Navel gazing

Author: Reggie Henke ’12

The dulcet didgeridoos dwindle as silent darkness envelopes me. My shallow breath in the soundlessness is a deafening roar. I hear blood coursing through my capillaries. I surrender to the emptiness. I enter the void. Cool, now what? Do I just _be_? The instructional video was disturbingly vague. I start daydreaming about my wild childhood daydreams until I remember last night’s flop sweat nightmare about emails. Wait. _Focus_. . . . On what? Should I be frightened? They say it’s dangerous. Not for your flesh but for your mind. “Be careful in there,” I’d been told. “You could find yourself . . . or you could lose yourself.” I am salty. I am buck naked. I paid 60 dollars for this. I need a goal. Something to aim my brain at. A mental destination. There are stories to break, relationships to dissect, quandaries to puzzle. Which pressing problem should I resolve before returning to reality? The nice lady at the desk for sure said not to pee, right? Why do all the employees here speak in a low whisper? It’s hard not to pee. I crush a half dozen cans of seltzer every day. Hell, I have entrenched opinions about sparkling water brands. Who am I? I sit in traffic and listen to podcasts featuring my friends. I talk about traffic when I’m not in traffic. I text Oscar winners, _“Thx dawg!”_ I’m the owner of a small dog. And now, I Groupon a sensory deprivation chamber in a Pasadena strip mall. I guess I’m a stereotypical Los Angelite. Wait. Um, Los Angelese? That doesn’t sound right. It’s Angeleno. Yeah, I’m definitely an Angeleno. My toe grazes the edge of the universe. I reject the wall’s tactile sensation and gently blast off, deep into the ether. A tiny tsunami rages until tranquil seas can self-restore. How much time has passed? How much life has passed? Am I even doing this right? Am I enjoying this? When I first moved out here, I lied. I’d already been a local for “a few years.” Nobody likes an empty resume. I was but a babe. I didn’t own silverware. I found unpaid work. I was the youngest there. I wrote a script and titled it a poop joke. No one would take me seriously. I blink. Or I think I blink. It’s too pitch black to tell. I bring a finger to where my nose should be. I poke my eye. _Ouch_. I’m still here. But am I funny? Am I handsome? Am I talented? Am I too self-involved? I’m floating on hundreds of pounds of magnesium sulfate and drowning in questions. I’m a recent graduate. Wait. Actually that was sort of a while ago, huh? Without summer breaks and fall breaks and winter breaks and spring breaks the breakless years of adulthood melt into meaninglessness under the ever-present L.A. sun. Senses provide meaning. I am senseless. I fart. It echoes like a gunshot. I am older now. I am a “team leader” at work. That poop joke script won a film festival. People keep taking me too seriously. I still don’t own silverware but I am maturing. I have my own health insurance. I get car washes. I stopped wearing baseball hats backwards. Time chugs on out there. It’s dead still in here. I want to have some small pride in my writing. Small pride? The silly picture of itsy-bitsy lions prowling the Serengeti shimmers like a mirage. Am I hallucinating them? I’m a Hollywood success. I have a manager and an agent. They’re impossibly hard to get ahold of. Am I hallucinating them? At least I have my friends. College friends. There’s a grip of them in driving distance. I see them a lot. I see them too much. We careened together and now we career together. I have new friends, too. Too many friends. I miss having two friends. I think about Helen Keller. I think about The Who’s _Tommy_. I might be crying. Again, can’t tell. I think about cephalopods. I think about a plot hole in _Finding Dory_. Okay, yeah, I’m crying. It’s darker than dark. It’s danker than dank. Like SoCal _dank_, not unpleasantly moist dank. If anything, it’s pleasantly moist. The memory of my earliest nine-month lease is less than lucid, but the whole sensory experience feels way more womb-like than tomb-like. Lack of confidence begets hand-wringing. I don’t know where my confidence is. I don’t know where my hands are spatially. I’d like to get a handle on both of these issues. Do I have enough time in the tank? The didgeridoos fade in. Nope. Maybe next week. Dim lights brighten. I sit up gingerly. An hour has passed, or maybe a lifetime? I take a deep gulp of air and glance down at my innie. There’s a big hunk of lint.
_Reggie Henke’s essay received an honorable mention in this magazine’s 2016 Young Alumni Essay Contest. See the results here._