Oral History of Waiting
—How is the bread pudding? [Everybody looks at the young boy]
—I think it’s made out of shit and piss. I wouldn’t eat any more of it if I had a choice. Everything else tastes even worse. Allen brought diapers; Ellen brought old trash bags; Henry made a hair cake; Barbara vomited onto a plate. There’s nothing better, so you might as well eat it.
—It’s good. It’s not good. Reality is subjective. Make your own decisions, kiddo. If you don’t, then someone else is going to be dictating your opinions to you for the rest of your life. I think the bread pudding’s good. You can hate it. I don’t care. Just eat the thing yourself for Christ sake. [Henry rubs his temples, Allen clears his throat]
—Let me say this, the issue here isn’t whether or not the bread pudding is any good, it’s whether or not someone slipped something into it when we weren’t looking. How do you slip something into a bread pudding without anybody noticing? I don’t know how, but when I walked past it at the counter, before it was set out to eat, it looked like there were little blotches of liquid soaking in from the top, like someone took an eyedropper and added a little bit of something extra. You’re an idiot. That doesn’t matter. I saw what I saw. You’re all gonna go mad because of it too. I didn’t have one damn bite. Whoever’s trying to poison all of you is gonna have to deal with me at the end of it all. Barbara, Mark, Ellen, whoever did it. I’ll find out eventually, once everyone else is dead under the table.
—Here’s what I’d rather know: why won’t Albert come to any of our dinners anymore? I know why. Are we not his friends anymore? Did we say something inconsiderate? Was it Allen? Who else? I’m sure that he could at least tell us.
—Someone poisoned the pudding, or someone set the table on fire. Maybe the plan got found out, publicly I might add, and they took more drastic measures. Someone wants ya dead, bud. Next thing you know, the doors’ll be locked and they’ll be firing off buckshot. Allen! It’s the way these things go. I’ve been to a million and a half dinner parties and they all end in the same fashion. Someone tries to kill you, it doesn’t work, they get found out, and they start running around with a double-barrel. Things don’t change that much, details vary, but overall, it’ll end up the same way. It’s exhausting.
—It seems like you’re losing your edge there, Allen.
—What does it matter when all of the kid’s relatives are already dead? No we’re not. Welcome to purgatory, kiddo. Bullshit. Too bad you had to find out like this. Each one of these assholes died in some weird way, maybe it was the bread pudding for some, I don’t know. The poison’s already taken effect, you’re (we’re) all limp in our seats. It’s like the salmon mousse. And let’s face it, none of us were good or bad enough people to go straight one way or the other, so now we’re all in this shitty purgatory together. It’s a goddamn waiting room. And who knows how long we’ll be here. Religion’s a sturdy tree. There’s no way to chop it down. Limbo is limbo, whether you dip under the bar or not, we’re stuck here. You’re stuck here. Everyone is. Bullshit. All we’ve got is each other, and the shitty food that everybody’s brought with them. It’s a real shame, I know.
—Did you see the news about Canada last night? The Alaskan annexation? That’s what I think we should be worried about. Shut up! I’ve got a buddy stationed in Northern Washington. He told me that every night for the last month, he’s been seeing these bright lights in the distance, just across the border. He thinks that the Canadians are testing out missiles. Maybe there’s a silo right across the border. They probably hid it in the woods. Nobody would notice if there was a small clearing the woods. Satellites wouldn’t care. I wanna leave. I want to know what they’re doing. Maybe they’re going to attack Washington next. Nobody cares about Washington. We wouldn’t bat an eye. Wait. They’re just going to start slowly creeping into our territory, manifesting and whatnot.
