August 14, 2020

Bright Street Lights

posted on: Thursday February 25, 2010

Daniel James ’11 / Portfolio Staff

Street lights. That’s the first thing I remember seeing in the darkness. There’s no sound outside of those damn humming noises from the dull bulbs that create little craters on the pavement. I assume that there are houses next to me, surrounding me, even. They all have front doors and windows, and out of those windows, there’s more darkness and more depression and more anxiety. But out here there’s a promised land, a Mecca, something holy….but I can’t see it because it’s dark and because I was never meant to see anything in the first place.Then there’s the smell. There’s always the lingering smell of whiskey in the air. It emanates from the trees like sap and carries itself in gusts of wind like leaves on an autumn day. It burns me as it enters my nostrils, igniting a fire inside my body. I can hear all the tiny machines pumping my heart and regulating my blood flow, slowly being burned alive (is that the right word? Alive?) by this inferno.I walk, but walking is as painstaking as moving a boulder. My legs are heavy, and the ground seems to pull me down every step of the way. I struggle and strain my muscles into submission, but I do not stop moving. If I stop moving, I know what will happen. The lights will go off and the world around me will become black. I can feel the houses watch me as I move. I do not like this.Floral smells now. They’re only there for a second, but I can smell them, like an air spray used in my bathroom. The smell causes my muscles to release all their tension in hypnotic submission. I try to force them to continue working, but they refuse to listen to me. I start to nod off, unable to keep my posture. If I fall on the ground, I will be consumed. I will die. This is a fact that I’m sure of.I reach into my pocket, hoping for salvation in the strongest way possible. I want a Bible. I don’t know why, but the image of a Bible is reassuring to me. What I pull out is a bottle of whiskey with a cross on it. Inside the bottle, there is a thick, dark-red liquid that stinks of chlorine. I unscrew the cap and chug. If this is the blood of Christ, I’m not getting any drunker.”You can’t drink that whole bottle,” I hear a voice shout out to me from the darkness. To the left, a light turns on with a clicking noise, and I see Dante standing there, looking at me with dead eyes. His features are haunting, and even though his lips don’t move, I hear him repeat himself, “I bet you can’t drink that whole bottle.”Game on. I chug. I continue chugging even after I know I’ve had enough, and even after I feel like I’m going to throw up with the liquid simmering inside of my stomach like a volcanic eruption. I don’t want to drink this, but I don’t have a choice. If I don’t drink this liquid right now, I lose my identity forever.Dante walks away from me before I can finish. I have no choice but to chug as quickly as possible and chase after him. The ground that once pulled my legs down has released their grip on me, and suddenly I am on ice trying to run like a penguin. I slip all over the place and struggle to keep my balance, constantly fighting the forces of nature. I catch up with Dante around the back of the house, and he’s waiting in line for something.There’s a man there, holding his hand out. He is bald and smells like cheese, with a goatee that’s dated and full of crumbs. I hate him, but I don’t have a choice in avoiding him. He asks to see my identification. I hand him the empty bottle and fall over. My eyes seal shut, and for a moment I contemplate playing dead. If he’s a bouncer, he can’t kick me out because I’m already gone. He’ll have to call the hospital, and I’ll get my get-out-of-jail-free card for playing possum. But it doesn’t work that way.My brain stops thinking. All thought shuts down. The machines inside my body cease to function. I suddenly fight to hang on but can’t for much longer. I know that I screwed up, but there’s no turning back now. The ground below me grows lips that expand as a tongue made of maggots rolls out from the ground and scoops me up like a lick off of an ice cream cone. I don’t try to fight it. I made my bed, and it’s time to die in it.

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