High-pitched laugher wakes me up. It’s early in the morning and the sun hasn’t woken up just yet. I sit up and feel a dizzy weight pulling me back into my sheets. My mouth is dry and I can barely swallow. I listen to hear the laughter again, or any sound again, but there’s nothing.
Blink. Stretch. Sigh.
There’s a wine glass on my nightstand. I see a bottle on the bedroom dresser. If this were some show on Netflix, there might be a woman still sleeping on the other side of my bed. But no. This is real life.
I check my phone and it tells me it’s Saturday. I honestly don’t believe it.
What happened yesterday?
Friday. I can’t remember anything about it. I picture myself going to work, talking to Cameron and giving him a list of names, then being curious about—
That was Thursday.
Yes. That was Thursday. Friday is MIA.
I wonder if I went out Thursday.
Did I go on some binge?
I’m trying to figure out what happened as I go from the bathroom to the living room to the kitchen. My place is certainly messy with clothes everywhere and books scattered over each room. A pile of bills on the table. A ton of notes on my desk. Dirty dishes. Beer and wine bottles, all empty, of course.
What have I been doing?
I look at the coffee table in the middle of my living room and see a quote I wrote down. This one’s from me since the handwriting is chicken scratch written by someone who has the handwriting of a doctor.
OPENING LINES FOR MEMENTO
(Leonard Shelby in a voice over)
“So where are you? You’re in some motel room. You just wake up and you’re in a motel room. There’s the key. It feels like maybe it’s just the first time you’ve been here, but perhaps you’ve been there for a week, three months. It’s kind of hard to say. I don’t know. It’s just an anonymous room.”
I see my Blu-ray player is on, and the slot is open but there’s no disc in it. I look around the room, assuming that I watched Memento on my day off yesterday. My day off from memory.
That movie is all about forgetting and short-term memory loss.
I know I bought the Blu-ray for Memento years ago but I can’t find it. It’s not with the DVDs on my shelf nor is it anywhere else. I probably spend thirty minutes looking for it. I’m not sure why.
My phone dings and I see a text from Cameron.
You still on for breakfast?
I remember my regular Saturday morning meeting with my novelist friend. I confirm that I’m coming then head to the shower.
Under a hot blanket of water with eyes closed, I try to remember Friday. I can’t see anything.
So where are you?
“I have writer’s block,” a very bedraggled Dermot tells me as I walk up to the table in the coffee shop and greet him.
“So I guess you haven’t gotten far then on your book?” I ask as I sit across from him.
“I’ve only edited the material I already had. So it went down from two thousand words to about a thousand.”
“Well—it’s good to have a good opening,” I say.
“Yeah, but this part takes place about midway through the novel.”
I take a sip of the dark roast coffee, trying to think of something encouraging to say.
“So maybe you just need to figure out the storyline?”
Dermot shakes his head. “I already mapped it out. I even made a whole playlist to go with the story outline—chapter by chapter.”
“At least you’re not losing any money or anything like that,” I say with a smile.
“I made a $100 bet with someone that I’d finish my book,” Dermot says, rubbing the week-old scruff on his face.
I’ve run out of Y-words to use as interior monologue.
“Sorry, brother,” I say.
“I’m going to get another bacon, egg and cheese bagel,” Dermot says standing up and seeming to guide his large waist with him. “Want anything? A cookie or anything?”
“I’m good,” I tell him.
When he comes back, Dermot proceeds to talk my ear off about his story. The one he’s not writing. In the time he shares all his thoughts and ideas with me, he could have written about ten chapters. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.
“One idea I’ve always had is to write about a totally unqualified guy—someone like me—who wakes up one day and decides to climb Mount Everest,” Dermot says.
“Does he make it to the top?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I guess the point is not whether or not he actually makes the summit but why he wants to. It could be one of those haunted-man-searching-for-meaning sort of stories.”
“Those are popular these days,” I say.
“There’s a company called Outdoor Excursions run by a guy named Jake Rivers. He’s climbed all the major mountains in the world. He brings a big group to Everest every year. He even brought some celebrity—an actor or something. I had called him up and spoken to him to interview him.”
“So what happened to the story?”
Dermot shakes his head. “Nothing. Nada. No-go. It was interesting but I couldn’t figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“How to get it moving. Why people would want to keep reading. Why I would want to keep writing. You know?”
I nod. “That’s the key. Just like keeping people coming into my store. Why should they when they have Amazon?”
“That’s exactly what I say,” Dermot tells me.
“Friends should come just out of love,” I tell him, half-joking.
“I go to the library when I want to read books.”
“So if you got a book published, would you want everybody to simply check it out of the library?”
Dermot rubs his eyes. “I don’t know. First things first. Finishing the story. That’s all I’m concerned with. Finishing any story.”
“Just do it,” I say, repeating the Nike mantra.
“’Just do it!’” Dermot says, repeating Shia LaBeouf mocking motivational video.
Gotta love pop culture.
In the silence of my apartment while I’m dozing off in front of some TV show, I hear the splashing of waters. Then I hear voices. Whispers. Short shouts. Calls and cries. Laughter. Tears.
Someone using a stern voice. More whispers.
Steps up the stairs, creaks cracking, coming to a stop, whispers, then pounding pattering back down.
I want to shut up the voices and the talking under breath and the chatter. I want to move or cry out or do something but I’m in an ocean of sleep or silence or something.
A dream, maybe, or maybe something worse.
Maybe something that’s essential to me. Some kind of essence.
I don’t know what that means except that I can’t stop hearing the whispers and noise and buzzing.
It fades and I think I’m starting to fade. Not to black, however.
To a sea of blank, wordless white.