—Are all of the doors locked? I told you. Shut up! What? This is. Somebody even unscrewed the knobs. Look. It’s not doing anything. And that one’s off the door completely. I hate this. It feels like we’re trapped in a Bunuel film. Who is Bunuel? Shut up! One of you knows who he is. One of you must’ve felt in the mood for homage, or theft. You made up this whole situation to turn everyone absurd. I hate it. I hate each of you: Allen, Barbara, Mark, Francis, Ellen, that bastard eating the pudding. Who are you? I don’t care. I don’t care about any of you. You’re all pieces of shit. You disgust me. Who did it? I want to know. Which one of you knows about Bunuel? Simon of the Desert? l’Age d’Or? Belle de Jour? You look just like Catherine Deneuve. You have her hair. I don’t think she was naturally blonde either. And that apathy is just as manufactured. Henry, please, don’t let the cats out. Who said that? Catherine? Ellen? I can’t tell who is who anymore. I hate you.
—Says Catherine Deneuve. Get a clue. This has all the makings of a Bunuel movie. One of you is probably the serial killer type, trying to recreate a scene or something so they can get off. Probably the look-a-like. Wait. Or someone invites the look-a-like to make it even more like Bunuel. It’s got all the makings. No door knobs. Dinner party. Catherine. My name’s not Catherine. Shut up! I know. I don’t care. You are what you look like, so they say. You’re Catherine Deneuve.
—Blah, blah, blah. You’re full of shit. There’s no poison, no locked doors, no missiles at night, no bread pudding, no Allen, no Henry, no Barbara, no purgatory, no edge, no religion, no Bunuel. All of this is fake. Admit it. You’re all phonies. Everybody here’s made out of plastic. You’re like a melodrama, all dealing with your little bourgeoisie problems. [Ellen laughs] Shut up! You’re fake. I feel like I’m eating dinner with mannequins. I hope someone poisoned the pudding. I’m sick of all of you. If we’re in purgatory. We’re not. I know. But, if we were, then I’d want all of you to end up in hell. No catholic guilt for that one? No guilt. You all deserve it. You’re all horrible people.
—What are we supposed to do now? Just sit here? It’s obscene.
—Have you heard the parable about the yodeling messiah? [Barbara screams at the top of her lungs] Shut up. Please don’t. There was a mysterious man, in white robes with long unkempt hair. He walks into this village one day, yodeling in some weird dialect. It might’ve been Dutch or Scandinavian (I don’t know which one yodels). Who cares? He walks into town. Is it a village or a town? He walks into the village, yodeling, not talking to anyone, just yodeling, walking through the streets. It sounds beautiful. Everyone is bewildered. It’s strange and foreign, but it’s beautiful. So people start following him. And he gathers this huge crowd. They follow him to the center of the city. Village. Where he sees this tall and wide column. He climbs to the top of it, still yodeling, and sits down cross-legged with his arms out (like Christ or something). Then, everybody, king and queen included, starts bowing to him, and he becomes their god. That’s not a parable. The village follows his every command. Where’s the moral? There isn’t one, it’s a parable, not a fable. Parables have a lesson. It’s a postmodern parable then, the lesson is that there are no more lessons to learn. [Barbara screams at the top of her lungs]
—Maybe the lesson is about immanence. That Christ figure is just another one of the people. He’s weird, but he’s still a person. Why are you doing this to us? I’m not trying to torture anyone. I’m trying to fix this. We need a moral here. We can’t just let it be nonsense. So here: The moral of the story is that, even though the messiah guy is foreign and strange, he is one of them nonetheless. He still becomes just as much a part of the village as any of them are. That’s not immanence. Fuck you. Fine, the whole thing is nonsense. The lesson is that nonsense exists and everything is meaningless. You’re all just here to drive me insane. Put another log on the fire, kiddo. Maybe we can just burn the whole place down.
—You can’t burn down purgatory.
—Who asked you? What are the rules? If someone can take off the door knobs, or poison the food, why can’t we start a fire? There’s no reason. Worse yet, maybe the reason is specific. If it’s purgatory, if it really is and you’re not all fucking with me, then maybe this place has got a particular set of rules. Maybe we can only hurt one another, but we can’t hurt the room. I don’t know. None of it makes sense to me.
