Speedrun Enlightenment – Curtis Eggleston
July 8, 2021
Searching for the shape of God at a plastic wobbled table in a dirt road fronting one of the city’s few bars – night, hot, jungle palm-humid and I was the only white person there but had my hat low and very short hair and if anyone asked I just said I was from Canada so no one cared too much, sipping a watery beer that cost a quarter, trying to make tangible wants and this kid Laze sat down, white, his first day here too and American, green-eyed and athletic looking, good looking, and people started coming up, buying us drinks and I waited for Laze to leave with one of the girls but he said he came here because he spoke no Portuguese and tired of things so easy and good for feeling bored and empty. So he decided on where the guidebooks said was a real shithole. It was like the good pain of a caught splinter. It slipped out and I nodded at Laze as we tilted our cans at each other’s and kept drinking. We didn’t say much. We were the stillness centering the timelapse while the bar blurred around us until a boat captain sat with us and asked if we wanted to stay on his boat for a week while he fished the Madeira. Laze and I both nodded without referring to each other.
I brought a balance, food and water, bug spray. Laze, forty-seven beers, two books. When I asked about it, he said he drank it in the shower that morning. I took stock of what I called necessities. Five hours in we were strung up in hammocks from the boat’s roof’s rafters, swung shaded, reading, chain-drinking, not eating anything. Over the rail, thick murk swept by, turgid with untold creatures, besides the pink river dolphins, haggard motherfuckers, came squeaking off for the boat, flipping out the chocolate melt like inbred pug candies with fins, as if they were beautiful, as if they could fly.
They were and could a moment and we read and drank and watched far across the river flow to a pinch of rainforest between water and one sky. You kept one leg out your hammock, one heel floored to rock with, to keep you netted when it came time to lean back out over and down to grab your can. Laze read Farenheit 451, said he’d keep the real literature for him. I borrowed his other, about a minor leaguer who gets called up and hits a streak so crazy it could never happen, multiple homers every game for a month or some after his debut. Laze would pause silences, read passages aloud like he’d written them. I never shared what struck in mine. It never was a single line or paragraph, but something behind the page to come surfacing through the margins. I would flip to catch the feeling’s face to find another page there and you could only keep reading, admiring some idea of yourself in the codex on the paper, in the player whose miracles raised expectations next game, our boat never outran its wake as it forded upriver, Laze and I began to make blatant our rising euphoria, laughing aloud at sunshine, pausing to trace the source of an alien sound, whooshing flaps or what we could only guess was birdcall.
I finished the book and dropped it to the wood. Laze kept reading while I closed my eyes and let the colors of jungle afternoon swim their ways through my eyelids.
Laze asked if I wanted another, already knowing the answer. I heard his bare feet slap down the stairs to the boat’s main floor, to the coolers. I heard the familiar, satisfying thwack of the cooler lid let shut. And an even more satisfying, unfamiliar resonant thoonk.
I waited for Laze, philosophized, deconstructing potential reasons for such a satisfying thoonk. Pleasure may come as simply as unfamiliarity. I mentally self back-patted. There I was, floating with a new friend and unfamiliar boat captain, up the largest tributary of the Amazon, and I’d read a whole book today.
A deep cello note of hot wind blew through the boat’s uppers, fucking up my contentment and reminding me of the absence of a beer. I expanded the concentric circle of telepathy I enjoyed pretending having to call Laze to ascend swiftly, conveyed to him to stop begging Cap to let him drive immediately, if that’s what he was doing. But I doubted, unless his resorting was to intentional slightery, that he’d de-coolerize my beer prior to a heated charade. Recalling that sweet thoonky resonance prior, I began to fear the worst for Laze, but liking to pretend the world revolves around my agency, refrained from de-hammocking just quite yet, my reasoning being that acting on my fear would cause said feared potential become manifest, so instead spent ten more minutes one-footedly rocking myself, heroinly blinking, steeping in subsequent breezes I found trebledly melodious, cooler, feigning as I watched the river spool that all outside my vision was created the second I saw it, princely selfish I squinted and destroyed a bit of my imaginary world and all contentment was bled by my re-realization that some profound itch was displacing any chance I had of simple contentment and as sad as it is now to admit, the tick of the itch was my prolonged lack of refreshment.
I mentally scoffed at Laze’s pathetic attempt at servitude and mentally thanked him for lending me his book before mentally wincing at the food he’d not brought before being reminded of the single beer his deemed more-importances deprived me of as I un-swooped myself onto my feet from my hammock and realized how drunk I was, wondering if the boat was swaying as drastically as my limbic system contested with me that it was or was it perhaps my own tools for measuring stability and sway that were knocked off kilter, I J-Depp’d three steps left, right, balletically leapt for my own entertainment back into descending position at what would be like the C-1 vertebrae of the stairs’ spinal column. I looked down the steps. Kinda warped by the heat with peeled paint and splintery cowlicks daring barefootery and two bare feet at the bottom, stuck up, as if their owner was flat on his back at the base of the stairwell, a place to nap truly lacking self-awareness. Theory had it these were Laze’s feet, but only because they were white-soled and fit ishly the circumstances, don’t be thinking I was committing man’s feet’s details to memory, that shit’s disgusting.
