A Conscious Stream of Unconsciousness

Completely sober, I drunkenly stumble up the stairs to my San Francisco apartment. I dizzily open the door to my Tampa room, where she is patiently waiting for me on that comfortable Chicago bed. I haven’t seen her in a year, but I’m not surprised at all. It feels completely natural to fall into her arms and express my feelings as if no time has elapsed. I see her with another guy, and we’re in a diner in the desert, and I’m with a different girl. We’re having a conversation about destiny and randomness and the afterlife, and we disagree, and we hate each other. We kiss. I’m on the Chicago Blue Line in the middle of the Peoria night. I get off at the airport. I’m flying east, I’m flying west, I’m flying everywhere and nowhere all at once. I doze off for a nap on a boat in the Bahamas and wake up on a hammock in the Midwest summer with my best friends and a staticky baseball game can be heard playing on a radio and the Cardinals are losing, and I have twenty mosquito bites. We are drinking around a campfire. A single bird flies south for the winter. I throw my drink into the fire and after the explosion I’m in Paris, where I’m with her again. We’re walking along the Seine taking as many pictures of each other in the afternoon sun as possible. It’s gorgeous, and we’re in love, and we’d like to have more pictures of ourselves to show others we’re living. We’re crossing the Pont de l’Archevêché and I see her slowly drift by under the bridge on a boat with her new husband.

I open a sliding door to Springfield, Illinois, to my grandparents’ backyard, one of my favorite places on earth, the earth that is so much bigger than I had imagined, and what is my place in it? I’m eight, and I’m hunting down Easter eggs with my sister. I’m driving back from St. Louis, and I’m questioning love. I’m at Turkey Run with my dad, and I board an empty train in the middle of the Swiss Alps. Cheerful church hymns play in the background. Now in the foreground. Am I capable of loving another human being? If so, why am I skeptical about these feelings? I’m sitting at early service with my mom. I don’t believe in any of this, and that makes me a terrible person. Maybe if I get baptized, things will be different. I’m heading west and the sun is too bright. My youth minister proceeds with the ritualistic dunk under water, and I’m middle-aged, and I’m still pretending something changed. I’m sitting with 200 students in a lecture hall. All their homes have been destroyed by the tornado, but I don’t feel a thing. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I tiptoe down the hallway, but it creaks, and the monsters turn around. “Colder.” I’m blinded by their eyes of lightning. “Ice cold.” I’m suddenly confused about what I had and what I lost. Now the voices are way up there, and I’m stuck down here. I’m no longer breathing. A large mirror appears in front of my dead body, and the person I see in it is alive.

I’m an actor. I’m handed my lines, but this movie is really just the playing out of my subconscious. I try to act out what’s on the script, but I keep screwing it up. My manager threatens to fire me if I keep making mistakes. I try harder, but I’m a terrible actor. It doesn’t help that the script is blank.

I’m floating through the air, or maybe I’m sinking in the water – I can’t tell anymore. The current carries me to a playground on the beach. My dad waits for me at the bottom of the slide, and I run over to the swing and jump off in the middle of the air but I don’t land, and I catch a kite, and I look down to see myself at the other end of the string running through a field. “Warmer.” A balloon pops and my soul crashes toward the ground. A violinist plays a dissonant melody. I’m weary from the journey. I’m going southwest, but the compass says I’m going northeast. The violin fades as I begin to black out, and I regain consciousness to the sound of a grand piano playing a slow and extremely familiar descant. It’s the middle of the night, and the northern lights can be seen in the zenith. It’s completely silent, so silent that you can hear the earth hum. “You’re getting warmer…Warmer…” I lift up my arms and try to meditate, and I’m on a Muni bus and I just pulled the cord to get off at the next stop. “Colder.” How is that possible? I can’t be that disoriented. This game is unfair. I’ve arrived downtown, but when I get out, I’m in the middle of a forest, and I head toward the sun. A mountain range looms in the near distance. I walk the treacherous path to the top of the highest peak, but as I approach the summit after a number of grueling days, I look down and see all the people I know and they’re collectively playing a beautiful harmony on a guitar, a song I’ve never heard, and I would really like to learn to play the guitar as well as other instruments because I think I’d be great at it just like I’ll be great at anything if I actually set my mind to it, and I miss everyone even though I don’t really know them, and the rocks I’m standing on suddenly turn to ice, which now melts, and I violently stumble down into the valley where the sound of the guitar is nothing more than a recording, and the images of my friends are actually cardboard cutouts of their faces. As I approach these cutouts, I realize they’re gravestones, and I’m standing in a cemetery. A door opens, and I walk out of the elevator into my office, and it’s snowing.

If I’m not drunk, high, daydreaming, or nightdreaming, where am I, and what the hell is intoxicating me?