Playing On My Mind
“Did I tell you about the time I sneezed into a load of cocaine? I was with my girlfriend at this party thrown by one of her artist friends and they brought out this whole wad of cocaine. They were passing it around, and when it came to me I held it in my hands, just to take a look at it, I wasn’t gonna...anyway, I sneezed all over it and it went everywhere. They went hysterical and I was in hysterics. I got a much better high than they ever did I can tell you.”
He was describing a scene from Annie Hall. I’m not the biggest movie buff but I’ve seen one or two movies—so, evidently, had Bernie.
He used to tell us these stories and we would listen to them with great interest, not because we thought they were true, but because we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the fact Bernie thought they were true.
Did he think they were? I remember the first time I met him, he told me the story of when he and three of his friends went off in search of a dead body. How they had to outrun a train and fend off some older boys with a gun he’d stolen from his father’s cabinet. Of course I recognised what movie it was straight away.
“Stand by Me.” I said. “I’ve seen it about a dozen times.”
Bernie looked at me as if I had said something incomprehensible.
“Seen what?” he asked looking at me like the stranger I was.
“The movie, Stand by Me. That’s...” I paused, uncertain of why this appeared awkward.
“Huh,” he shrugged, and then went on to tell me about the time he ate fifty eggs.
There are people, I’m sure, that can convince themselves they have lived a life they have not lived. Most of us like to think we are something more than we are. Some have been there done that without having to prove it to anyone. There have been times I might confess to having put myself in a film, especially those staring Natalie Portman, or where I get to take out my angst on the worlds ignorant, but I wouldn’t tell others these things as if they’d actually happened. We all like to indulge our fantasies and escape the mundane reality of our lives, but we don’t expect to live there in reality. Not like Bernie.
Bernie had an antiquated look about him. A look that said he could have known Huckleberry Finn and we’d have believed him. When you spoke to him it was like going to one of those drive thru’s where you speak into a box and you find yourself anticipating the delayed response, replying to you as if you weren’t there—as if answering a memory.
He described the time when he was stood on top of a yellow truck screaming into the abyss, pouring with rain. I recognised the scene immediately, and before I could return from the thought, it had encapsulated me. I found myself standing on that truck too screaming into the abyss.
“That didn’t happen! You’re stealing my scenes. You can live in your movies as long they don’t involve her.” I said.
One day he told me a story so incredulous it could only have come from a movie. But I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what that movie was. What movie was it? Had I seen it?
I found myself scouring the internet. Searching for new movies I hadn’t seen, old movies I’d never heard of. I was determined to figure it out, as if trying to discern the reality, but nothing fit the description.
Did it actually happen? Was it actually real? What did it matter to me?
Anthony Ward tends to fidget with his thoughts in the hope of laying them to rest. He has managed to lay them in a number of literary magazines including The Faircloth Review, Drunk Monkeys, Jellyfish Whispers, Turbulence, Underground, The Autumn Sound, Torrid Literature Journal and The Rusty Nail, amongst others.