By Leslie VanExel, Jr.


                It only took one shot for Alex to start babbling about it.

                “I know she is, man, I just need to find out with who.  The bitch.”

                They were waiting in line for another shot when he started and Simon knew that this would end up being a conversation that would take all night.

                “I still don’t know why you keep saying that.  You don’t got proof of shit.  You’re just assuming to high hell.”

                “No way man.  It’s not just a feeling.  You know Ashley; you know what she’s like.  She’s different.  If she isn’t actually fucking some guy, she wants to be, and that’s pretty much the same thing.”

                “That’s not pretty much the same thing.  After all, there’s a distinct difference between the potential and the action.  The potential doesn’t mean shit if there nothing ever happens.  That’s the concept of potential.  Oh, two shots of So. Co. please.”

                “That’s what I mean.  It’s just a concept.  If it can be conceived, then it can be implemented, if it can be implemented, it will be implemented.  That’s the whole purpose of potential, it’s meant to be used.  It’s meant to be implemented.  It’s meant to be utilized.  If it weren’t, then it wouldn’t be defined.  There’s potential all over the world—all over the universe, but none of it means anything except when it’s time to implement it.  That’s when we define things, that’s when things need to be named, when they are going to be, not just cause they might be.”

                “Jesus, where are pulling this information out of, it can’t be out of your ass, cause even shit goes over better than that.  Potential is a concept created for the sake of definition.  Keep the change.  Thanks Donni.  Truth is another one of those concepts that doesn’t physically exist in any plane, but is still talked about, described, and debated over.  That’s why things are named, so we can talk about them.  Even if they don’t exist, they are conceptualized in the mind.  For humans, that gives them validation.  If it weren’t for us, concepts wouldn’t exist, that’s part of communication, naming things so that they can be conceptualized in more than one person’s mind.  That’s the purpose of language.”  They roamed over to the long end of the L-shaped bar where there was less traffic and sat down on the barstools, hunched over in a conversation that Simon thought was, if not unnecessary and redundant, at least potentially hazardous.  He hardly enjoyed talking to Alex on this topic, but since he was the main confidant in Alex’s relationship issues, he was almost required to converse.  At least this way he could know Alex’s suspicions and proofs and help prevent their reoccurrence.  

                “What, to communicate.”

                “Of course, and in communication as well as in thinking, reality is only an issue in the mind of the individual.”

                “No.  No way.  I disagree.  Reality is concrete and goes beyond the individual.  It is the plane of existence that we all coexist on.  We all experience the same reality and the same issues.  The sun comes up for all of us, and goes down for all of us.  And in every thing else, these things all exist—excuse me, coexist in the same plane, the same time, the same reality.  If both of us see a person get hit by a car, does that make that act any more valid than if one of us, or even any of us see it.  NO!  It happened regardless, and would have happened, and similar acts will continue to happen all over the world regardless of anyone seeing anything, feeling anything, or knowing anything.  That has to do with the fact that we weren’t the first ones here, nor will we be the last ones here, and here, incidentally, has nothing to do with us at all.  It has nothing to do with anything.  It just is.  Just because I can’t readily prove it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

                “Do we really need to get into this.”

                “Yes, as a matter of fact, we really need to get into this.”

                “You’d better get a pitcher and a couple more shots.”

                Alex got up and walked over to the corner of the L and waited to order.  He was already slightly stumbly, and Simon could tell that they were going to end up getting pretty sloppy by the end of the conversation.  He made the mental note to keep himself aware.  He watched Alex finish paying for the drinks, then got up to help him transport everything to their side of the bar.

“Okay, were was I?”  They both raised up their shot glasses, toasted to the concept of drunkardom, and downed the shots.

“Shit.  I hate Tequila.”  Simon salivated from the strength of the shot and replied with a raspy voice, “Um, reality… I think.”

                “Oh, yeah.  Wait.  What about it.”

