By Jordan Abel
Days later, months later, it didn’t matter, because I still couldn’t remember how the story went. Scholars Bar, basement, this much I was sure of. I was on the cusp of that lovely spin-mesh state of crunkness. I drained my pint and leaned on Dale’s shoulder to tell him that he needed to drink faster. Dale poured the pint down his throat, gagged, but managed to get it all down. I patted him on the back and went to buy him his next drink.
I wobbled up to the bar, bumping into at least five fools with big drunken smiles on their faces who all told me it was okay, that they were drunk too. I told the bartender to pour two pints, and I started tapping my fingers on the counter. I looked over at Dale. He had his cell clamped to his ear. I figured that he was talking to his girlfriend who was probably bitching him out for not taking her on long romantic walks or something.
The bartender placed two foaming pints in front of me. I grabbed a few straws, slid them into our beers.
“Straws in your beer?” she asked.
I turned and began to say something, but I stopped myself. I remember thinking: if the world would stop spinning for a minute I might actually recognize this girl. She was wearing a dark red tank top, navy blue jeans, and too many bracelets and earrings to count. Her eyes were hidden behind her light blonde hair.
“Remember me?” she asked.
“There’s something,” I started. “But …Where do I–”
“–know you from.”
She glanced down at the floor. The way her bangs fell in front of her eyes, the way her slender neck was exposed.
She put her hand in mine and nodded. “You were driving out to Medicine Hat, and we met on the side of the road. Your car was broken down. So, I pulled over and I tried to help you. But, we ended up just lying on the hood of your car, waiting for the tow truck. You pointed out that constellation to me. The flying fish–Volans.”
I squeezed her hand. “What are you doing in Edmonton?”
I pulled open the balcony door of my apartment, and Kyla and I stumbled out onto the cold cement. As I closed the door I heard Dale running for the bathroom. I told Kyla that Dale had too much to drink tonight, and she told me to find those stars again. I told her that she looked beautiful in the soft yellow glow of the street lamps. She told me that I didn’t look too bad myself. I kissed her and she pushed me away, gently. I pointed up to Volans, and told her that it was a sign. She smiled, and said, “Maybe.”
I asked her if she wanted to stay in Edmonton for a few days, but she shook her head. “Ken,” she said, “I’d love to, but I have to be in Calgary on Tuesday.”
I asked her if she at least wanted to spend the night, and she said maybe. I took her back to my room where we found Dale passed out in his own puke. I closed the door immediately, and asked her how she felt about the couch.
She told me that she was tired, that she should probably just go back to her hotel. I told her that I understood, but I’d like it if she stayed. She put on her shoes, kissed me on the cheek, and told me to take it easy. I told her that I’d try.
Once she was gone I rolled up a fattie and smoked it in my living room.
Wait. Let’s see. I was in the basement of Scholars when the mushrooms started to kick in. Dale leaned over to me and told me that he didn’t understand how his cell phone worked, and I realized that we probably shouldn’t have eaten five grams each. I drained my pint and needed more. I made it to the bar, but felt light-headed all the way and everything was glowing pink. I asked the bartender for another drink, which appeared almost instantly. I sat at the bar, and stared at the pint. I took a swig.
“Thirsty?” she asked.
I heard the voice as I put the glass down, but my mind was a roller coaster just about to plummet. I watched the beer foam up, the bubbles rising. I watched how they transformed and melted into the liquid. I saw a spot of bright red rising through the beer. I looked closer.
“Well, I’ll leave you to your beer.”
I didn’t say anything; I could only concentrate on this glass. The red shimmered, came alive, grew tentacles of bright hopelessness, stretching into amber seas of drunken despair. I looked closer, and realized what it was–a fire. There was a fire inside my pint! I wanted to yell, but I could only stare. The fire tentacles filled the glass, squirming over the top and down the counter. Slippery flickers of flame whipped around the counter, and I decided to look into the centre of the mass, the heart. Then I saw it, clear and cold. There was a flame inside a flame inside a flame and it stretched into infinity–down through the glass, table, bar, dirt, earth, right through to the other side of infinity. I felt like I was looking back at myself through time and if I stared any longer I was going to set myself on fire.
I stood up, wobbling. The walls dripped with fire, and Scholars was a mad house of laughing alcoholics and hallucinations. I made it to the bathroom, barely getting past the fire snakes on the ceiling. I stood in front of the mirror, knowing that I must be looking at myself, but all I saw were my fire eyes–orbs heavy with liquid burning soul. I placed my fire hands on my face. I was melting. I stood there in the Scholars bathroom –a boy on fire, watching myself burn. That was when I saw it swimming towards me from the depths of the mirror. The flying fish: Volans. I thought it was swimming towards me to put my fire out, but, instead, his gaping fish mouth engulfed me, swallowed me whole.