“Exitstentialism” (Fiction)

I used to write short stories all the time. In fact, I won an award from The Houston Chronicle for one of them. That memory reminded me to try again.

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.

-Jean-Paul Sartre

The thought that keeps running through my mind is that I have to get it done. There’s no way out, only through. I find a couch that’s seen better days, and sit down. The smell of burning crack fills the air, an aroma that unless you’ve experienced firsthand is hard to explain… close to putting baking soda under the broiler and just as loud.

There’s a black man sitting next to me who has also seen better days. He’s got missing teeth, white hair and beard, shirt off with ribs showing- the perfect picture of years and years of neglect. Within minutes, he hands over a pipe, small and industrial, already loaded and waiting for fire. He’s not beautiful, but at least he’s generous.

The flame comes at me, a symbolic inch of salvation, and I inhale deeply. I don’t feel anything, and take another deep drag. This time, I feel even less of nothing, and decide that is the point. I don’t want to feel anything, anyway. If I did, I wouldn’t have started the evening with two watermelon Four Lokos, the national system of doing dangerous shit faster. But what I’m doing isn’t dangerous. It’s necessary. Alcohol, caffeine, and crack are just tools.

As my heart beats faster and faster, I notice that I am the only white person in the room, which isn’t a big deal except that I know I’m being watched… not that I’m in danger. A curiosity, like a chicken playing chess. I close my eyes and lean back into the haze of smoke, my extremities glued in place.

The high is magnificent, because I’m not thinking about anything except how good I feel. I can’t and won’t do this again. It’s too powerful… better than love, better than family… it would take over my whole life if I let it, because who wouldn’t want to live in this? Who wouldn’t want the universe to open up and say you’ll never feel pain again?

And that’s when I realize I’ll never do it again, anyway.

When I open my eyes, there’s a rape in progress, so close I can feel it happening… that poor girl, whomever she is. I sit up straight, the hair on my arms standing at attention. How could I not know, not feel that what I saw was actually happening to me?

Everything fades to black as I realize I don’t care about anything, much less this. Just one more thing that’s gone wrong in my bottomless shithole of a life.

I feel a light slap on my face, a different man trying to wake me up. I was already awake, daydreaming with my eyes closed. He wasn’t there to help, just to make sure I wasn’t dead.

I wasn’t.

I just dissociate and close my eyes again. This literal clusterfuck will be over soon or it won’t. Nobody cares. As despicable as the experience will seem later, it’s still an orgasm before I die. I know I will. I can feel it. I’ve been locked into the warehouse while they decide what to do with me. Even in a dream state, I hear the doors close and the padlock click. If they’d had guns, I doubt there would be discussion at all.

I still don’t care.

I have to get it done.

It’s logical, really. I’ve stolen documents from a three letter agency. There’s nowhere in the world I’m off the grid. I’ll be chased my whole life, which won’t be too long if I’m lucky.

I am not. The doors are pushed open, I’m helped to my feet, and sent on my way. I hear a man say “she’s so high she’s not going to remember any of this.”

I get into the backseat of my car and my teeth start to clench. I’m coming down, and the withdrawal is so fierce I’d do anything for another hit… but I made a promise to myself. It was going to be a once in a lifetime thing, something to ensure my comfort on the way out.

What I didn’t count on was what would happen if the plan failed.

Last evening I had one problem… how to get off the grid. This morning, I have two. I wasn’t high enough to forget anything. The situation, for all its horror, has its amusing moments. As my teeth grit more and more tightly, I figure out why lollipops must be popular among this particular crowd.

As morning slowly becomes evening, the smell and the withdrawal abate… but not the regret. I have flashbacks to the old ratty couch, the feeling of my spirit flying high above my body, looking down at the woman I never thought I’d become.

Or perhaps the person I’ve always been… the one whose missions always fail.

I couldn’t even achieve death on my own terms.

The prison is cold, unforgiving… waiting for someone else to finish what I could not. I do not fear death. I fear even one more day behind the even tighter security of my mind. They could let me go, and it wouldn’t matter. I’d still never be free.

There’s no exit.


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