                “The fact that everything ex—”

                “Oh, yeah.  If we look at the things that exist in the world outside of us, the dirt, the stars, the planets, the plants, all of that stuff exists regardless of us.  We are all useless to its sense of being.”

                “What do you mean sense of being?”

                “Sense of being.  Its identity.  Its identity is totally separate from ours.”

                “Identity, huh?”

                “Yeah.  The qualities of the object that make it it.  All of the things about it:  the molecular structure, how it looks in the light, how it interacts with other chemicals, does it get warm in the sunlight?  Does it crack in the cold?  Will it melt?  What’s its boiling point?  If she’s fucking anyone.  Who she’s fucking.  These things are all irrelevant to us in our existence.   But with the object or whore’s existence, these things make up its identity.”  The more excited that Alex got, the more animated.  By this point he sat straight upright, with hands motioning each question.

                “Wait, wait.  That’s very interesting.  You said how things look in the light.  That brings up a very important point—perception.”

                “What does that have to do with anything?”

                “Perception.  Perception.  You know what perception is don’t you.  Perception!  Many of those things are inherent qualities of objects, but when you start getting into how things appear, or seem, or are calculated in the range of our senses or the senses of things we have created, then you are delving into the territory of perception—and that has everything to do with us.”

                “No, no.  I’m talking about—”

                “What your talking about is the sense of being, the identity of things.  And most of an object’s identity comes from how we see it.  How we interact with it.  How we are or aren’t affected by it.  That’s the whole point.”


                “That things may exist in the world irrelevant to our existence, but since we can’t verify or find truth in their existence, except through our own senses, the existence of things is irrelevant except for our existence.  Things are made relevant by our existence, and until it can be proven otherwise, things don’t exist, when we don’t.”

                “That’s stupid.  We can’t even prove that we exist.  You’re getting into territory that doesn’t mean anything to anyone, except for philosophers, and the only reason they give a shit is cause that’s their job.”

                “You’re the one that had to start talking about the existence of things.  You should’ve better known better.”

                “No, no, no.  I’m not talking about whether things exist, or even if we exist.  I’m going to accept that as a given that we exist, and that things exist.”

                “Well, why did you talk about it then?”

                “I didn’t.  You did.”

                “Bullshit.  I distinctly remember you talking about proving that we exist.”

                “I was only saying that cause you were talking about things existing or not existing because they can’t be proven to exist.”

                “Well, they can’t.”


                “See what?”

                “See, you’re doing it again.”

                “Doing what?”
                “You’re talking about things existences being validated through us.”

                “How else do we prove anything if it isn’t through us.”

                “I’m not arguing that.  I’m arguing the fact that you’re the one talking about proving existence and I’m not.  You were accusing me and I’m saying that you’re the one doing it.”


                “Anyway.  What were you talking about.”

                “I don’t remember.  Refill?”  Simon’s head was starting to get fuzzy and he knew he had to maintain some sort of clarity.  At least more than Alex.


                “Oh!  Oh, oh oh!  I was talking about perception.  How those things are perceived by us, and the fact that—”

“What things?”

“Things.  The things I was talking about.”

“What things are those?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because it is.”

“It’s not irrelevant cause how am I supposed to know what things you’re talking about if I don’t.”

“Because I’m not talking about the things.  I’m talking about how those things are perceived by us.”  


“Shut up and listen.”

“To what?”

“Ugh.  Okay.  Wait.”  Simon rubbed his hands over his eyes in an attempt to make the thoughts in his head more comprehendible to himself before he starting talking.  “Okay.  If you can’t see it, taste it, touch it, feel it, smell it, know it, then you can’t know if it exists.  Right?”

“Yeah.  With the exception of microorganisms and stuff.”

“Well, I’ll say that any equipment that we create to extend our senses is the same thing.  Microscopes, tape recorders, etc.”


“Anyway, unless you or I or someone else gets some information about a particular thing, none of us can really know if it exists.”

