“AY! Sup brother? You got one of them cigarettes I can borrow?” The man asked me.
“I’m sorry? What?” I asked.
He looked like danger. Like the kind of person my parents would have asked me to avoid eye contact with. I can almost hear my mom saying, “walk on the other side of the street when you come across someone who looks like that.” And I would have, except this guy was acting like he knew me.
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“Shit that stuff worked some mother fuckin’ wonders! It’s me! Metric system?”
“I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone else. I’m just here to get my license renewed.”
“Shit man, that shit worked some mother fuckin wonders! You really don’t remember me? It’s me. Charlie!”
“I don’t.” I said. I handed the man a cigarette and walked into the DMV as fast as I could. I would be highly embarrassed if I were to get mugged by someone who looks like an escaped convict in broad daylight.
I walked into the building and saw long lines of angry people standing and waiting. And while there were all races, all ages, all classes of income standing in one room, what I quickly realized is that everyone at the DMV looks like an escaped convict.
“Brother, have I got a story for you.” Charlie said, as he walked through the door and threw his arm over my shoulder.
“I do know you from somewhere don’t I?” I asked.
“Brother, you should never want to forget anything. That’s how you get through life.”
That’s lesson number one of- well, I’ve lost count for the week. But believe me when I say the number is very high. And it all started with a conversation between myself, and a girl while walking down the street:
“I want a dog.” She said. There was a wild excitement in her eyes, the likes which I had rarely seen.
“A dog?” I asked.
“Let’s get a puppy! Can we get a puppy?”
“I don’t really want a puppy.”
“Then give me my space.”
“Leave me alone!”
“What are you?”
“You’re right, we should break up.”
“Break up? What? Two seconds ago you wanted to get a dog together!”
“Let’s be friends.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m seeing someone else.”
“Now? Who? What? We’ve been together for the last three days. When have you had time to… you wanted to get a puppy together, now we’re broken up? Now you’re seeing someone else? What the hell just happened?”
“Please, get over it. We’ve been broken up now for awhile.”
“For awhile? Are we having the same conversation?”
And she left me there, standing on the side of the road, with my dreams dashed at my feet, my heart in my hands, and my soul being shit upon by the imaginary puppy we never bought.
I tossed and turned in bed for weeks on end.
“Are you okay?” my friends asked.
I continued to sleep.
“Let’s go out. Let’s go see a movie!” my friends said.
I rolled over, and continued to sleep.
“Let’s go out for a drink.” My friends said.
I opened my eyes. I put on my pants. I went to the bar. And I drank. And I drank. And I drank. And I sang songs. And I smoked cigarettes. And I cursed. And I spit. And I cried. And I smoked more cigarettes. And I cursed some more. And I cried some more. And I spit some more. And I drank.
Time passed. My lungs hurt from smoking. My liver hurt from drinking. My eyes hurt from crying. My voice hurt from cursing. I was cotton mouth, dehydrated. I was unshaven. I was smoldering, and broken. And worse I started to feel again. According to my calendar I missed Earth day, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and my birthday. I missed the sun rising and setting. Storms passed without me noticing the change in the weather. Gas prices climbed to $14.93 a gallon. My car broke down 12 times. I bought a new car. I remember none of this. None of that mattered. What mattered was that I was starting to realize that I remembered nothing, and when you want to forget everything, realizing your forgetting is bad news. I wondered the streets. Time passed.
“Hey man. Looking to party?” He said.
“What?” I asked.
I was walking through a small shopping complex. I don’t remember how I got there. I don’t remember when I got there. I don’t know why I was there. I felt my face. Stubble. Maybe I was there for shaving soap?
“What you want?” He asked.
“I don’t understand.” I said.
“Want some dope? Jet? A-bomb? Birdie powder? Big Harry? Fizzies? Belladonna? 40 bar? Biker coffee? Batmans? Goop? Miss Emma? Charlie’s got everything you need.”
“Are those? What? Big Harry? Batmans? Is that some kind of comic book?”
“They’ll make you feel like you flying.”
I could feel my face. I could feel my feet. “She wanted a dog?” I thought.
“Give me something that will make me forget.” I said.
“How much?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” I said.
“How much you want to forget?”
“Five months? What does that equate to?” I asked.
“About a half Kilo.” He said.
“Is that a lot? That seems like a lot. I don’t know, maybe it’s not. What’s a Kilo?”
“It’s kilo. It’s like saying 3 feet. It is what it is.”
“I’m saying, I don’t know what 1 kilo equates to, let alone a half Kilo, I don’t know what that means.”
“What the hell kind of education system you raised in?”
“One pound is 2.2 kilos.”
