The sound of my pee hitting toilet water sounded like a chip bag crinkling, and it filled my ears as the swirling, apocalyptic thoughts about my novel consumed me. I flushed, tucked my penis back into my pants, put the lid down, then shuffled two steps to my right and stood in front of the mirror, distraught.
My surroundings appeared farther away than they were; everything seemed as if it were in a slightly vibrating cloud; I touched my hair. I walked into the living room and looked at myself in the mirror on the mantle; I puffed my chest, turned sideways, made a face. I feigned looking at the stacks of books on the mantle next to the mirror: fifteen or so New York Review of Books titles that I hadn't read; many issues of NOON, my favorite literary journal; a clock shaped like a mosque; a certificate for having gone skydiving. I'd been meaning to submit to NOON...perhaps a section of my novel would work, I considered.
No. No. I recalled my third person present tense novel, feeling, at the mere thought of it, my back muscles tighten and torque, as I considered a scene in which Calvin, the protagonist, wakes in the middle of the night from a dream, dripping with sweat, naked, and disoriented, then sprints into the hallway and projectile shits onto the walls. He falls down the stairs while shitting—"speckles the banister," as it's rendered in the novel—and continues before sitting down on the toilet, spraying the seat with shit and then squishing down into it. Sensing this would not be right for NOON, I considered other parts of my novel.
I thought of one part of the novel, a dream, immediately preceding the banister speckling, in which Calvin stands on a small washing machine, telling many small children that he "needs to go away for a while," when suddenly the washing machine starts rumbling and poop bursts into the room from inside it, then shoots in through the windows, shattering glass, rushing in like a flood, the room and everything else spinning and filling with it...
It was egregious to include a dream in a third person present tense novel made up largely of flashbacks and fever-induced diarrhea scenes. Though dreams almost certainly had some degree of meaning, they had no place in fiction, which was already dream-like to begin with, and so conveying a dream within a novel was like telling someone about a dream within a dream: it would be nearly impossible to connect with. How many times had someone oppressed me with their dreams, explaining their dream to me in great detail, which, no matter how strange or unexpected, always made me lose interest almost immediately, and which I could not connect with in any meaningful way whatsoever? There was something about dreams that one just forgot. Upon waking, one forgot his own dreams; and upon hearing the dreams of another, one forgot even as the dreamer was still babbling...
I felt pulled, or dragged, toward my laptop, as I shuffled half-heartedly in the general direction of my kitchen table, as if to remind myself of something, my novel's tense and point of view perhaps, or something else. I resolved to conquer my negative thoughts by confidently working for a short time—I would simply sit down and start writing, or editing, or discerning what would be good to send to NOON, and dispel the bad thoughts; I would only have to focus for fifteen or so minutes; this way, I wouldn't feel the need to distract myself. But, sitting down at my kitchen table, gearing up to work on my novel, I became instantly convinced that the dream scene would be, among other things, too vulgar for NOON. The novel was too vulgar in general, even for me; I did not want my first novel to be so vulgar as to not get taken seriously—I was a serious person, who deserved to be taken seriously, and I wanted to have a career.
I opened my laptop and navigated to the Google Doc containing my novel, then scrolled down, absently worrying that if I ever released my novel, I would be committing to a kind of vulgarity that I wouldn't be able to keep up with in the future; I was thinking the phrase—my imagined future nickname—"Vulg Boy" when I encountered the phrase I was looking for: "speckles the banister."
Speckles the banister...speckles the banister...My skin felt clammy and cold, my body remembering how it had felt when the scene in the novel had taken place in real life; I grinned giddily at the jovial, lilting phrase—speckles the banister. The beginnings of goosebumps sprung up on my forearm; I rubbed them, then my laptop, gently; my eyes began to blur as I considered, apprehensively, that I still needed to write the scene in which Calvin walks past his girlfriend the next morning, while she is crying and cleaning the bathroom, before going back to bed and passing out.
Or, no, I had already written it. It was just a few sections below this one. The coffee was making my thoughts feel impossible, like they were words on a screen and my brain was scrolling up and down spastically, or like the screen was freezing then unfreezing unpredictably. I shrunk into my second face, vision blurred, until my skin face felt like it was shivering; my lips hung parted as I imagined my skin face melting, pooling into chunks on the floor, then rising slowly and spinning in the air away from me, laser beams shooting out of my neck. I shook my head to refocus my eyes, but they remained fuzzy; I ran my fingers over the keyboard, not pressing anything, feeling the ridged keys, in a kind of petting motion.
This was a novel based completely on my life, I considered, as I pictured my ex-girlfriend turning toward me, on her hands and knees in the bathroom, asking, too quietly, if I'd "gotten sick." I pictured other things too, but they were abstracted, in half-images that lasted a second or so—doing cocaine and watching interviews with rappers all night in our spare room; lying on our mattress with my phones, confused and alarmed, but also numb and resigned, about the various texts and missed calls; the poster on the bedroom wall illustrating which points in the foot corresponded with which parts of the body; crying in the fetal position while Dillon licked the snot off my face and barked at me.
My memories appeared to me like Instagram stories, flitting past in flattened fragments; I felt them physically in my shoulders and jaw.
I recalled telling people that I was "working on my novel," and then leaving the house, doing drugs in my car, organizing where and when the next shipments of weed and hash oil would arrive, or just lying in bed and watching Netflix. I actually did have a novel I worked on occasionally, but only to ensure that if anyone asked me, I would have something to show them. I fantasized about telling the police that I spent my days writing a novel—I was a novelist—then showing them my "novel" as proof and getting away with whatever crimes they'd accused me of; I would leave it pulled up on my laptop when I suspected my ex-girlfriend might glimpse it; I even told the people I worked with selling weed that the very reason I sold weed was so that I could buy more time to work on my novel.
Sitting at my kitchen table, I tried to remember what this novel—my alibi novel—was about. I knew I'd written it in sentegraphs, and that it was on my old laptop, but that was it.