Stream of Consciousness

The Last Goodbye

I lean back into my seat. On the coffee table, a sprawl of napkins, coasters, and untouched drinks. Alcoholic, of course, because I’m in the bar again. Always the bar. I don’t even drink in real life, yet all these scenarios and conversations take place in the same bar.

From here, I can see Mackie and Anderson at the bar talking up some bird about their latest endeavors. And I don’t mean that in any derogatory way. They’re literally talking to a bird whose owner, a stage performer, is busy chatting up one of the headlining acts. A magician by the looks of it. The poor beast – the bird not the magician – looks unsettled by the words spilling form the mouths of demons. And I wonder where’s Chrysanthemum is at the moment.

“She’s picking her teeth in the restroom,” they say, settling in the seat across from me.

Again with the androgyny. Neither male nor female. A mix of best parts of the two. They’re wearing a blazer. Hair parted to the side. An undercut showing a road map of tattoos depicting the birth of the universe by the snap of their fingers.

“How did you know what I was thinking?” I ask.

They give me a quizzical look and smirk. “C’mon, are you still so surprised by that gift. On the one hand, all-knowing deity. On the other, a figment of your imagination you turn to whenever ever you’re having one of these – what do you call it? – crisis of disbelief?”

“Something like that,” I respond.

“And anyway, who the fuck cares? Now you called me,” they say taking a drink before spitting it back into the glass. “Jesusfuck, what the hell is this?”

“Grape Kool-Aid.”

“You ordered me grape Kool-Aid? Why?”

“It’s my imagination, isn’t it?”

“You existential, pseudo-philosophical dipshits.” They wipe their mouth with a napkin, crumpling it and setting it inside the glass to soak up the wine. Because, apparently, I can do that. “Now why did you call me here?”

I start before pausing. In the corner of my eye, I see her stepping out of the restroom. She turns and gives a dissatisfied look at her comrades and their new pet. The stage performer and the magician have disappeared. She turns to face me, lifts a knowing eyebrow, turns on her heel and heads out the door.

“I don’t need you anymore,” I say.

“You breaking up with me, kid? In a public place? Isn’t that a bit too cliche? Do you think I’m really the type to make a scene?”

“You are because you’re me. And I don’t need you anymore.”

“You sure about that?”

I nod.

“Well okay,” they say, getting up and buttoning their blazer. “But I’m talking the boys with me.”

“Of course, you have to.”

“It’s a Thanos-snap away, kid. Have you thought about this?”

“No,” I say. Because it’s the truth.

“Okay then,” they say and snap their fingers.

It happens to the bird first. Neither Anderson or Mackie seem to notice. Or care. Not even when they too begin to dissolve into nothing. The last words uttered from their mouths – “Cheers” – as they lift their glasses in no general direction until they’re nothing. One by one, they all begin to dust away, not noticing that they’re being erased from existence.

“I can’t say that I’m proud of you kid, but,” they begin, “this has been some ride. May the next one of me be more – I don’t know – benevolent or some shit.”

“See you around,” I say, standing up as my chair and the rest of the bar dissolve.

“No,” they smirk. “You won’t.”

And they’re gone too.

I turn and she’s standing there. “You ready, kid?”

“I’m older than you,” I say.

“If you say so.”

We begin to walk, her steps fall alongside mine.

“‘Where to now?” Chrysanthemum asks.

“I’m thinking a bookstore. That’s more my scene.”

In the distance, a figure stands. Clad in black. A relic from another time. They crack their neck. Neither man nor woman. And smile spreads across their black lipstick stained mouth.

“It’s been some time, hasn’t it?”

Stream of Consciousness

“my own world of make-believe”

“You ever get tired of being this way kid?” his voice mocks me. “You ever just want to quit?”

“Why quit? We’re just getting started.”

The smoke of burning rubber fogs the empty street. In the distance, their taillights are swallowed by the void. They’ll come back. They always do.

“Yes, whenever you need them most. Other times, you have me.”

“I don’t believe in you,” I say.

“And yet, here I am.”

“Where do we go from here?” I almost expect an answer.

“Where do any of us go?”

I close my eyes and I can hear the Billie Ellish song playing somewhere in the night. When we fall asleep, where do we go?

“I like this song,” he says. “C’mon, kid, let’s go get a drink.”