—Everybody should just try to be cool. At the birth of cool you were still asleep. [Ellen laughs] Shut up! I’m just trying to fix things. You’re all garbage. Where were you at the birth of cool? Asking you mom who Miles Davis is? Eat a bag of shit, Ellen. Fuck you, Albert? Allen. Whoever you are. I don’t even care. You’re all just the same face copied over and over again. I hate all of you equally. That didn’t take much. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
—Is the bread pudding all gone? [Everyone looks at the young boy]
—You’re a fiend, your son is a bastard (explain that one to him), and your wife’s a horse. She’s got fat long lips, and neighs when she tries to laugh. Get out. I would if I could! Why am I here? Did you invite me? Was it Ellen? Allen? I don’t even know why I came. You’re all horrible people. [Barbara vomits on her plate] This is purgatory. No. This is Sartre. There are no exits and one of you is going to end up getting stabbed in the gut. It won’t be me. I’ll do the stabbing. It’ll be whoever drives me mad first. Here’s a prophecy, if there ever was one: Allen’s going to say something maddening and I’m going to stab him in the goddamn gut.
—I can’t even tell who’s who anymore.
—I’m losing my edge.
—If only one of you was charming, or generously wealthy. I would’ve sat here nicely. But, instead you all had to be poor and disgusting.
—It doesn’t matter. I want to know what’s going on here. What we’re actually dealing with. I want to know who’s to blame.
—Someone poisoned us, fine. Someone didn’t poison us, fine. Here’s my real concern. You brought up the poison in the first place. Shut up! I saw what I saw! But that’s not my real concern. I was worried, but it’s not my real concern. What I’m really worried about is the military industrial complex that told you about Canada firing missiles. You’re speaking in tongues. [Henry stabs Allen in the arm] Prophecy! Shut up! You can’t fulfill a prophecy about yourself. That’s just keeping your word about what you said you would do. [Henry stabs Allen in the gut] Get off! It’s Sartre. Shut up! This is different. I’m not your Ines. You’re not Estelle. Let me speak. No. Let me speak! You’re muttering gibberish, let me use real words. Let me talk about all the bullshit spewing out here.
—Another parable? Another parable? Okay. [Barbara screams at the top of her lungs] I’m bleeding. There’s this Mexican man, who I met in Chile. He moved up into the mountains so that he could work in peace. He was a writer, he made the scripts for these obscure telenovelas. It was back when they were a big thing and the market was getting saturated. He essentially tried to Seinfeld a telenovela. He made this one about nothing. There was no plot, there were no real characters, they didn’t develop, the setting was an empty living room with white walls, no one ever talked directly to each other. It was like a bunch of adjoined monologues being read in order. But here’s the thing, he did it as a joke at first, as this absurd opus, but when it got picked up and produced, no one even noticed what was going on. They thought it was just another telenovela, or the bottle episode for the series that was on beforehand. Everyone just thought it was what they were already watching. Where’s the parable? Nothing looks just like something. [There’s a collective booing] No it doesn’t. It does! The fake thing looks like the real one. What’s not clear there? It’s bright as the sun. Fake and nothing are different things. Eat me! The moral is there. There’s fault in all logic if you look hard enough. Stop examining me.
—Who would’ve unscrewed the door knobs? It would’ve been premeditated. No one just has a screwdriver on them, none of you are mechanics or carpenters. You’re all just dull office workers. What do you do? Any of you? I’m a. I’ve never cared enough to ask.
—Maybe this is all a simulation. Solipsist. Shut up! I’m looking for the bright side here. You think I wanna be stuck with any of you for real? It’s mind-numbing already. I just want someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that all of this has been some “Twilight Zone” episode. It’ll be the reverse of when that one bastard walked around the empty town in the first season. We’re stuck in a small room with too many other people. It’s Sartre. Bullshit! It’s a shitty dinner party. That’s all.
