My Best Nightmare (An Extremely Overdramatic Rendition)

Good Lord, that’s any second now! This is actually happening?! Park the car, bumper blocking driveway, don’t care, haha, life! Run into the house. Eat the ice cream, eat it quickly, shut off the too-much-sugar, too-many-empty-calories filter. Stare blankly at the mini peanut butter cup that has fallen onto my khaki pants. Refresh the baseball trade rumors website. Refresh. Don’t comprehend the words. Refresh. Make sure to say that. Make sure to ask about this. Don’t think, don’t be dramatic, don’t romanticize the past. Refresh. Wait, he was signed by the Padres? Wow, haha! Make sure to be just the right amount of detached, exude confidence, act like you’re doing well. Don’t forget to mention…

Relax.

Taking a deep breath, I instantly begin again, because I have awoken – no time for restraint. Everything up to this moment has meant nothing. I re-read our old conversations, but I don’t get very far because my eyes are suddenly warm and blurry. I look around the room for distractions only to conveniently notice the receipt from our first liaison. Why do I keep this stuff? I check my email; at least that will be neutral. 52 new messages. Nice, the amount of weeks in a year. The latest is from Francesca’s in the Chicago suburbs: ‘We cordially invite you to celebrate another Valentine’s Day with us.’ My eyes widen for the second, third, and fourth read. Mark as spam, don’t freak out, no such thing as signs, just a coincidence, don’t overanalyze. But why are they emai…

Stop.

Look at the Dali clock. It’s funny. It’s supposed to look like it’s melting, but it just looks like an awkwardly shaped cheap plastic clock that is really hard to read. Look at the framed Dali prints. What are your thoughts on them? Have you ever taken a deep look at a single one? No, not really? Well try this time. Oh no, don’t look at them in the dramatic light. You always do that. Yes, you bought them with her, you spent a lot of time repositioning them in that crazy little underground studio with her, remember cooking there with her? remember taco night? remember when we listened to that song for the first time? remember when you worked on the puzzle for six straight hours and I…

Wait, when did you get here?

My left temple is throbbing. My fingers need a good popping. My lips are chapped. My shoelaces are way too long. But this throbbing, it’s not just in my head, it’s in my throat, in my chest. Whoa. I thought I had eliminated this knot when I left two years ago, but my stomach is apparently capable of reproducing it with the same, if not greater, intensity. Eat more ice cream and shut up. Just fo…

Whatisthat? I stiffen, dropping the spoon. The desk, the house, my whole life is shaken by a singular vibration louder than any previous vibrations in the history of the universe. What was I just thinking I forget it doesn’t matter. Pick it up! Here it is here it is here it is suspend reality live in this moment it’s actually h…

Breathe. Clear your throat.

 

“Hey. How’s it goin’?”

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A Small Cheese Pizza to Remember

It was approaching midnight on a Los Angeles Tuesday, and I was at danger-zone hunger. There were no open options close to my Super 8, and this was pre- Grubhub or anything like that, so I just called around and finally found a place that was still delivering: Domino’s.

In my hunger haste, I forgot to pay with credit card over the phone.

45 minutes later, the driver arrived at my door, and I was as excited for that delicious cheese pizza as was Kevin from Home Alone.

“Small pizza with delivery fee is…$9.80 please.” In this, I sensed a touch of edginess, maybe because I was flirting with the delivery minimum, maybe because his life had come to delivering pizzas in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning, or maybe because this was his last delivery of the night, but probably all three.

The last thing on my mind was to be a difficult customer, so I quickly muttered, “Oh, can I still pay with card?”

“I’m sorry sir, not at this time. Cash only.”

I opened up my wallet to find nothing but a crisp $100 note. I had one of those annoying ATMs back in Peoria, Illinois that gave the minimum amount of $20s possible, so when I pulled out $300 in cash for this trip, I was given three bills, exactly two of which I used to save like $1.20 each time I filled up my gas tank.

I sheepishly offered him the $100 bill and asked for change. He only had $14 in cash, so that would amount to an $86 pizza.

‘That’s okay, I’ll simply get a $20 from the ATM downstairs.’ I took him with me.

It seems like a purchase on my credit card is blocked every single time I leave the city I’m supposed to be in, but my debit card has been blocked only once. Of course, the once was at this current moment, not in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, or even Kansas, but in the lawless foreign country of California; I never called the card company to say I was taking a road trip to the west coast.

‘I’ll get change from the front desk attendant.’ I walked over to the desk and, preparing to ring the bell, I noticed the sign: “Away from 12:01AM – 1:30AM. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

With panic looming, I looked outside the window for help. I was in a rough neighborhood in the middle of the night, and there were no businesses in sight.

‘Should I just tell him nevermind? Is that possible?’

The pizza guy was clearly annoyed at this point, and I was about to collapse from hunger, so I did what I do best and thought on my feet: I handed him the $100 bill and told him to keep the change. He was somewhat surprised but didn’t really argue against it.

I tried to starve myself the remaining two weeks of the trip by eating only carrots, apples, nuts, and string cheese, but to this day, I’m still trying to recoup that $90 tip.