With a snap of his fingers, we’re standing in a tavern. Barmaids bustle drinks about. Women in stilettos strut on a catwalk. Hooting and howling men, chomping on cigars, cackle at obscenities whisper-shouted over the cacophony of music and glasses clinking.

“Tell me about it, kid,” he says, holding up two fingers to the bartender. “What brings you back to me? What sort of – what did you call it? – crisis of disbelief bring you back to me?”

“I’m still trying to make sense of it.”

“It’s rudderless, kid. Without plan. Without consequence.”

The roar of a 1960 Cadillac convertible turns into the parking lot outside. He nods his head, as if noting that they’re right on time. He continues, “Here’s point where the moment of truth comes, kid. Outside, your demons wait for you. Inside, you talk to a fictional character you personified whenever you’re confused.”

“I think he’s inside, Anderson,” Mackie shouts. “He ain’t out here that’s for sure.”

“Leave him be,” replies Chrysanthemum. “He’ll come out whenever he’s ready.”

“The verdict,” I begin, but he cuts off my words.

“Rudderless, kid.” He shakes his head, downs the two shots set before him. “You have to move on.”

“And what about…” I trail off.

“Kid, if you’re unsure how she feels, how the fuck am I supposed to know?”

“But aren’t you…”

He’s gone. The bar. The barmaids. The stiletto girls. Just dark. Quiet. Except for the roar of the engine.

“You coming?” Anderson asks.

“C’mon,” Cassie adds impatiently.

“I always wondered why I created you four.” Always wondered what parts of me each of them represents. Mackie and Anderson, the violence and anger buried deep inside me. But what role do the girls play? Chrysanthemum, the lustful? Cassie, the impatient?

“Not every thing has to be psychoanalyzed,” says Chrysanthemum. “We’re just who you turn to when you need to make sense of something. You grew us from nothing. Just fictional characters you embodied demons in. We used to be just a thing you did, until you made us into something more. All this is you.”

Mackie? Gone. Anderson? Gone. Cassie? Gone. It’s just me and Chrysanthemum in all her nakedness. She walks circles around me, her hand brushing my shoulder ever so often. She lifts her long, polished nail – red, of course – against my cheek and leans in close, her lips closing in on mine.

“I am the person you once thought you were. The person who only looked out for himself. But you were never that hard. Never that cold. You shut off the world because you thought it was the only way to keep yourself safe. Letting others in made you vulnerable. And,” she laughs, “I guess you were right. You shouldn’t never had opened yourself to that pain. Because what has it gotten you? Where has it gotten you?”

“Hush,” I say.

She moves back, the Cadillac door opens and she gets into the car.

“You’re wrong about me.”

“Am I?” And she too has gone.

Stream of Consciousness

“It’s not as much fun to pick up the pieces”

“It’s a fucking ziggurat,” Mackie spits out. “Look the way it towers out of fucking nowhere.” Anderson just smiles through bloodstained teeth. The three of them, some psychotropic fight club, had been at it for hours. At the penultimate round, Anderson reached around the poor fuck’s neck and sunk his teeth in. Moves like that earn the name hillbilly vampire, perks Cassie. She’s in the convertible smoking the last of their cigarettes. The buildings indiscernible. Etchings of some eldritch origin. Upon closer inspection, the poor fuck is still breathing. Uncertain for how much longer, though.

“In Autumn,” Anderson quips, “you can taste the sin on the teeth of those who eat.” Chrysanthemum chews her nails. She’s in the driver’s seat watching the orange glow pulsate from behind the billowing smoke. “Don’t mind her,” Anderson adds, “she ages in reverse.”

“Depression isn’t a career choice,” she says. “It’s a fucking destination you take where you’re on the road.” At this, Cassie gets off and walks to the poor fuck’s near-corpse. “Where do we go when we die, Mum?”

“No one knows, really,” she says. “Where do any of us go when we fall asleep, dear?”

The eyes, they’re bloodshot. “We go north,” Mackie says. “We go north and we find another one to fight.”

The four of them pile into the convertible. Are you coming? Some time. Yes. Some time to think, if you’d be so kind. No time for kindness, kid. One shot ride. We’re going to the fucking Ziggurat.

I turn my attention to the road turned off the edge. Powder blue sweater and matching eyes. Depression isn’t a career path. It isn’t a destination. It’s an obstacle. An inconvenience that I have to suffer in order to get to the other side.

