Choose Your Own Adventure

An aging bipolar gen-xer is the star!
April 27, 2010
You walk into your apartment, head aching from the day's work. The dismal abyss inside you feels deeper, the hollowness more profound than usual. Setting your keys on the counter, you stumble over to the couch. As you hit the cushion you kick yourself for not grabbing a bag of potato chips, or pouring a shot of liquor for that matter. Sometimes, you think, it's hard to tell what's worse: the hunger or the shakes.

You look out the window toward the setting sun squeezing its way between the tattered blinds. A potted avocado plant slumps, flaccid, against the window pane. Its crisp, brown leaves are a welcome reminder of your own mortality. You call for the cat, getting out the first syllable of its name before remembering it was euthanized. Your pain feels tangible. No less pleasant than shoving a thumbtack under your fingernail.

You stand up, walking to the refrigerator. Near-empty bottles of salsa and a half-gallon of milk spark few ideas. You remember the grocery list in your pocket. Pulling it out, you open one of the kitchen cabinets, scouring for a box of macaroni and cheese. If there's food for the night, the grocery store can wait.

In the cabinet, an opaque, orange-colored pill bottle peeks out from behind a stack of Bon Appetit magazines. Your live-in girlfriend left them before dumping you for a drug dealer. Your relationship was no match for meth.

Reaching for the bottle, you feel the pinch of your belt buckle. You lift up your shirt to expose disgusting flab. Who am I? you ask aloud. The silence of the kitchen is interrupted by the buzz of the refrigerator, and you open it again. Four bottles of Miller Lite beckon from the bottom shelf. Shutting the door, you wobble to the kitchen, staring at your car keys.

The sun disappears behind the horizon, the light vanishing from the window. The entire room fades to black. Your eyes move involuntarily toward a light switch, not five feet away. There's no point, you decide, leaning against the kitchen counter. Your head feels so full and yet so empty. If only there was a button you could push to make your heart stop beating.

What will you do?
a. Tie one on. Page 2
b. Go to the gym. Page 3
c. Take a pill and go shopping at Wal-Mart. Page 5

Page 2
Four bottles of Miller Lite are hardly enough to get drunk off of. Unless you drink them on an empty stomach as fast as you possibly can. An idea forms, and you go digging through the closet. Emerging with six feet of clear tubing, you stop at the fridge and take all four bottles with you to the bathroom. Setting them on the bathroom counter, you open all of them one after the other. You forgot the duct tape.

You curse and walk back to the closet, taking one of the bottles of beer with you. You drain the bottle's contents in the time it takes to get there. You drop the bottle on the floor. You grab a final item from the closet and walk back into the bathroom, the blood rushing to your legs and toes from the alcohol's first effects.

Crudely, you assemble the device and pick up the remaining three bottles of beer. With your shoulder, you push aside the shower curtain and slide down into the tub. Pink slime from the shower curtain makes a streak across your forearm. You stare at it, laughing, and take a hearty pull from one of the beers. It's been a while since you used one of these. Panama City. Those were the days.

You squint at the duct tape, yanking off a strip and wrapping it around one end of tubing and the funnel. A gritty residue spots the inside of the funnel. You shrug your shoulders pouring a beer into it. The liquid drains out the bottom of the funnel, missing the tubing entirely. The tears are there before you even know happened.

You retract into a fetal position, sliding further into the tub, your beer-soaked crotch frozen with domestic blend. You fumble for the remaining beer and pour it on your face, lapping up most of the ale. Some goes up your nose and you gag, turning on your side. The tears feel hot on your face.

Two hours into fragile sleep and you awake, shivering. The odor of stale beer overwhelms, and the pit in your stomach feels expansive. You wonder how long it's been since you had a good meal. You get up out of the bathtub, pushing the shower curtains aside. You walk to the kitchen, your wet socks slapping against the tile. You dig through the cabinets.

You take a box of macaroni and cheese back into the bathroom with you. Getting into the tub, you turn on the water and recline against its ice-cold surface. You tear open the box and stuff a fistful of uncooked pasta pieces into your mouth. Maybe you should check on that pain you keep having in your teeth on the right side. Maybe you need a root canal.

You tear open the packet of powdered cheese and dump its contents on your face. Coughing, your eyes begin to water. Slow down you say aloud. Don't eat the cheese so fast. You wish you'd gone and worked out, or gone to Wal-Mart. Anything. You pray for sudden death.

The End

Page 3
Pulling on your gym shorts, you glance at your scrawny, hairless legs. You'd think with the weight gain your legs would have gained some weight too.You'll put a lot of time into one of those leg machines at the gym.Whatever they're called. Nautilus? Who gives a hell.

You stand up, stretching. Your body aches, and you strain to touch your toes, your hands shaking with the effort. You consider drinking one beer before hitting the treadmill.

You walk to the fridge and open a beer. You sip it at first, but empty all 12 ounces once you realize how refreshing it tastes. You lace up your running shoes (same as your regular shoes) and waltz out the door, feeling good. The right decision, you think.

When you get to the gym the treadmills are all taken. That's your favorite thing to do at the gym. You sit down on an exercise machine and place your feet on a platform. Adjusting the amount of weight, you look around. There's an attractive girl on a machine next to you. You move a pin on the machine, putting more weight on your legs. The girl is watching as she exercises.