                “What do you mean.”

                “Okay, that chick over there.  See her, with that red fuzzy thing on.”


                “Okay.  Right now, we know she’s here right.  You can see her, I can see her.  And assuming that there isn’t some sort of optical illusion or computer generated hologram giving the appearance that she is there when there is in fact no one there, she’s there.”


                “Okay, well.  She would exist regardless of our knowledge right.”

                “She’d exist after I got to know her.”

                “Heh, heh. Yeah.  Anyway, she’s there.”


                “Well, if it weren’t for the fact that we were here consistently verifying that she exists, we wouldn’t know whether or not she did.  We could merely assume.”


                “It’s not that she wouldn’t exist, it’s that for us, and our reality, she only exists as long as we can verify her existence.  The example of it can’t be proven except for our knowledge.”

                “That’s not true.”

                “Yeah it is.”

                “No, cause if she is here and we leave.  We still know she’s there.  That’s object permanence.  You know, something we learn, oh, after about the age of one or so.  When things are gone, we can readily assume that they are still there.”

                “Ah, but that’s still an assumption.  We do not, and can not know for sure whether she would still be there.  What if she left out the back door right after we left the front.  As soon as we cannot see her anymore, we are unaware of anything about her.”

                “Wait, wait, wait.  You can’t use her as an example.”

                “Why not.  She’s there isn’t she?”

                “Yeah, but she’s not a thing.  We were talking about things remember.  People have their own opinions and lives and can make their own decisions.  We have no power over how they are.  They are as they are.  But things we have power over.  She has power over herself.  Just as a rock is what it is, she is as she is but because she makes herself that way.  She controls her appearance just as a rock, via its molecular structure, density, etc., controls its.  They are the same except she can alter hers.  And in her inherent ability to alter herself, she makes us unable to predict or calculate just about anything about her, except for what we know of her first hand.”

                “What the hell are we talking about this for then.  You’re the one that began this whole conversation with talking about Ashley.  She’s a person isn’t she.  She can control her appearance, she can alter herself.”

“That’s different.  I wasn’t talking about how she appears to be.  I was talking about what she is.  What she did.  Things that are grounded in fact.  For Christ’s sake I found a fucking used rubber in trash can damn it.  We haven’t used rubbers since she got on the pill.  Some guy fucked her and left his fucking rubber in the bathroom trash can.  Fuck.  Fucking whore.” 

Simon stared at his friend’s seething form momentarily before putting his arm around his shoulder and patting his back.  “Okay, okay, man.  Have you called her on it?”

“Not yet.  I was going to but I decided that I should wait until I find out who the other guy is.  If I say anything now, it’ll end everything.  I gotta wait until I know.”

“What are you going to do when you find him.”

“I don’t know.  Something, nothing.  Beat him, kill him.  It’ll depend on how I feel.”

Simon looked at his friend in an attempt to divine some sort of interpretation of what might be running through his head. Alex turned and looked back at him with a deadpan stare. 

 “It… It’ll be okay, Alex.  I’ll get us more drinks.” 

When he returned, Alex was much more composed and chipper.  He scooped the shot from Simon’s hand and downed it.  “Sorry about that man.  Where were we.

“It’s okay.  We were… uh… talking about that chick.  Wait, no.  Not the chick cause she’s a chick.  I was going to talk about something else.  The uh… oh, okay.  I was talking about perception.  You know that Taco Bell on Jamboree?  The new one with the Star Trek ordering terminals in it.”

                “Yeah.  What about it.”

                “We can both assume that it is there right now right.”

                “Yeah, so.  So some giant hasn’t walked over and picked it up and carried it away.  Uh, huh.”

                “Just hold your dick.  What if some Australian terrorist faction hated the Taco Bell Corporation because they were using koalas and dingoes for the meat in their tacos.”

                “That’s probably true anyway.”  Alex smiled.  That was a good sign.

