Consciousness by Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman

"Consciousness" by Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman is the winner of the 2018 Thunderdome contest. View the video prompt here.

I’m playing back the tape you brought me the last time you were here. It’s the one of you. I’m trying to understand, but the longer I watch, the longer I feel like this stitched-together compilation is just a cheap, polyester attempt at capturing something that I won’t find unless I physically enter your mind. Maybe it’s a tiny step towards insight, but nothing else. It’s like watching a foreign film without subtitles.

Some of the images on the screen are pictures, some brief clips. I stare hard, looking for the parts that you had already told me about. Baseball with your older brother. Orange. Lemonade in the summer. Waiting. For the bus, for the girl to call you back, for rain. The goldfish you won at the fair. Pringles before dinner and boxed wine and arguments with your Dad. Smoking his cigarette out of your window. Long drives in the snow.

And then the things that you don’t talk about. You steal. Attempts to ease your conscience by giving to the homeless. Empty charity. You do a lot of things that way. Letting me stay because you’d feel guilty if you’d said no. Strained kisses. Wanting to be alone. Moments in your room. Indecision. You make girls cry. I’m one of them, and I see myself on the screen, hunched over on a park bench. Shit in the toilet. You set ants on fire. Some white-blue color, the color of the sun after it collapses, the color of sun through closed eyelids. Flashing underwater.

I’m starting to get nauseous. I close the computer. There are eighteen hours left of your tape, but I can’t watch anymore, because there isn’t going to be anything else in that tape that I haven’t seen before; in yours, in mine, in anyone’s.