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  • Ezra Bell

you're the man Etienne

Still drunk, Etienne sprung up from his shit sleep, the sun piercing through the shitty blinds in his and Sonja’s one-bedroom apartment.

He was dreaming that dream where he’s tangled up in metal and plastic pieces of two cars after a head-on collision. The cars, like a tangled sheet, wrap Etienne up as he tries to swim away but then sees Seth's disfigured face atop broken neck, tears streaming: Am I gonna die? he asks. He’s been dead for 17 years, Etienne realizes while squinting his eyes at Sonya sleeping.

She’s gently snoring. She claims she doesn't snore. It’s pretty cute.

“Hey, let’s get breakfast,” Etienne says with a nudge.

“Noooooo …”

“You’re the most amazing, beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, talented person I know. Can I buy you breakfast?”

“I can’t go anywhere, I can’t leave bed.” She said.

Etienne had seen this before. After a night such as last, Sonja could remain in bed all day.

She’ll likely ask him to run to the market for chicken noodle soup. Not the fancy kind. Campbells. And coconut water. He’d prepare it for her and place it on her bedside table. She’d nip at it here and there, but it would mostly sit for hours.

“I understand honey,” he said. He saw in her a deep sadness, deeper than any he’d experienced. It was what most attracted him to her. It was a sadness that, to him, demanded reverence, a near religious sanctity. She, to him, was a sage-fountain of wisdom and her sadness seemed to make it more true and more important.

She was also the funniest person he’d met. She had an ability to make him funny as well. And he worshipped her art … when she did it.

There were few things he loved more than to see a new work, immerse himself in its formless beauty, suspended timeless, she’d interrupt to say...

“I think I have to throw this one away, I already messed it up, it’s worthless.”

He’d laugh while making plans to ensure the piece survived.

He thought she was a genius, a delicate genius, who needed support and gentle encouragement. And breakfast!

“Baby, don't worry about a thing,” he said, as the idea came to him. “You stay in bed. How about, breakfast in bed?”

She made a cute sound he interpreted as, “Hell yes!”

“We’ll get some Brazilian breakfast and mojitos!”

“Mmmmm!” She said.

“Maybe will see Cheryl Strayed!”

She was quiet, then, “I can’t leave.” She said. “Cheryl won’t be there anyway.”

Cheryl Strayed is the empowered memoirist and popular podcaster of Dear Sugar, along with her co-host and conscious male, Steve Almond. Strayed was Sonja’s current self-help spirit animal. Based on Cheryl’s Instagram feed, she’s known to frequent the Brazilian breakfast spot in the neighborhood.

“I got this,” Etienne said, “get your phone.”

She had it already. She had been scrolling through, liking, and commenting on Instagram posts since Etienne woke her. “Got it!” She said.

He lifted up the foot of the bed and flipped down wheels on the two lower bedposts. Then did the same at the head of the bed.

He rolled the bed out of the bedroom, out of the apartment, and down the hallway, the walls of which were adorned with fake art reproduced on fake canvases to remind the budding yuppies in the building that this was, in fact, the life.

She sat herself up in bed and began laughing. She was live-streaming the whole thing while also writing comments, “My bae is the best!” “Breakfast in Bed!” And so forth.

Down the elevator, through the lobby and keyless entryway, out on the streets.

“We’re getting lots of likes!” She said.

“Of course we are,” he said, “we are champions of experience, we are living the true life that everyone else is afraid of.”

“No, I mean, we have thousands of people following our live feed already … ”

She was right, by the time they reached the corner, there was already a crowd gathering. All of them had their phones out filming the scene, tagging their posts with, “best couple ever” and “best boyfriend ever” and “#lifegoals” “#livethebestlife”.

He wheeled her down the middle of the road. Police were already in place with roadblocks to assuage their passage. The crowd grew. There were blockades on both sides of the road.

Women were screaming with excitement. Men were pumping their fists and chanting Etienne’s name. Etienne shrugged it off like it was no big deal. On the inside, he knew this was the moment he’d been waiting to live.

“Honey, we have one million viewers!” Sonja announced as she wrote a comment, “thanks to all our fans, especially to those of you who stuck by us throughout the hard times, we owe all of our success to you.”

Etienne was privileged to be counted in the “us” for something that he viewed as decidedly her, she is a true genius, a real artist, not some hack like most of the divas on Instagram.

He continued pushing the bed down the road. The Brazilian breakfast joint was less than a block away. There were now television vans with newscasters. There were fans with their shirts off drinking beer. On their chests was painted, “Etienne is the man.” People were chanting the same. Helicopters were flying above.

By the time they reached the Brazilian breakfast place, there were already bed side tables set up for them, precisely sized so the queen-sized bed slipped perfectly between.

Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, her bonafide and conscious male co-host, were already there, seated to have an intimate conversation with the celebrity guests who were now arriving.

Etienne looked among the faces of the amassed crowd and spotted Barack and Michelle Obama. Barack lift his hand in a wave. Etienne waved back. Barack changed his hand into a thumbs up and nodded as though to say, “you’re the man, Etienne.”

Etienne pulled the bed into its parking spot between the two bedside tables, a mojito and menu rested on each, and he hopped back in bed. Sonja propped her phone up next to her mojito so it captured all of them, including Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the thoughtful and penitent male co-host, in the frame.

The crowd went silent. Television cameras and lighting, all on wheels and controlled by an engineer via remote control, came in close. Cheryl said, “welcome to Dear Sugar,” and the crowd went wild. Sonja did that cute face she does when she’s trying not to cry, but she couldn’t help it, her eyes welled up with happy tears as her dreams came true.

Cheryl then commenced the interview, “what does it feel like to be the best couple alive?”

Etienne blinked. He was under a sunny sky in bed in front of a Brazilian breakfast spot with helicopters above.

He blinked again. His face was flying into a car radio as the two cars impacted head-on.

He blinked. He was in a green-lit shaking room as paramedics were on top of him, holding him down, maybe tying him down?

He blinked. He’s in a dentist’s office kicking and flailing as the dentist retreats to the back wall with Novocain shot in hand; the poster on the ceiling says, “living your best life requires your best smile.”

He closed his eyes and opened them slowly. He’s in bed, the shit sun shining through the shit blinds in their over-priced apartment and Sonja is snoring coyly in somber and immaculate beauty next to him.

He gets up quietly and heads to Plaid Pantry for chicken noodle soup.

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