I guess it all started while sitting at my desk staring at the clock watching my life tick away. Each tick marked the passage of time, a moment in my life I would never get back. Averting my eyes from the torturous clock, I tried to focus on my work but found myself reviewing my life and tracing the steps that led to me sitting at my desk. Surrounded by dull gray walls, fluorescent lights, and off-putting blue carpet.
It may have started on my first day of school. My mother sent me one day early; kindergarten was supposed to start on Tuesday, the older kids on Monday. I can still remember arriving at school with my backpack and “teenage ninja turtle” lunchbox watching all the other children get assigned to a line behind a teacher and seeing them walk off, leaving me clutching my lunch box and tearing up wondering why no one had picked me. My first taste of rejection came early. It wasn’t until an office assistant found me while walking to the bathroom that my mother was called to pick me up. Maybe that is too far back. Maybe I was put on my current path in High School where I didn’t apply myself or even take the SATs having resigned myself to community college, which my father referred to as nothing more than an extension of high school. Needless to say that after twelve long years of mandatory, boring, tedious public school, his words did not excite me. When I got to community college, it was as my father said. It was high school but with a price tag. I spent my time there dicking around and smoking weed, a lot of weed, like an ounce a week. For all the money that was spent on my higher education I learned how to pack a bong, a bowl, a pipe, roll a joint, make a godfather and always learned to check to make sure there were no seeds in the hit. Then one day I looked in the mirror and wondered aloud, “What the hell was I doing?” I was a D-A-R-E graduate after all. I tried to become a cop, even graduated from the academy, but in the process, I became a health nut and ditched my law enforcement ambitions for that of a personal trainer. Who also was a grocery stocking lackey at night. I use to regret that choice, but given the current reputation of the police, one they earned by murdering unarmed minorities, I think I made the correct one. I badge might as well be a bullseye right now. Gone are the days of Andy Taylor and Barney Fife, if they even existed at all. A sheriff without a gun is now is the equivalent of a pig walking up to a butcher already covered in barbecue sauce.
It was during this time that I tried to live the American dream. You know the one, where hard work and determination equal success, bullshit. Dreams don’t pay bills; only a full-time job will do that, or wealthy parents. Since I didn’t have the later, I had to get the former. I wanted to move out on my own. It’s hard to seal the deal at the bar with a girl when eventually you have to say, “We’ll have to be quiet, or we’ll wake my mom,” it’s emasculating no matter how you say it. Plus I didn’t want to be one of those losers who lives with his parents in his hometown. Waiting for the holidays when your old high school friends come back to town and you try to convince them and yourself that everything is going your way, that you have a lot of irons in the fire and your just waiting for one of them to heat up. I briefly tried to become a machinist, a terrible idea since I’m about as handy and Michael J Fox, you know because he shakes about due to his illness. I can’t even assemble IKEA furniture without several extra pieces that should have been used ending up in the odds and ends drawer. Luckily I did have an iron in the fire that led to me becoming a shipping agent. I won’t bother to explain what the job entails because you won’t understand. Hell, some days I don’t understand. I moved out, became independent and finally had my life on track. But quickly I realized that my new found freedom was just another cage with thicker bars made of bills, taxes and laws, responsibilities and social expectations. All of which are designed to keep me on a pre-determined path that will lead straight to my grave. At this point in my life, I should be getting married and having children to offer as sacrifices to the mundane. I would, of course, be expected to support them for at least eighteen years and probably longer than that. Which means I would need steady employment, most likely doing something where I start wishing it was Friday on Monday. A job that rewards you with a paycheck just large enough to keep you coming back for more abuse. All while trying not to go insane and waste your hard earned money on a shrink, therapist, mind monkey who over charges so they can tell you it’s all your parent’s fault. If I ever have kids, I hope their therapist tells them I’m the source of all their ills so that when they confront me, I can tell them to fuck off. That would make their next appointment very interesting.
This is what life in America is supposed to be. T.V and movies tell us to grow up, accept our mediocrity and be satisfied with the small things.
I’ve accepted it, but before I give up and settle into my fate, I want to experience the freedom promised to me as an American. It seems every year they take a little away and find new ways to restrict us. I want to throw caution to the wind, pedal to the metal, go big or go home. Just once before I fade away into the middle class, I want to experience the freedom our founders promised me. So I took all my vacation time, got in my car and pointed it towards the wildest place I could think off. New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I considered going overseas somewhere, but I don’t have a passport, and the line at the customs house in Philadelphia was too long. California floated through my mind, but all of the so-called progressives, hipster douche bags and the rest of the self-aggrandizing bores out there would aggravate the piss out of me. New York was also an option but the one time I had gone left me unimpressed. But New Orleans, the Big Easy, the future sunken city and popular scuba diving destination was perfect. The party city is known far and wide for its relaxed drinking laws, drive-through daiquiris and magic beads that compel women to take their shirts off. Where else in America?
“Are you done,” the voice of my passenger brings me back to the present. I sit up and twist in her direction. She’s leaning against my car smoking a cigarette. They do make you look cool. She’s a brunette with short hair, alluring eyes, and olive skin that makes you wonder if she has mixed parents. She is the girl next door that every teenage boy wishes he had. She wears cut off jeans that allow just enough of her ass to peek out to draw stares. A pink bra peeks through a plain white T-Shirt that says “Pink.”
For some reason, I can’t recall her name. I know her webcam name, “Sexy_Summers,” but I’m blanking on her real name,”If we stay here too long a cop is going to come along,” She added while pulling down her oversized sunglasses to look at me. The word cop put me on my feet. The idea of jail or prison doesn’t frighten me so much as the prospect of being fucked up the ass. That may sound tantalizing to some but not to me. She offers me a puff of her cigarette which I accept. I’m not a smoker but what the hell, I just survived some kind of heart episode. Plus she’s hot, and you always do what the pretty girl says. Lame I know, by hormones and an overactive imagination, will make you irrational.
Before I get back in the car, I pop the trunk and grab a new beer from the cooler. A craft beer this time, just in case the worse should happen. Suck it M-A-D-D, also known as mothers against drunk driving. I also grab the bag of weed I had hidden in the ice for good measure. I still remember when those nasty old hags came to my school right before the prom to preach to us about the dangers of drinking and driving. They should have come earlier before all the kids had bought their beer and liquor. As it happened, we didn’t lose anyone to drunk driving. We did lose one to texting, but that was before anyone cared about texting and driving. I’m surprised the old hags haven’t formed an offshoot call M-A-T-W-D. I guess they realized millennials would never put down their cell phones no matter how many assemblies they hold.
I pop the tab on my beer, toss the bag of weed to my passenger and buckle up. I’m not entirely negligent after all. I turn the key, stomp the pedal and pull back onto the road without looking behind me. The beer is cold; the foam tickles my nose as I down half the can. I can only drink on the left side of my mouth due to an extremely sensitive tooth on my right side. They say I may need a root canal. Next, I fumble with my phone trying to select the correct playlist. My Passenger rifles through my glove box, “Do you have anything to roll this in?” she asks while holding out the bag. I don’t; my silence answers the question. She points to a sign as we pass it, “Pull off at the next exit, there’s a gas station.”
To be continued…