“Funny you mention the other side,” Anderson laughs. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” At this, Chrysanthemum guns the engine and they dart away. “The end is not near where we start. Or some shit like that.”

Doldrums

Listening to demons

God sits at the end of the bar, nursing the strongest whisky he can muster. Boozed breath evaporates sobriety the moment I walk into the place. God isn’t a man, though he prefers the male pronouns. He isn’t a woman, either. He isn’t much of anything. Just an idea that we all have regardless if we believe in him. He is a state of gender confusion. The gray tinge between what’s binary and what lays beyond my comprehension. 

I’ve spoken to him several times in the past, but speaking to god is like speaking to the void. It offers nothing in return to your confessions. Offers not consolation to your misery. Creates more questions than it does answers. 

He pulls a bar stool out with his free hand while nursing the drink with his other. “It’s been a while, kid,” he says. “Thought you almost forgot about me.”

“It’s been a while,” I agree. “I haven’t had a crisis of disbelief in a while.”

“It rarely goes the other way,” he sniggers. “Take a seat, kid. You’re making me nervous.”

“I don’t plan on staying.”

“Sure. Sure.”

He peers at me through his peripherals. He scans me, reading the creases of my face like a hand on Braille. He pulls the last of his whisky and sets the glass down on the hard wood. He wipes his mouth with the back of his coat’s sleeve. “If we’re doing this,” he continues, “then I guess we should be doing this correctly.”

“If everything is part of your plan, I need to know why. I need to know how any of this plays out. I need to make sense of it all, because it’s been months and I can’t for the life of me understand how something like this happens.”

Getting up, he shakes his head. There’s that smirk again. That infuriating smirk. “That’s not how it works.”

“Then explain it to me. I need to know.”

“You, of all people, understand that no one steers the ship. That it’s rudderless.”

“They were my family. They were my friends. He was just a child. You didn’t even give him a fucking chance. Explain to me how that’s benevolent.”

It’s crushing. The whimpers that escape my lips as I speak. He places a hand on my shoulder, forces me backward. “You act like you’re the only person who’s lost anyone. Think about the others who lost more than you. Ever think about them for a second? Ever wonder what hell they’re going through? He lost his son. He lost his wife. Just like that—” he snaps—”and she lost her mother, her sister, her nephew. Do you ever see past your own grief to understand the hell they must be going through?”

And he’s gone. 

The lights decorate the houses of the neighborhood. It’s Christmas, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m partly bitter because of all the shit going on at work. Mostly, it’s the adjustment of life after the accident. It’s adapting to the new normal. It’s the marking down court hearings on my calendar of events. It’s worrying about who’s going to take of Shaun next summer while both Jeanna and I work. 

A beat up, 1960 Cadillac convertible speeds by. Its occupants frozen in a permanent state of youth. It swerves, colliding with the light post farther down the road. The world goes dark. A low rumble vibrates beneath my feet. Cracks in the asphalt, the pavement, and earth stretch out. I try to run, but it’s useless. The world devours me. And I fall. Deeper and deeper. And before the world pinholes, I see his face looking down at me. His words echoing as I’m engulfed. It’s rudderless.

I come to. The world is a shade of gray. My fall was broken by the mountains of bodies of those I loved and those I’ve lost. Those I hated and those I’ve fucked the pain away with. Those who took up chapters in the book of my life, and those who will remain footnotes.

I move to get up, but their hands take hold. They pull me down. Wrapped themselves around me. As I cling to whatever leverage I can, a hand reaches down for me. Grips my wrist tight, and pulls me out.

“Shit,” he says. That voice. That smile. Those eyes. “You’re lucky that we found when we did.”

“Who?”

He turns back, shouting towards the figure in the distance. “Hey, Anderson, I found him.”

“Anderson?” My eyes go wide. They haven’t aged a bit. Cassie and Chrysanthemum dig themselves out of the mass graveyard. And the four surround me, looking down upon me. Each of them smiling. 

“Missed us?” one of them says.

“Oh boy,” Mackie smirks. “We’re not done with you yet.”

I speak to ghosts like one would a higher power. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the demons that come out to hold communion. And I’m powerless against their whims. I look up at them and shake my head, “It’s about fucking time.”

The End.