by Than Pence
On his fake 21st birthday, Simon's quick celebration with Bennie takes an unexpected turn.
|Swirling the fizzy liquid in the glass, Simon smirked at Bennie. “I’ve had alcohol before. Literally hundreds of times.”
“Yeah, but you said you’ve never had any hard seltzer. And it’s your 21st birthday!” Bennie, sitting back on the couch, looked exactly like his grandfather had: short, stocky with black short hair already thinning at 22.
Simon snorted. “That’s just what my license reads. It’s not real.” It never would be.
Simon Burke - Is that actually my name? Wasn’t it something else? - had been alive longer than he cared to remember. Long enough to make friends and lose them to time. Long enough to forget how many lovers he’d taken over the decades. Centuries.
Looking down at the bubbly, pale beverage, Simon almost started feeling wistful, wondering if there were moments he had simply forgotten because there wasn’t enough brain matter to contain them. And he wondered, yet again, what it would feel like to die.
With a smack on his stooped shoulder, Bennie brought Simon out of his reverie. “Hey, Sime. You gonna try it? The line I stood in to buy it was a bitch.”
“Yeah,” he said quickly, turning the cup over. The flavor was almost fruity, but stout. Simon rarely imbibed. Whatever curse was causing his prolonged existence wouldn’t allow him to experience the well-documented effects of alcohol. Bennie knew this, but had insisted on carrying out this ritual often celebrated by American youths upon turning 21.
“Well? Whatcha think, man?”
“I think,” he started after swallowing. “You waited on-line for something that is ultimately wasted on me.”
Bennie scrunched his face. “Dude, I didn’t get it online. It was the package store on 41.”
Simon winced. “Sorry. One of those phrases, I guess.”
“One of those old sayings that used to mean something else?”
“Well, the flavor's good, right? Oh… Sorry, man. You’re drinking the lime one.”
“That bad ?”
Bennie chuckled. “Well, yeah. The lime flavor of any booze is awful. Whenever I buy a mixed case of this stuff, I usually end up dumping lime down the drain.”
Setting his glass on the coffee table, Simon leaned back on the couch, his head landing between the back cushions in a way that almost covered his ear. After repositioning, he found his seating again, letting out a deep breath. “So, you don’t like the lime ones, but they insist on selling them in that mish-mash of aluminum cans all the same? Does everyone feel like this?”
Finally opening his own beverage and drinking it straight from the can, Bennie shrugged before swallowing. “I don’t know about the entire world, but everyone I’ve ever talked to seems to.” He looked back at Simon. “You okay, man? You sound a little funny.”
“Really? How so?”
“I don’t know. You depressed about somethin’? The weight of eternity got you down?”
Sitting up with a grunt, he said, “I don’t know what it is, mate.” Simon forcibly closed his eyes as his vision started to blur.
“Mate? You British all of a sudden? You gonna go drop some shrimp on the barbie in a minute?”
“That’s… No, I’m just a little fuzzy. I was feeling depressed about my incredibly long life, but something else is happening now.” In trying to stand, Simon immediately felt nauseous and sat back down. “I believe I’m sick.”
“Well you sound British, and like you’re drunk.”
A spark of hope zipped through Simon’n heart. “Drunk? That’s not possible.”
Bennie shrugged his shoulders again, “Well, maybe you’ve been doin’ it wrong all these years.” He took another sip from his can. The action sent ripples of revulsion down Simon’s spine. Years ago while working in a canning factory with Luke, Bennie’s grandfather, he’d seen what was allowed to walk all over the finished product, and he didn’t imagine much could’ve changed since then.
“I think,” Simon started with an expression of cheer. “I think… I’m dying.”
Becoming choked, Bennie looked at Simon, his face turning red. “Dude, what? Dying? You said you can’t die!”
“That's the assumption, yes, based on my many lived years. But I don’t recall ever feeling this way before.”
Looking panicked, Bennie said, “But, man, you said there’s a lot you don’t remember, right! Maybe this happened to you before… Oh, wow. Your face…”
Feeling struck, Simon said, “What? What about it?”
“It’s all splotchy.”
A short breath suddenly came across Simon as his throat began constricting.
Wide-eyed, Bennie jumped up, screamed, “Dude!” and exited the room. Simon felt it wasn’t appropriate. Leaving me to die, all by my lonesome. He couldn't recall feeling so conflicted before in his whole life: the sweet release of finally being free of this mortal coil and the aching panic associated with death.
Bennie returned with a fat pen. Simon watched him undo the cap and quickly jab it into Simon’s thigh, the action making him jump after the fact.
Within moments, Simon started to take regular breaths and his vision improved.
“W-w-what?” was all he could finally muster.
Putting the pen on the coffee table, Bennie let out a deep sigh, the fruity drink on his breath easily detected. “Man, I think we learned something new. I think you’re allergic to limes.”
“Limes ? That doesn’t... “ But did it make sense? Simon ate mostly vegetables and meats. He rarely touched fruits. Because some of them always felt… funny…
He stared at Bennie. “Wow. I think you’re right, Lukie.”
Looking confused, Bennie said, “Uh, maybe you are drunk. I’m Bennie.”
Shaking his head, Simon smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I am finally drunk.” Clapping Bennie on the shoulder, he said, “Thanks, mate.”
Raising his can, Bennie said, “To birthdays!” But Simon couldn’t take it anymore. He grabbed the can and immediately poured the beverage into his own glass.
After handing it back to Bennie, he said, “You’ll thank me later.”
Letting confusion settle for only a moment, Bennie continued. “May you have as many more as have come before!”
Simon couldn’t help but groan.
Word Count: 1,000