“So one Kilo is… wait, 1 pound is 2.2 Kilos, so a half Kilo would be… Okay you have to divide 2.2 into, wait, no, you…”
“1.1 Are you fuckin stupid? You divide it by half.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just, I never learned how to convert to the metric system.”
“All you do is divide the numbers in half.”
“It’s just that it’s really British and that confuses me.”
“It’s a better fuckin system.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Just saying, could be easier.”
“Right,” I said, not wanting to upset the man any more than I already had, “So I need 4 pounds of… what am I getting?”
“The Green Mile Tango Tango.”
“Isn’t that a movie?”
“Tom Hanks straight up fucka.”
“Four pounds seems like a lot.”
“Five months is a lot to forget. We doin buizness or what?”
“Three. Fifty. Seven.”
“That’s… holy shit. That’s a lot of money.”
“You won’t remember a damn thing.”
“I guess you don’t take cards.”
The man took out a small machine that he connected to his cell phone. He took my card, and swiped my card through the machine.
“Wait!” I said.
The man pressed a button and looked at me angrily.
I closed my eyes.
“I love the way you smell.” She said. And she leaned in close and inhaled.
“I miss you!” she said into the phone. I listened on the other end and wished we weren’t talking on the phone, but rather talking in person.
“Let’s get a puppy!” She said.
I opened my eyes.
“Sorry,” I said, “Go ahead.”
He re-ran my card. He gave me a bag. It was 4 pounds of dark grey green grass.”
“This is going to work? This is going to make me forget?”
“Smoke it up, get it out.”
“So I smoke it? I don’t inject it or anything?”
“Tell me, how the fuck are you going to inject that shit into you?”
“Oh well, I mean, I don’t know, I just…”
“Get you some rolling papers, or a pipe… do you want me to walk you through it.”
“No I got it.” I said, hoping I could find a friend to walk me through it. “It’ll work though?”
“Res ipsa loquitur.”
“It’s Latin. The thing speaks for itself.”
“Okay.” I said.
I went home and curled up in bed, and let my memories fade away.
FIVE DAYS LATER.
I was singing in the car. I was dancing in the aisles. I was snapping, and clapping, and smiling.
“Hey Jeff you look better!” My friends said.
“Hey Jeff, you’re so funny!” My co-workers laughed.
“Hey Jeff, you look good!” My family commented.
“Um, it declined your card.” The man at the drive through window said.
“What?” I asked.
My phone rang.
“Mr. Hernandez?” the voice said.
“I’m with the bank. We’ve noticed some unusual activity on your card. We just took some precautionary measures to ensure that your card hadn’t been stolen or you weren’t a victim of identity theft.”
“Sure, just make sure to stop by one of the branches to get your cards up and running again.”
“I have to stop by one of the branches?”
“Well, we have to see you’re okay little bugger!” He said in a chipper voice.
“Little bugger? What?”
“Okay Mr. Hernandez, have a good day!”
Then he hung up. Then I drove to the bank.
“Okay, Mr. Hernandez. Hi.”
“We just need a copy of your new driver’s license.”
“My NEW driver’s license?” I asked handing her my license.
“Yes. This one is expired.” She said handing me my license back.
“It is?” I looked at the license. And there it said: EXPIRES 05-05-08. “It expired on my birthday. I had a birthday? Huh. I must have forgotten.”
“Right.” The bank lady said. “Well, just bring in a copy of your new license when you get it renewed.
I hated going to the DMV. I hated the long lines. I hated waking up early. I hated being around young people eager to get their permits to drive. But I had no choice, so off I went to the DMV.
I drove around the parking lot for 15 minutes looking for a parking place. The area was teeming with young people and undesirable looking people. Everyone looked like a foreigner; no one looked like my usual blonde haired suburban neighbors. I braced myself for the hour long wait of standing in line.
“Yo, man!” I heard a voice call. I kept walking.
“AY! Sup brother? You got one of them cigarettes I can borrow?”
I was slightly depressed after Charlie reminded me of what I had done. It wasn’t what I had done that depressed me, but what had caused me to do what I had done. What had I learned? Nothing it seems. I just kept going on with life, plodding down the pathway alone. But then, in an odd “Full House” “Boy Meets World” “Wonder Years” sort of way, something dawned on me. Maybe that was the lesson. So I got dumped. It didn’t have to mean the end of the world, just the return to the one I knew before she and I had started dating. Don’t get me wrong, that life was extremely boring, but I guess life is what you make of it.
“That’ll be Twenty-four dollars” the slightly attractive DMV worker said after she took my photo for my new driver’s license.
“I can write a check?”
“Check or cash is all we take.” She said.
“Do you need to see an I.D?” I asked.
She didn’t think it was a funny joke. Life was indeed back to normal.