What Did It Sound Like After Dark
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Solipsism"
Originally featured on 09-24-2009
As part of our series "Falling Into the Abyss of Wordiness"

Yes, I was trapped under a rock for seventeen days. When people ask me what I ate, I tell them scabs from my arms. I ate non-discriminately; ants, spiders, dragonflies if I could catch them (and by the fifth day, capturing those winged treats was not overly ambitious). I only mention the scabs as a source of nutrition, because it feels that’s the type of answer the people who ask questions are looking for.

I didn’t chew them like jerky; I sucked on them until they disintegrated. Nobody’s interested to know that.

I survived. That’s why everyone’s always asking me questions, I guess. People make sympathetic faces at the fact that I had no access to a shower for those two and a half weeks. Like that’s any big deal. Sweat is made of water, and I had plenty of that, so I guess you could say I showered on a regular basis.  Point being, well, yeah, I survived.

Nobody asks the questions I want to hear. Like, what did it sound like after dark? And did the nuances in the animal and insect noises start to make sense?

About as much sense as you’re making to me right now.

I don’t know why you want me to move to Chicago.

Tell me if this makes sense.  The taste of dried blood after being out in the sun makes your throat seize up, making it impossible to vomit; the offensiveness of the taste can easily cause one to lose consciousness. Unless you take it very slow, swirling each little bit of scab-dust around your mouth until you gather enough saliva to dilute it into something you can swallow without gagging. It helps pass the time, too. A scab half the size of a dime took me over two hours to eat. And the taste lingered on my tongue till the cool breeze came in off the north cliff. Now you’re talking to me about moving to-

When Lenny, my twelve-year-old son asked me why the girls in summer camp refused to kiss him, I told him about auras and chi and how everything is a matter of energy exchange, just as we’re exchanging energy right now by having a conversation, and that a kiss is just another kind of conversation. Lenny fidgeted on the porch and downed the rest of the lemonade in his glass. I asked him the name of the girl he liked. It was Vanessa. I asked him what it felt like when Vanessa smiled or laughed at something he said or engaged him in splashing wars in the lake. He shrugged. I told him that accumulatively those moments were no different than the act he was fixated on.

Lenny went back inside to refill his glass from the lemonade pitcher, and, with his back turned, asked me if making love to a woman changed you, like made you stop caring who won baseball games and stuff. I laughed and said you bet your ass it does.

It makes you do strange things, like move to Chicago.

Lenny was elated to tell all his friends that his dad survived in the woods seventeen days trapped beneath an avalanche. Lenny also said he would hate me if I made him move to Chicago.

So I told Lana I would consider doing it slowly. An occasional weekend visit that could become a monthly weekend visit, with permission to progress to week-long visits, the eventual possibility of relocation not fathomed at this early date. Eating my scabs taught me how to do things without going into shock.

Lenny got straight A’s in middle school math, so he asked me how many smiles equaled a kiss, and if X kisses equaled sex, how many smiles could theoretically conceive a baby? I told him shut up, now you’re just being silly, what do you want to know?

Lenny looked at the dirt, picked a blade of grass, smoothed it with his fingers, rolled it gingerly and placed it between his teeth.

My son asked me what the insects talked about in the dark.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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