“The Best Years Of Our Lives”


Even when you’re drunk you feel sober because over four or five or six years of experience with alcohol — either siphoning jungle juice at parties (were you the bronze voluptuous girl shaking out happiness for everybody? or were you the pallid boy who was dragged by his friends?) or knocking back tearful Solo cups full of Franzia on the blistered heels of a Friday night breakup — has trained you to involuntarily focus on the sober light at the end of the spinning tunnel; and the light is affixed to a merciless black train bearing down as persistently and inexorably as DEATH; and the train is the train of reality. Even when you are so drunk you cannot remember your own middle name you are able to remember the glaring totals printed on the bills that are pinned to your refrigerator (it came with the apartment) with cute magnets you found in your Christmas stocking, or that came as a cheap friendly present from a roommate you no longer have. Or, maybe you’re a boy, and have no silly magnets at all. But you still have the bills.

You still have the bills; and you have a memory. One memory that — maybe not in your hometown and maybe not in profound removed places like beaches at dusk, but HERE, in your airless Chinese-food-smelling apartment with the bong and the expensive Mac laptop, HERE, where you live — rises above all the other memories, and pulls you, with powerful, maggoty arms, into its sordid grave. This memory is the memory of the taste of the tongue you love and desire above all other tongues: the tongue wandering now with tender curiosity into the sweet, receptive mouth of a stranger, an elegant stranger you’d like to kill. That tongue has been between your legs (whatever you have installed there); but you cannot trust the tongue to remember this — or, if it does, to care. Because the tongue is the one that left. You are never the one that leaves. You are reasonably attractive; you hold an engaging conversation; you even have one or two unusual, endearing hobbies. But you are never the one that leaves. And you’re thinking about this as you’re looking at your bills.

You check your bank statement. You do it online, because you were born in ’88, or ’89, maybe ’90, and so you do everything online. Your parents are divorced and you or one of your closest friends is taking medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolarism, or insomnia. You check your bank statement, online, and you see that nearly every night this week there are withdrawals, in increments of twelve or sixteen dollars, for pizza deliveries. For Indian deliveries. For sushi deliveries. Because you aren’t poor, for god’s sake. You graduated — didn’t you? Your parents generate a reasonable income. But that still fails to justify your constant expenditures. You parents aren’t poor, no; but you are.

In a swoon of guilt, almost panic, you resolve to eat less takeout slop, to commit to the frumpy but dependable fruits and meats and vegetables organized optimistically in your refrigerator. You resolve to drink less, period. You tell yourself you are not addicted to cigarettes or even becoming addicted to them. You are a social smoker. But you don’t smoke to be social. You smoke on your living room couch as you think about your past and wish you had a job. Never once have you made a friend on the street because you stopped to share a lighter, a match. You’d like to live in a crazy Seinfeld world like that. And you could. You really could. But you don’t, because you’re shy, because you’re an introvert. God knows what you’re doing in this city at all. But you don’t have time to question where you’ve ended up in your short, jittery life: there are bills, waiting to be paid.

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image – Charles Williams