My friend Scott and I are at a Neil Gaiman reading. We're both huge fans of Gaiman's comics and we met because of them at the library, when I slipped a disc carrying the hundreds of mythological texts required to understand the latest Sandman. Scott took me to the hospital, after a lengthy argument over whether my injury was Kafkaesque.
My previous friendships felt like dreams that could disappear at any second, but Scott's made me feel like I could disappear at any second, atomized by his kindness and comic-book knowledge.
"Remember the last Neil Gaiman reading we went to? I don't because of all the absinthe we drank."
"That was just radiator coolant I found in a dumpster."
I sigh, my non-memories of that night tainted forever, and try to think of something else to say.
"I love the intertextuality of Neil Gaiman's comics, because taken to its logical end it means the text conversations we used to have about how much we liked Neil Gaiman and each other are part of the Sandman canon and have won several Eisner Awards."
Scott ignores me, pretending to text on his phone even though it's broken and shocks him every time he touches it. He involuntarily smiles when in pain, but he isn't smiling now, meaning the shocks are a blissful distraction from talking to me.
It's hard to say when our friendship started to fall apart. Maybe a couple months ago when I asked Scott an important question over lunch. He said that he loved me but only as a friend, not a best friend like I wanted him to be. Since then our lunches have been awkward; the last time, when he vomited from Burger Hub's cadmium-tainted glasses, we just silently watched his vomit dry for 20 minutes.
The audience at the Gaiman reading is full of goths. I used to dream of being in an industrial band and being able to summon at will every butt that was groped on the dance floor during our songs. I walk down a tunnel made of butts talking on my phone to my agent about starring in the show Oddities, which is just me standing in an empty room for half an hour, because my band has increased tolerance of alternative culture so that gothic kitsch antiques are no longer considered odd.
I was briefly in an industrial band but we broke up after an argument with the drummer over the smell of the dead squirrels he used to dampen his kick drum. Standing in our old practice room I can still hear all the keyboards we smashed during our signature song "I Wish I Had the Key to Your Heart so I Could Break It off in the Keyhole," and also all the ones we didn't. I think of telling this story to Scott but figure I'll save it for the ride home when our reflections in the car windows look like a multiverse of friendships of which ours is the unhappiest.
I need to go to the deathroom, which is what I call bathrooms because they're where we're most reminded of our mortality through all the hygienic routines with which we fight it. My fear of bathrooms has made me resort to doing my business in post boxes. In a fantasy I meet another person defecating in a post box and we become best friends, leaving Scott to die alone in a hospital bed.
The hospital door opens and the Fat Boys walk in, reprising their roles as the bumbling nurses from Disorderlies and mistaking Scott for another patient on whom they're supposed to perform a chondrolaryngoplasty. Scott screams but all that comes out is a gurgling noise that sounds like some wack-ass MC trying to beatbox, so Darren Robinson takes the mic and freestyles all over him using the heart monitor as a beat.
My mp3 player is playing Evelyn Evelyn's cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley crooning in opposite speakers like best friends seeking each other through the tangle of absinthe-decayed neurons in my head. Once they almost did find each other when lightning struck my mp3 player, turning my headphone speakers into powerful electromagnets that nearly crushed my skull.
Neil Gaiman still hasn't arrived yet. I stare at the curtain like I do a post-box slot when I'm vomiting from the opium I smoke to fully appreciate Sandman comics, wondering what's beyond it and if it's any better than this....
Maria Mitchell is shown holding a telescope to each eye, using them to ogle passing hunks on the street below. OOOGA! Her tongue rolls out like a firehose, her eyes comically bulging through the ends of the telescopes.
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