A carpet of blood unrolled itself from the north edge of my vision. Mentally, I took a deep breath. I was immature then, I had a distaste for cleaning, dishwashing and the like. The epiphany went like maybe any access into wonderful new scenery included the balancing of weight of infelicitous responsibility, like in this case thirsty, sopping up new guy’s blood.
It was Laze alright, recalling his swim shorts. His face was covered bloody. No traces of arrows or rocks, wet spot trails left by aggressive pink dolphins. His forehead was gashed, gurgling roses. I kneeled, set a hand on Laze’s chest, mentally closed my eyes, bowed my head and wept for my pretend deceased brother. Not a tear obliged. I looked to the wooden beam above the bottom step, mentally walked stiffly and firmly into it and measured Laze’s height compared to mine, knocked the wood, compared this hypothetical resonant thoonk to my memory’s. Re-attending Laze, I noticed one of the beers had been ungripped in the midst of his self-concussing. Surely it had rolled off the boat, maybe it had done like a three-sixty near miss, where had there been some crowd, the almost roll-off into the last second curve would have elicited a gasp, before the second one-eighty solidified the loss to punish Laze, resulting in complete turn, roll, and slip beneath the rail and into the Madeira. The other beer was intermittently clutched pretty tight but I managed to time his convulsions, slip it from his grasp and put it back in the cooler so it’d chance of proper ingestion. I filed the act away onto an arm’s-reach shelf of memory, initially, for recollection facility and leverage over a futurely sentient Laze – oh you like that cold beer, I would say to him – but as if an angel’s soft auraed touch reached through my occipital lobe and pulled the trigger of my styloid process thereby firing the intention out of me and windward, I took solace in the act alone, pleasure in its helpfulness and like orgasmic spine chills, the exponentially superior inequivalent to a real pat on the back acknowledgment from my angel.
I dug for a cold beer, cracked it and watched Laze bleed. It tasted less than the last half dozen. I had no idea that cleverity, sarcasm, and pretending that I was the star of my own angels’ TV show was not the solution to my problems. I poured a little foam-liquid onto Laze’s forehead. He blinked reversedly, a few more times normally, sat up Lazely, pressed a palm to his gash and looked at his crimsoned hand and said “ahhhhh fuuuuck” and then that he thought he’d hit his head with a sarcastic tone full of self-awareness. I handed him two cold beers, one for the pain and one for the swelling and went to go find the captain.
Cap was reluctant to come see what I was motioning at him to, but it’s not like the river wasn’t waveless and wide as any river I’d been to, like, he had hella room to drift, so he finally came back with me and justified his title with spryness, ran and snatched one of the beers before it rolled under the rail and cracked it and sipped it and kneeled next to Laze who’d unconcernedly fallen asleep.
Cap shook him awake and I stayed sitting with him this time to make sure he didn’t pass out anymore on account of litter prevention and it being terrible for brains to sleep post-concussions, my mother, a knowledgeable woman, had told me. Cap disappeared and came back with a cold towel. We wrapped Laze’s beer, told him to apply pressure. Laze was chiller and easier to be around at that point but Cap was pacing, waving his arms around and laser-beaming an incessancy of Portuguese into the definitive space between my eyebrows. It got me to wondering how Cap had communicated us onto the boat in the first place and why, but I’d always been a firm believer in not stressing the types of questions that distract from once the present’d come around.
Admittedly our falling short of the ideal guest presented growth opportunities for all of us, Cap had not arrived yet at my level of enlightenment as to not be wylin’-stressed about this Laze thing. I did not judge though, I sought to understand, and I did, I mean the deck was veined with blood and Cap didn’t know this but we had littered. Plus he was probably worried about Laze or his own liability or something that obviously he shouldn’t have been stressing about because like obviously we weren’t going to sue or blame anyone but Laze who I could tell was an honest traveler and child-lit loving young man who would take full responsibility for his over-enthused leap up the stairs and clean up the mess he’d made and regret the hot beer he’d let go floating to choke some poor hungry pink river dolphin or pray or hope that it washed up downstream into the outstretched caiman-dodging hand of a thirsty indigenous boy.
I mentally sighed myself out of my daydream to find Cap repeating “OK? OK?” and nodding and thumbs-upping at me. The drama had accelerated my decline to borderline sobriety and I knew it was getting time to focus, start not joking so I really tried to listen to what Cap was saying and made out with confidence “OK?” and his thumbs up and I didn’t get the rest of it but was confident that he had come up with a solution so I nodded and gave him an upped thumb and said OK, beleza, isso parece uma boa solução mentally and sat down with Laze, neglecting to grab another beer even as my coming down from drunkenry left me empty and longing for some kind of quick and easy high or enlightened serenity that I just couldn’t seem to find even while holding a bloody rag to the gushed forehead of my less-new-every-second friend in the I’m-not-sure-if-it-technically-counts-as-the Amazon.