The Reality Institute

Veggies by JM

I’m in this chair, afraid to move. Someone says we should walk around the cemetery, and although “outside” is an attractive concept, I’m more concerned with the vortex of quicksand in front of me. Transfixed by my toe tornado, I peer in to get a closer look, but don’t see anything. I feel like I’ve been cheated, so I put my foot into the middle of the quicksand so it disappears and returns to ugly rug. I hover, and the wind at my back eases me towards the door. Before I get there, I sit on a couch. The bowl of chocolate colors looks inviting, so I grab a handful, shove them in my mouth, and immediately regret the decision.

There were about 9 of them packed tightly, each with their own agenda. They swished around and rearranged, constantly reminding me of the amount of work chewing them will entail. I begin to chew, but the little bastards suction my teeth together, making my jaws work extra hard. My whole face hates me for putting it through this. After the globules stop moving, I muster the courage to swallow them. Their reign is over, and I traverse the negative space and complete the journey into my sweatshirt before reaching for a doorknob.

Stairs await me outside this door, and although my friends tell tales of their taciturnity and timidity, of their still, slender, stiffness, all my thoughts are sinister. I fall for their trap and open the door. The stairs are still at first glance, but after my first step their docility turns to mockery, and they laugh at my intimidation. Fuck you, stairs! Here I come!

I take baby steps towards the first stair in hopes that they didn’t hear me say, “Fuck you” out loud. They didn’t, and I descend while grasping the railing and focusing on my hands leapfrogging each other. The illumination below turns to day. I pass through the inner door, then the outer door, until I’m finally birthed into some painting of Chicago neighborhoods But instead of being greeted by a doctor proclaiming my gender, I see a bum pushing a shopping cart while cursing himself for missing the bus. I stand still until I’m convinced he’s real, which means until he turns the corner away from me. The group and I exit stage left and head towards death.

I hit a lucid valley and realize how truly fucked up I am. My friends confirm theirs. We approach a crosswalk and I’m convinced I will not live through it, but when the time comes, I run frantically across the street and reach another sidewalk. We turn right and follow a brick wall. I look back. Forward. I’m Jennifer Connelly from The Labyrinth. We begin the trek paralleling the Great Wall of Clark Street.

Someone foolishly tries to discuss a movie with me. He tells me it’s centered on murder and that people involved are sinister and slide down backs. I solve the crime in a matter of minutes and ask if there was a murder. I’m hated.

The wind whistles in my ears.

We reach another intersection. Cross another street. I feel fine. We enter the cemetery. It’s daytime.

We turn left into the cemetery, putting the sun at our backs. The sun lights everything green in front of us, but the clouds ahead are dark and grey, and I’m convinced someone is playing a joke on me. We take pictures of the joke for future reference. We walk the path, until I notice a park bench…

Is it a trap?

No, it’s neatly propped up under a tree for your pleasure.

I’m not supposed to sit there.

Why not?

It’s too easy. Someone expects it.

It’s made for sitting.

Good point.

The bench is boring, so I get up to walk around some more. A friend is hunched over, examining something near a gravestone. This must be interesting. I don’t want to interrupt, so I quietly meander towards this thing, being careful so as to not frighten it away. Instead, I frighten my friend who didn’t hear me approach. I must have floated again. It wasn’t as interesting as I hoped, so I walked some more.

The grass is squishy under my feet. My shoes aren’t muddy, so that’s good. Gravel. Grass. Gravel. Grass. The discrepancy is undeniable. I choose the gravel and walk along further. I kick the stones. I see them for a bit, and then they sink into the ground and disappear. They’re everywhere, diminutive, but not overly territorial. I look to the sky, then to the ground. Lightning pulsates within the intricate gravel borders.

I don’t think this pizza place exists. Oh there it is. I wonder if the people here will be able to tell that it’s 4pm and these kids are not alright. They must have clocks, so they’ll know the time, but will they know exactly what we’re talking about? They don’t look like they speak English. I sit on a chair, whilst people play with magnets, contemplate the true meaning of the ‘5 5 5 Deal,’ etc. I expect the cops to show up any minute to remove the insanity, but the counterpeople simply laugh. They have to know. They should be looking at each other and laughing at us any second.

I leave the pizza place wondering why we went there in the first place. I sit on the parking lot curb outside the front door, when finally the group enters and joins me. It’s silent. I hear nothing except a metallic clank hitting the cement. Someone is dropping a pack of Altoids and picking it up with a magnet. I don’t see the reason for this, so I steal the Altoids. I consider eating one, but I remember the organizational properties of the colors and decide against it.

I ask why we’re hanging out in front of a pizza place. The obvious answer had, for some reason, escaped me. The wait for the pizza lasts for 40 minutes my time. By now the cops should have been here.

We return to the apartment to eat the pizza, and the stairs grab hold of me once again, but ascending the screw was not as menacing as the living room and what reality had in store for me.

The world turns to sand and I’m struggling to move. I get to the couch and dream with my eyes open. I see the pizza in front of me, but I don’t have a taste for lava. Someone spills a can of soda, which sinks into the rug, making me question whether it happened at all. Someone offers me a slice of pizza and I barely shake my head no. Existential meltdown. Who are these people? Someone carries a bowl of water with a paper towel to the basin of what used to be the sand vortex in order to sop up soda. I can’t wait to tell my friends about this dream, but they’re in front of me. The room develops a texture and every movement of my fingers feels like I’m digging my hands into sand and trying to make a fist. I look to my left and a face coalesces and divides like a lava lamp. To my right is the Great Remote Control Face Off of 2008. My eyes are open, but on the back of them is a green, dancing mushroom with a happy face. I close my eyes, hoping to open them to the real world, but instead I wake up in my own dream and continue questioning my hair, sweatshirt, sandpaper hands, and frigid toes. I want this to be over.

I open my eyes. I wake up. I see pizza boxes strewn about, and a bowl of water on the side table. I see everyone exactly as they were sitting in my dream. The place is a mess and we all look like shit. I ask, “What did we do with our day?”

One Response to “Veggies by JM”

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