Coming around after a night like that (like what?) is neither waking up nor regaining consciousness. You’re not really awake, your consciousness is buffering at best, and let’s not even talk about the senses: the eyes that can’t see because the light pains them, the nose rendered useless from all its mucus, the ears hearing nothing but the inner groans and whimpers of your body somewhere (where are you?), the dry tongue a gutted chub on a shore, swollen from breathing through your mouth all night, snoring. Your snoring makes her feel so pissed off at you, sharp elbows in the middle of the back all night despite your being unconscious when you do it.
You are diagonal. Going diagonal: that’s what she calls taking over the whole bed as soon as you get up in the morning to take a piss, making sure you don’t sneak back in, which means the heat will be turned on, NPR on, that the roar of the grinder will foreshadow caffeinated bliss coming her way. It’s seldom you are diagonal in this way.
You swallow, and it’s like those sphincter doors on spaceships that close with a click. You try to summon some spittle but all of your moisture seems to be elsewhere in your body. Muscle memory takes over and you succeed in shakily moving, tendons a-creak. Your arm drops off the side of the bed in search of a seltzer bottle that exists there most nights. No such luck this time.
Head pain makes itself known to you: not a throb or a pierce but a sizzle. You gag on something, try to swallow it, gag again. You open your eyes and the sizzle goes shhhhhhhh, like static. You do a horizontal pull-up to look over the edge of the bed and see a liter bottle of Pepsi Light lying empty on its side. Pepsi Light hasn’t been its contents for at least six months, since you came back from Bosnia. It’s the bottle you smuggled your dad’s homemade slivovitz in.
Ismet Prcic was born in 1977 in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and immigrated to the US in 1996. His debut novel, Shards (Grove Press, 2011), won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and many others. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Imperial Dreams, which premiered at Sundance and won the audience award in its category. Prcic lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.