I attended a paint party at an aunt’s house with my boyfriend Stephen. Everyone was following the newest fashion: leave everything in the house where it is and cover it in paint. We watched in awe as they dumped bright green paint over a pile of magazines on the kitchen counter.
I left and caught a plane to Minnesota—all the seats faced rearwards. I landed in SF instead and met my stepbrother, Eldon, in a men’s high-fashion boutique. He walked around the store, laughing at everything.
I stopped in front of the advanced underwear section. “New techniques!” the sign boasted. I picked up a package—it looked like a parody magazine cover for boardroom executives: blue shirt with white collar, power tie, no pants, underwear, soft focus, ‘90s textured backdrop. Inside was a pillowcase.
Eldon and I walked to a coffee shop that was actually a plane. “You flew to SF just to go to the SF airport?” the male flight attendant asked.
“Yeah shut up,” I said, taking my now-familiar rearward-facing seat.
I landed in Portland and went to my apartment I forgot I had and ran into a long-lost roommate, Lazaro, swaddled in blankets. “You came back?” he said.
“Yeah shut up,” I said.
Stephen showed up later but Laz plopped down on the loveseat next to him before I could. I found some old weed and a pipe in a rickety IKEA table, took a few hits, and passed the pipe to Laz. He emptied the pipe and reloaded it with something too dark to be weed.
Letting out the smoke with a strangely musical sound, Laz told Stephen he was smoking mugwort, but I knew it was actually just mold. “It’s really good for your heart,” he said. I scoffed and walked outside through a sliding glass door.
My mom’s family was having a birthday party in the backyard for my little cousin, Trapper, with balloons and banners and all the bullshit. The festivities were staged around an enormous tree—half the family sat on either side. Most everyone was drunk and wearing shorts. My mom ignored her siblings as someone raised a piñata.
Trapper was squatting on the ground in front of me in that way kids do. “I wanna watch some porn,” he said.
“That’s okay!” I said. “You’re a kid—you can watch kiddie porn.”
Everybody laughed or froze and I walked back inside, opened a door, and descended into a musty dungeon.
A plump kid looking like a young Sean Astin ran down to me. “It’s like The Hobbit!” he yelled, shaking a torch.
“Naww shut up,” I said.
I opened a mahogany door—a surprisingly clean door, considering it was a dungeon and all—and saw an immaculate dining room, maybe early 2000s, but before I could continue admiring the fine dining ware, a hurricane-force wind punched the door shut.
I continued down to the next door. Inside was a series of rusted platforms suspended over a long huge rectangular lake of green slime.
“So,” I said, “this is Hell.”
I stood on the uppermost platform; more people entered the room behind me and I recognized them one by one. “Hey, that’s Fat Friend!” I said, waving to an exceptionally round guy. “And that’s…” I started, furrowing my brow at a small androgynous kid wearing goggles on their head, but I could only remember Fat Friend’s name.
“Come on!” he shouted, “you gotta win this!”
I took the lead and we all jumped from platform to platform, careful not to fall in the slime. Eventually I landed on a barrel floating in the slime—there was nowhere else to go.
“Shit!” Fat Friend shouted. “We’re doomed.”
I looked back at him and winked. “Naww I got this,” I said.
I pulled out a remote-control toy monster truck, put on some VR goggles, and walked into a pixelated video game version of the Hell slimepit room.
“You gotta win this!” a blocky Fat Friend shouted.
“Yeah shut up,” I said, “and lemme concentrate.”
I drove the truck around the room, jumping or using power-ups to teleport from platform to platform, but I still couldn’t escape. There was one enemy in the game: a large demon fused to a teleporting dumptruck. As I stood there dumbstruck and admiring the truck’s enormous wheels, an idea came to me.
“Meh, why not,” I said.
I drove the toy truck into the demon dumptruck and used a teleport power-up—and then I found myself inside a rustic cabin filled with bright white luxury items.
As I walked up to a futuristic desk, the door opened and a man came in; a blizzard roared outside. “So,” the man said, shaking snow off his trenchcoat, “what’ll it be?”
He looked like a 1950s salesman. “Whaddya mean?” I asked. He looked at me like I was a very special square-peg round-hole kinda idiot.
“What…” he drawled, “are…you gonna buy…for your office?”
I wasn’t surprised to suddenly have an office, but I still needed a second to decide.
“Hang on,” I said. I walked over to the futuristic desk and touched it—the white bioplastic shimmered, glowing transparent, and a price tag, in many billions of yen, appeared above. I took back my hand—the desk became solid again, the price tag disappeared.
“So, you’re telling me…” I said slowly, “that Hell…is an office…in a cabin…in the snow?”
“And all you do in Hell is…buy furniture?”
He nodded again.
A tremor started deep in my belly, gradually shaking its way up through my ribs and rattling my teeth—I laughed.
“Nawww,” I said. “Fuck this!”
And then I was back on the barrel in the slimepit. “Guys,” I said, turning to my friends, “it’s all fake! Hell is just a gameshow—look!” I pointed to a sturdy stainless steel platform high above all the rusty jumping platforms: a man with a camera and a man dressed so tastelessly he had to be a 1970s gameshow host stood there, slackjawed and waiting.
“Fuck it,” I said, “I’m out!”
And then I was biking through a forested park, other male cyclists moving all around me. A steam train made its way up the middle of the road, and we pulled over to let it pass.
Birds chirped glorious chirps. The sun came out, warming our backs. And there were no men with bad fashion tastes—at last, we were united and moving in the same direction, all of us clad in spandex.