I drank three nights in a row and so decided, leaving work, that I won’t have a drink tonight. It’s a small dent in the habit, but something. Not only that: I’m gonna stop at Publix and get some eggs and tortillas and apples and have a mildly healthier meal than usual.
Need to stop for gas though.
After work I stop at the gas station across the street — a gas station that also happens to share a parking lot with Publix. I’ll get the gas and then the food.
The gas station can be an issue though in that it gets a little sketchy after dark. Guys come up and ask for money, which is normal enough, but it’s strange out here because they always have a story too.
“My brother’s sick and I’m tryna go visit him at Baptist but I live in Weston, and I just got laid off, so I don’t have money for gas right now…”
Maybe it’s true sometimes. You see nuances in the delivery. Sometimes they really immerse themselves in the role and sometimes they recite the whole thing with this flat tone and a cold stare, as though daring you to call them out on it and I’m wondering if that lowkey aggression is maybe a manifestation of embarrassment? Like maybe they’re embarrassed to be going through these motions of begging for money and so they wanna suggest with their demeanor that they can redeem themselves, their pride, by just beating the shit outta you if you get fresh about it, show you how much your cleverness matters. Because they too might see the silly pallor of their story but the story is all they have.
This is presumptuous but I’ve got an acquaintance who does this exact thing: weaves a transparently phony story, elaborate and self-aggrandizing, and then turns immediately hostile if you point out any inconsistencies, is always prepared to preserve her pride by lashing out. People start bending over backwards to encourage her ego cuz, if anything happens to embarrass her, she’ll turn hostile and ruin the evening. It’s like talking to a dictator. She’ll say for example that she went out between appointments to buy a Thanksgiving meal for a destitute family in Little Haiti, and wax eloquent on how they greeted her with blessings and tears, and everybody in the room will say, “wow, so generous,” knowing that she’s fulla shit but not questioning it because it’s understood that if we can just make it to the other side of this story then the evening will proceed along it’s otherwise agreeable course and she’ll go back to being her funny charming self.
Anyway. There’s a guy at the gas station tonight with some blue caligraphy tattooed on his face underneath a sharp widow’s peak. His shoulder-length hair is greased back like Ledger’s in Dark Knight and he’s moseying around the gas station lot with his hands in his pockets, spacey and maybe high, going car to car and having soft lingersome conversation with one driver after another.
Drivers trade glances.
I’m telling myself I can bail after I hit the $10 mark so I’m watching the meter.
The dude goes on moseying and talking, his expression always changing, roaming the spectrum between severity and levity, making himself laugh, furrowing his brow, huffing. Agitated.
Hokay well $8 is enough and I stop pumping gas and turn around and holster the hose and hop in my car and drive off and realize a mile later, fuck, I forgot to go to Publix. And I’m hungry and we’re outta ramen back at the apartment.
At the next red light I check my banking app to make sure I’m in the black and then pull into Taco Bell for a crunchwrap supreme and eat it in the parking lot at my apartment while listening on my phone to Kevin Smith delivering a keynote at some podcasting conference and as I’m eating this gigantic delicious greasy thing I remember the drinking, the damage I’m doing to my body by having three drunken nights in a week, and how tonight’s abstinence is supposed to put a dent in that.
But am I really doing myself a favor if I’m eating a halfpound of garbage right now?
Maybe some poisons are better than others.
Anyway I head upstairs where the roommate, sullen, tells me about the recent death (overdose) of a family friend and then, after a while, says he needs my help with something down at his car. So we go down to it and he pops the trunk and there, big and glinting, is a 48-pack of ramen.