When staring off into the starry night, it’s often at the actual stars themselves that we stare at, or the moon, or the clouds. Sometimes we stare at stillness of the sky hoping for one of the stars to fall for one of our wishes. Sometimes it’s full of thought. Sometimes wonder. Sometimes it’s empty-minded blankness. Rarely do we look at the blackness that separates the stars from each other, but to astronomers, that’s often where the good stuff happens. At the center of spiral galaxies, there’s a black hole, a dense mass that releases no energy, reflects no light, nothing. And that is the exciting part: the story is in the lack of a story.
Anyone who drinks heavily with any regularity knows and fears this same feeling, the lack of a story, the mystery, the black out. Maybe you wake up with no pants on because they’re in your freezer. Maybe you smeared tacos all over the inside of your car. Maybe you fell asleep in the laundry room of your friend’s apartment building. Maybe you wake up in your neighbor’s bushes and can’t move your arm because you slept on it wrong and pinched a nerve, which will require months of extensive physical therapy. Maybe your mouth is stuffed with towels and you’re missing 1.5 teeth. Maybe you ordered sexy underwear to your old address while you were on a vacation to Iceland and when you got back the person who moved into your old place asks you who the lingerie is for. Maybe you booked a one-way ticket to Japan. Maybe you passed out at 3 p.m., woke up at 3 a.m. and went to the bar and was utterly confused why it would be closed so early. Maybe you did this. Maybe not.
And the mystery is even compounded by the particulars. What’s in your pockets. What’s left in the microwave. Why your underwear is on crooked or upside down or inside out or floating in your toilet. Why your toothbrush is in an empty beer can in your kitchen sink. Why your wallet is sitting next to your computer with five tabs open to amazon.com pages featuring different Harry Potter replica wands. Why you thought it was a good idea to watch “Barbarella” on Netflix and eat a frozen waffle with peanut butter without cooking the waffle or using utensils and how that has to be a fact because it is the only thing that explains why there’s peanut butter in your beard, on your pillows, and how peanut butter got all over the keypad of your computer and why there are right now at this very moment mushy formerly-frozen waffles next to your bed.
And in the end, you’ll never know exactly what happened. You can check your timeline to see how many terrible photos you posted. You can check your messages to see who you accidentally texted on purpose because you wanted sex or to vent a breakup or a ride or all of the above. You can check your bank account to see where you went or where you possibly left your debit card. You can have a good banter with your roommates in the morning over brunch discussing exactly what happened. But, no matter what you do, it will still just be pieces – you’ll never get the whole. You’ll only be able to observe the effects, the detritus, the ruin, the wake of what actually happened.
And then you’ll ask the inevitable question: Why do we do this to ourselves? And the answer is really just, no reason. There is no reason, other than it happens sometimes on the way past a good time. The only thing that keeps you tied to the ground, the only thing that makes it worth losing that time and space is that banter with friends, the telling of a story that is made of nothing but missing pieces.
Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Co. His first book of poetry, The Blank Target, was published this past spring by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected]