It was around 11:30 in the evening when I finally reached the perfect balance of drunk and tired to sit on the couch with a keyboard in my lap and start writing. My wife had gone to bed nearly two hours earlier after downing three Advil PM and half a can of ginger ale. She said she didn’t feel well, but that didn’t surprise me, she’s almost always tired these days.
I don’t know if it’s stress at work or anemia or her new medication, but being tired is almost all she talks about anymore. For me, it just meant another night devoid of conversation or human contact.
So when she finally slumped upstairs, I mixed myself a gin and tonic with double lime and gulped it down. Half an hour later, I felt like I was melting into the couch, the room was swimming, but I could still make out the text on the laptop screen. Conditions were perfect.
I put on some ambient music, turned off all the lights and started typing away like a man possessed. Just, whatever spilled out of my brain. Stream of consciousness type of stuff. Most of it made no sense and was connected by only the thinnest of threads. Thoughts merged and overlapped in loose noodly piles. I would spend stretches of time with my eyes closed, head leaning into the tall cushioned backrest.
At midnight, I still had no hopes of going to sleep and I could feel the room beginning to slow down, so I decided to down two shots of whiskey and stagger back to my seat before they could reach my brain. I made it just in time. The room lurched sideways as if it were propelled by some unseen explosion and I laughed as I looked around for a single point to focus on until the sensation passed.
That was when it happened. I’m sure of it. I distinctly remember looking at the time in the system menu, seeing it was after midnight, and typing out a timestamp in the document I had in front of me. It was the last thing I could recall until early the morning when I found myself on the floor next to the couch and my laptop was balanced on the armrest, still open.
I sat up and a cold railroad spike drove itself through the center of my head. I had forgotten to follow up that last gulp of whiskey with a good dose of water and my brain wasn’t very happy about it. Shambling to the kitchen and popping a couple of Alka Seltzers into a glass, I struggled to piece together the evening. Wife, Advil PM, alone, gin, writing, whiskey, rockets, laughing, timestamp.
I sipped the fizzing solution and grimaced. It’s true what they say about things that are good for you tasting like shit. I knocked back the seltzer in two gulps and nearly retched in the sink. I’d have to take it easy, couldn’t remember the last time I had a hangover like this. Thank God it was a Sunday.
I thought I’d check and see if anything interesting had come up with my writing. Hopefully I hadn’t immediately passed out and wasted the whole night on the carpet. I rubbed my forehead and could still feel the indentation of the rug where my face had been resting on the floor.
Plopping down on the couch, I pulled the laptop onto my legs and hit the space bar a couple times to wake it up.
I was initially relieve to find that the evening didn’t end at that timestamp. But as I started to read, a cold realization shot through me. This wasn’t just a bunch of random, drunken passages.
It was a conversation…
12:04am – That did it. The room just … pushed to the left like it was hit by a giant bumper car from outside the window. The whiskey right from the bottle, two slugs and I could feeeel it go straight to my head. I just wanted to sit back a down and write until I could be tired enough to sleep but I don’t want to go to sleep.
It’s alone. I mean lonely. I’m alone. I mean she’s there but it’s like there’s nothing inside there, like a big empty warm cocoon. It’s, it feels good to lay back right now, I probably just needed a little bit more but now it’s way too much and this room is a big, dark spinning top now. Need to keep writing about something, a story, something, get so tired I can’t think or dream and there’s just sweet empty space.
it’s never empty … I’m always in here
I just want the quiet. It’s buzzing in there, my head, about something. Always. I just want the quiet that exhaustion brings, no more energy to think or feel or miss how it was or wish it was someone else right here.
you said wish, that’s a favourite word of mine, wish… let’s talk about wishes
Who’s writing this story? It feels way, way too good to close my eyes, can I close mny eyes and type. It feels like I’m falling down inside my own head when I do this but I an somehow still do it. Story. So som thing about the future or survival or.
who is she?
What do you mean? She who?
you’re alone where you’re sitting, but in your head, there’s someone there right beside you, and she’s humming contentedly, and reading a book, and burrowing her feet under your legs to keep them warm, and it feels right, perfect actually, and those dark eyes catch yours with candlelight dancing in them and you just feel…
Of course you can see that. You’re in my head, too, because you’re me. THta’s just a happy thought.
no, you’re you, I’m outside, but I can still see
What do you mean, outside?
you know it’s funny, people, they’re mostly empty vessels, like walking hard drives, and it’s easier than you’d think to empty them out, wipe them clean, fill them up again with a completely different mind and purpose
Like a computer, right? I knew it. It makes so much sense. Zero it out and reinstall. That’s a funny thought, there’s a lot of bugs in my head I think. People can get viruses, like, they need maintenance, or they’ll go bad.
the one upstairs
I don’t know what happened. It was like, time, just kept on going and I went along with it, and she didn’t, and those parallel lines that were me and her split off at one degree of difference and you multiply that by a year or five or ten and then those two points are so impossibly far apart that how can you ever turn it around again?
format the disk
THta’s a person and a brain and it’s got habits and routines and it can’t just be reset.
let’s talk about wishes
Can it be, like… a swap?
standard procedure, erase the disk and reinstall new runtime
Could you, fucking stop, the whole computer reference? It’s not a machine, it’s a person, she’s a person.
it’s just a little wish, really, you don’t even have to think about it after tonight, after right this moment… one final question, do you wish to proceed?
It’ll be just like with… her, right? Like what I want in my head?
ERASE DISK AND REINSTALL SYSTEM (Y/N)?
My eyes panned down to the final letter and continued down to the matching key on the keyboard. There was a dark red smudge, it looked liked a fingerprint, covering the Y key. I scratched at the dried substance and it flaked off under my fingernail. There was a sharp pain in my hand and I looked at the dried blood surrounding a small gash in the center of my finger.
I could feel my heart start to race, its tempo mirrored in my throbbing head. I heard stirring upstairs, then soft footsteps. Setting the laptop on the armrest, I slowly stood up and started up the stairs.
“This is crazy,” I told myself. “I’m going crazy and I should definitely not drink and write and I need to just stop this…” my voice, barely above a whisper, caught in my throat when I saw my wife, if you could even still call her that.
She looked the same, but… new. Refreshed? Cheeks were flushed and pink and full of life again, like I hadn’t seen in years. She looked… rested. For once. And not angry that it was morning and she had to get up, and not stomping around for no reason, and not dismissive at the sight of me, but welcoming and radiant…
And her eyes, they were dazzling, overwhelming, dark and full of light. She flashed a wild grin like it was the first time she’d ever smiled and said “God I slept so good, it almost feels like I haven’t seen you in years,” and reached a warm, slender hand toward my face.