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CHAPTER FIVE: SELFISH CUNT

You know how, when you're having a bad day already, it just takes one little thing to really push you over the edge? Like, one second you're standing in line at the Starbucks and the next thing you know you've completely cleared off a shelf of goddamn fair-trade coffee beans and they're thick as gravel around your feet and the other five nincompoops in line with you all waiting for their bullshit iced single venti one-pump-mocha nonfat no-whip extra coffee frappuccinos turn their caffeine-goggle eyes on you and the Miles Davis on the store radio is no consolation because he was a crazy black man beloved by white college students since his inception and for a minute you know how he felt, all those palefaces staring and the vaguely fecal smell of crushed coffee beans hitting your nose, the world oily and what words are coming out of your mouth you can't say, you may as well be speaking in tongues or even Aramaic like you were channeling a murdered saint because nobody says anything except the store manager, a tiny lady in ankle-high vegan leather booties and a blonde streak in her hair. She's the one brave enough to put her hand on your arm, right on your skin, and ask you if you're alright, is there someone to call, have you felt like this all day?

No, not all day. Just this one horrible moment. I am choked by an eruption of fear and wrath, the worst combination other than morning sickness. Therapy, menial employment, the threat of (more) parental disapproval, a slashed tire, and a note that could have come straight from the desk of an evil debutante. I pull out my cell phone with shaky hands. God, I'd love a cigarette right now. And a double shot of shitty whiskey. Instead, I dial my sponsor's phone number and take a deep breath through my nose. Tears stab my eyes: in AA, this is called "being in self pity" when the ideal state is "being in gratitude."

I am less-than-grateful when my call goes straight to voicemail.

"Mika," I mumble. "This is Helen. Please call me back, you have my number." It's a colossal let-down, hanging up. One more depressing stamp on the letter to Pathetic Town. All this, plus my sponsor won't answer my calls. I mean, it's not like I call all the time -- just every month or so, to remind myself that I'm supposed to be "celebrating sobriety" and living "one day at a time" and that at least one person cares if I get shitfaced and jump in front of a city bus.* Actually, with my recent transition from Fancy Society Wife to Semi-Divorced Single Mother Coffee Slave AKA Nobody, it feels like Mika is my only friend ... which is probably unrealistic, but then I have never really felt comfortable with reality.

*Which how I got to rehab in the first place. I knew you were curious.

As though God is mocking me, the #20 city bus goes by, leaving a ribbon of pollution in its wake. Mmm, biodiesel stinkiness. I thumb through my contact list, but keep landing on my parents. Shit. May as well bite the bullet; at the very least it will give me ONE MORE DELIGHTFUL REASON to keep feeling sorry for myself.

My mother picks up on the first ring.

"Hi," I say, and before she can even read me the riot act, I burst into full-on donkey sounding sobs. "I don't want to do this anymore," I honk out.

"Sweetie," my mother says, and although I know she doesn't completely mean it and I'll probably get in trouble with her later and she's just saving up her complaining for a time when I'm not totally fragile and shattered and cut open like this goddamn tire that has my whole life falling apart like it was a rift in the time/space continuum or something, I cry and cry and tell her where I am and my dad's on the way and Atty is eating some noodles for dinner, so just don't worry about it, sweetie.

Just don't worry about it.

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