"Take a seat," the man said without looking up.
'Why take a seat? Does he really want me to take it. Where would I take it?'
'Whoa. Did he read my mind?' As Archie began to sit, he became self-conscious. He refocused, but only to begin concerning himself about how he sat and how he was being observed as a sitter. He crossed his legs just so, but he wasn't quite sure what to do with his hands. Whenever he placed them on his thighs his thumb would eventually begin to feel as though they it were on the opposite side of his hand. That freaked him out, reminded him of school. Sitting at his desk in class, he would sometimes get the sensation that everything around him was growing. Just a little. By, maybe, 120%… The people got bigger, the walls would expand, his desk grew. He would close his eyes in an effort to avoid the sensation, but even then, a smokey image of the things around him still felt bigger.
Eventually he rested his left arm on the chair and put his right hand up to his beard. He stroked it. This looks stupid, he thought and quickly dropped his hand into his lap.
"So." Pause. "What brings you here today, Mr., ah…" flipping through papers clamped in a clip board. "Knowles. I noticed a few blanks in the paperwork. Do you mind if we fill them out now?"
"Sure." Had he forgotten to add some trivial insurance information? The number of his emergency contact, maybe?
"Sure, you mind? Or sure let's get them answered?"
That was dickish. "I'll answer them."
"Good, good. Let's see…" more flipping through papers in his clip board. "It seems you forgot to list your birth date here."
Relief. Was that it? "12/10/73."
Scribble, scribble. "And here you didn't list anything on your history of illegal substance use," he said without looking up, his glasses resting on his forehead as he combed the paperwork.
Archie squirmed. He thought they would breeze right over that one. Should he tell the truth with the possibility of being turned away? Or should he lie and hope to not be caught up in it later?
"I'm not here to judge."
"Well, it's not like I've ever abused drugs."
"Like I said, I'm not here to judge."
How honest should he be here? Maybe total honesty wouldn't bode well in this instance. 'He'll judge me,' Archie thought. 'He says he won't, but he will. He'll think I was an idiot for climbing that lightpole in Dallas, or driving around in slow motion freaking out on everything in that strange, ghostly city — all while buzzing on mescaline. But only once. I only did it once.' Archie decided to start with something less… illegal.
"Well, ah, I smoked pot once." A few hundred times. Does he tell him about the first time, when he'd also been drinking? Does he tell him how he pissed his pants in the grocery store that night after kicking a loaf of bread down the aisles?
Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, "And I did acid once." Just once. At home. Alone. Powered by the tab, he figured out the hidden meaning of Captain Beefheart's, Trout Mask Replica CD and sat in front of an open refrigerator touching tomatoes.
"Ecstasy. Once." Only once. On his birthday at a Skinny Puppy show. That had been a fucking weird, shaky trip. He remembered the singer being pushed out on stage in a mucus and gore-covered rubber bubble which he eventually tore himself out of. Or had he? Details remain sketchy.
"Oh, and mushrooms, I did those tw…once — as well. Just once." Both times in the desert at Joshua Tree with a group of friends. On one trip they had laid on the piles of giant rocks, laughing, teary-eyed, until a ranger showed up and let them know they couldn't camp in that specific area. The crew piled into Paul's SUV and drove off. Archie was convinced they were going to be stopped by the authorities, so he had Paul pull over dispose of the evidence by throwing the bag of mushrooms as far as he could into the night. It glided about 6 feet, falling just inside a barbed-wire fence.
"So let's review; marijuana, acid, ecstasy and mushrooms," the man pauses and looks up at Archie over his glasses.
Pause. "Oh, and mescaline." Archie's thumbs were beginning to change sides.
"Just once, I'm guessing," he asks as he scribbles.
"Does that about cover it?"
"Yes. I believe so."
"You believe so, or you know so?"
He shifted butt cheeks on the chair. "Know so. I know so."
Bender. Originally published in issue #33 of Monster Children.