Chapter 2 of a work in progress
The peculiar sleep disorder was striking in sleep’s final stages. Awareness and unawareness wrestled for supremacy, and the hapless victim was seized by a fictitious obligation of all-consuming attention; an unequivocal demand for action; a siren call ringing again and again as the body grew feverish in unconscious anticipation. The task at hand was thrusting itself into a position of unimpeachable prominence, as when a disaster strikes and one reflexively lends each molecule of energy to the sacred task of self-preservation.
These symptoms were vexing Brontis in the wee hours of the California dawn. The fictitious obligation was a 7:00 breakfast appointment with Father at a very real restaurant, because he was a seventeen-year-old who ate at diners with Father. Old pops. On the look out for deviations from course. Brontis, inside the awareness of his sleeping seventeen-year-old self, was also aware that he needed to wake by 6:00 this morning, because this morning he needed to edit and submit an online reading response for English class by no later than 6:59, or Mr. Dennis would surely chide him while taking attendance.
Some time after 8:00 in the real world Brontis broke free, only to encounter his twenty-one-year-old self with aching limbs and an aching head. Sensing pain, he tucked his shaggy crown beneath the fleece blanket and reassumed a fetal position, returning to the land of unawareness. His first thought had consisted in a furious desire to not budge a damn inch from the damn Lovesac, his sleeping space for the past few hours. The evening before he had begun imbibing early and continued well into the night, with friends in congregation for a wine party hosted by Lucie’s dorm. Brontis and Chuck had trudged north from their apartment on the south of campus. Chuck made it back alright but Brontis’s sheer intoxication caused him pass out early.
After another half hour Brontis woke for good. Water was urgently needed. His stomach was in a twisted state. “The old red-white combo’ll do it” he muttered miserably before vaguely remembering the beers he had also consumed at dinner. He extricated himself from the gelatinous sofa and limped to the en-suite bathroom where, fortuitously, a stack of unused red cups waited. He grabbed the top cup and took two steps to the sink, twisting the left knob for cool clean water. Seized by impulse he abandoned the cup and craned his neck to slurp the cold goodness from its source, like a schoolyard punk hogging the drinking fountain in an exuberant love of life. The initial taste was music to his ears, but his tender stomach did not appreciate the rapid influx of fluid. With unsustainable nausea rising, he flung himself over the toilet and emitted a few dry heaves before eventually expelling heaps of a beige-red-blackish fluid with the occasional morsel of food along for the ride.
After a few mournful moments hunched on his knees and elbows resting on the toilet seat, Brontis rose triumphantly. He tossed water on his face and rinsed out his mouth. He glanced up, hazily taking notice of his face noticing itself, with its oval frame and wild eyes. He saw some mouth wash in the mirror on the shelf. Somewhat guiltily he grabbed the bottle and took a swig, swishing the minty fluid between his teeth before spitting it out and returning to the room, where the sound of his entrance stirred Lucie from her covers. She was happy to see her friend.
“How’d it feel on the way out, buddy?” She heard the commotion.
Before answering Brontis plunged onto the Lovesac, clutching his forehead with a pained expression. “Don’t want to talk about it but I felt the toxins leaving so it was good in that sense. Speaking of toxins where are those green goodies you were mentioning last night?”
“On the table.” With empathy and astonishment she watched Brontis grab the shiny metallic device and unscrew its main compartment, his face lighting up at the sight of freshly ground herb. He put down the device and retrieved a frosted-glass bong from beneath the table, wedging it between his thighs. With his forefinger and thumb he snatched a dollop of dope and dropped it in the bowl piece. He leaned back and patted his pockets, finding a pack of Reds. He extracted a single cigarette and whittled its end, funneling stray brown strands of tobacco onto the green flower. He leaned back and shuffled through his pockets, finding a bright green BIC lighter. A look of intensity dawned on his face that quickly gave way to a stoic expression. He took a deep breath and set fire to the plants, inhaling steadily. A soft crackling noise rung through the room as the bong’s stem grew cloudy, the soft mist growing into an impenetrable fog. When his lungs sensed full capacity he pulled the bowl piece and sucked deep. The fog disappeared for a moment before he exhaled at length, his dragon lungs spewing forth a stream of thick white smoke into the softly lit room. The vapor dispersed across the room’s far reaches, interacting with rays of light and producing opalescent glimmers to Lucie’s watching delight. Then his lungs roared in an eruption of coughs for a good twenty seconds. His spectral appearance presaged another toilet invocation, but he steadied himself and glanced up to offer Lucie a grin, who was now laying on her stomach with her chin cupped in hands, an expression of worry and incredulity painted across her face. “Jesus, man. You’ll kill yourself if you keep this up.”
He flicked his wrist and cocked his head, dismissing her thought without a thought. “Death is the last thing a guy’s gotta worry about when’s he got class in a few hours. Astronomy, no less, can you believe it? I mean my God, Lucie, can you believe it?”
His balled fists beseeched the heavens, and Lucie believed it. She believed it from the moment his balled fists first beseeched the heavens four months ago in November when Seniors were signing up for classes and Astronomy was the only science GE requirement available.
