Balloon Ride

For breakfast, you drink a Coke. This summer you gave up pop, when even your largest clothes seemed too small and you realized that 140 calories per can could add up to extra meals you really didn’t need.

Despite the fact that you are no longer drinking that sweet, acidy liquid, today you do. Today you need it. Today is one of those days where you wake up and realize that, for you, Coke is like a cigarette. You have to have one.

Bob came over last night. After his breakup with Breanna, he asked if you wanted to have a few beers. You said sure, though you knew that indulging in that would only lead to this feeling of weakness and aching and pounding and wanting to throw up. You will have to put on so much makeup today to disguise the fact that you are hospital-patient pale. In fact, you think, right now you wouldn’t mind an IV on demand to replace the fluids that you have not replenished. You wish that drinking-induced dehydration was like other things, things that you could take care of in a matter of minutes. Go through a drive through, push a needle into your arm, stop by a Wal-Mart and presto, you are healed, like one of those falling down women on the Christian channel who cry out, “Praise Jesus.”

With a shower and a splash of peach spritzer and a handful of breath mints that you will compulsively chew—though you know that these, too, aren’t calorie free—you will try to mask the lingering yeasty beer smell. While you do these things, you will let Bob sleep in your sweaty, sex-drenched bed and try not to think about the fact that he is there while you go to work because, in spite of this Night of the Living Dead feeling, you are responsible, and you will not miss the typing up of memos and the preparing of presentations and the photocopying of reports that are part of the underappreciated but essential work you do. You have grown used to the phrase barked at you on speaker phone, “I need you in here now. Five minutes ago.”

You are a good employee. Your boss, a man with a big stomach and a Mr. Clean-style bald head tells you so sometimes though not often enough. During the day, you are like the machines you work with. You type like crazy, like a demon, hands on fire. You think your fingers smoke and, if they timed you, you suspect, you would break all sorts of typing records. Maybe you can enter a contest, the Guinness Book of World Records, become the fastest typer in the world, prove that you have accomplished something with your life. That your degree, your loads of useless knowledge will do more for you than make you the winner of those handheld trivia games at Damon’s. During your lunch hour, you can look up typing records. You will not look up typing records when you should be working even though half the people in the office do not understand the distinction between business time and personal time. You are rigid in your adherence to rules even though it does not seem to do you any good; it does not help you get ahead. You do not take sick days, do not miss work. When you feel like crap, you take a Tylenol, a Sudafed, down Dayquil, Nyquil. Suck it up. Your father always used to tell you, nobody likes a whiner! What he did not tell you was that nobody likes someone who is too efficient, too dedicated, because it makes everybody else look bad. Still, you are conscientious, efficient, because that is who you are and you don’t know how to be anything other than that. Heck, you don’t even schedule doctor’s appointments during work time. When you call for things like your yearly gynecological exam, you ask for evening times. “Do you have a 7 p.m?” you sheepishly inquire of the woman on the other end. And she says, yes, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So you book it then, the appointment, so as not to inconvenience anyone, anyone except yourself.