Somebody slows their pace on a treadmill and hops off. You make your way over. The handles and buttons on the treadmill are covered in sweat. You turn around, giving a dirty look to the guy who just stepped off. The look is lost on him, and you turn around, pressing buttons on the machine. You begin walking, glancing to your left and right.

There's an overweight man in his 30s wearing a hoodie, trotting along at 6 miles per hour. He's gone 2.5 miles, more than you've walked in a year. To your right, there's a young girl with a tight shirt, her breasts bobbing as she steps in time to whatever she's listening to. She catches you staring. You clear your throat and turn your attention to the television mounted on the treadmill.
You press the buttons, changing channels. You stop on E! Highlights from the Academy Awards. You missed the live event, because you had to work two shifts on a previous day. Your fellow employee called in sick on Oscar night. Imagine that. Out the corner of your eye, you notice the young girl looking in your direction. You glance, and she's staring at the television screen in front of you with a smirk.

Fumbling, you change the channel to ESPN2. A soccer match is underway. You plug your headphones into the small television screen. You hate soccer. Someone taps you on the shoulder. It's the guy who stepped off the treadmill before you. He wasn't done, he says. You tell him too bad. No, that's not true. You say "sorry about that," stepping off the treadmill.

You walk over to the water fountain and lean over, gulping the lukewarm liquid. It has a bitter, blood-like after taste. Nobody appears to be getting off the treadmills. You walk toward the front door, upset at yourself for even making the effort. The night air is cold, and you have no jacket.

You approach the front door of your car. A thought brightens your mood. There's a package store on the way home, and they sell cheap whiskey that tastes like Jack Daniels. Maybe it will be a good night after all, you think. It's then that you realize your keys are not in your pocket. You glance into the car window and see them dangling from the ignition.

A world of shit.

The End

Page 5
You take the white pill on the way to the store. The last one left from what you stole from your ex-girlfriend She was a druggie anyway, and you were doing her a favor whether she knew it or not.

You examine bananas in the produce section. They need to be the right shade of green to last you the week. You pick up a bunch and put them in your shopping cart. You make your way to the bread aisle.

You grab some peanut butter off the shelf, and you head for the frozen food aisle. You choose the Banquet brand of TV dinners. The choice is clear given your financial peril. You go with country fried steak and macaroni and cheese.

Shutting the freezer door, you realize someone's standing behind you. You turn around. The woman is slender. No, she's a skeleton, looking 10 years older than you. At 32, you're no spring chicken. She smiles, brushing past you. One of her breasts grazes your arm. On purpose, it seems. "Excuse me," she breathes. Her voice cracks like a young boy on the cusp of puberty.

You gawk, mouth agape. She points toward your buggy. "We got something in common," she says. "I'm talking to you, baby. Can you hear me?"
She touches your shirt, tugging at the collar.

"I'm sorry you say. "I didn't hear what you said."

"You and me, we enjoy the finer things in life. That's what's good about us."

Your legs feel weak. You slump against the freezer doors.

"TV dinners, baby. We both eat TV dinners." Her halitosis is devastating. You back away, taking hold of your shopping cart. "Where you going, baby?"

You turn around, cutting a beeline for the lunch meats. The woman seems almost an illusion, a dried-out, old banshee. You pick up a pack of ham. Ninety-nine cents. The cheese slices run you $1.49, and you feel a narrow sense of accomplishment.

You get in line at the checkout, pounding items onto the conveyer belt. Craning your neck, you look for her. A ghost from the future. No, it was no ghost, and it was no stranger. Hardly. It looks like she's been going into overtime with her drug habits. Your ex-girlfriend has seen better days.

Accepting change back from the cashier, you grab hold of your groceries. Your ex-girlfriend is standing at the exit to Wal-Mart, her arms crossed over her breasts. She asks if you'll buy her a drink somewhere. You decline, explaining your financial situation. She smiles and calls you a loser. You don't have the guts to tell her what you really think.

What do you do?
a. Take her back to your place. Page 7
b. Ignore her. Page 8

Page 7
You tell her you've got beers at the apartment. The night is still young, and you've got plenty of time tomorrow to hate yourself. You drive her to the apartment. The two of you walk inside together. You hardly recognize her. She's old looking. You open one of the beer bottles for her and go to the bathroom.

You splash cold water on your face, ask yourself what in God's name you're doing and emerge from the bathroom. You search through the apartment, looking for her. The front door is open. You walk out onto the porch and see her bolting down the street. You jog after her, but you're out of shape and hardly make it out the door.

The joke's on her, you decide. There was only $4 in your wallet. Chugging the last beers, you slip into a deep sleep on the sofa. You awake refreshed in the morning, the chemical effects on your mind a mere vapor. The episode at the store, long gone. But the memories and the humiliation remain.

The End

Page 8
You walk into your apartment, confused from the encounter with your ex-girlfriend. You drink all three bottles of beer and make yourself the biggest ham sandwich you've ever seen. You forgot to buy mayonnaise. Instead, you spread salsa on both slices of white bread.

You lapse into a deep sleep. You awake with the sunlight beaming through the blinds. You feel ready to face the day head on. You peel the ham sandwich from your chest and breathe in the morning air. It's going to be a good one. You can tell.

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