—Or it’s a dream. Or a nightmare. Or a bad fever.
—All of this better be going somewhere. I don’t want to reach the end of time, just to learn that we’ve got nowhere to go. If this was all just an infinite bit, I think I’d go mad. You’re already mad. Oh yeah? I’m not the one avoiding the signs here. Missiles in the middle of the night, disappearing door knobs, Omon Ra floating around in space, the poisoned dinners, everything else. Who’s Omon Ra? I don’t mean to sound prophetic, or maybe I do, but it looks like an apocalypse around the corner to me.
—Apocalypse? These things happen all the time. Everything is, and always has been, utterly nonsensical. Look at what’s happened lately, then look at all the shit that happened ten years ago, and then ten years before that. It’s all maddening. Nothing new.
—No, it’s the linear progression. We’re marching towards the end. Maybe we’re closer than we thought. There weren’t bombs or drones or presidents before now. Things are similar, but they aren’t the same. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just yesterday I saw. Another parable? [Barbara screams] No. Just yesterday I saw these weird little metal planes flying through the sky. They were shaped like three glass bottles tied together. They zoomed right past me. A couple minutes later, I saw a bright light in the distance. Apocalypse! Shut up! It wasn’t, but it almost was. We’re getting there. I don’t get it. The point is that, things are happening, that I can’t explain, and we’re bound to just disappear one day. It’s nonsense. Is it? Say that when the bomb goes off and that bright light in the distance eats up your house.
—Where did all of the food go? Allen? Was it you? Who. Who ate all of the food? If I have to stick around, at least let me eat. The food wasn’t any good, but at least it was something else to do. Fuck you. Fuck you! None of us want to be here. Don’t act like I’m the bad guy for repeating the fact. Does anyone have a cigarette? Smoke alarm. [Henry gets on the table. He rips the batteries out of the smoke alarm] Does anyone have a cigarette? My son is in the room. He’s a bastard anyways! Tell him that. Give me that. A lighter? Does someone have a lighter? Thank fucking Christ.
—Who’s Omon Ra?
—He’s that Egyptian boy floating around in space, trying to make a point, or whatever. He’s Russian. Probably a Soviet agent. Like one of those sleepers they used to have. Supposedly decommissioned. No proof that I’ve seen. I’m off topic. Omon Ra’s the space kid. Soviet hero. First guy on the moon. Supposedly, again. He’s probably still up there, taking photos and rocketing them back down to the union. I don’t go out at night. I don’t want anybody taking pictures of me, unless I know about it. You know about Ra. But I don’t know when he’s watching. I know about god, but I don’t want him watching me masturbate. Who are you?
—None of it makes any sense. You’re like a fountain of gibberish.
—What else is there?
—Waiting, I guess. If one of you degenerates really did kill the rest of us, or is pretending to be Bunuel, whoever that is, then I guess we’ve just got to wait. Eventually someone will screw the door knobs back on, or take us all to Hell. Maybe they’ll do both. Go to Hell. That’s where all of you are going. But, I’m better than that. You’re all degenerates. You all deserve it.
—It was the kid’s fault. He started all of this shit with the bread pudding. Maybe he put the poison in. Maybe he killed everyone. Maybe he’s Bunuel, whoever that is. He knew how to set off Allen, and Allen sets off everyone else. He’s just a boy. Shut up! I know. I don’t care. I want to leave. I hate all of you. We know. I know you do! That doesn’t make it any better. You’re still as aggravating and stupid as you were before. Fine, it wasn’t the kid. It was one of you. You’re all bastards, not just the boy. [Mark vomits] I can’t even bring myself to care anymore. There’s nothing else. There was nothing in the first place. I have nothing to say.
—Do we just sit here then? Is this all we have to do?
Mike Corrao is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. He was a 2016 artist-in-residence for Altered Esthetics and his work can be found in publications such as Entropy, decomP, and Cleaver.