“And that’s the thing about Astronomy,” he continued, his interior monologue growing into spoken word. “At heart it’s so easy because it’s certain. All of it! Look at the moon, the earth, the stars, the galaxies. They’re all so certain and I don’t care. It’s all certain and here I am, waving my fists in uncertain directions. Jesus fucking Christ, Lucie, you know what the thing is?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “The Goddamn thing is that I’m such a Goddamn skeptic wanting justification, but here are my hands, waving as uncertainly as ever. Look, Lucie, look! The circles are inexplicable, just as they were a few second ago.” He waved his hands in circles. Lucie looked at him and laughed. He appeared insane with his massive eyes and impassioned resolve.
“Inexplicable indeed. You know what’s not inexplicable, though?”
Brontis went from a million miles an hour to rigid attention in a millisecond, eyeing Lucie curiously.
“Here you go buddy, go on and check it for yourself.” She underhand tossed her iPhone and then yawned while Brontis eagerly absorbed himself in the iPhone’s screen, with the other iPhone, his, resting on his knee.
“Wooh now, what have we here? The Night of Nights? Oh ho ho! Christmas’s come early, my love!”
“Yes, dear. I saw this while your vomiting was reaching its apex. Just look at all the details.”
“Fuck the details, Lucie!”
She frowned, so he adopted a conciliatory tone for his explanation.
“Yeah that’s right Lucie, I said it, fuck the details! The details are in the name, ey? Night of Nights. Now that’s all a kid needs to know. See, I know the type who throws a party round here, and I know they wouldn’t choose a false name. Clearly they intend for something big. Something very big. Something, perhaps, otherworldly,” he said this spookily, spiraling his hands around mysteriously like a clairvoyant. “The name alone tells me this: (A) The guest list is massive. (B) There will be multiple water-coolers with different types of alcohol.”
The two paused and looked at each other, their individual gazes meeting at a precise moment of impact. This and the boy’s ridiculous extemporization gave way to a round of roaring laughter from both parties.
“My friend, your friend here needs some sleep before class. See you for dinner, if you’d like? Or whenever. Just come on over.”
Brontis gave a solemn nod and left. He encountered a sunny morning, the grass freshly sprinkled and the acorn trees shimmering against the young light. He was momentarily off-put by the brightness as he staggered onto the sidewalk, destined south for sleep. His dirt smeared white converse supported sagging black jeans that lacked a belt; his white t-shirt was ruined with Dada Sharpie markings brought into existence on a blackout night way back when. He was a disheveled moving sight, each step more painful than the next. What nonsense, he thought to himself in his physical and mental misery. What nonsense that blobs required his presence. What nonsense that he lived in the epoch of astronomy. Too many planets, too many “objects” as the lecturer would say. Better to have not been now. Better to have been a hunter or gatherer back in the days of hunting and gathering, when the stars were beautiful and nobody worried about what they were made of or how far away they were. But here things were, unshakeable and impenetrable, entirely certain. That Earth would follow its orbit: of course. And of course the sidewalk would lead south to the slab he called home, the plain little box with the little refrigerator and little wooden desk with a hard wooden chair. Plebeian rooms raise proper Patricians, and the Spartans damn knew how to rear em. Scarcity, the trick for triggering a taste for plenitude if any tricks could trick… Plus it taught prudence at a rudimentary plane. Tenets of numerical complexity experienced in bare domesticity… bound to do wonders for making the complexity stick! And asceticism, the lord’s go-to. And America modeled itself on the lord. The self-made man! The self-made person these days, in the spirit of the Lord and the times and what not. Jesus, and there’s Tom. Old Tom. Good old Tom, being a good old boy, entering the fucking dining hall. That fellow where the hell was he last night? Too numerically complex to drink on a Thursday. Too lordly. For fuck’s sake Tom, I love you but why in the hell are you walking along these painstakingly slabbed slabs just to eat slabs of eggs so Goddamn early in the morning.
Thus spoke his disjointed mental schema as he trudged south and up the stairs to his apartment, which was on the second floor of a two-story building. He and his roommates enjoyed a little concrete porch, which Brontis vaguely took notice of while stumbling toward the door. The porch overflowed with overflowing trash bags, half-finished cigarettes, and fully-finished beer bottles. A colony of ants was making serious headway on a stray turkey sandwich.
He inserted his student ID, entered a passcode, and offered his worn-out flesh to the fresh ventilation of an air-conditioned interior, passing through the equally trashed common space to his room, where he immediately plugged in his iPhone and plunged into bed. He pulled the comforter over his face but squirmed sleeplessly, remembering the night before when Chuck had gotten into declaiming on 9/11, just before he went to Lucie’s for sleep. Lucie. Absolute life-saver. Friend of all friends. She understands. But then Brenna with corny tales about Arizona desserts and tumbleweed and limestone and hallelujah dances round the fire pit in the moonlight. He had really let it all go: “The zenith moonlight, man! Dig it! Dig that shit! If only the coyotes had shown their puny little faces. Those fuckers would have made for a proper tiff. A proper fucking tiff I tell you! C’mon you mother fuckers lets howl like the coyotes would want us to!”
His mind was hacking up scenes to the darkness. Unawareness soon reclaimed supremacy.