                “Yeah.  So these Bruces were all bent about the tacos so they decided to bomb a Taco Bell.  And what better Taco Bell to bomb than the one on Jamboree because it is full of light American beer drinking yuppies and vegi-warrior underlings of the Irvine Home Owner Regime, which has been trying to put an outpost in the outback and make the Australians paint their houses poofter yank colors.”

                “And that would of course bring an onslaught of banana benders to convict land.”

                “Yup.  So they stuff a bunch of mini-kegs of Fosters with plastique and toss it in the drive-thru window right before the changing of the guard.”

                “Okay, boom.  Grade F meat goes bye-bye.”

                “Yup.  And the moral of the story is that this could happen tomorrow, or next year, but it could also have happened a half an hour ago.”

                “We would have smelled the burnt fur of chihuahua stuffed animals by now.”

                “Yeah.  But here we are assuming that that big building is still there, and lo and  behold, no more Taco Bell.”

                “That’s why God is omniscient and we’re sitting here drunk.”

                “Exactly.  But perception is the key.  We can’t prove that our reality is, in fact, real unless we have a supreme knowledge of all things at all times.  This is our major flaw.”

                “What, that we’re not God?”

                “No, fool, that even our reality is subject to the whims of perception.  Reality and truth are only as apparent as we perceive them to be.”

                “How many times can you use the word perception in one conversation?”

                “I didn’t say perception, I said perceive.  That’s a different word.”

                “Yeah you did.  You said even our reality is subject to the whims of perception.  Not perceive.  That wouldn’t make sense.”

                “Oh.  I did?”   Simon contemplated his error and downed the shot of vodka he had been holding onto.


                “Well, anyway.  What does this have to do with…?  Uh… what was I talking about?  Oh yeah.  Perception.”  He was having a hard time keeping mental track of what he was talking about.  “The fact that if you can’t verify as fact that something is or has happened, then you can’t just believe that something is real.  You need proof of it.”

                “Fuck, man, how much more proof do you need!”

                “You need to ask her.  That’s what you need to do.  Maybe it wasn’t from her or some guy with her, maybe… maybe it was from someone else there.  She’s got a roommate after all.  Maybe it was her roommate was fucking some other guy.”

                “Yeah but her roommate has her own bathroom.  What the fuck.”

                “She probably just got kinky and decided to fuck in her room.  You never know.  She just wanted to fuck somewhere else.  As a matter of fact, I would check your toothbrush the next time you go over there and make sure her roommate didn’t leave any strange deposits on it.”

                “That’d be fine with me.”

                “Especially if it’s second hand of his deposits.”

                “Argh.  That just evoked very disgusting images to picture.”

                They were both laughing.  Simon was glad he finally got his friend to lighten up.  It’ll be smooth sailing from here he thought.  “Do you want another drink?”

                “Nah.  I’d better be getting my ass home.”

                They got up and meandered toward the back door.

                “Hey Simon.”


                “Thanks for letting me bitch all night.”

                “Hey man, what are friends for.  You walking?”

                “Yeah.  I’ll catch you tomorrow.”


                The cold air was clearing Simon’s head.  His eyes felt much more focused and he could feel his steps more calculatingly.  Even though he was walking the fine line between slightly intoxicated and very drunk, he still walked with an even step, brisk and clean.  He put his hands in his jacket pockets and continued toward home.  The difficulty was over, all he had to do now was coordinate and make a couple of phone calls.  As he thought over the exact words they started to fall naturally in time with his footsteps.  He listened to them keep rhythm; the world seemed to fall in step with the sounds.  And with it, order and power fell right in place.  For now Simon was in control of his life.  He held out one hand in front of him, cupped, and he could almost see it sparkle like a gemstone in his hand.  Each facet shone differently, but he could see them all at once, the incredible brightness of the whole, without being too distracted by the brilliance of the parts.