ON BENDERS AS A QUEST FOR HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
Half-drunk, half asleep, one hundred percent in the moment. The only difference between you and me is that I'm in the moment on a different level. I'm experiencing this smoke-hazy conversation in the fourth dimension, and while it feels linear and fading to you, it's all there at once for me and I'm seeing all sides, through it and around it. Already, I'm embarrassed that minutes from now, I'll tell you twice that Southern Comfort mixed with Orange Crush tastes just like cough medicine. Two sentences in I say:
"Tell Susan you love her and put a bullet between Gabby's ears."
"What the hell are you talking about?" you ask. "I'm asking you if you wanna grab some burgers!"
"That's what you thought you were asking me over here." My pointer swoops up and under your left arm and behind your back.
"Dude, you are so fucking drunk!"
I ignore the rest of your conversation except to put my lines in where you'll need them. I swill some more cough medicine in the meantime.
"So what do you think I should do?" you say.
"I'm asking you what I should do!"
I'm leaning back into a couch that I didn't know I was on. It's orange/brown and it stinks, but the stink is somewhere else for me, not in my nose, but in my ears, like I heard that it stinks and believed it without question. I whip my head back and forth trying to go someplace higher. And when I think I'm there, when I can't see you or hear the stink or feel the couch, I say:
"Man, I already told you. I've lived this conversation twice and I'm damned tired of it. Away with you."
Three quarters drunk and three quarters asleep, I'm a man and a half, staring off a pier into the black water twelve feet below. You're not that last one. I think sex with you. And your talk is so everlasting and so pervasive it has become my entire universe. I wasn't around when your speech began. I was born into it. It's the background noise of eternity. It fills ninety percent of my brain, leaving room for only the knotty boards pressing the metal buttons of some jacket into my heaving chest and the chilly ink below, which moves sometimes like I should be scared of it, but I'm not.
Your speech will be around long after I am in the grave. And I belch, what a pathetic existence I have. Everything I know is your speech and the button pain and the water and - did I just shit my pants? No, no, I guess not. I guess I'll find out in the morning.
I try to get one little piece of my brain to focus on what you're saying while the rest of my life is all about getting my big hulking body to roll over. Is there anything in the infinite reaches of your monologue about me shitting my pants? I follow here and there, understand bits of it. There's nothing I can gather that's relevant to my life. My pants must be okay. I forgot I was trying to roll over. I try again for about three-tenths of a second, barely enough time for a muscle twitch and then I let out a moan that rocks the world, but not in a good way.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" you ask in that girlish voice you use when you're a girl.
"How would you like it if the only constant in your universe wasn't even a speech about you? It's about somebody else entirely. I'm not Dave, I'm me. And I'm pretty sure me isn't Dave."
And then I vomit, and the ink below ripples at my command. I enjoy the power so much, I puke some more. It goes on like this for years.
"I mean," I continue as if nothing had happened, "I'm not even the center of my own universe. I'm some side character punished with existence!"
"You are one drunk mother fucker!" you say.
"Not yet," I say. Finding a ferocious strength I never knew I had, I reach for the half pint of Schnapps inside my jacket. Propping myself up on stinging elbows, I suck the plastic teat and wait to be transported somewhere better.
Fully drunk. Fully asleep. Why am I drunk in my dreams too? That isn't fair. I'm trying to reach a higher plane of consciousness here. Can't you stop the world from spinning long enough that I can make a single coherent thought?
So the world stops spinning. I go hurtling off into space.
"Damn you, Newton!" I scream, like he had something to do with it. And there you are. Washing over me, warm and thick like you're myself and you've always belonged here. I make a couple of kissy noises with gigantic lips and I settle down. Finally . . .
Not at all drunk. Not at all asleep. You are my world now, pain/nausea/notrightness. When my eyes meet open and swallow the walls of my vast, dull bedroom, I understand how full I am. I am everything there is.
And you are everything else.