself again.


on the bus in your seat, as it pulls out of the city onto the freeway, it is obvious to you


why you are probably feeling as much anxiety as you are while sitting on the greyhound bus on your way home from being in a different city